Choosing a hospital or doctor is completely different from choosing a sofa … isn’t it?

How is it possible that people would seek healthcare, especially when they’re sick, using the same principles they use when shopping for cars? Beds? Airline tickets?

Not only is it possible, it’s happening every day. Let’s find out how other healthcare brands we respect like Johns Hopkins, Mount Sinai and University of Utah, among others, do it.

A Healthcare Consumerism Primer

Consumerism addresses the internal dialogue that takes place when we face a buying decision.

  • Is this a good price?
  • Will this product or service *really* fit my needs?
  • Will it be good for me in the long term?

Whether that purchase is dinner or auto insurance, you’re probably using data to help you decide. We’ve become accustomed to:

  • Product reviews (thank you, Amazon)
  • Price comparison tools
  • Online forums

Using these tools, we can identify products and services that align with our values. We no longer have to assume we’re making a good purchase — we know we are.

5 Insights About Healthcare Consumerism

It turns out we go through the same motions — using a similar internal dialogue and data — when making healthcare decisions.

Here are 5 insights:

1. People learn about services from multiple sources before committing

Runners are very particular about their shoes. Before buying a new pair, they ask their training buddies, read online reviews and post questions in digital running forums.

Healthcare consumers are similar. They ask trusted friends for doctor recommendations. Read about treatments on patient blogs. Participate in disease-specific forums. And they use online health information to try and self-diagnose. (Note: We don’t recommend this last one.)

2. They’re curious about other people’s experiences

Yelp, Amazon, Etsy and countless brands encourage users to provide product feedback. And we’ve become accustomed to using feedback from strangers to inform purchase decisions.

In healthcare, two types of publicly available patient-reported data may help drive provider selection:

  • Formal patient experience data evaluating providers against set criteria
  • Patient satisfaction data that lets people assess providers based on their own criteria

See it in action: Texas Children’s Hospital and Johns Hopkins Medicine both publish patient experience and patient satisfaction data directly on their website in an easy-to-find location.

3. Quality matters

People want a quality product or service — even for purchases as mundane as a kitchen spatula. If the handle breaks off after going through the dishwasher, you likely think less of the brand and won’t be going to them for a replacement.

The same can be said about healthcare. Even more so. If you have a rare or advanced disease, you want to receive services from a care team that specializes in treating it. It’s comforting to know that that team helps patients achieve good outcomes, and their patients resume their regular daily activities.

So, what does this mean for a healthcare marketer? It’s time to tap into your patient stories and testimonials so prospective patients can be reassured by past and current patients. And don’t forget the data. Be sure to highlight the number of patients your team treats with specific conditions and the numbers of procedures they perform each year.

See it in action: University of Utah Health pulls patient ratings and reviews directly into their physician bios.

4. Convenience is key

Ordering lunch, dinner or an afternoon pick-me-up is now easier than ever. Using a mobile app, you can order ahead at many restaurants and coffee shops, and your items will be ready upon arrival.

Accessing care is now nearly as easy. Many health systems offer telehealth services and same-day visits, even for specialty care. Vaccines are available at your local pharmacy. And select urgent care services are available at a growing number of freestanding clinics.

See it in action: Mount Sinai enables patients to schedule and conduct telehealth visits right from an app. And NYU Langone makes it simple to schedule urgent care video visits from your computer, tablet or phone. The website clearly lists the payment options, too, which is either a co-pay from your insurance or a flat rate of $126 per visit. Patients appreciate transparency and will not be surprised by unexpected bills.

Read more: Three Tips for Marketing Telehealth Services During Coronavirus and Beyond.

5. Having choices is empowering … to a point

When you give people choices, they feel more in control. And who doesn’t like having the power when money is changing hands? But having too many options makes it difficult to reach an informed decision. Savvy brands take steps to prevent users from becoming overwhelmed. Video explainers, 360-degree product views and customer photos clear the path for stress-free decision making.

In healthcare, selecting a doctor is among the many choices people have. They want providers who are experienced, accessible, have a solid care philosophy, and they want an office staff that’s friendly and easy to communicate with. Savvy health systems make this type of information available in provider profiles.

See it in action: Kaiser Permanente showcases their physician’s expertise and personalities in an easy-to-read Q&A format. And Christus Trinity Clinic in Corpus Christi, TX, creates their physician profiles in video format, so people can get to know their provider before making an appointment.

Read more: Our 2019 Physician Profile Survey has the stats on what consumers really want when looking for a provider. Get your copy of our Checklist: How to Create High-Converting Physician Bios

What Has Consumerism Got to Do With Healthcare Marketing?

Brands know that it’s no longer enough to have a strong digital presence. They’re providing consumers with a great online experience. And now healthcare consumers want helpful information about their options and the same convenient access they’ve become accustomed to in other industries.

What does this mean to healthcare marketers? That you may need to work harder to acquire new patients and keep the ones you have.

And we’re here to help! In upcoming blog posts, we’ll explore the implications of healthcare consumerism. We’ll also provide helpful tips and strategies that start building brand loyalty in just a few clicks.

In this blog series, we’ll explore:

  • Healthcare organizations that are using consumerism well.
  • Tactics you can use to be more responsive to the consumerism movement.
  • The role of convenience in healthcare consumerism.

Struggling to Get Your Healthcare Content to Rank?

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