Anne Baker
Anne Baker

Over the last two decades, tech advancements have rapidly transformed the consumer experience. The on-demand economy—where content is instantly available, goods are rapidly delivered to your door and digital user experiences are highly intuitive—has raised the stakes for every industry. It doesn’t matter what kind of services you provide, consumers want it to be simple to navigate.

This is especially true in healthcare, as opportunities to use technology to better serve patients, improve the experience of healthcare providers and drive innovation are on the rise. But healthcare is a lot more complicated than “what to watch” recommendations. The well-being of human life is in the providers’ hands. The stakes couldn’t be higher.

So, the challenge for healthcare organizations is twofold: patients expect simple, intuitive experiences from their providers, but, perhaps even subconsciously, want to know that organizations approach their care with the seriousness it calls for. Healthcare organizations have to do both. They have to make it extremely simple but also build trust with their patients. After all, a patient initially might be attracted to a sleek provider with a user experience-forward web presence, but if that same provider appears cavalier with their information or their doctors are behaving inappropriately on social media platforms, they’d be turned off. We want our healthcare experiences to be cool, but not too cool.

Companies need to reassure patients that the tech they need to use to improve the patient experience is being used responsibly.

This article is featured in O'Dwyer's Oct. '22 Healthcare & Medical PR Magazine
(view PDF version)

But it’s not only tech transparency that earns organizations the confidence of their patients. Here are three other ways that healthcare organizations can focus on to earn patient trust from a communications perspective:

Diversify your content approach

Different audiences receive information differently. When putting together a healthcare communications strategy, organizations need to make sure they’re clear on who exactly they’re communicating with. While patient bases are diverse and organizations will never be able to cater to everyone at once, set up a plan to make your messaging accessible to the most people possible. Doing so means evaluating the formats, language, channels and voices of your communications to make sure you’re meeting patients where they are.

Diversifying your content approach can go a long way toward achieving this goal. Not only does this mean exploring formats beyond traditional patient handouts, landing pages or email campaigns, it also means testing new platforms and channels to reach a wider network of people. For example, your organization could do a live stream Q&A with providers, run a creative social media campaign or create infographics or animations—the sky’s the limit. The only real caveat is to ensure that all communications adhere to patient privacy and other compliance guidelines.

Meet your patients where they are

Healthcare organizations tend to play it safe when it comes to their communications channels, but that needs to change.

Luckily, a growing number are paving the way by jumping on social media platforms like TikTok to expand their patient demographic and spread the word about their services in out-of-the-box ways. While TikTok and new platforms like BeReal might not immediately come to mind as effective channels for healthcare, they’ve been a game changer in bridging patient literacy gaps and helping organizations get in front of new audiences to make a difference in their lives. If people are spending most of their free time on these platforms, why not meet them where they are?

The format of how these platforms function has the added benefit of creating intimacy. Individual doctors and nurses have created strong followings, helping to demystify their professions and engage potential patients in a new way. That presents a real opportunity to educate patients and build a level of trust before they even walk through a provider’s door.

Lead with your values

There’s no denying that, like the tech industry, politics is also becoming increasingly integrated into healthcare. Today’s healthcare organizations are positioned in the crossfires of hot-button topics, like abortion and insurance coverage. The fact that healthcare companies have to answer to many different stakeholders, including employees, customers, patients and regulators, complicates how companies decide to respond.

Not only can politics directly affect the care that providers are able to deliver, it can also leave organizations wondering whether to speak up or stay quiet on these issues. When deciding how and when to weigh in on political conversations, use what matters to your audiences as a guide. Once again, you’re not going to be able to match the values of everyone you reach, but you can lean into data—both solicited, like customer surveys; and unsolicited, like customer interactions data gleaned from patient call centers—to learn about your core audiences and their values.

Patients prefer to receive healthcare from organizations that operate by shared values, so taking stances—where legal—on political matters can help you build trust.

During the pandemic and beyond, as healthcare companies continue to navigate a complex and ever-evolving landscape, their communications programs need to be anchored to patient trust. By earning and maintaining this trust, organizations have more room to experiment and integrate with the new tech that’s changing the industry and improving patient outcomes.


Anne Baker is an Executive Vice President and Assistant General Manager of Inkhouse California.