How Patients Are Built, Not Born, in Healthcare
This story is part of a series of interviews with 2022 Clio Health supporting partners about the evolution of healthcare marketing. See more articles from the series here.
Muse: What is your guiding philosophy or approach to creating health marketing that makes a difference for clients and the world at large?
Elle McComsey, EVP of engagement strategy, Digitas Health: My guiding philosophy is patients are built, not born. The moment someone experiences a potential symptom, they seek education and experiences to make it make sense. From a patient looking for high-funnel disease education, to someone who is later in the journey considering treatment options, patients crave engagement rooted in empathy. They want to feel heard, understood and ultimately build their health literacy, which motivates them to move forward in the patient journey. We, as marketers, need to recognize how every interaction—including clicks, email opens and social posts—plays a role in building competent, strong and confident patients.
I always say, "Chronic disease requires chronic education." The work doesn't stop when we create a social post about the impact of a given symptom or an email touch that supports a patient's treatment goals. We must chronically work to understand patients' individual and personal challenges—for their health and beyond—be it family dynamics, environmental factors, the social determinants of health, or otherwise, and look for ways to engage across the connected ecosystem. This perspective helps us adopt an omni-channel mindset to create personalized experiences and feedback loops, which ultimately leads to movement in the patient journey.
By creating nurturing, personal, and educational experiences for patients, we help them access resources available to them and open the door to advocate for treatment in the context of their lives. As health marketers, we have the privilege of building experiences that fit meaningfully into the lives patients and connecting them to treatments so they can return to their everyday lives and the things that matter most to them.
Describe a recent campaign that embodied that approach.
We were tasked with introducing unique and innovative work for one of our longstanding client's newest partners. To get a holistic perspective of a group of patients' unique and personal challenges, we tapped into local communities and identified a critical but overlooked community—the faith community—that plays a key role in many patients' lives.
For this specific patient population, there is stigma and emotional weight that comes with diagnosis. However, we found that religious leaders in the community were instrumental in being voices of support for these patients. It's well known the power and weight that a sermon holds among religious communities everywhere—it's something that has the power to instigate change. But the power is often limited to the inside of a religious institution's walls.
We sought to expand this power in the community and change the narrative for this patient community. We enlisted, partnered with and amplified the voices of influential religious leaders to help reduce the stigma that exists for this patient population and promoted love and acceptance. By connecting patients with their community leaders in this way, we were able to change the narrative to create outcomes. Ultimately, the outcome of our client's work created space for us to build up patients by helping them feel supported, motivated and embraced among their communities and in their lives.
What excites you most about the future of health marketing, and how are you preparing for that future?
There's a fundamental shift happening in healthcare where we're moving from reactive medicine to predictive medicine. We're starting to see the soul in our data. We're no longer just fixing patients when they seek help, we're proactively asking, "Who do you want to be in the world, and how can you manage your health to make that happen?"
Thanks to innovative solutions like wearables and IOT health technology, physicians can now predict early signs of patient deterioration in ICUs or improve chronic disease management. And from a marketing perspective, similar technologies help us understand how patients are moving through their journeys and addressing their personal health challenges on a more granular level.
Such innovations have led us to a critical inflection point in our industry—we have a unique opportunity to leverage predictive analytics to create better feedback loops, multi-layered journeys and derivative content to intimately address patient challenges. For brands willing to leverage the power of first-party data, patient engagement is a rich, powerful space where brands can create competitive advantages while driving life-changing patient outcomes.