Villing & Company

Making Patient Empathy the Foundation of Your Healthcare Marketing Strategy


We live in chaotic times, especially when it comes to the healthcare industry. Massive legislative and technological changes have made the healthcare market confusing for providers and patients alike. But within the chaos is a key opportunity for healthcare providers to develop a marketing strategy that effectively sets them apart from their competitors. That opportunity is patient empathy.

In their 2018 Health Care Marketing Trends Report, Franklin Street, a healthcare marketing firm, turns to the realm of creative problem solving for a key insight into how healthcare marketers can succeed in the current climate. They highlight a process known as “Design Thinking” as a path for providers to meet industry demands.

In Franklin Street’s words, Design Thinking “breaks complexity into manageable pieces, minimizes risk through iterations and scales to meet the demands of the situation.” The core insight of Design Thinking is to begin with the patient in mind. Put yourself in their shoes and attempt to view their journey exactly as they view it. At all stages of attempting to address the problem, you will be enhancing the patient experience. If you keep them in mind, that will set you off on the right path as you begin to build out your strategy.

So what does this look like practically? I’m glad you asked.

Make life easier for your patients

Each component of your marketing strategy should be designed to make it easier for patients to take the actions you want them to take. However, to make things easier for them, you have to first identify what it is they want.

In a recent Yext* study about the patient experience, research underscored the impact of mapping the customer journey to make sure each step is making their experience easier. According to the study, “[If] detailed provider information isn’t easy to find upon first search, providers may miss out on as many as three out of four potential patients.”

Three out of four – 75 percent! Do I have your attention now?

It’s crucial to audit your website and understand where the relevant data resides and how easy it is to access. Make sure that you’re making it as easy as possible for patients to engage with you.

Another insight contained in that same study is that patients expect online transactions. More than that, they are increasingly looking for new ways to book appointments online – through voice search, for instance. I wrote an article about the growing trend of voice search for healthcare marketers, and it has only continued to grow since then.

It will make life easier for you too

As you put more emphasis on the patient experience in your marketing strategy, you will see internal benefits as well. One key area where this is the case is in search engine optimization (SEO).

It is notoriously tricky to build a strong, organic SEO strategy due to the ever-changing search algorithms that dictate listings. However, a basic element to any SEO strategy is a strong user experience. If your site is difficult to navigate or contains broken links, you’ll see major SEO downgrades.

But even more than that, if you are actually attempting to get in the mind of your patients, you’ll begin to understand the questions they might have. You can use your online marketing to answer those questions by identifying keywords that are important to your patients and, therefore, your brand. As you answer more patient questions with your online data and content, keyword strength will grow, as will your SEO.

There are so many challenges facing healthcare marketers today. But increasing your organization’s focus on patient empathy and applying methods like Design Thinking to your strategic process will help you build a strong healthcare brand that will weather the storms of these changing times.


*Yext is a New York-based digital knowledge management firm.

Filed Under: healthcare, marketing, branding

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