When does the patient experience begin?

Connecting to patients—or more specifically, an individual patient—is one of the biggest hurdles in healthcare. The ability to influence the patient experience to make it meaningful and effective has a starting point that is hard for doctors and healthcare organizations to pinpoint. One of the reasons this is such a challenge is because the industry does not look far back enough in the relationship.

For hospitals, pharmaceutical companies, and healthcare technology providers, the patient experience begins long before anyone meets face to face. Since the invention of the internet, there has been an increase in how and when people gather information. The on-going joke in the healthcare world is that patients research symptoms on-line then come to a doctor “knowing” what is wrong with them. Of course, the patient is usually wrong and has led the doctor down some misguided rabbit hole.

Why does this dilemma persist in healthcare? Why is there a divide between WebMD™ – style research internet and the actual meeting with a doctor? Because the patient experience happens long before the doctor is involved.

As an industry, healthcare has been slow to embrace the concept of marketing and bridging the gap in the patient experience. The industry needs to guide and educate potential patients in a global setting—healthcare needs to work on dispensing advice and care outside the doctor’s exam room.

Look at other industries:

there is a continual stream of information that guides consumers on how to optimize their experience. But that doesn’t happen with healthcare. The primary goal of distributing this information is to augment sales, but it also serves a very important secondary function: education. With healthcare, educating patients needs to start long before a hospital or doctor’s visit.

Marketing in healthcare should lubricate the entire patient experience. Bringing the patient up to speed on how a diagnosis is made or what questions to ask about an illness can be incorporated into a hospital television or magazine advertisement. You can layer your marketing across multiple media channels to deliver a broader message. Or you can simply incorporate existing web media into a content marketing strategy.

The thing to remember is that marketing is the beginning of the patient experience. Taking full advantage of that fact is where healthcare can see some significant long-term changes in how the industry as a whole can grow and excel.