Health IT Marketing - Tell the Time

When it Comes to Health IT Marketing, Tell the Time

Long before I entered the world of health IT marketing, I remember my father telling me “Ask an engineer what time it is and he’ll tell you how the clock was made.” I don’t actually recall the reason he said it – although there must’ve been one since he wasn’t one to speak in adages normally – but I do recall the lesson.

The adage has taken on new meaning today. One of the cool things about working at Amendola Communications is that I regularly meet brilliant people doing brilliant things to improve the quality and efficiency of healthcare. I’m frequently amazed that they can not only think of innovative products and services to develop but also can put them together.

Yet therein lies the rub, so to speak. They are so justifiably proud of the thinking, work and effort that went into their products that they forget the average user isn’t interested in all the inner workings or how they got to where they are. They just want to “know the time.” They care more about the ‘why’ than the ‘how.’

Jargon and technobabble

One of the biggest challenges these engineering-oriented folks face when it comes to health IT marketing is the technologist’s love of jargon and technobabble. Throw in the healthcare world’s love of acronyms and abbreviations and pretty soon you’ll have an incompressible communique that might even baffle Alan Turing. (For those not familiar with Turing, he’s the man who led the British efforts to break the Nazi’s “unbreakable” Enigma codes in WWII, which helped shorten the war by several years. The movie about that effort, The Imitation Game, is an excellent watch by the way.)

One popular phrase that seems to have accompanied most health IT marketing announcements over the past 15 years is “open and interoperable.” Given the healthcare industry’s well-documented and ongoing challenges with interoperability, at first glance that would seem like an important benefit. But in reality, the phrase has been so over-used and mis-used that it has really lost all meaning. Besides, if every technology that made that claim actually was open and interoperable, health IT wouldn’t be in the state it’s in right now.

The same goes for many of the facts, figures and specifications often touted in press releases, data sheets and other materials. While this information has its value, that value is not in leading the discussion. It’s more support to assure potential buyers that a product they are now convinced solves their problem will also work within its existing infrastructure.

This difference between facts and useful information really came home to me a few months ago when I was asked to look at a press release and data sheet to determine how much editing would be required to make them effective for health IT marketing. I diligently read through the press release. I then diligently read through the data sheet.

Finally I gave my response. I thought they both needed a lot of work because after all that reading I wasn’t quite sure what the product did or why anyone in healthcare would want it. I knew what sorts of protocols had been used in its creation, and the alphabet soup of standards it met. I’m fairly certain I even knew what type of software development was used in its creation and what they people who worked on it liked to eat for lunch.

The only thing I didn’t know is exactly what it did. Or why I should care.

The Imitation Game

This time I’m not referencing the movie, but instead the way organizations seem to like to imitate the language used by competitors or big players in the industry to make their marketing materials seem more “official” and important. This is especially true on websites.

When we start with a new client, or are pitching a new prospect, one of the first things I and most of my colleagues do is go to the client’s/prospect’s website to learn something about them. Sometimes this is a very fruitful venture that provides great background and insight into the organization’s purpose and objectives.

But there are definitely times when I come away less informed than I was before I went onto the site. Platitudes, clichés and marketingspeak picked up and (slightly) repackaged from the websites of companies someone on the team admires rule the day. It makes me think that the company has no idea what it does and who its audience is. Or that it has a solution that’s in search of a problem to solve.

Rather than trying to sound like everyone else, and one-up the competition in the use of meaningless phrases, smart marketers will understand who they’re trying to reach and what problem(s) they have. They will then craft their messages to address those audiences and their issues directly. And simply.

It’s like a FedEx Super Bowl commercial from the last decade. A group of underlings in suits are trying to explain to the CEO why they need to switch to FedEx. They start out with an MBA-level discussion which goes right over the head of the CEO. Then they simplify it to more of an undergrad-level explanation. Still nothing but crickets.

Finally someone says, “For every dollar we spend we’ll get two back.” Sold!
If all your competitors are trying to outdo each other with technical information and complex explanations, don’t look at it as a guideline. Look at it as an opportunity.

Remember Apple didn’t get to be the world’s valuable company by selling technology and specs. That’s what their competitors tried to do. Instead, Apple sold solutions and simplicity. In fact, their whole brand was based on making their technology so easy to use and un-intimidating that you didn’t even need an owner’s manual. You could figure it out for yourself.

Keep it simple

Whether you’re creating a press release, white paper, collateral piece, video or some other form of communication it’s important to focus first on the benefits to the user. Even the most technical audience needs you to identify what problem(s) you solve or improvements you deliver before they will invest any more time. Answer the question: “Why should I care?”

