You may have heard about patient personas, but do you have any idea what they are? Let’s say you were involved in a process that included gathering facts, asking pointed questions to patients and using their answers to make a determination. It sounds like you were making a diagnosis. For healthcare marketing professionals, a patient persona is a type of diagnosis. It’s also one that’s equally critical when identifying your most effective marketing direction.
In medical marketing today, patient personas are being underutilized, largely due to a lack of understanding about what they are and how to create them. Doctors and other healthcare providers who do medical marketing are often hard-pressed to fill content gaps, create and maintain their social media presence, refine their digital marketing messages and build greater patient satisfaction in healthcare. That’s why creating and applying patient personas has recently become a major theme at healthcare conferences.
Patient personas may very well be that important next step for health practices, hospitals and other healthcare organizations who are looking to increase engagement and make more informed marketing decisions. So, let’s explore what patient personas are and how to go about developing them—and how you can leverage more effective marketing application to create more favorable results.
What Are Patient Personas?
There has been an overwhelming shift towards the consumerization of healthcare. Today, everyone from retailers to charitable organizations, healthcare providers and healthcare SEO services are using specialized techniques to gain a better, more personal understanding of their target audience. Many have begun orchestrating that process with the use of patient personas, which can be defined as semi-fictional representations of your ideal customers based on research conducted on your existing customer base and overall target audience.
Patient personas use that feedback and metrics such as demographics, buying patterns and behaviors, pain points and marketing preferences along with patient needs and objectives. Patient personas help you characterize the types of patients you want most. During this process, you will uncover both positive and negative patient personas. Negative patient personas describe patients who have less appealing, more undesirable qualities. These can include treatments that require equipment or technology that you don’t have or need care that costs more than its value. One-time-only visitors are another good example of negative patient personas.
Most healthcare marketing experts, even those who serve specialized niches, are bound to identify multiple patient personas, some positive and some negative. This is to be expected and is consistent with how non-healthcare marketers characterize their audiences. Yet, every patient profile is valuable because it helps you gain marketing intelligence, promote better communication and uncover opportunities to deliver more satisfactory services and greater overall patient satisfaction in healthcare.
Identify Patient Personas Specific to Your Healthcare Practice
Technology has made it much easier for healthcare marketers to gather and analyze data. Today, clear and logical data sources are easily within your reach and will include:
Website interactions: By analyzing data you collect from current and prospective patients on your website, you can gain excellent insights into what patients are searching for, challenges they face, and what they expect from you. Check your site’s search history to ensure that you are providing interactive form fields that capture a range of relevant data, such as age, key demographic information, insurance provider and the conditions for which those patients are seeking treatment.
Patient surveys: You can distribute a patient survey via e-mail, hard copy, or on your website. This helps you achieve the same objectives – generating valuable patient data and direct responses about how their experience with your organization meets their expectations.
Patient interviews: Patients are often eager to share their experiences and typically respond honestly during in-person and phone interviews. Ask them what they look for when choosing a healthcare provider. Ask them how they gather information and make decisions. To gain greater knowledge and understanding of what really makes patients tick, always ask “why?”.
Team feedback: Consult your internal medical marketing team and learn more about the patient personas they believe your organization serves best, and those you don’t serve particularly well. Ask your team about the objections they face most often from patients, and the unique values they cite to help overcome those objections and earn new business.
Avoid limiting your interactions only to current patients and staff. Develop more complete personas by reaching out to prospects who have shared their contact information and have yet to become patients. Engage third-party networks including social media platforms like Facebook and LinkedIn. In some cases, you can use remote user testing and feedback sites to connect with additional, outside respondents and round out your target audience sample.
Conduct at least three to five interviews in each of three categories. These include patients, prospects, and outsiders. These will help you begin to see patterns and commonalities that pinpoint your primary patient persona. At that point, you can begin building a persona that describes who, what, why and how for each persona. Give each persona a name, then include:
- What we can do
- Real quotes
- Common objections
- Marketing messaging
- Elevator pitch
Use Patient Personas to Your Marketing Advantage
Take care during your data collection process to ensure accurate, illuminating results. Armed with this new and revealing data, you’ll be able to make a broad range of more informed marketing decisions. These include:
Website content creation: If your website data shows high demand for content related to cardiovascular or heart health, then you should continually boost heart health information to encourage those patients and prospects to return.
Market segmentation: Identify different patient segments by developing targeted e-mails or newsletter campaigns based on the subject matter that patients and prospects demand most. This could be about heart health, injury prevention, nutrition, exercise tips, cancer screening, and more.
Messaging: You may have noticed certain words or terminology that were commonly used by a particular persona. Try adapting your marketing messages to paint an ideal picture for those personas, and make sure that you and your team speak to each of them using their own words, which are more likely to resonate most with each group.
Time and resources: Take a closer look at your operational procedures like scheduling and follow-up to ensure a positive patient experience that addresses the expressed, individual expectations of each persona. Strive to maintain efficiency in physician and staff hours, as well as equipment usage, spending on equipment and office medical supplies.
Training your staff: Remember to share your findings and candid statements from each persona with your practice staff to better prepare them for conversations with patients. Train them to share actual quotes and other persona-related information that you obtained firsthand so they can overcome objections and communicate more effectively.
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