Archive for the ‘Communications’ Category

Meet the Multiscreen Patient

By Brian Simmons

The use of technology as a healthcare marketing tool continues to evolve, while all marketers search for the most effective uses to get the best return for their marketing dollars. Hospitals are no exception.

In a recent Medical Marketing & Media online article, it was reported that Cleveland Clinic has already shifted its marketing spend to digital through paid media, mobile optimization, email marketing and online video content generation as a means to attract patients locally as well as nationally. In the past 12 months, the health system’s combined efforts created 75,000 internet leads –surfers who clicked on links from paid search and downloaded information – which led to a conversion rate of 6,500 patients using their facility.

The reason they went digital? Patients today have a wide array of sources they tap into to inform their medical decisions, and 84% of that information comes through a screen, according to a 2012 Google Hospital Study.

What used to be a simple sales funnel of creating local brand awareness through billboards, TV ads and radio spots is now a mash-up of touch points that can include these mediums as well as desktop and mobile screen experiences. In fact, according to the Google Hospital Study, 83% of patients who booked an appointment visited a hospital’s website before doing so. And roughly 1/3 of this group did so on a tablet or mobile device.

Enter the era of the multiscreen patient. Now more than ever, patients are using multiple devices—desktop, smart phone, iPad—to do their hospital research, whether they are looking for physician reviews, health plan networks, or other relevant information to help them make their decisions.

Hospital marketers who want to engage multiscreen patients should keep these tips in mind:

  • Recognize that no two paths are the same – Messaging needs to scale to fit different devices, at different times and in different contexts. A website that works on the desktop may not make sense to the consumer who is pulling it up on their smartphone as they look for a hospital. Define some possible consumer scenarios, then adapt accordingly.
  • Avoid dead-ends – The surest way to turn off potential patients is to abandon them on a path that leads to nowhere. As hospital marketers, we need to make sure that every touch point leads patients to the next logical connection. That series of touch points is an extension of the brand experience. So if a patient uses their mobile device to respond to a call to action, but the site isn’t mobile-friendly, you’ve effectively shut down a potential patient experience. Map your patients’ journey and craft a digital content strategy that spans all channels and connecting touch points.
  • Embrace the informed patient – There’s no getting around the wealth of healthcare information online thanks to sites like WebMD, as well as provider and payer sites themselves. The best a hospital can do is provide clear brand messaging that speaks to the reputation of the facility and physicians, and eases the patient journey to conversion.

Know your patients. Understand how they approach a healthcare decision, and make sure your brand is where they are. Today that means taking a holistic approach to digital content to ensure your consumers have a rewarding experience at every step of their journey, no matter which device they use to access it.

This post was also contributed by Christine Pierpoint, VP of Emerging Media at IMRE

By Jeff Smokler

Today’s healthcare environment requires that hospital administrators and communicators alike embrace new communications viewpoints and tactics. Otherwise, they risk being outpaced – and out maneuvered – in an increasingly competitive marketplace. IMRE Health has identified five of the biggest trends affecting hospitals today, along with recommendations for healthcare communicators on how to attract patients, improve internal and external relationships, and ultimately rise above the crowd in this new generation of healthcare marketing. (more…)

By Daphne Swancutt

Law gavel 300x199 How the SCOTUS Healthcare Decision May Impact Private InsurersA collective whiplash transcending party lines occurred when the Supreme Court announced its decision upholding all parts of the Affordable Care Act on Thursday.

At the center of that decision was the notorious individual mandate, which had many spitting venom and vitriol for months. That a majority opinion supporting the constitutionality of the individual mandate became the ultimate judicial word was astonishing to most—no matter what side of the aisle you’d planted your allegiance.

We’re not going to talk politics here, though. There are plenty of people who will be stepping in to that morass throughout what promises to be a spirited election cycle.

Let’s talk about private insurers, an industry that—besides the Obama administration—had the most to lose (or gain, depending on how you look at it) from the decision.

