Online Community Building: An Essential Role for Healthcare Marketers

In this video (45:53) I address a group of clinicians, administrators and marketing professionals at a women’s health conference about the important role that online community building should play in healthcare marketing programs.

Given the changing expectations and habits of the connected consumer, healthcare marketers must embrace the notion of marketing “with” consumers, rather that “at” them. The day of pushing endless content at audiences, and expecting them to be influenced, has long since passed.

Niche online communities, particularly online patient support communities organized around specific health conditions or topics, give us the opportunity to engage consumers by appealing to their unique interests and desire for health information.

These communities offer the promise of an experience with the healthcare organization’s brand that is perceived by members to be more credible and authentic, thereby deepening their relationship with the brand.

Private Facebook Group or Branded Online Community?

One of the most frequent questions we are asked when we help our healthcare clients develop online communities is “Why not use a private Facebook group?”

Given the fact that Facebook is “free” and the audience is huge, that’s a great question. Here are eight things you need to consider when choosing your community platform.

Branding and customization

Your organization has invested a lot in its brand online. Owning your own space (e.g. allows you to extend that brand to your community in a robust way and make the user experience your own. Your organization can control the experience from end-to-end. Read more

The Power of Healthcare Online Communities

In the new world of community (population) management, your role as a healthcare marketer will change dramatically.

Your hospital will receive a single payment to care for all the patients in your community. Your goal will be to treat every patient at the least expensive point. And that will mean keeping patients out of the hospital rather than driving them in.

HIPAA-compliant, safe, private online health communities will be one of the powerful tools to help you accomplish these objectives.

Today, even before population management becomes the norm, there are endless opportunities to connect patients with patients, caregivers with caregivers, moms with moms, patients with physicians and physicians with each other. Read more

The Importance of Building Communities of Shared Interests

Last year I gave a talk at the 2013 Pelvic Health Conference in Denver, Colorado, and my focus was on the need for healthcare marketers to build communities of shared interest. These are niche online communities that give patients the opportunity to engage with others who are going through, or have gone through, similar circumstances.

When you get a diagnosis or are facing a significant health issue, it is natural to want to seek out others who have faced the same set of challenges. The experience, support and guidance of members of disease–specific online patient support community can be invaluable. Someone diagnosed with a rare disease or chronic condition can potentially find community among the group members.

If the healthcare organization is part of the community, it has the opportunity to inject high quality information and medical expertise, and make available important resources for those visiting the community. Ideally, in this scenario, the provider is the host and the facilitator, making the interactions possible – helping to create community. Read more

Harvard Study Shows Global Payment Approach Can Reduce Costs While Improving Quality

A bold project to reduce healthcare costs that combines global payments with quality incentives has paid off for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts, according to a  Harvard Medical School study published in the journal Health Affairs.

The study shows that physicians and hospitals that participated in the project over two years experienced savings of 2.8 percent compared to spending in nonparticpating groups. At the same time, “quality of care also improved compared to control organizations, with chronic care management, adult preventive care, and pediatric care within the contracting groups improving more in year two than in year one,” according to the study.   Read more