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How Digital Affects Hospital Selection [Research]



Do you wonder how patients select the hospital of their choice?

What if you had in-depth insights about factors that influence patients when choosing one hospital over another? That would probably help you make some changes that would help you stand out from other facilities.

Digital Journey to Wellness

For any patient suffering from an illness, the journey to wellness takes the following path:

  • First the person exhibits some symptoms
  • Then he is diagnosed by a doctor
  • Next he seeks treatment at a health facility
  • Finally after a period of treatment the patient recovers.

What does digital have to do with this?

In a joint study between Google and Compete Inc., 500 hospital researchers were fielded to understand what role digital plays in the journey to wellness. Here’s what they found out:

1. Online Search is Critical

Prospective patients said that digital plays a big role in helping them choose a hospital. For them the journey almost always starts with search. It was interesting to note that search drives 3x as many visitors to hospital sites than non-search visitors.

Among the top items that prospective patients are searching for online are, the hospital’s reputation, and whether the hospital accepts their insurance or healthcare plan. To a lesser extent patients also research hospitals that have been recommended by their doctors, and hospitals that are using the latest technology.

2. Mobile-Friendly Hospital Sites Win

Because patients have their mobile phones with them 24/7, they are also using them to research hospitals. They use them to:

  • compare offerings at different facilities (26%)
  • to discover new healthcare brands they weren’t aware of before (18%)
  • to read reviews of different facilities (29%)
  • to locate a facility for treatment (27%).

In addition 44% of those who researched hospitals on a mobile site went ahead and scheduled an appointment.

If your hospital currently does not have a mobile website, this should be one of your top priorities. Think about a prospective patient who is on the go. What kind of experience will they have when they try to access your site from their mobile phone? It’s up to you to make sure that they have an easy and engaging experience.

3. Online Video Converts

The study also found that video is a critical part of hospital research. 1 in 8 patients watched an online video on:

  • Hospital sites (42%)
  • Health insurance information sites (31%)
  • Health information sites (30%)

Mostly they  were looking for reviews and testimonials to learn about hospitals and treatment options. The interesting thing is that 30% of patients who watched a hospital video went on to book an appointment.

Quick Wrap-Up

In the journey from sickness to wellness, patients are increasingly using digital to research and find hospitals for their treatment. It is up to the individual medical facility to ensure that they are easily found via online search. This means that they should focus on improving their SEO and inbound marketing strategy.

The other key point is that mobile and video are critical parts of the patient’s search and re-search experience. Hospitals should make every effort to create a mobile-friendly website and post YouTube videos to inform and connect with patients. Patients who find what they are looking for online are more likely to convert.

Over to you: Please share your comments. What are your thoughts on how digital affects patients looking for medical treatment?

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Data driven

Data-Driven Storytelling: 6 Steps to a Credible Story



Compelling stories live in our data. But you wouldn’t know it by the way brands treat it

In a recent article published on Content Marketing Institute, Colleen Jones asked the question, “Can digital branded content ever be taken seriously — even as seriously as journalism?”

Without a doubt journalism has had a huge head start when it comes to creating stories that capture hearts and minds. Part of that success comes from using research data (polls, surveys and feedback) to understand what readers find valuable, particularly as it relates to the issues and problems they face.

Do content marketers have the same research opportunities? Of course they do. In fact, if more content marketers were to use publicly available data the way journalists do then branded content would offer new angles, insights, and more value to stories that affect people’s lives.

But the good news, as Colleen explains, is that, “Americans are quite open to brands being credible sources of web content.” One way for brands to increase content credibility is to introduce trustworthy third-party data as part of their stories. Credible stories are rooted in something that’s real, not just your ideas. So for example data, research and numbers can be the foundation of the story, while your ideas and opinions add perspective to the story.

Currently, there are mountains of data available, on the internet and elsewhere, that organizations can use to develop credible stories that are infused with insight, relevance, and inspiration. So how can your brand learn to create data-driven stories? Here is a six-point process for brand storytelling that you can use to get started:

#1. Keep your audience top of mind

Great data-driven stories start with great questions — specifically, questions that are relevant to your audience and customers, such as what are their nagging questions, or what are their greatest business challenges? If the questions you come up with have quantifiable dimension, chances are they will make for a good data-driven story.