Let’s face it: Health plans are not known for warm and fuzzy. As an industry that is highly focused on mitigating cost, this is probably too much to expect. And, yet, they are at a fork in the road. Besides mitigating cost, health insurers have an opportunity to mitigate perception. (more…)

Telling a Story that Matters

By Daphne Swancutt

Stethoscope and books 300x200 Telling a Story that MattersHealthcare companies—or any companies, for that matter—working with communication agencies have probably heard this one a lot lately: Tell your story, and the people will come.


That’s like telling someone to build a bridge to nowhere. And, anyone who’s ever heard, read or told an enjoyable story knows or intuits two things: A good, resonant story has a 1) compelling voice that 2) makes a connection.

This is where most healthcare organizations today are falling flat. Your story isn’t your mission statement, it’s not about screaming brand from a mountaintop, and it sure isn’t a recitation of products and services.

As the commoditization of healthcare continues its grand ascent and the mandates of reform begin to materialize, it’s important for your company—and everyone with a stake in it—to step back, reconsider the idea of “story” and craft something that connects you to your audiences.

If you don’t get it right, it won’t matter. Here’s what you need to consider when developing your story. (more…)

By Jeff Smokler

Affordable Insurance Exchanges Communicating in the Era of Health Insurance ExchangesThe March 12 release of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) final rule on health insurance exchanges made one thing very clear: One size will not fit all.

The experience of a healthcare consumer in Maryland could be very different than one in neighboring Virginia. This makes sense, given the enormous variation in demographics across the nation.

As health insurance plans gear up to fight for their fair share of the millions of new customers expected to purchase coverage on the exchanges, their communications and marketing strategies will have to mirror the flexibility set forth in the HHS rule.

That said, there are a number of things that all health insurance plans need to consider as they formulate their marketing strategies. (more…)

By Daphne Swancutt

Updated Harris Interactive Logo 300x153 Healthy Behaviors Not Improving. Who’s Accountable?

A recent poll from IMRE conducted online by Harris Interactive reveals some sobering data. Bottom line: The more things change, the more they stay the same.

At the highest level, the survey shows that two-thirds of adult Americans admit they don’t live a healthy lifestyle all the time. The primary reasons aren’t surprising: Time, money, and that living a healthy lifestyle at all times is just not a priority.

Call them excuses, but it seems that despite a national push for greater attention to getting and staying healthy, increasing healthcare costs, and obesity and chronic disease epidemics that are sucking the life out of us, it’s just not resonating.

So, what can we do about it?

First, consider that this is—or will become—everyone’s problem. Whether you’re an individual, an employer, a school, a government organization or a nonprofit. Everyone needs to buy in to the fact that problems don’t fix themselves, people fix problems. This particular problem needs hoards of attentive and motivated people.

We’ve been in a collective conundrum about all of this for decades. Some argue that making individuals more accountable for healthy behaviors is key. Maybe. But what about the folks living hand-to-mouth, with language barriers, who sacrifice medical care for a trip to the grocery store or their children’s education? All the talk about making health a priority isn’t translating well to these groups, much less the groups living with fewer such challenges.

As a communicator, I am dumbfounded. If starting a national movement focused on motivating healthy behavior is truly a priority, we are failing. So, here’s my prescription:

Government: Get your rear-ends out of process perdition and come up with solutions that inspire, rather than endless tripping over administrative bureaucracy.

Employers: Give your people a break. We’re a national mess of stress, and we know about the outcomes. Stress leads to depression, leads to overeating, leads to lack of motivation, leads to little exercise, leads to diabetes, heart disease, etc.

Schools: Seriously, start talking to students the minute they enter the system about how important it is to be healthy, and everything they can do to make sure that they develop healthy behaviors. Give them the tools to educate their parents, too. Kids can actually do this. It’s like “teach your parents well.”

All others: If you’re not talking the talk, then start. If you’re talking the talk and not walking the walk, you’re part of the problem. Set an example, encourage, show your stuff and put your money (not junk food) where your mouths are.

As health communicators, we need to push harder for a seat at the big table. Then we need to advocate strongly for a more aggressive point of view, total engagement, messages that are delivered repeatedly in language that is understood, and action that truly motivates.

We’re at a crossroads here. Consider taking the road less traveled and bring some people along with you.

