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Commentary: Let's get original in helping customers make healthcare choices


Here’s a statement that wasn’t true 10 or even five years ago: Consumer choice is driving healthcare transformation. As the expectations and experiences influencing choice change, healthcare must evolve to meet consumers when, where and how they are making those choices.

This comes as no surprise to us in marketing and brand experience—we see it every day, in every interaction. It’s happened in all other sectors of our economy, and now consumerism is dramatically changing the healthcare landscape and expectations.

As we consider new ways to deliver care, we must also strive to understand how consumers are making healthcare choices, what the influential factors are, where they are consuming information, and how to overcome barriers to making a choice in the current healthcare environment.

To do this, we must shift away from trying to define the healthcare consumer and instead respond to their specific consumer needs—based on behavior, data and trends. As the nation’s largest not-for-profit health system, Ascension is already an expert repository of health, wellness and clinical content. Now we are bringing original, compelling, sharable content to consumers that meets their needs, when and where they need it.

At Ascension, we are focused on four core areas for marketing—consumer health management, brand experience, consumer find-ability and share-ability, and provider validation.

With information right at your fingertips, we know there is a growing trend in self-diagnosing and consumption of symptom-based videos. This transparency and accessibility have allowed consumers to take something as important as healthcare into their own hands. We meet consumers where they are by generating tools that help patients design a birth plan, decide when to see a doctor, tour a facility and interview doctors through online profile videos. This personalized approach has allowed us to interact with our patients from the very beginning of the patient journey and throughout the experience.

As we unify the Ascension brand across our sites of care, we continue to support that brand through a consistent brand experience and brand promise. Reputation is most successfully built through the voices of our own patients, families, providers and caregiver. Human nature tells us that people like people—and they trust each other—so who better to communicate with consumers than consumers themselves. By capturing real stories from patients and providers in a thoughtful way, we can share positive experiences that are already happening.

Owned and original content also supports our online optimization. Information that is easily findable, digestible, and shareable becomes healthcare news you can use. This type of “snackable” content can increase consumer find-ability as well as shop-ability, and this idea applies to traditional forms of advertising as well. For example, advertorials are not a new concept for marketers but represent an opportunity when optimized for search and written to be easily shared.

Just like any other consumer-focused product, consumers want to know that they are making the best choice when it comes to their healthcare and the health of loved ones—and they are searching for information to validate it. When making choices and recommendations, profiles of care, personal testimonials and success stories are supporting provider endorsement and referral—particularly in online communities and social sharing.

As with other industries, healthcare must better understand those we serve and how they are making choices. We must reimagine consumer engagement, respond to consumer needs and build trust at every interaction. We can no longer expect consumers to come to our door; we must meet them at theirs.