The Moment of Truth in Health Care Marketing

When you are thinking about your marketing strategy and considering how to reach certain outcomes, take a step back and take a hard look at the service delivery itself.  Yes, I have written about this before but I am not sure, we in health care, have fully reached our service potential.  We do a lot of talking about patient-centered care and there is some conversation around family-centered care, but take a good hard look at one service line or even the emergency department and pretend you are the patient.

Partially because of my father’s circumstances (prostate cancer that has metastasized into his bones) and partially because this is how life works, I have spent a considerable amount of time as a family member in several different emergency departments in the last few months.  No amount of marketing, brand promotion or social media forays can make up for those face to face moments with the admissions representative, the triage nurse, the nurse or the physician.  At times like this (and stated before in this blog), the service is the marketing.  And because a visit to the ED or the hospital is a particularly vulnerable time for the patient and his/her family, every extra step makes a difference.

I have mentioned Berkshire Medical Center in Pittsfield, MA before for its amazing balance of high tech with high touch.  Most hospitals strive for this balance but it takes significant work to get the balance past the word-smith and actually identifiable in the exam rooms.  It starts with making the right hiring decisions and then it continues with the nurturing of a caring culture and modeling that culture for employees.

  • Imagine the impression your hospital would make on the arriving emergency patient if a member of the admissions team came out to the car and helped you get your family member into a wheel chair and then shepherded you in and first made the patient comfortable before tending to the business of the admission.
  • What would the patient think if the triage nurse knew that the patient would have to have a CT prep cocktail and also knew the wait to see a physician, even with a suspected bowel obstruction, was two hours, and that nurse sought out a physician so they could start the CT prep cocktail while the patient was still in the waiting room so that the actual time in the exam room could be expedited?
  • Or imagine that in a busy clinic, the nurse comes out, between patients, to explain why there is a slight delay and makes sure that patient is comfortable and understands the process in front of him.
  • Or imagine the surgical resident who comes to the ER because she sees the patient’s name and remembers him from a prior visit and just wants to check on how that patient is doing.
  • Or imagine the charge nurse helping out with a discharge because the patient is agitated and so ready to go home.  Not only does the charge nurse defuse the patient’s anxiety, but she uses charm and warmth, to disarm the entire family while carefully explaining the tedious discharge instructions.  By the time the patient leaves, he feels like he has a new best friend!

None of the above examples can be written in an employment manual. They all actually took place at Berkshire Medical.  It took an extra step for each of these employees to reach out and they did it and probably continue to do it because they care and they feel enabled in their work environment to demonstrate their care and concern.

Each employee in the above examples could have easily made other choices.  This is the moment of truth for any organization.  When the patient comes face to face with an employee, what will be the result?  Inputs cannot be controlled (grumpy and sick patients) but employee responses can be nurtured with the aspiration of positive outcomes.

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