By Christine Pierpoint

There’s a new Internet domain coming out this fall as a way to identify adult entertainment websites. The nonprofit Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) regulates website domains. Last year they announced a move to create the .xxx domain as an alternative to the more common .com or .org domains. In theory, this will be a way for businesses and consumers to clearly identify adult content.

“The creation of .xxx will create a clearly signposted place where adult entertainment can be accessed and allow surfers to have a clear idea of the nature of the site before they click, rather than after,” according to a statement posted on the ICM Registry website, which is the organization responsible for .xxx domain registrations.

Regardless of the intent of the new .xxx domain, there is still the potential for brand names to be hijacked during the initial bidding for URLs. Each time a new top-level domain (such as .tv, .eu or .xxx) is introduced, new Internet “real estate” is created. Depending on the equity of your brand, that real estate can be extremely valuable. For example, imagine someone leveraging a brand name like “Nike” to drive traffic to “”

As marketers, we do have options to stop cybersquatters who may try to prompt a bidding war or otherwise cause damage to brand names. We’ve put together the following tips to help you mitigate potential risks:

  1. Trademark holders – If your brand is trademarked, there is a “sunrise” period during which you can block your brand from becoming a .xxx domain. Beginning Sept. 7, 2011, you can apply to the ICM Registry to be designated a “reserved – trademark.” Once accepted, your domain name will be removed from the pool of eligible domains. The sunrise period expires on Oct. 27, after which time there will be a “land rush” period from Nov. 8 – 25 during which the adult entertainment industry will be able to apply for .xxx domains.
  2. Non-trademark holders – if you have a domain name that is not a registered trademark (i.e. you have to wait until the “general availability” period begins on Dec. 6, 2011. At that point .xxx domains will be registered on a first-come, first-served basis. You will then be able to register your name as a non-resolving .xxx domain. What that means is that you own that .xxx domain and thereby prevent anyone else from using it.

We’re recommending that all companies take proactive measures to prevent cybersquatting or potential misalignment of their brand with an adult entertainment website. In addition to brand names, you should also consider taking steps to protect your organization’s product names and the names of key executives or spokespersons. Opting out now will help protect against reputation management issues or potential legal battles to defend your trademarks.

Christine Pierpoint is IMRE’s Vice President of Emerging Media. She can be reached at 410.821.8220.

Mobile Healthcare’s Big Bang

By Daphne Swancutt

Mobile Healthcare Mobile Healthcare’s Big BangA recent cover story in H&HN magazine proclaimed that mobile apps are reshaping and changing healthcare as we know it. Unfortunately, the proliferation of health and medical apps—17,000 currently, give or take a few—may not be all that quite yet.

On the consumer side, 26 percent of people who download health apps only use them once, and another third don’t even use them as intended, according to a recent Pew Internet Research Study.

It’s a quality issue, some say, in which interface and design are problems, and hasty development equals poor user experience and unsustainable engagement. Still, the mobile app bandwagon becomes ever more crowded, and it can be an expensive process.


By Daphne Swancutt

iStock 000010062821Small 300x225 Healthcare Needs Rx for Internal CommunicationsBy most accounts, 2011 will be the start of a watershed in the healthcare industry. From HIT spending, meaningful use and HIPAA 5010 and ICD-10, to ACOs, M&As and the demand by consumers for more sophisticated digital technologies.

Imagine the communication challenges. (more…)

Get Lit, or Else?

By Daphne Swancutt

iStock 000005926987Medium1 300x199 Get Lit, or Else?Two people in the United States just died in the last hour. Seventeen more will die in the next 7 to 8 hours. Over a year, that number will accumulate to about 7,000.

The reason? Medical errors that include misread or otherwise misinterpreted handwritten prescriptions. Believe it. This means that doctors are being sloppy, pharmacies are making mistakes and people are getting dead.

Even more disturbing about this statistic is that 85 percent-plus of pharmacies are equipped to receive electronic prescriptions, yet only one-third of the nation’s prescribers use this system.

It seems appropriate, then, to draw some attention to this stupid and nonsensical tragedy during Health Literacy Month and to ask: What’s the deal? (more…)

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