Patient Voices: Can you Hear Them? Listen Through Social Media

For most hospital administrators, patient satisfaction surveys are crucial, and many of us in marketing hold our breath as the results are calculated. But after seeing The Patient Voices Programme, I don’t know if I’ll ever be satisfied with those survey results again.

This powerful program created by Pip Hardy and Tony Sumner was designed to foster understanding of the patient experience. Started in the United Kingdom, the program was created so ordinary people can share stories that inform healthcare providers and policy makers.

flickr: Stephen Brace

Patient Voices are short (typically less than three minutes) digital stories that combine video, audio, still images and music, and reveal patients’ stories in a unique way. The stories are as diverse as the patients–a daughter dealing with her mom’s mental illness; a mother who is dealing with the loss of a premature baby; Bob who is coping with a stroke; a liver transplant survivor; and a mother who cared for her dying son–but all of them are reflective and some are quite touching. They can also be instructive for healthcare providers and hospital administrators

The founders describe the effort as “an attempt to give decision-makers a different kind of opportunity to understand the needs of patients–other than the dry results of surveys and statistics.” Some American hospitals have incorporated patient stories on their websites–the Mayo Clinic, UCLA Health System, and Cincinnati Children’s Hospital. Although mainly used for advocacy rather than education or measuring patient satisfaction, they can still be touching and effective.

As a marketing director, you will need to decide what voices you want to hear–the filtered story of advocacy or the raw stories that provide insight. Certainly there is a place for both in marketing efforts. If your intent is to promote your services, the testimonial voices can be powerful; but if you really want to start a conversation with your patients…go for the insight.

How can you gain insight and give voice to your patients without the resources to create your own Voices Programme? Through social media. It can be as simple as enabling “comments” on your blog or creating an electronic suggestion box or a poll question on your website. You could develop a “I would like you to know…” campaign and invite people to respond via text messaging, email or even record a brief message via an 800 number.

Supply nurses, staff and volunteers with cards inviting people to respond to the campaign, and distribute the cards in discharge packets. Once you and the hospital staff hear the voices of patients, those satisfaction surveys will become even more meaningful because you will have forged a greater connection and fostered a deeper understanding between care providers and the patients. You’ll have started a conversation.

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