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How Hospitals Can Be 'Sherpa' Brands

Jacqueline Fellows, for HealthLeaders Media, June 26, 2013

As the C-suite knows, simply fixing a patient's knee, delivering a baby, or stitching up an arm in the emergency room isn't enough. A patient's satisfaction with how a hospital delivers its care is at the top of the priority list of most hospital and health systems today.

It's a struggle to figure out the right balance between clinical and caring, and then communicate it in a way that is meaningful and stands out from other hospitals and health systems. Images of smiling nurses and sleeping babies, and ED wait times are on pasted brilliantly on billboards and websites… but they kind of all look the same.

One way to communicate the emotional reward a patient feels from a hospital stay is simple. Ask the patients. That's what Altru Health System did. The Grand Forks, N.D.-based nonprofit system has a blog called Altru Moments that is dedicated to letting patients tell their own stories of what happened during their hospital stay.

Lindsey Reznicek, who is part of Altru's corporate development and PR team, says every two weeks, a 4-5 minute video is posted of a patient that highlights service, quality, and access, which are also three strategic goals hospital leadership identified in 2011.

"The videos make them [patients] relatable," she says. "They are people first, not their diagnoses."

Reznicek says the system wants to show that it values a patient's experience in the hospital. The stories are compelling, and Reznicek says she works with nurses, physicians, and administrative staff to identify patients who have a good story to tell. Reznicek says she also encourages patients who are picked to tell their story to include the names of the physicians, nurses, and other staff that helped during the hospital stay.

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