If they don’t understand what the product or service does immediately, and why it will make their jobs easier/lives better, all the rest is unnecessary detail. Especially if your audience is clinicians; they already have enough inner workings to worry about in the human body.

It’s great to be proud of the technological breakthroughs you have created; celebrate them fully. But when it comes to PR and marketing, remember to focus on the WHY. Being able to tell time is WHY we buy a clock.

To learn more about how to communicate technology benefits more effectively, click here.

What has your experience been? Have you ever gone to a website or read a brochure and left more confused about what the company did than when you started? How do you address the people within your own organization who want to stuff marketing materials full of jargon and marketingspeak?

The Joint Chiropractic clinic in Mesa, Arizona

5 Ways to Build Credibility with Healthcare Consumers

Over the last couple of years there has been a significant shift in the way consumers approach healthcare. Rather than viewing it as something to consider when they are sick or injured, more and more they are taking control of their own healthcare choices and focusing on wellness as well. Smartphone apps and watches (or watch-like devices) continue to grow in popularity, raising consumer awareness about their health in general. Changes in insurance are also driving healthcare consumers to look at healthcare differently. A majority (74%) of U.S. workers now face a waiting period before employer provided health insurance coverage is available. Waiting periods are a specified length of time —usually two months—after beginning employment before employees are eligible to enroll in health benefits. Higher co-pays and deductibles also have consumers looking for less expensive alternatives.

These factors have led to the explosive growth of retail healthcare over the past few years. This phenomenon has manifested itself in many forms, including chiropractic clinics, urgent care centers, walk-in medical clinics, as well as facilities that specialize in dialysis, infusions, mammograms, MRIs, neurofeedback and other consumer-focused services.
The consumerization of healthcare means more and more providers are marketing and selling their services directly to consumers. Many choose to bypass insurance companies and accept only cash payments to keep costs down as well as make it easier for the public to do business with them. But without the name of a big hospital or health system behind you, how do you build credibility with your target audience?

Here are 5 tips:

  1. Comply with FTC Rules and Regulations
    You may truly believe that your product or service can fix a whole host of maladies, but the FTC has strict guidelines on truth in advertising and marketing. Don’t claim a cure-all. For instance, if you are a chiropractor, refrain from stating that spinal adjustments can cure obesity or infertility. It’s safer to say that a healthy spine protects the central nervous system which then enables the body to heal itself. Comply with FTC rules for health and fitness marketing; never, ever make product claims without competent and reliable evidence to back them up.
  2. Use Plain Language Not Medical Jargon
    Few consumers know what “subluxation” means, but most will understand what you mean if you simply say “misalignment of the spine.” Instead of MTBI which stands for mild traumatic brain injury, say “post concussion symptoms.” Do your homework: a quick SEO search may reveal that consumers search online for chiropractors using the key words “back pain” and not “spinal alignments.”
  3. Be Specific
    If you run a cash-only healthcare business, be sure your web site states that you take cash, credit and FSA debit cards. Consumers tend to take things at face value so if you only mention cash, they will mistakenly assume you don’t take credit or debit cards. Make it easy to find your business hours, and include a map that shows your location. If your office is near a well-known local landmark include that in the description as well. If you only offer a certain subset of normal services associated with your area of healthcare, be sure that is spelled out as well so consumers aren’t disappointed when they can’t get what they need.
  4. Designate a Clinical Spokesperson
    In cases where the healthcare business owner is not a licensed medical professional, it’s best to reserve him/her for media interviews about the business. For consumer media it’s better to have a licensed professional as your spokesperson. Consumers care more about who will be providing their care than who is operating the clinic. This is especially important in “PC States” or Professional Corporation states and SMO (Service Management Organization) states where the corporate practice of medicine is banned and only licensed healthcare professionals are allowed to own a clinic.
  5. Think Hyper-Local
    Everyone wants to be in the Wall Street Journal but articles placed in the local and hyperlocal press tend to be more effective for patient recruitment. After all, consumers prefer to get healthcare within a 5 mile radius of where they live or work.

Announce clinic openings in the local community by reaching out not just to business and healthcare journalists, but also lifestyle, wellness and even real estate reporters. Create a campaign where you give back to the community. For example, The Joint Chiropractic invites firefighters and police to walk in for a free adjustment during First Responders Week around September 11 each year. Virgin Pulse organizes National Employee Wellbeing Month in June to raise awareness of the importance of workplace health and wellness. Amendola Communications’ retail/consumer healthcare experience includes managing PR programs for The Joint Chiropractic, Dermacare and Scottsdale Weight Loss Center, to name a few. To request a meeting or a capabilities overview, please complete this brief form.