For example, let’s say you’re in the health care space, and you know your audience is concerned with finding accurate, reliable health information online. One story you can consider creating would be a piece on how patients use online health care records in your city, and how often they access this information. The specific question your content might address here would look like this: “Why consumer demand of health IT outstrips supply.”

#2. Find the data

Once you have defined a question on which to base your content, you need to determine the available data records you can incorporate to answer that question. To do this, you will need to think about the process you will use to collect, filter, and visualize data in order to create deeper insights that will inform your story.

Collect: At first when you’re looking for data on a particular topic or issue, you may not know where to look, or if that data even exists.

However, if the problem has a measurable component, there’s a good chance of finding adequate data (on the internet) to generate an insightful answer. Finding adequate data to support your answer is important because you don’t want to jump into a data-driven story that cannot be executed.

Using the health care example above, you would need to find data that shows how many patients have asked for their health records online, how many doctors or facilities have the technology to furnish such requests, how many have actually done so, etc. Here are some good places to start looking for this data:

#3. Vet your data source, and filter your findings

Don’t forget that the goal of using data is to increase your content’s cr and to validate your brand’s storytelling. That said, make sure that the source of your data is also credible. Use sources that are reputable and well known for research data; for example, Forrester Research and Pew Research.

Generally speaking, academic journals, university sites, studies, and research reports from professional institutes are good sources of data, while most blogs (unless they’re very authoritative) are not.

Filtering data is like interviewing a real source. You ask specific questions in order to get the answers you’re looking for. Same thing with data — what question do you want the data to answer?

Let’s say you’re writing a story about hospital closures in your county. The data-backed statements you will make will involve the number of hospitals registered, how much it costs to keep them running, sources of funding including how many people with health insurance, etc. So the minimum data you would need to filter is number of hospitals, cost, revenue, number of insured, etc.

#4. Choose a visualualization

Our attention-deficient generation gravitates toward visual content. So once you have found adequate data, and have determined which of the available data will best address your initial question and strengthen your story, you then have to think about how you will represent it visually for your audience’s consumption. For example, bar charts, pie charts, infographics, and mappings are all simple methods of data visualization, so you will need to decide which format will work best for the data you are using.

For example, check out this innovative visual from GE Healthcare, which captures ”Who’s talking about breast cancer” on Twitter.

Remember that the more interesting the visualization, the more time and attention consumers will give it. Be sure to keep your visualizations simple — you don’t want to make your audience have to work hard to figure what your graph is all about. Try several different visuals and see what appeals to your audience, then stick with that format.

You can go online and check out various free visualization tools that enable storytelling with data, such as, and others.

#5. Shape the story

Using data is about adding as much value to your content as possible. It’s about saying something that hasn’t been said before. As you begin to shape your story, try to use an original approach and be sure to add a unique and meaningful perspective.

More often than not, a successful data-driven story will require the collaboration of analytical-types (to gather, analyze, filter and visualize data) and creative types to unearth a compelling story that’s just waiting to be told.

#6. Get some feedback before launching

When you’re finished, show your story to an outsider who has absolutely no connection to the project. Ask them what they think. Does it make sense? Is it interesting, or just confusing? Take that constructive feedback and use it to peel away the layers that don’t add value to the story.

You may have to simplify the data or the visual, or find different words to tell the story (or, God-forbid, all of the above!). This may take more time, but it’s important — it could mean winning the hearts and minds of your audience, or losing them altogether.

Over to you: Has your organization experimented with data-driven stories? How did you approach the project? Please share your ideas in the comment box below

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3 Steps to Building Patient Personas for Content Marketing



In content marketing and social media you want to make sure you’re engaging with the right people.

So for example an OB-GYN practice using Facebook, Twitter, and a blog to bring in more patients should make sure they’re engaging with women of child-bearing age within their geographical area. They shouldn’t bother having conversations with young men, or people living across the country.

