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How Digital Strategy Shapes Patient Engagement at Boston Children's Hospital

Marianne Aiello, for HealthLeaders Media, August 20, 2014

The chief marketing officer of this pediatric powerhouse says that social media and mobile access are essential to its strategy and "innovation promises to be an ever-important part of our brand."


Taylor Swift

Taylor Swift and Jordan Lee Nickerson

Boston Children's Hospital is on a roll.

The 396-bed organization was ranked the top pediatric hospital in 2014 by the U.S. News & World Report, it has revitalized revenue after a decrease in patient discharges, and, to top it all off, pop star Taylor Swift made a surprise appearance this month to serenade a young patient.

By all accounts things are going well, thanks in part to Margaret Coughlin, senior vice president and chief marketing and communications officer. Coughlin orchestrated tweaking the organization's name back in 2012 (from Children's Hospital Boston to Boston Children's Hospital, as it was commonly referred to) and now is focusing her attention on patient experience and digital marketing endeavors.

To learn more about how Boston Children's is aligning its marketing strategy, I asked Coughlin to shed some insight on the inner-workings of her well-oiled marketing machine.

HLM: Do you think children's hospitals have more pressure to be in the vanguard of digital/social media since patients and their families are younger than the general patient population?

Coughlin: The consumerism of healthcare demands that all providers engage with their patients and families (our customers) when, how, and where the customer desires. The healthcare consumer of today is curious and demanding and that is a great opportunity for health care marketers to engage.

But the ante is up because the content competition is fierce. The fastest growing age band for Twitter use is 55–64, which indicates that digital engagement is an opportunity for all demographic segments. We certainly have many older parents and grandparents heavily engaged with us in our social channels.

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