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When it comes to choosing hospitals and healthcare providers, consumers think with their hearts. Regardless of the research and statistics, the industry citations and even the insurance coverage, people consistently make life-and-death decisions based on the emotional connections they form with caregivers.

Patients don’t want to hear only about equipment and research, they also want to know how it affects them in a profoundly personal way.


The challenge for clients is to keep the message patient-centered and communicate the benefit in a clear and compelling way. All that really matters to patients is their ability to survive and get well. Kentucky’s Saint Joseph Health System Cancer Center’s “Survivors” campaign is an example of how one healthcare provider got the message right. The Tombras Group created a signature TV spot that is visceral and heart-wrenching, because it features real survivors and real stories. It’s authentic, genuine and focused on patients, not providers.

Eighty percent of healthcare decisions are made by women, who are also more likely to be caregivers when family members are sick or injured. But it’s not about gender, it’s about humanity. The disconnect for physicians, who often matriculate to senior management positions within the hospital administration, happens when they focus on the science of medicine instead of on bedside manner.

“One of the most sublime experiences we can ever have is to wake up feeling healthy after we have been sick.” – Rabbi Harold Kushner

Another example that gets it right is St. Thomas Health Services’ “More Survivors” campaign. Our creative strategy was based on the heightened awareness and sensitivity that heart attack survivors describe as the new outlook they gain on life. The time-lapsed photography emphasizes this concept, which Tombras executed across all of the screens that consumers interact with: mobile, computer desktop and television.

Often, hospitals are under internal pressure from administrators (who are not marketers) to deliver a message that is hospital-focused: “We do this; we do that. Ours is the biggest and best. We have the smartest physicians. We have the most cutting-edge equipment.” The challenge is to take these inward-facing attributes and position them is a manner that matters to patients.

Additionally, many consumers now expect hospitals to have great physicians and wonderful equipment. These attributes alone are no longer the compelling, unique propositions that they used to be.

Middle Tennessee Medical Center (MTMC) built a new facility, and the administration was understandably proud of the expanded infrastructure and services. Tombras worked closely with our client to ensure that the new hospital was not about what MTMC had built but about how it would benefit patients. The campaign’s consistent theme was “Built Around You.”

Allow us to leave you with a final thought: call your patients “customers.” The word “patient” implies someone who has a lack of choice and empowerment – someone who is simply on the receiving end of care and service. Customers have a choice. They shop; they choose, and they go somewhere else if they’re not completely satisfied with their overall experience.

This post is used with permission. The original blog can be viewed at talkstreetsmart.com

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