If you’re marketing this particular practice you’ll need to consider the different types of patients to target: pregnant and non-pregnant women; married and single mothers; middle aged women and teen-aged girls and so on.

The point is you want to have a crystal-clear understanding of your community in order to have relevant conversations with them, inform, educate and seek their trust.

That level of understanding comes from building patient personas.

What is a patient persona?

A patient persona represents a cluster of patients within a particular service line, who have the same health needs, exhibit the same behavioral patterns, attitudes, lifestyle choices, motivations and even use of technology.

So for example a quick analysis of Type 2 diabetic patients at an inner-city hospital in Baltimore may show that they are typically over 45, obese or over-weight, do not exercise, have high-blood pressure, are members of certain racial or ethnic groups, and spend a lot of time on their smart phones.

How do you get such detailed information about patients?

Keep reading…

How patient personas are built (step-by-step)

#1. Conduct interviews

Conduct one-on-one interviews using a ‘large enough’ sample (based on your resources) of the targeted audience. Ideally the interview would be a frank and friendly conversation, lasting about 30 minutes, and aimed at gathering the following information:

  • Demographics (age, gender, marital status, ethnicity, education, and so on.)
  • Service line e.g. gynecology or obstetrics
  • Stage in patient life-cycle
  • Challenges or frustrations
  • Health needs and interests
  • Digital use frequency (i.e. how often a person uses search or social media)
  • Healthcare digital use frequency (i.e. how often a person uses search or social media to access healthcare content)
  • Preferred healthcare content delivery format (i.e. digital, print, audio, video etc.)
  • General narrative about the patient’s life circumstances
  • And more.

#2. Organize the data

Once you’ve gathered all this data, divide into 2 or 3  groups that display similar characteristics. For the OB-GYN practice one group might be for married, pregnant women planning for a C-section. Another group might be for young, single women who are sexually active, but do not want to get pregnant. Each of these groups is a persona.

Keep in mind though that the number of personas you build depends on the number of service lines. A cancer center may have more than eight personas to fit the different types of cancer patients (breast, lung, skin, colon etc.) and their care givers.

#3. Summarize personas

Summarize each persona in a worksheet. Give your persona a label such as ‘Teenaged Tina’ or ‘Expectant Elizabeth’ and stick a fictitious picture at the top of the worksheet. Labels and pictures are useful for characterization and clarity when communicating with your content marketing team. Remember that you cannot use real names or photos as this violates patient privacy according to HIPAA regulations.

So the next time you sit down to write an article about teenage pregnancy, ask yourself “What would Teenaged Tina want to know about this subject? Review ‘her’ persona and then write an article that addresses specific needs or frustrations without dispensing specific medical advice.

Over to you: Need help building patient personas for your content marketing program? Let’s talk. Shoot me an email at

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healthcare marketing

7 Consumer Online Trends that Impact Healthcare Marketing: 2013 Research



Are you a healthcare marketer who is interested in consumer online trends?

Would you like to know how online health seekers could impact your marketing efforts in 2013?

In this article I examine a recent report published by Pew Research, in which 3,014 adults living in the U.S. were surveyed to find out how and why they use the Internet to answer their healthcare questions.

Here are 7 of the most interesting findings from the study:

#1. 1 in 3 U.S. adults use the Internet to diagnose a medical condition

35% of American adults said they go online specifically to try to figure out what medical condition they or someone else might have. These were referred to in the report as ‘online diagnosers.’ Based on the information gathered 53% of online diagnosers said they went on to speak with a doctor about what they found online.

Key Takeaway: A significant number of American adults start their health inquiries online. If the answers they’re looking for are on your website, chances are pretty good that they will follow up with you to discuss their medical condition. Make sure that your website is frequently updated with fresh content that provides answers to common questions patients might ask.

#2. 8 out of 10 online health questions start at search engine

77% of online health seekers said they begin their research at a search engine i.e. Google, Bing or Yahoo. Another 13% said they start at a site that provides specialized health information such as WebMD. Only 1% start their research on Facebook or other social networking sites.

