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Your Hospital Marketing Shouldn't Shy from Topics Like Heart Health

Hospital marketing must understand how to speak to patients about topics like heart healthAccording to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, heart disease was the No. 1 cause of death in the United States in 2011. It is so prevalent, in fact, that the number of deaths due to heart disease is more than those from stroke, accidents, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, and chronic respiratory disease combined.

These are not new facts, but that doesn’t make them any less alarming.

Healthcare providers have tried to educate patients (and prospective patients) about heart health, with the intention of preventing the consequences of this disease. However, prevention and medication adherence are still woefully under-developed despite all the information available.

There is a misfire between what health care professionals know and how they communicate.

Educational literature about cardiovascular disease cannot take a one-size fits all approach as different patient groups have different beliefs and understanding of their health.

The simplest group to educate should be those who have already been diagnosed.

I say “should” because c2b solutions healthcare market research has revealed unsettling characteristics among those patients who have been diagnosed with cardiovascular disease.

More than 40 percent of diagnosed patients regard themselves as self-sufficient. In other words, they may be open to guidance but do not seek professional help — or avoid professional help altogether.  If you add to that the people who say they do nothing to manage a healthy lifestyle, that figure jumps to more than 50 percent.

Better communications are key to more effective health care strategies.

While this patient segment generally has a heightened concern for health issues relative to the general public, they still need help adopting healthy behaviors.

Getting through to these patients requires patience and an investment in knowing what makes them “tick”.

1. Stress how easy it can be to make changes.

As we all well know, asking resistant patients to make sudden and complete changes that require them to give up things that they like is probably not going to succeed. If you’re looking to improve outcomes with your cardiovascular patients, a focus on large-scale change may not be as effective as step-wise change.

Stress the difference that incremental changes can make.

Many of these patients aren’t likely to by driven by long-term goals. They want to know how little they can do to make a change, how easy it will be to get there, and the immediate benefits they will feel.  Asymptomatic conditions may not present an obvious, physical feeling of relief once treated, but offering benefits like peace of mind, potential cost savings by avoiding additional healthcare needs, or the energy and vitality one will experience from healthy living may be incentives.

2. Know your patients. Know what drives them.

When you talk about increased life expectancy — and all education literature does — make it personal. Link it to what is important to the patient.

Talk about things that appeal to their personal life or family obligations like being there to see grandchildren graduate from college, spending next Christmas with the family, or being able to travel with friends again. 

These aren’t just important to the patient; reinforce how these considerations are just as — if not more — important to their loved ones. The ideas of duty and love are powerful.

Undiagnosed patients are much more difficult to reach.

The approaches we mentioned above simply won’t work with them. Preaching moderation to consumers who don’t think they have a medical issue is challenging at best.

What you need to do is get them thinking about their lifestyles.

It’s not self-diagnosis. But a consumer knows of short-windedness long before his physician does. Make the consequences personal — population measures (e.g., X% of the population will get Disease Y) seldom work. Converting it to personal risk is more effective:  “If you are overweight and have high blood pressure or other risks, you are 3 times more likely to die from heart disease.”

What you’re asking people to do is to listen to their bodies more attentively, to be aware of anomalies that may be indicators of serious problems.

Hospitals must take the initiative.

Older consumers seek out health care professionals with whom they can communicate. They assume the science of medicine is there because of a healthcare provider’s license; it’s the art of medicine that drives consumers’ estimation of quality, and communication is at the heart of the provider/patient relationship.

Heart-healthy screenings and education at senior events are popular and appreciated. Depending on the event, representatives of a hospital can come in contact with hundreds of potential cardiovascular patients in a single day.  While the screening is conducted, the representative can probe the patient’s personal aspirations, goals and motivations, and then link advice and education to these factors.

When people leave the screening, be sure they have clearly written printed materials that give them specific, actionable steps they can take. General advice has not worked for them in the past. They need specifics for how to listen to their bodies at home.

Event sponsoring is a modestly priced and efficient means of making contact with consumers. These aren’t massive, highly publicized events. Rather, focus on smaller events that are aimed at older people: library activities, senior centers, neighborhood festivals, holiday displays, senior events at arts institutions.

These events are doubly effective — both in healthcare delivery and marketing tactics.

Hospitals can save lives and win the loyalty of an avoidant patient population when they offer a non-threatening entry point into the healthcare system.

Psychographic Segmentation and its Practical Application in Patient Engagement and Behavior Change

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