patient engagementPatient engagement is currently the holy grail of medical practice marketing. Far more than just a trendy buzzword, ‘engagement’ has not only mushroomed into one of the leading topics for spoken and written content, but it also lends itself to multiple meanings. Opportunists use it across a wide range of constituents and agendas, from social media marketing to database systems. So why is patient engagement so important, and how does content marketing help to achieve it?

Why We Need Engagement

Healthcare is expensive, both for patients and for the authorities. Research shows that patients who are actively involved in their healthcare are significantly more likely to practice positive health behaviour, resulting in better health outcomes. Case studies show patient engagement delivers dramatic results, such as:

  • 40% reduction in emergency room consultations
  • 20% to 35% reduction in hospital admissions
  • 86% patient satisfaction
  • 47% increase in the number of patients meeting cholesterol goals

This reduces the cost to all parties, minimises patients’ discomfort and increases both the length and the quality of their lives.

Disengagement Dilemma

Research by Deloitte shows that 1 in 2 patients are disengaged and prefer to follow a passive healthcare approach. In spite of having access to technology such as patient portals, less than 10% of patients actually use these online tools. They rely heavily on doctors to make all their medical decisions while they take no initiative to manage their own health.

Why Content Marketing Helps

It all comes down to conversation. In the healthcare service industry, we’re talking to real people about real issues that affect their lives. Content educates, informs, and promotes conversation; all these processes lead to patient engagement. If you want your patients to join the conversation, you have to give them a reason to do so, and that’s where content marketing comes in. Not just any content, either; it has to be content your patients can really relate to.

Story Telling Makes the Point

Mankind has always loved story telling. Since the beginning of time, we’ve gathered around fires while elders told stories that carried important messages for humanity. And it’s no different today. You just have to look around at the millions of books, films and television series available - most of which have an identifiable moral message of some sort. Stories are shared, discussed and reproduced in other formats. Stories evoke emotion, they encourage the reader to go along for the journey. In other words, they engage.

Getting it Right

It’s one thing to say it and another to get it right, though. Far too often, healthcare marketers try to wrap their business points in a story and get it wrong. The story has to do the following to work:

  • Reveal something personal.
  • Take patients on a journey that offers a transformation between the beginning and the end.
  • Tap into an emotion, such as fear, desire or hope to motivate the patient to act.

A thinly-disguised marketing message won’t fool anyone, especially when you’re trying to promote patient engagement, because people don’t typically engage with brand communications. They engage with personal ones.

Focus on People

In healthcare you’re marketing to people, not to numbers or companies. You need to understand your target audience thoroughly, draw on a variety of resources and produce material that can inform, guide and inspire creative solutions. That’s the only way it will deliver the desired impact.

The figures quoted justify implementing patient engagement by any means. You can do it by altering your mindset to focus on patients as people, telling their stories in ways that are meaningful and that help to educate them on the importance of health management.

(patient engagement / shutterstock)