Not only do virtual tours help prospective patients get to know a provider's staff, facility, and service lines, the tours also help marketers take the pulse of the community.
It doesn't matter how many ads you run promoting your hospital or health system's facilities and patient experience—nothing compares to the real deal. For decades, healthcare organizations have welcomed patients and community to attend open houses and other special events, but as most marketers know, it's increasingly difficult to get people through the door.
It's a shame, because the age-old open house is a valuable promotional tool—not only does it help prospective patients get to know your staff, your facility, and your service lines, but the questions they ask and areas they show interest in helps marketers take the pulse of the community.
The good news is that some astute hospitals and health systems have found a way to recreate the traditional open house environment in a way that's more convenient for today's hectic schedules—virtual tours.
Here are three organizations that are inviting people near and far to experience their facilities right from their smartphone or computer.
Christ Hospital Health Network's 3D Tour
The Cincinnati, OH-based Christ Hospital Health Network began offering a 3D virtual tour of its new standalone surgical center in early April, before the new facility opened its doors.
The tours are hosted on a website, which users can visit on their computer or mobile device. Visitors can view a floorplan and navigate their way through the lobby and into exam rooms and operating rooms, where they can watch videos about the hospital's services and patient experience.
"We believe this is the first time any health facility in the region has used such a virtual tour," Kendall Herold, a spokeswoman for Christ Hospital, told a local paper. "We were inspired by virtual tours created by companies in other industries, including the hospitality industry."
The hospital also offers a similar tour of its breast center, where prospective patients can learn about the facility's medical technology and watch videos featuring its physicians. Both tours are quick to load and easy to navigate.
"By creating a virtual tour, we are able to engage a broader audience than we may see at a traditional open house," Herald said.
Mayo Clinic Periscope Tours
For hospitals and health systems that don't have room in the budget to create a virtual tour of their facility, the Twitter-owned livestreaming app Periscope is a cost-effective alternative. While Periscope has fewer bells and whistles than a 3D tour, it makes up for it with other attributes, such as the ability for viewers to interact in real time and, of course, the cool factor.
Mayo Clinic created its Periscope account in June 2015 with the goal of using it to stream behind-the-scenes tours, educational discussions with Mayo specialists, and live events. In July, it broadcast a 22-minute guided tour of its Rochester, MN campus that showed off facilities and shared facts about the health system's history.
"Mayo Clinic has patients from every U.S. state and over 140 countries every year, and we saw the opportunity to help those considering Mayo Clinic get a preview of what they can expect when they come here," Lee Aase, director of Mayo Clinic Center for Social Media, told HealthLeaders in July. "We also think it will be great to offer behind-the-scenes views of some of the unique features that make Mayo Clinic special. As we've explored it further, we see many more opportunities."
Though Periscope videos disappear from the app after 24 hours, Mayo smartly edited and uploaded the footage to their YouTube account so viewers can continue to access it. To date, the Rochester tour has been viewed more than 3,900 times.
Birmingham Children's Hospital Google Maps Tour
The UK's Birmingham Children's Hospital teamed up with Google and an autism organization to create a Google Maps tour of the hospital so that autistic children can become familiar with the hospital before their visit.
"We know that children with autism really struggle when they come to visit us," the hospital wrote on its Facebook page. "They get anxious and upset about unfamiliar places and this can often be very hard for the parents, too."
Users navigate through the tour by clicking on arrows or dragging their cursor over the screen, like when using the Google Maps street view feature. The website also provides links to 19 areas, like the waiting room, X-ray, and sensory garden, if users would prefer to explore that way.
From a marketing perspective, this tour not only helps to create a more positive patient experience for children, but it likely puts parents at ease as well.
Marianne Aiello is a contributing writer at HealthLeaders Media.