How to Uncover Patient Insights for Better Campaigns

[feat-text]Summary: What do your patients really care about? And what do they think about you? The answers might surprise you. They might also reveal why your marketing campaigns are missing the mark.[/feat-text]

Healthcare marketers don’t have a choice: monitoring performance metrics is crucial to success. The numbers matter! What marketers sometimes forget is that there’s also a person behind the metrics they care about most. Real people. Current and future patients. What those patients want, need, feel, get frustrated about—their surprises, disappointments, and desired outcomes—comprises a more qualitative aspect of healthcare marketing called patient insights.

On top of the insights that most marketers already use to optimize, reorganize, or rethink campaigns, patient insights can help them develop better marketing campaigns by taking a step back. By asking, “do I really know what my patients want?” It’s an ongoing effort that can directly inform changes to marketing strategies.


Why You Need to Talk To Patients

It seems counterintuitive, but a lot of healthcare practices are hesitant to talk to their patients. They don’t want to bother patients, hurt the relationship, or risk violating privacy standards. Worse, some practices think they already know everything. In these cases, ego gets in the way of an honest conversation about blind spots in the patient experience.

Under the right circumstances, however, most patients want to be forthcoming about their feedback, whether positive or negative. In some cases, they’ve already made their voices heard on reviews sites or social media. The question is, are you providing the right opportunities for patients to share their feelings? More importantly, are you listening?


Where to Look for Patient Insights

To find patient insights, take your reporting and analytics hat off for a moment. Don’t overthink it because getting patient insights doesn’t have to be some complicated marketing operation. Again, most people appreciate being informally asked their thoughts and ideas. A conversation with a physician, for example.

Of course, make sure you always follow HIPAA regulations and, where necessary, keep all patient information confidential and secure. With that in mind:

Review Existing Channels to See What People Are Saying

Start by digging into your patient feedback forms (assuming you use them). Pay special attention to negative sentiment, both in how patients rate your services, as well as what they write when asked to elaborate. The same goes for your reviews on social media, Google My Business, and healthcare review sites. What are people saying, especially those who have left negative ratings?

Call logs from your customer service center can be another good source of customer voice, feedback, and sentiment. Even a cursory review of social media comments, posts on your channels, or where your brand is tagged can be revealing. Across the board, you’re looking for common threads, trends, and other insights that might inform improvements to both your patient experience and related marketing campaigns.

Conduct Patient Interviews

While the line from patient interviews to healthcare marketing campaigns isn’t always direct, the former can inform the latter. Patient interviews are your opportunity to hear directly from patients, ask productive questions, and make sure nothing slips through the cracks. In some cases, this is the only forum in which patients feel totally comfortable sharing their thoughts.

To conduct better patient interviews, we like three call-outs in particular from EMS World’s tips for conducting patient interviews:

  • Ditch the script and rely more on open-ended questions. This leads to a more natural, conversational flow.
  • Slow it down and give patients time to respond to questions one at a time. Few people feel very thoughtful when they’re feeling rushed.
  • Avoid “doctor speak” and medical jargon, so patients feel comfortable using their own words. Again, patients should feel like they’re in an open and supportive environment.

Bonus: hearing the actual words and terminology that patients use to describe their medical needs can help inform your keyword strategy.

Diversify Your Patient Outreach

Next, take your patient surveys and interviews a step further. Most practices have three distinct opportunities to expand patient outreach:

  • Talk to your long-term patients. For example, “Thanks for your support and loyalty. How can we continue to deliver the best possible care for you moving forward?”
  • Reach out to patients who are leaving or already have. For example, “We’re so sorry to see you go. Do you mind telling us what we could have done better?”
  • Survey your new patients. For example, “How did you find our practice, and why did you choose us?”

The idea here is to get an idea of the needs, concerns, and feedback that patients have at critical points in their journey. We’re guessing that most healthcare marketing campaigns are closely tied to these points in the journey—at least they should be.


How to Use Patient Insights in Marketing

There’s a variety of applications for patient insights. Physicians and healthcare professionals themselves often use patient insights to guide treatment plans, clinical trials, and other aspects of medicine. For healthcare marketers with access to patient insights, here are some ideas for putting them to use toward improving your healthcare marketing strategy.

Refine Your Positioning & Messaging

Patient insights can shed light on what makes you different as a healthcare brand. What’s your unique selling proposition (USP)? What makes you different from the next provider in your field? And why should someone choose you? Often, your patients will help to answer these questions for you.

For example, we’ve seen the surprise when healthcare marketers find that their brand has a reputation for subpar customer service. They’ve always assumed otherwise. Elsewhere, we’ve seen rural hospitals or regional groups struggle to change a perceived lack of advanced technology and services. Others haven’t been able to identify why they’re losing business to a competitor across town.

