Routine check-up: how patient-centric is your marketing strategy?


“Currently, not every healthcare experience is good, and the negative ones have a variety of consequences – from additional stress to switching providers to forsaking treatment.” That’s according to Accenture’s latest Health and Life Sciences Experience Survey, which sets out to uncover how the healthcare experience has changed since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. The verdict? Granted, it’s become more digital and accessible, but not necessarily better.

Without human ingenuity, building trust, driving digital adoption and creating experiences that empower patients rather than make them passive recipients of care is an uphill battle at best. People expect their medical providers to offer clear explanations and advice about their condition and treatment. Not to mention emotional support, which most of them see just as crucial to positive experiences as medical care.

In the post-pandemic healthcare landscape, clear medical information delivered with empathy is the winning formula – and a patient-centric approach to marketing an active ingredient. Here are three questions you need to ask yourself to see if your current strategy is up for the challenge.


1. Does your brand feel human enough? 

If it seems like we can’t shut up about this, you’re not wrong. Find evidence number one here and number two here. And that’s not by accident. According to a joint report from Braze and Forrester, if people perceive a brand to be more human-like, they’re more than twice as likely to fall in love with it and 1.8 times more likely to become brand advocates. 

It’s almost ironic that brands in the health and pharma space, aka the most human of all industries, are “out-humanised” even by big tech, Conran Design Group managing director Christina Falzano points out. She explains, “For too long, some healthcare and pharmaceutical companies have trafficked in visuals and messages that show a dated understanding of the patients they serve — like pinks and purples for women-focused brands — as if those tired clichés will make you feel like an empowered superwoman.” 

What might do, however, is beautifully demonstrated in Teva’s double Lion Health-winning film, Hairspray, courtesy of VCCP and Dark Energy’s John Turner. Released as part of the pharma giant’s Acts of Love campaign, it shows the extraordinary lengths carers go to for their loved ones, amplifying the voice of people living with chronic conditions. We’re not crying, you’re crying.


2. How healthy is your social media feed?

If you’re like any of the pharma companies reviewed by Ogilvy Health, it could be better. In 2020, the health communications agency combed through the social media channels, including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and YouTube, of fifteen industry leaders to assess their social health across five different categories: corporate identity, content, community management, tech optimisation and paid social. The diagnosis? In the content and paid social media arena, LBB reports, they’ve all shown significant room for improvement.

For example, only one in four companies retweeted or shared content from external sources, meaning that the remainder is missing out on some serious opportunities to boost community engagement and share content from industry influencers and thought leaders their followers could benefit from – all this with little to no effort. Not to mention that no more than five of the companies were able to consistently produce posts with a single, straightforward message and combine it with a post format that also makes sure it gets through. 

“One of the most interesting insights uncovered in this year’s report is that paid social was one of the weakest areas for pharma companies,” says Rebecca Canvin, director of social media at Ogilvy Health. For example, while all companies leveraged paid media, less than half of them used A/B testing to find out which social ads resonate the most with their audiences. Organic pull remains key, especially in community management, she adds, but it’s vital that pharma make better use of paid social media to cut through the noise of social media saturation.


3. Are you talking with or talking at your audience? 

In the post-coronavirus health economy, patients have officially gone from passive recipients to active participants, being more engaged in making decisions about their health than ever before. And it's time the industry talked to them accordingly. 

“I prefer the words choice and influence over control," weighs in Roslyn Schneider, M.D., global patient affairs lead at Pfizer. “And we’re definitely seeing growing trends in that direction. As a result, we should use language and behaviours that emphasise the importance of collaboration in medicine development and shared decision making among patients and their healthcare teams in their individual care.”

But how to make sure that healthcare companies and patients speak the same language which also ticks all regulatory boxes? 

AHRQ’s health literacy toolkit offers great input on how to reduce the complexity of health communication and effectively guide patients of all health literacy levels through the joint decision-making process. And a much-needed one at that: in the US, for example, nearly nine out of ten adults lack the necessary skills to manage their health and prevent disease, causing higher levels of chronic illnesses and preventable hospitalisations.

Of course, when it comes to presenting complex ideas in a clear and easy-to-digest way, animated videos are hard to beat. Pfizer’s explainer about chronic pain is a great example, educating viewers on how to recognise and explain the sensation of pain they’re experiencing, from tender to tingling, to make sure they receive proper care. As is Kurzgesagt’s highly bingeable, neon-drenched animations on everything from vaccine myths to Peto's paradox.

Want to see how we’ve helped healthcare brands feel more human in the digital space? Check out our latest work, including how we’ve made the doctor’s office less scary for kids with ASD and how we’ve put a human face both on diabetes and on Sanofi's comprehensive care ecosystem.


There’s more where this came from – have a look around our blog. Need more than just inspiration to achieve your digital goals? Let’s see how we can help you get to where you want to be.

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