What Marketing Can Learn From the Patient Experience

By jseevers · PUBLISHED March 15, 2016 · UPDATED March 15, 2016

I have been connected to the healthcare industry in some way shape or form for more than two decades. It has undergone tremendous change during that time. From the impact of HIPPA to redefining the patient experience and everything in between. Today, it continues to face significant digital transformation and disruption.

patient experience

Regardless of this change, it still must maintain the highest service quality. And unfortunately the data doesn’t lie.

81% of study participants are unsatisfied with their healthcare experience.

This represents an immense gap. Yet, it also represents an immense opportunity. Patients, like customers, are seeking to connect and find value. For decades, physicians and healthcare workers have been perceived as cold, calculated and insensitive. They rush from one appointment to the next, not taking the time to truly understand how patients feel. Both in the physical and emotional sense.

“There is a misperception among providers about how well they are truly meeting consumer expectations,” said Jeff Gourdji, co-lead of Prophet’s health care practice. “Although they acknowledge its importance, providers are finding it challenging to focus on patient experience in the face of so many competing priorities.” (source: Loyalty-360)

How many of us assume we are adding value at each step of the customer journey? Organizations and healthcare providers alike can track and close this gap. A well developed marketing strategy and effective automation solutions can monitor activity and create a more aligned patient experience.

Patient Experience

But it begins with a clear picture of where the patient experience begins and where it ends. Each physician, practice or provider must see the journey from the patients perspective. And it starts long before the doctor opens the exam room door.

When this journey has been mapped out, there are clear intersections where the “brand” connects with the patient. Consider what value you are providing at each step. Where do patients go for more information? What pages of your website are getting the most traction? The most bounces? “But you don’t understand, I’m measured on how quickly I can get patients in and out and there are other priorities I’m responsible for.” Yes, this is true of every business. It may seem too simplistic, but patients don’t care about the competing priorities. They are seeking value, or in this case, the appropriate amount of compassionate care.

“It seems important, then, for physicians to have neither too much nor too little compassion. Aristotle put this succinctly when he wrote that, as a virtue, compassion should be shown ‘to the right person, to the right extent, at the right time.’ He didn’t define how much compassion is right: We have to decide that for ourselves.” (source: New York Times)

The concept of marketing is making it’s way into the healthcare lexicon. Recently I received an email from my primary care office. It was unexpected, so I opened it. It was a gentle reminder to get my flu shot. Wow, that was a well timed email campaign as we enter the cold and flu season. A few months later, I receive another email. Again, not expected. What kind gentle healthcare reminder might I receive today? An announcement that my primary care office is now providing “cosmetic injections”.

Talk about not knowing your audience. Epic fail. Simple patient segmentation would have revealed who would likely desire this service, making the content relevant.


So it seems that the healthcare industry has their work cut out for them. They are responsible for ensuring all these important metrics are tracked and improved. And while doing so, exhibit the appropriate amount of compassion (or value) at the right time.

As marketers, what can we learn from this challenge? We are in a service-based industry. We track and manage many marketing priorities as well. But there is one thing we can not miss. We must connect our product or service and add value at each step of the customer journey. How?

Gavin Francis sums it up quite well;

Compassion means “together-suffering” or “fellow-feeling” — a sense of identification we feel when imagining another’s pain. The word “patient” means “sufferer,” and at its most basic level the practice of medicine could be described as the attempt to ease mental and physical pain.

We must seek to understand and connect value to our audience. When we make this connection, we identify with the challenges they face. This is what marketing is all about.