Insights like these can be a turning point for healthcare brands struggling to find or refine their positioning and messaging. There’s valuable information in the nuances that matter to real patients. The trick is to invest the time and effort needed to find it. For the brands that do bake these patient insights into their brand positioning, their campaigns are far more effective at engaging prospective patients.

Breathe New Life Into Your Ad Creative

Based on these patient insights, your ad creative might be next in line for an update. Use patient insights to inform design, theme, and copy updates that resonate better with actual patient needs. Use imagery and video that evokes feelings that appeal to their motivations and goals or alleviate any fears and make them feel confident in their choice.

For example:

  • Before/after photos
  • Patient testimonials
  • Provider interviews
  • Procedure/surgery overviews

A plastic surgery group, for example, might find that a fear of “going under the knife” is their patients’ top objection to a specific procedure—not price, as they previously assumed. The marketing team might use this information to create messaging, testimonials, and other ad creative that directly addresses—and disarms—these fears. If the marketing team can target these ads to the stage in the funnel where patients feel this fear most, all the better.

Attend to Your Patient Experience

If your digital reputation is suffering or not quite on par with competitors, look to see if you’re missing key patient requirements. Do you know what really matters to your patients? What do they expect when they go into the office? When you deliver exceptional patient experiences, you’ll generate more positive reviews naturally—people will be eager to share with their friends and family. Word of mouth recommendations will increase, too.

Patient experiences and patient reviews are closely intertwined.

A dentist might look into its negative reviews, for example, and find that many customers are confused about insurance. They can’t get their questions answered by the website! A multi-location healthcare organization might find that customers are having trouble finding the right phone number to call to make appointments. They’re constantly put on hold or transferred! Both of these flashpoints in the patient experience can be addressed by specific marketing activities—the important thing is to know that they exist.


Tune In Before Smoke Becomes Fire

Healthcare brands that fail to invest time in patient insights often overlook critical faults in the patient experience. More often than not, these fault lines aren’t acute enough to jump out at a person—at least not without closer scrutiny. Over time, however, these issues can persist and become an undesired part of a brand’s visible digital reputation.

“They have poor customer service.”

“I can never get an appointment.”

“Their bedside manner is rude. It feels like they don’t listen to me.”

The list goes on. And in that regard, it really is a relationship. It’s up to healthcare professionals to nurture this relationship—listen and look for the signs that something is wrong. Usually, this requires nothing more than organizational buy-in for the value of patient insights. That and taking the time to talk to patients and hear them out.

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How to Get More from Your Online Reviews

[feat-text]Summary: As powerful as reviews and testimonials can be, there’s still so much untapped potential out there. Potential to expand their reach and visibility—to relate with patients and get them over the finish line. Here are a few ideas to get as much out of your online reviews as possible.[/feat-text]

Healthcare consumers care a heck of a lot about reviews. Going online to check out the Google reviews for a particular practice, for example, or directory ratings for a specific surgeon is now an essential component of the decision-making process.

I know it is for me!

And I know that, as with many people, bad reviews are a bad sign. Whether these poor reviews are reliable indicators is beside the point. They send a strong signal.

According to an NRC Health Study:

  • Almost 60 percent of patients have avoided a doctor based on the negative reviews that they read online.
  • More than ⅓ of patients look at reviews as the first step in finding a healthcare provider online.
  • 83 percent trust online ratings and reviews more than personal recommendations and referrals!
  • Nearly 75 percent want to see seven or more reviews before deciding to trust a brand.

It’s a topic we’ve written at length about. And while reviews are certainly a core part of your Google My Business (GMB), Healthgrades, Yelp, and other listings, you can do more with the positive reviews you’ve already generated. Here are a few ideas about using your existing reviews to increase visibility and enhance your brand image and reputation.

Questions I’ll Answer in this Article

  • How important are healthcare reviews?
  • How do I improve people’s perception of my brand?
  • How can I encourage people to choose my healthcare organization?
  • How do I put my reviews onto my website?
  • How do I take all the reviews I have and turn them into marketing material (ad copy, graphics, etc.)?

WORD TO THE WISE: Before you do anything with reviews or testimonials, you need to get the person’s permission. It’s a big deal in the medical world, one fraught with potential liability. So be sure to get their written consent and always follow relevant HIPAA regulations.


Promote Your Reviews on Social Media

You can significantly extend the reach of your reviews by giving a publicly visible shout-out to people who leave good reviews. Share a direct quote from their review. Tag them, if possible. And use this as an opportunity to ask others to share their experiences, too.

Many review sites offer an embedded option to share reviews to your connected social media channels (LinkedIn, Facebook, and so on). You can also do so manually. Here’s an excellent example from Google My Business:

No matter how you choose to share your reviews, each one is a free opportunity to let just a couple more people see the review. Sharing reviews is an opportunity for engagement and visibility on social, which can only help (algorithmically and in terms of your brand equity overall).


