All companies should be concerned about protecting the privacy of their customers, but for healthcare organizations, it's not just good business practice—it's the law.
It's understandable, then, that healthcare marketers might be reluctant to weave patient testimonials into the story they tell. Besides concerns about patient privacy, marketers might assume patients don't want to talk about their experiences, or it's too difficult to track down someone who will agree to be featured on camera.
When they're done right, however, patient stories are powerful. Healthcare marketers who make it easy for patients to share as they feel compelled to do so won't have to go out every so often in search of a patient willing to sign a photo release or be interviewed; the stories will come to them naturally.
Here's a look at three healthcare companies that have mastered patient-centered marketing and what your company can learn from them.
Born with spina bifida, Jordan Pollock has been in physical therapy since he's been an infant. Now that he's in school, he uses a dynamic stander to be more independent during recess and gym class, while his classmates are running freely. He loves tractors, riding his bike and playing with his baby sister, Gabriella. Jordan's story is one of dozens featured on the Akron Children's Hospital blog.
These are the kind of stories that melt your heart, and the hospital's website always has a steady stream of them. That's because they make it simple for anyone to submit their story, along with photos and videos. Patients can give a short testimonial or write a more detailed blog post about their experiences.
Pro Tip: Keep the lines of communication open all year long. Healthcare is emotional, and people are more willing to share their experiences than you might think. By having a streamlined process for them to do so, you're empowering patients to speak directly to others—and become your best advocates.
As soon as you visit the website for this medical device giant, you get a sense of the bigger picture. This company isn't about selling pacemakers or titanium implants; it's about helping people live longer, more fulfilling lives.
The stories are inspiring: There's Kobi, a surfer who thought he would never walk again after crashing headfirst into rocks and damaging his cervical vertebrae. There's Sharon, who was spared large scars after a mastectomy.
And there's Bruce, a former New York Jets football player who nearly died after suffering sudden cardiac arrest. He went on to found a mentoring program that matches retired athletes with high school leaders after he received an implantable cardioverter defibrillator.
Medtronic even rewards patients for sharing their stories by offering them the opportunity to apply for a $20,000 charitable grant for using their "extra lives" to serve the greater good.
Pro Tip: Incentives can go a long way to encourage sharing and inspire others. They don't have to be large monetary rewards, either. It could be as simple as recognizing them at an annual awards banquet. Consider launching a program that honors patients who have gone on to do something remarkable.
Sometimes social media marketing is brain surgery. The Mayo Clinic's collection of awe-inspiring videos feature patients who play the violin during surgery and accomplish remarkable feats afterward.
The nation's best hospital has set a new standard for building a community, with more than half a million Facebook fans and more than 25,000 YouTube subscribers. Its posts are a mix of physician videos, patient perspectives, roundtable discussions and live chats connecting patients with experts.
As a brand, it's so widely recognized that the interaction between its physicians and the public seems to happen naturally. Visitors arrive at the site searching for answers, and the Mayo Clinic's staff quickly responds with answers they can trust. Those questions then shape the Mayo Clinic's content marketing efforts, leading to explanatory videos, blog posts and even real-time conversations. Behind those conversations is a team of experts and producers who facilitate them.
Pro Tip: It's hard to compete with the level of resources at an institution like the Mayo Clinic, but your company can still direct the conversation in your own way. If you're a hospital or physician's group, consider having a rotating panel of physicians who regularly post answers to patient questions or host a short interactive chat once a month. These short interactions can go a long way to build trust over time. The key is consistency.
Healthcare organizations have a tremendous responsibility to care for and protect their patients, but they also have a unique opportunity to share the kind of stories that really matter. They should look to patients who are already asking questions or sharing testimonials on their social media pages as potential brand advocates and allow the conversation to happen naturally.
What healthcare marketing has inspired you? Share with us in the comments below!