If you’ve ever been to Disney’s Magic Kingdom, you know that it can be simultaneously magical and harrowing. Long lines, confusing attraction schedules, and unpredictable Florida weather can turn an enchanting vacation into a sweaty day of exhaustion and frustration.
Entire websites and communities have arisen to help both new and experienced visitors share information and build a complete picture of what a trip to a Magic Kingdom theme park is actually like. If you look at most, though, you’ll see the conversations don’t just center on Disney’s core competency of enchantment and fantasy brought to life. They take the time to dig into the best ways to navigate the less magical side of the experience, such as long ride waits and managing money.
What if healthcare patient stories took a similar approach?
Image attribution: Thomas Kelley
Don’t get me wrong—patient stories give critical insight into the ways that caregivers impact patient lives, but they are often one-dimensional and limited in scope. Patient stories are moving stories, and for that exact reason, they should be reaching deeper and conveying a more complete picture of the patient experience.
Look up any medical facility or healthcare organization (maybe even your own) and review some of their patient stories. You’ll likely notice that they have some pretty tight boundaries: They start at the point of diagnosis and end at discharge. A more sophisticated marketing team might expand to a dramatic moment of emergency or stretch a little to show a patient returning to their lives and loved ones, but for the most part, patient stories focus entirely on the clinical care experience and results.
To some extent, that makes sense. The drama and expertise live within those boundaries. This is where clinicians get to shine, and it highlights a facility’s core competency. But it’s still only a portion of what patients navigate in their care experience.
To understand the complete patient experience, pay a little attention to what’s going on in the world of patient engagement just outside of the clinical realm.
First off, let’s look at technology. From wearables that transmit biometrics to initiatives like Meaningful Use, it’s obvious that technology has become an integral part of patient engagement, much like any other consumer experience.
And then, there’s the bane of the American healthcare experience, billing. It’s easy to underestimate how much the patient financial experience weighs in the overall healthcare experience, but a recent article from Becker’s Hospital Review reveals just how integral the billing experience is to overall patient perception:
The shock of an unexpected expense can destabilize the patient–hospital relationship and reduce satisfaction rates. A 2013 survey by TransUnion found nearly 70 percent of patient respondents who gave the highest ratings to their quality of care during the past two years also gave high ratings to their billing and payment experiences, compared to only 24 percent of those who gave low ratings to their quality of care. This has made customer satisfaction a strategic priority for hospitals as clinical outcomes and HCAHPS scores are increasingly linked to reimbursement rates.
Care experiences matter, yes, but they’re just the most obvious part of the journey. The patient experience is a broad one, and if healthcare marketing leaders take time to dig just a little deeper, they’ll find the real patient stories their audiences care about—and that so many of their competitors are missing.
Building complete patient stories is a challenge, but the answers are not far away.
Vendors, including cleaning services, architects, uniform providers, even signage vendors typically consider how their products and services connect with the patient experience. Some vendors have even started publishing their best patient stories themselves. Take a look at healthcare payment software provider Simplee and some of their patient stories.
Leveraging this perspective to flesh out your organization’s patient stories is simple once your teams learn to take on a complete perspective of the patient experience. Here’s a closer look at some of the elements that robust patient stories should reflect.
The patient financial experience is a huge component of the overall patient experience. (It can even impact clinical results.) The financial side of the patient journey should be a particular focus for any facility or organization that’s strategically invested in improving revenue cycle processes and touting patient-friendly billing.
Facilities are making major tech and mHealth investments in the form of everything from tablets to telehealth, and they should be showing it off. Even subtle mentions of technology in patient stories can help make an organization’s forward-thinking initiatives more prominent to their marketing audiences, especially if a facility has invested in tech that makes any part of the patient experience more comfortable.
Image attribution: Oles Kanebckuu
Every interaction with a healthcare provider should leave a visitor better educated about their health. Chances are, most facilities are already taking actions to improve this facet of the patient journey such as clarifying discharge instructions and improving ongoing health literacy. It’s still likely that many are missing the opportunity to reflect these actions in their patient stories.
Stories that relate a focus on education build confidence, trust, and connection, so efforts that incorporate insight into education initiatives—how they were executed, who was involved, and how the patient felt afterward—can be incredibly effective in building more complete patient stories.
People talk about their medical experiences within their communities, and facilities have the opportunity to share just how impactful their services are on a larger scale. It’s worth investigating whether patients are referring friends or telling coworkers about their visits. Social proof is powerful in marketing, and care experiences are no different.
Beautiful hospitals get a lot of attention in healthcare media, and it’s likely no different with happy patients. Aesthetics, cleanliness, and even decor are a part of the patient experience, so don’t forget to prioritize them in your patient stories when possible.
This is one patients might not be directly aware of, but it’s worth mentioning for that exact reason. Patients aren’t yet trained to expect good service from hospitals, so a patient story that reflects a positive service experience will definitely get attention.
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Featured image attribution: Matthias Zomer