Add Those Positive Reviews to Your Website

I like to remind our healthcare clients of a simple thing: adding reviews to your website isn’t braggy. It’s a good user experience! For instance, most people who come to your website via Google search might not know your reputation. In fact, it’s likely the first thing they want to see. You know, what’s this brand about and where can I find some reviews?

Don’t make your healthcare consumers go searching for this information! A couple of clicks—MAX—if any at all. Instead, here are a few ways to thread these important reputation indicators (reviews, ratings, etc.) throughout your entire site:

  • Create branded graphics that highlight your overall five-star rating. You can add five-star graphics to your about page, footer, service pages, appointment scheduling page, etc.
  • Consider embedding reviews directly from your review platforms using embed codes, review platform tools, or site customizations. What’s nice about these embeds is that they’re often automatically updated and refreshed.
  • Add a scrolling banner section that features quotes from your testimonials and reviews (include names and photographs where possible). I like the homepage—near the top—as a nice spot for these.
  • Create a dedicated reviews and testimonials page that presents your most impactful reviews in an engaging way (your “trophy case,” so to speak). However, give this page some structure and context (supporting headers and copy), instead of just providing a flat list of reviews for a patient to sort through.
  • Consider putting together video testimonials, one of the most potent reviews you can get (more on this later).

While it may seem overboard to include reviews and your ratings across your entire website, alongside a dedicated testimonials page, remember this: prospective patients find and arrive at your site pages from many different places. The homepage isn’t always the entry point! But wherever your patients land on your site, they need to immediately see that you’re an experienced and reputable provider of choice.

Add Your Composite Star Rating to Patient-facing Communications

This tip takes a page right out of Branding 101. Are we suggesting that you print beer koozies and keychains with your logo and five-star rating on them? Not entirely appropriate for healthcare consumers. But you might consider adding your composite ratings—especially official “five-star” recognition from companies like Google and Yelp—to patient, partner, and client communications.

You might have seen these badges around the web, or even pasted onto the front door of brick-and-mortar businesses in your area. Here’s a good example of a review badge from Yelp:

Google and Facebook Business publish similar assets, badges, and graphics. We find that they’re just the right thing for email signatures, invoices, and receipts. Taken on their own, these measures might not amount to any measurable outcome. When deployed alongside other reputation boosting activities, like those we’ve listed above, they can help reinforce your brand’s reputation as a five-star provider. Not only will people begin to associate your brand with a splendid digital reputation, but it can also encourage more people to leave their own reviews.

Build Marketing Campaigns Around Your Testimonials

As potent as they can be, testimonials require significant time and resources. Willing patients can be challenging to track down, too! Start by shortlisting candidates for testimonial content. Usually, these are “champions” of your services, staff, or brand. People who have had successful outcomes from an experience, therapy, or even surgery. Assign testimonial outreach to an internal stakeholder (marketing or customer relations, usually) and contact these people directly. Incentivize their participation, if appropriate.

The idea here to get the most mileage out of your case studies as possible. So when you do snag a testimonial agreement, put some process in place to be as productive as possible. This includes any agreements and signatures required upfront and interview questions and talk tracks that help tell the right story. Ideally, your video recording session will also yield photography and soundbites that can be repurposed for “testimonial graphics,” which are perfect for use across social media. Video, in particular, lets you tell a more compelling story that connects with prospects.

Once you have your core testimonial content, repurpose it into the collateral mentioned above that can be threaded throughout a broader advertising, social media, and/or email marketing campaign. A push around a newly introduced plastic surgery procedure, for example. Or a new campaign to build awareness among the senior citizen demographic.


Bonus: Make it Easy to Leave a Review “In the Flow”

Once your organization is established on various review sites, you’ll get access to your own unique shareable review link. Here’s an example from Google My Business:

In this example alone, we see four channels (Facebook, Whatsapp, Twitter, and Email) that you can share this “Request review” link in a click or two. Indeed, clicking a link and going straight to the review form is a lot easier for patients than tracking your review form down on their own.

Less friction = more reviews!


Capture the Holy Grail of Patient Reviews

It used to be that review volume was the only most important thing—the holy grail of digital reputation management. Now, it’s but one of the most important factors. While a high volume of frequent reviews is still quite important, patients have shifted their focus. Authenticity and relatability matter most of all. People—especially healthcare consumers—can smell fake or manufactured reviews from a mile away.

Your reviews are an opportunity to showcase the strength and integrity of your people. It’s people that run healthcare organizations and create positive patient experiences. This is what we’re after and the kind of reviews we want to showcase and share.

What I’m talking about, in the end, is storytelling. We’re drawn most to the narratives we can relate to—the ones who share our pain, journey, and ultimate triumph. My favorite movies and novels “hold up the mirror,” welcoming me to see myself in what I’m watching or reading. The same goes for patients who go online to read reviews.

They’re picturing what it will be like if they leave their important healthcare decision to you.

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