I hear it all the time from healthcare marketers and experts alike: hospitals and health systems should look to other industries for marketing and advertising ideas. After all, this tactic has worked in other areas of healthcare. Patient safety and quality have both been improved thanks to best practices borrowed from outside the healthcare field, for example. But will that innovation ever find its way into the marketing department? Or are healthcare marketers too entrenched in the "this-is-the-way-we've-always-done-it mentality"?
Here's the problem. The way it's always been done is not very well.
Really, how long will hospitals run ads with pictures of a team of doctors in white coats with their arms crossed or a nurse at a patient's bedside offering a comforting touch and a friendly smile or pictures of medical devices and buildings?
OK, so it's no secret that healthcare is a little behind the curve when it comes to marketing. And that's why some savvy healthcare marketers are looking beyond their own departments and hallways for inspiration, advice, and a new way to do things.
And there are lots of things that healthcare marketers can learn from other industries, especially in areas in which healthcare marketing is—let's face it—weak. From product development to how best to use new media to creating a brand that engages consumers to measuring return on investment (the latter being the weakest of all weak spots, for sure), why not turn to others for a little help?
So, who should you turn to?
In this month's issue of HealthLeaders magazine, I wrote about some of the lessons healthcare marketers can find in the business models of companies in other industries, such as pharmaceutical, finance, travel, and hospitality.
The people I interviewed for this article said you have to go beyond the obvious. Yes, hotels have valet parking and yummy room service choices. But there's more to it than that.
"Our patients don't understand why they can stay at the Marriott and have an accurate bill under their door the morning they leave the hotel, yet the hospital sends an inaccurate bill months after they are discharged," Lynne Cunningham, principal of Cunningham Associates, a healthcare consulting firm in Sacramento, CA, told me. "Patients don't understand why we have asked for the same information upon registration—every time—even if they are being seen on a regular basis."
So, what else can you do to learn from other industries? A few suggestions:
You have to break out of the marketplace clutter. You must differentiate your organization from the rest. The best way to look different than everybody else might just be to look in a different direction from everybody else.