Safety is a concept that is often misunderstood by healthcare consumers. Broadly, it means, “the prevention of harm to patients while in the hospital.” This takes various forms, from averting falls and ensuring surgeries are safe, to preventing hospital-acquired infections, adverse events, and conditions.

However, outside of extreme stories, the average patient is generally unaware that hospitals are rigorously evaluated on what might broadly be called “mistakes,” and that some hospitals are better than others at preventing these mistakes. As the SPM mission states, there are differences in healthcare, differences that can save lives – and this is especially true in the case of patient safety.

Collectively, SPM and its clients can always do more to help consumers understand what sets one healthcare provider apart from another. Satisfaction ratings, like stars on Yelp or the hospital’s website, tell a very small part of the story. The challenge is engaging and educating patients about why safety measures are important to their care and recovery—why they should learn about them, and how to use the information they find. The good news is more people than ever are online, digging through information. SPM’s task as marketers is to make understanding these critical distinctions easy to find, understand, and act upon.

SPM is proud to work with clients who are ranked among the highest in the industry in patient safety. However, when it comes to effectively communicating healthcare providers’ commitment to providing the highest quality and safest care for patients, it’s not enough to simply say, “We care about safety,” or “We’re ranked #1 in patient safety by So-and-So.” Marketers have to continue to promote the importance of safety indicators and helping patients understand them, while strategically presenting them at the right point of the patient’s journey when they will be most receptive to, and looking for, this kind of vital information.

How does SPM use insights and research surrounding patient safety to strategically target key healthcare consumers? Consumers don’t identify themselves as being more, or less, interested in safety. What they do is provide us with clues from their daily lives. Do they consider themselves savvy shoppers? Do they do a lot of product comparisons before making a purchase? Do they go online to research hospital success rates? Would they follow their doctor’s recommendation without doing any research on their own?

From cues like these, we can get a sense of who is intrinsically more interested in the kind of data behind patient safety—and who isn’t. It’s always easier to connect a brand’s attributes to people who are inclined to be interested in them first instead of trying to convert those who are not. So, SPM starts there, and then, from our SPMSM Consumer Healthcare Decision Journey research, we time and place the safety message to align with the moment when they will have the greatest aperture for that message. This ensures we are being as strategic as possible with the people who will be interested in a health system’s safety story and are as effective in marketing to that group as we can be—because consumers deserve the peace of mind that comes with knowing their healthcare provider values and tirelessly pursues patient safety.

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Dan Miers

Chief Strategy Officer at SPM Marketing & Communications
Dan anticipates “what’s next” in our complex industry and keeps SPM on the leading edge of healthcare policy and strategy. A valuable resource to all SPM clients, his strategic insights focus how we understand and apply industry trends to client issues. With 20 years of experience, Dan has two master’s degrees in healthcare administration and finance, worked in business development at an academic medical center, and launched a healthcare technology company. He is also a frequent speaker at industry events and an active member of the Society for Healthcare Strategy and Market Development (SHSMD).
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