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Forget the Billboards

by John Moore | October 01, 2015

jeffersonEarlier this week I traveled to Hershey PA to give a keynote presentation to the BCBS CIO Summit. Landing in Philadelphia, I rented a car and headed out on PA turnpike to Hershey, about a 2hr drive. Along that drive, was astounded at the number of billboards advertising various healthcare orgs (HCOs). At least a third, if not half of all billboards along that drive were adverts for HCOs. Many were service line oriented e.g., trauma care, cardiology, orthopedics and others more general in nature.

Clearly, HCOs are being advised by their top-notch and likely highly paid marketing consultants that billboards, sides of buses, placards on subways are the places to be to engage the consumer. While I’ll agree that these are relatively low cost advertising venues, HCOs are completely missing the point.

Your best advertising is quite simply, word-of-mouth.

If you want to build your brand, build service volume, etc. focus on delighting the patient in front of you. I will believe my neighbor far more readily than I’ll believe some US News Rating or what you put up on a billboard.

Sadly, the majority of HCOs are doing a terrible job here.

I personally use Partners Healthcare here in eastern MA for some of my medical needs. Partners likes to position itself as the leader in all things healthcare and to their credit have some pretty amazing physicians. But how well does this institution do with regards to consumer relationships? Right now, they are failing.

Having just done a massive roll-out of Epic and widely promoting their PHR, PatientSite, one would think that Partners would use PatientSite to develop a closer relationship with their customer base. They could do this by notifying one when lab results show up in their record, or doctor’s notes from a recent visit, or even be so proactive as to assist with Rx renewals between visits via simple notifications. These are highly valued services that are easy to provide.

But do I see any of that from Partners today? No.

Worse, the only notifications I do receive via PatientSite are when there is a billing question. What message does that send a consumer? You got it, Partners isn’t really at all that interested in my health and welfare, they are interested in my wallet. Would I readily recommend Partners to anyone? Simple answer, no.

So for all you HCO leaders that may be reading this little rant. Please, ignore the marketing consultants and focus your marketing efforts where they really matter, your current customer/patient-base. They will do a fair better job advertising your fine services than any billboard, placard, or poster.

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