Closing the Action Gap: Physician and Hospital Advertising Needs a Forceful Message

By Stewart Gandolf
Chief Executive Officer

closing the action gapIt’s no wonder that many physicians are frustrated with a lack of patient compliance and continued unhealthy lifestyles. Healthcare providers now have to contend with an “action gap,” and we’d like to hear your suggestions.

How can healthcare marketing and advertising close the “action gap?”

Here’s the problem. There’s another survey out that confirms that physicians and healthcare professionals are, far and away, the most respected source of medical and healthcare information. Add to that the advice of friends, family and Internet “research” and you have a deep pool of medical information. With all that, patients are sure to follow a doctor’s advice and do what’s best for their health. Right?

Wrong. It turns out that learning what to do and actually doing it are two very separate things. In short, many patients “know better.” But somewhere between “learning” and “doing,” there’s a big bridge to cross, according to Edelman’s 2011 Healthy Barometer survey.

Edelman surveyed 15,000 people in 12 countries who rated doctors as the most credible sources of health info (88%), followed by pharmacists (81%), nurses (77%) and nutritionists (75%). Friends and family also ranked high among influencers on a range of health-related topics. These findings aren’t remarkable since other surveys also put doctors at the top of the list.

But what is remarkable—and where physician and hospital advertising have an opportunity to play a stronger role—is in motivating or convincing patients to take action. Respondents claimed a desire to be healthier but they didn’t have the ability to change unhealthy behavior.

More than half of respondents said they engage in at least one unhealthy behavior, and while 62 percent said they’d tried to change, half of those patients failed, mainly due to addiction/ dependency and lack of enjoyment or immediate reward, along with a lack of support.

The challenge for healthcare providers and communicators.

Many individuals who returned to a negative health behavior did so because they enjoyed it, or they did not experience benefits soon enough. The question for physicians, hospitals and marketing professionals is how can we communicate a climate of positive reinforcement? Data suggests that digital tools—providing a social connection—are useful in influencing many, especially among 18-30 year olds.

We’d like to hear your ideas and comments. Take a look at the Edelman Health Barometer here. Does physician marketing and hospital advertising need a more forceful message? Let us know what you are planning to do.

Stewart Gandolf
Chief Executive Officer at Healthcare Success
Stewart Gandolf, MBA, is Chief Executive Officer of Healthcare Success, one of the nation's leading healthcare and digital marketing agencies. Over the past 20 years, Stewart has marketed and consulted for over 1,000 healthcare clients, ranging from practices and hospitals to multi-billion dollar corporations. A frequent speaker, Stewart has shared his expertise at over 200 venues nationwide. As an author and expert resource, Stewart has also written for many leading industry publications, including the 21,000 subscriber Healthcare Success Insight blog. Stewart also co-authored, "Cash-Pay Healthcare: Start, Grow & Perfect Your Cash-Pay Healthcare Business." Stewart began his career with leading advertising agencies, including J. Walter Thompson, where he marketed Fortune 500 clients such as Wells Fargo and Bally's Total Fitness.

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