Mapping Vital Consumer Touchpoints Along the Patient Journey

By Stewart Gandolf
Chief Executive Officer

patient journeyThe challenges of hospital marketing can appear unwieldy and complex because…well, sometimes they are unwieldy and complex.

You have multiple audiences to address, professional and patient needs to consider, worthy objectives competing for scarce resources…and a million other goals, expectations and nuances.

But to simplify, take a page from the retail world. A method that helps de-tangle (and de-mystify) the big picture begins with a map of the consumer (or patient) journey. Typically, an individual buyer will move through about five stages from prospect to repeat customer.

With some relatively small allowances—mainly in different labels—the classic retail model of “customer” purchase trail applies in healthcare to the patient journey. Frame the process and map the patient touchpoints along this consumer outline:

  1. DISCOVERY STAGE: The patient/consumer interest, need or problem initially connects to a prospective answer or solution. The process may be casual or diligent research, or encountered by way of social media, online search and SEO, content marketing or similar.
  1. EVALUATION STAGE: The prospective buyer is considering options at a deeper level, and may be influenced by website content, presentations, checking credentials, social proof and comments of previous buyers, trial offers or other means of comparison.
  1. DECISION STAGE: A first commitment or actual purchase is, in a sense, an extension of the “evaluation” because a first time buyer is not fully committed to an ongoing relationship.
  1. ADVOCACY STAGE: An established relationship, along with good service and measurable results, typically leads a patient to a willingness to recommend and refer. Word-of-mouth begins here as well as testimonial opportunities, online physician/facility ratings, and positive social media comments and postings.
  1. BONDING STAGE: Retained customers/patients are likely to return as future needs arise. And because they are bonded to their service provider or facility, they are insulated from the marketing and advertising efforts of competitors. Of course, the competition is doing its best to be persuasive, but the stronger the bond in your favor, the greater the insulation.

Mapping the customer journey along these essential elements provides an insight to the ways and means of effectively reaching the individual at vital touchpoints, and delivering the appropriate marketing message.

For more on this topic, see: The Marketing Link Between Word of Mouth and Your Front Door, and Online Patient Reviews: Power, Influence and Muscle to Grow Even Bigger.

Lonnie Hirsch

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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