Better Positioning for Health & Healthcare

Blog post by Colin Hung.

This week I will be attending the AHA’s Society for Healthcare Strategy & Market Development annual conference (#SHSMD17) being held in Orlando FL from September 24th to the 27th. This 4 day event attracts 1,800+ attendees who are involved with marketing at hospitals and healthcare organizations. This year’s sessions cover topics as diverse as: healthcare communications during a crisis, online patient support groups and predictive analytics.

I’m excited to be going to #SHSMD17 and in particular I’m looking forward to three things – check out my HITMC blog for details.

For this week’s #hcldr chat I thought It would be fun to cover four healthcare marketing-related topics.

Topic 1 – Better Positioning for Health

When you think about it, Marketing really has one main job: motivate people to take action. That action could be to click on something in an email, buy something while standing in the store, dial a phone number or ask your doctor for a particular medication.

One of the biggest challenges in the US, Canada, UK, the Philippines and around the world is getting people to adopt healthier lifestyles – eating less fast foods, reducing the use of harsh chemicals at home and being more active. Governments and health agencies have tried many different styles of public service announcements to try and get people motivated enough to make a change. Unfortunately for the most part these announcements have been unsuccessful.

If we look at this with a marketing lens, the problem is not one of motivation – I believe everyone intrinsically WANTS to be healthier – but rather of messaging/positioning. The ads and content being developed by government agencies are simply not resonating with the target audience. For inspiration these organizations may want to look to the athletic apparel and gym industry.

These companies have realized that there are wide swaths of potential customs who are not motivated to purchase clothes or join gyms by images of beautiful people with perfect 6-pack abs glistening in post-workout sweat. Take a look at this ad from the Goodlife Fitness chain:

This was actually the ad that motivated me to get off my butt and start exercising regularly again – not because I want to look like a professional athlete, but because I wanted energy to keep up with my kids.

So the question is, how might governments, insurance payers, employers and healthcare organization better position exercise and healthier living so that more are motivated to take action?

Topic 2 – Better Positioning for non-drug therapies

There is a growing amount of anecdotal evidence that non-drug therapies can, in some cases, be as or even more effective than drug-treatments. Take PTSD for example. There have been many news stories about grassroots programs that are helping people suffering from PTSD without any medications at all.

Mike Rowe’s new Facebook series “Returning the Favor” recently highlighted a garage owner in Cedar Lake IN who helps veterans through motorcycle repair therapy.

PTSD is just one example. People have reported that changes in diet and exercise have help them to live with Migraines, anxiety, ADHD, diabetes and many other conditions without the need for medication. Yet the healthcare system sometimes does not look favorably on these types of therapies because they lack the rigour of scientific study. While the research community works on that, what might be done to tip the scales towards these non-drug therapies? Could these therapies be positioned as complementary to traditional clinical therapies? Could these therapies be positioned as last-resort options when all other treatment avenues are exhausted?

Topic 3 – Better Positioning for Healthcare

A friend of mine recently asked me an interesting question:

Is healthcare’s reputation improving or declining right now?

After thinking about it for a while, I told him I felt it was on the decline. With the recent drug-pricing scandals, failed blood testing technologies and physician suicide stories in the news it’s my opinion that healthcare’s reputation is suffering rather than improving. Add to that the increasing debt load on patients with high-deductible insurance plans in the US and I fear that the industry’s reputation  will only slide further in the coming years as the number of healthcare-related bankruptcies increases.

That’s not to say all is doom and gloom. There are some very exciting pockets of healthcare – like AI-assisted decision support tools, improved information sharing between hospitals, better user-interfaces for EHRs and precision medicine. However, most of these stories don’t filter out widely to the general public.

So what can healthcare organizations and individuals that work in healthcare do to help improve the reputation of the industry? Is it is a lost cause? Or can something be done at an individual and/or organizational level to better position healthcare?

I’ll offer one idea – More virtual tours of healthcare facilities. Bring your communities closer by allowing them to see behind the curtain. Show your amazing people, how caring they are, how hard they work and the investments the organization is making in training, new equipment and community outreach. Hotels have photos of almost every aspect of their facilities. Is it time for hospitals and healthcare organizations to do the same?

Topic 4 – Better Positioning for Healthcare Social Media

Let’s be honest with ourselves. The #HCLDR community is full of people who are passionate about social media. We all believe that social media has a role to play in healthcare – we wouldn’t be participating if we didn’t. The vast majority of healthcare, however, sees very little value in social media other than as a platform for narcissism and complaining about poor service. Even healthcare regulators crack down on the use of social media by their members – something we discussed on #hcldr a couple of weeks ago with guests Pat Rich and Trish Paton.

What can we do to help better position social media as viable and valuable platform in healthcare? Is it as simple as continuing to be an example to our peers? Or do we need to give ourselves a marketing makeover and REALLY put ourselves out there as social media advocates?

If you happen to be in the Orlando, FL area this week, I hope you can join @DanDunlop and I as we participate in #hcldr live from the Universal Studios City Walk at 8:30pm ET. We’ll tweet out the exact restaurant location on Tuesday the 26th. Hope to see you!

Join me this week on the #hcldr tweetchat, Tuesday September 26th at 8:30pm ET (for your local time click here) as we talk about how to better position health and healthcare:

  • T1 What would motivate you to be even healthier than you are now?
  • T2 How might we tip the scale towards (aka better position) proven non-drug therapies like diet, & exercise vs prescribing pills?
  • T3 Is healthcare’s reputation improving or declining? What can we do to ensure it improves?
  • T4 Ideas to better position social media as a valuable platform in healthcare?


“Surf Therapy and Being in the Ocean Can Alleviate PTSD”, Christopher Bergland, Psychology Today, 18 May 2015,, accessed 23 September 2017

“How Dogs Can Help Veterans Overcome PTSD”, Chris Colin, Smithsonian Magazine, July 2012,, accessed 23 September 2017

“A Review of Art Therapy Among Military Service Members and Veterans with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder”, Jeremy Ramirez, Journal of Military and Veterans Health, Volume 24,, accessed 23 September 2017

“Bad Blood: The Decline and Fall of Elizabeth Holmes and Theranos”, Matthew Harper, Forbes, 8 October 2016,, accessed 23 September 2017

“The Theranos mess: A Timeline”, Dan Primack, Fortune, 31 October 2015,, accessed 23 September 2017

“The Story Behind Epidemic Doctor Burnout And Suicide Statistics”, Dave Chase, Forbes, 6 January 2016,, accessed 23 September 2017

“Growing concern over doctor suicide in Canada”, CTV News, 1 April 2015,, accessed 23 September 2017

Image Credit

Tunnel Vision – Ballnt Foldesi


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