Key Takeaway: It’s not enough to have a website these days. You need to make sure that your website is found when people search for specific health information online. Learn how to use the Google Keyword Tool to optimize your content so that people can easily find the information they’re looking for on your website. Also consider starting a Google+ community to educate people about their health. Google will reward you with a high search rank just for having a community of your own!

#3. 1/2 of online health questions are on behalf of someone else

39% of online health seekers said they looked for information on behalf of someone else. However another 15%  of users said they were looking for information for themselves and for someone else. Parents were more likely than non-parents to look for information on behalf of someone else i.e. their children.

Key Takeaway: A growing number of adults act as caregivers to someone else in the family. When creating content for your website or blog don’t forget about them. Be sure to write articles that are relevant and helpful to them. If you’re not sure what kind of content resonates with caregivers you’ll find it worth your time and resources to hire a consultant to help you develop specific personas or profiles for content marketing.

#4. Specific diseases dominate people’s online questions

55% of online health seekers said they looked online for information about a specific disease or medical treatment in the last twelve months. The study also found that women were more likely than men to search for specific health information, as were internet users with higher levels of education.

Key Takeaway: As people look to more specific information about medical conditions and treatments, specialists in different categories should research and leverage exact search terms that are most popular among searchers.

Understand too the difference between general phrases e.g. eczema and long-tail phrases e.g. ‘cures for eczema’. Usually long-tail phrases pull a much lower search volume than general phrases. But this could work to your advantage. If your goal is to attract a specific type of audience, using long-tail search terms will filter off less relevant searchers, and focus on more precise consumer profiles for your brand.

#5. Young adults & minorities lead in mobile health information search

One of the more interesting findings from the study showed that Latinos, African-Americans,  people between the ages of 18 and 49, and those with some college education used their phones more to access health or medical information online. These groups accounted for 31% of U.S. adults who own a cell phone.

Image Source: Pew Research

Key Takeaway: A person’s likelihood to use their cell phone for health information search is amplified by the demographic factors mentioned above. This is key for marketers who target specific demographic audiences. It’s not enough to understand their pain points. It is equally important to know their digital habits particularly for consuming health information. For practices that target these groups, mobile content optimization should be a critical part of your marketing plan.

#6. Consumers not that interested in online reviews

Pew has been tracking the use of consumer reviews since 2000. They found that while 8 in 10 users say they have researched a product or service online, only 1 in 5 users have used online reviews and rankings of healthcare service providers and treatments. In fact the use of online reviews dipped between 2010 and 2012. Only 18% use online reviews today compared to 24% in 2010.

Key Takeaway: This is good news for healthcare marketers who worry that negative reviews might ruin their brand. But it still doesn’t let you off the hook in terms of providing excellent services and ensuring customer satisfaction .

If you see a negative online review of your brand be sure to address the complaint promptly and offer a solution that will satisfy the consumer. This will show other searchers that you are a caring brand. However don’t get too bent out of shape if the situation doesn’t end the way you want. Remember that consumers are not as focused on reviews as you are, so let it go.

#7. 1 in 4 searches have hit a “pay wall”

26% of online health searchers said they have been asked to pay for access to something they wanted to see online. 73% have not faced this choice. But of those who were asked to pay, only 2% did so while 83% hit a pay wall and tried to find the same information somewhere else. Another 13% of those who hit a pay wall just gave up searching altogether.

Key Takeaway: This is a tricky one. Not all health information can be given away for free. Oftentimes healthcare researchers and marketers work hard to develop ‘expert’ content and they are justified in selling this information.

But you also don’t want to lose audiences who may not be able to pay. One option is to use ‘teaser content’.  Allowing the reader to access a small portion of the report and then requiring payment to download the full report, may persuade a person to pay based on the little they’ve already have seen. Another strategy is to write a short blog post about the overall report. While this does not reveal specifics it may help to keep readers from drifting away to other sites.

Over to you: Which of these findings did you find most interesting or insightful? Please share your thoughts in the comment box below.

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