In our last Top 5 interview, we learned the importance of smart, grassroots-up messaging. But if a healthcare marketer posts a blog and there’s no one around to read it, does it make an impact?

(The answer is, unsurprisingly, no.)

So how do healthcare organizations make that impact on patients? What tools and strategies should a healthcare marketer use to get content and care to the people who need it most? How can healthcare marketers encourage patient and staff participation in new programs?

To answer these questions, we sat down with Donna Siegfried, a healthcare consultant with 30 years of experience in content strategy, content creation, product management and marketing automation. Here are her Top 5 Tips:

1. What kind of community-building projects do you see healthcare marketers working on today?

Siegfried: Traditional marketing efforts tried to get patients to come to the hospital. Now, the focus is shifting toward value-based medicine over volume-based. You’re trying to keep patients out of the hospital. It’s a totally different mindset.

Today marketers in health systems really are creating consumer health content for the general community — providing a service to keep them informed and educated. Internally, marketing teams are also working on wellness programs for the employees of their health systems, such as smoking cessation, weight loss and exercise. They tend to do this as a proof of concept to test out programs. (But that may not always be the best way — watch the video to learn why.)

2. What are the biggest mistakes marketers make when implementing a new program?

Siegfried: Infrequent touches. “Once and done” marketing, or spread-out pulses, don’t develop a long-term relationship with the people in the community. That’s one thing we tried to work with health systems on, when we created an automated conversation program that could stay in touch with patients weekly. We had concerns about over-communicating because we didn’t want them to opt-out of all communications, so we started slow. But our feedback was that patients wanted more of that type of communication. If you’re communicating too infrequently, you’re not building a long-term relationship and you’re not building the trust needed for people to feel like valued “members.” Consumers are too savvy now. They want more. They know their information is supremely valuable, and they’re not willing to give it away for little in return. They want substance, help and service. They want from healthcare what they get in other industries — hotels, airlines, restaurants, hair salons, movies — or from their veterinarians and dentists.

They can see through thinly-veiled attempts at getting their email addresses, just so they can be inundated with more marketing materials. Healthcare marketing is no longer just telling people who you are, what you do, and expecting them to show up when they need you. It is now providing content to help them NOT need you. It is telling stories of how other people — similar to them — overcame obstacles or had a resounding success. Now, marketers must give the consumers something first — and have a clear value prop that they’re in it for the long haul, they’re there to support people in the community, educate them so they can make the best decisions whether about what doctor to see or what procedure to have. When consumers can see the value in the marketing materials — and trust that a relationship can be built — THEN they are willing to share their information.

3. Once you have built trust and developed a relationship with your community, how do you encourage continued participation in new programs, for example, referral programs?

Siegfried: What is really working well is gamification. If you can somehow add a game element to programs, people really engage with that. People are competitive, they love incentives, and they love robust rewards – a gift card or a Fitbit, Apple Watch, or something of value they can win if they refer the most people. If it’s an internal program you’re starting, you generate that competition internally: “Get your friends and family to sign up!” If it’s an external program for the community, then there are all kinds of rewards you can provide — grocery store cards, gas cards. Things they can actually use.

And in some cases, if you look at social determinants of health issues, in which health systems are interested in preventing disease but people in the community don’t have access to healthy food or a safe place to walk, health systems can provide rewards that align with their needs. An example could be a food delivery service to a person who lives in a food desert or Lyft or Uber rides to get people to and from a safe park so they can walk or to and from their medical appointments. These kinds of programs can really go a long way to help people make healthy changes.

4. You mentioned that healthcare marketers now create consumer health and wellness content. How do you get your content to the people who will benefit most from it?

Siegfried: That’s where the personalization comes into play. Yes, you should know what [patients have] been in for, but also what they are at risk for. And that can be done through some of the online assessments and asking questions periodically. The way you get people to participate in that is to give them something, whether that’s a video, tips, a walking plan- something and it has to be relevant to their issues. You can keep track in a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system of what they’ve received and what content is appropriate for them. You can build an individual longitudinal record for each patient over time, sending them the best information for them at the best time for them to receive it.

Having content at the ready is easy. The challenge is determining who to send content to and when. Maybe Patient A is ready for that content today, and Patient B is ready in 6 months. You don’t want to blast all that information to a group of people at the same time, because for some it’s relevant and for some it’s not.

5. What is the biggest tip you can offer healthcare marketers? What is that one thing that they definitely should be doing?

Siegfried: One thing I’ve seen over the past couple of years is low use of the patient portal. A lot of healthcare systems have spent millions of dollars on a system like Epic. They have a patient portal opportunity, but they don’t have a lot of patients signing up to use it or using it if they have set a password.

I know my mom, just a few weeks ago, was given a paper at an appointment that said, “Here’s your password for your patient portal.” Well the password was only active for 48 hours and she didn’t look at it right away. So by the time she did, it was too late and she couldn’t set it up. It’s inconvenient. There’s got to be a better way to get people to use the patient portal and marketing can help do that through community education campaigns.

Once you can get people to set up their patient portals, then you can deliver all kinds of great content to the patient portal inbox. Videos before surgery, emails about upcoming events in the community, quizzes and online assessments to determine where they are today, so you’re giving them the right marketing materials. The patient portal is an ideal place for that, but I don’t see it being used to the extent it could be.

Looking for more marketing insights? Watch our complete interview with Donna Siegfried above!

Donna Siegfried is a healthcare consultant with 30 years of experience in content strategy, content creation, product management and marketing automation. Siegfried started her career as an editor for medical publishing companies. As a freelance writer and editor, she wrote the first editions of “Biology for Dummies” and “Anatomy & Physiology for Dummies.” After serving as the medical editor of Arthritis Today magazine, Siegfried worked at WebMD as a senior editor and then product manager where she lead the creation of quizzes, slideshows, online assessments and the Symptom Checker. Siegfried joined Healthgrades as a senior director of product management, where she was the product owner for marketing automation and a new automated conversation product. She is currently freelancing with companies ranging from small startups to large global consulting firms, helping them with writing, editing, content strategy, social media strategy, rebranding efforts, marketing, and patient engagement.

You can reach Donna at her LinkedIn page here