A New Perspective on Marketing Hospitals From a Patient POV

Compassion is key to building trust for your hospital’s female patients.

I recently had a bicycle accident that left me with a broken elbow and a referral for surgery. While it wasn’t fun, it was a good opportunity to experience the patient journey from a different perspective than my usual view as a hospital marketer. What I learned along the way led to some surprising conclusions.

After I found out my elbow was broken, I was referred to a surgeon. The day of my appointment with the surgeon, I pulled up to a beautiful state-of-the-art medical complex. The waiting area was clean and well-appointed, and their technology was up to date. The receptionist asked me to fill out multiple forms on a clipboard.

Having a broken elbow makes writing with that hand difficult. I said I wasn’t sure I’d be able to complete the paperwork, and the receptionist told me to just do the best I could. She offered no assistance, which I found surprising, as there was no one else in line waiting to speak with her.

After the paperwork hurdle, I was shown to a well-equipped room with cushioned chairs. I was directed to sit on a tiny stool. When I asked if I could use one of the chairs instead, the nurse said the doctor wanted me to sit on the stool, and that if he was more than 15 minutes late, I could move to a chair.

I felt like I was back in third grade.

The doctor eventually came in and explained the surgery. I told him I was concerned about what would happen afterward, as I didn’t have anyone who could help me and I wasn’t sure what I would and wouldn’t be able to do. He remained focused on the actual surgery and offered no information on aftercare.

I left the facility feeling like I didn’t matter a whit to them. While their office was beautiful and up to date, my experience with the people inside it was so unpleasant that I immediately sought out a different surgeon and hospital.

Research detailed in the Harvard Business Review shows that women highly value their trust in a physician as a measure of the quality of care that physician provides. Trust is built of many components, but its basic foundations are compassion and understanding. If a physician, let alone his or her entire practice or hospital, showed such a lack of concern while I stood in front of them asking for help, what shortcuts might they take during a surgery, when I would be unable to speak up for myself?

I think I’ll take my business elsewhere, thanks.

While there’s certainly a place for hospital marketers to emphasize advanced technology, physician expertise, and state-of-the-art procedures, it’s important to ensure this isn’t at the expense of something much simpler: the trust their patients can have that the patient’s problem is important to them, and a clear message that they respect the patient.

It sounds easy, yet this basic mistake cost the first surgeon I visited my business.

Kathy Selker
I’m Kathy Selker. My work as managing director of Stratos and previously as CEO of Northlich, has taught me a great deal about how hospitals and health systems can best connect with women to make the most positive impact in their lives.
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