The Patient Audience

Audience is not a dirty word. Just because we live in world of two-way conversation, it doesn’t mean that we’ve lost our love of being part of an audience.

You’ve been a patient before, right?

You’ve sat for hours in a doctor’s office or emergency room. Sat and waited. Sat and breathed-in those lovely particulates of sneeze from the other people also sitting there waiting.

A fun experience, isn’t it?

Patients.  Patience.

Well, that’s a metaphor for how Healthcare typically thinks about Audience. Hospital managements don’t often think of their role as leading an audience.

Audience, what? They’re patients. And we’re healthcare professionals, not comedians!

But they are. When they sit in waiting rooms. When they go online. When they lay in beds on medical-surgical floors.

Healthcare marketing (the truly remarkable kind) has to be a deep and wide process. It’s not just about messaging. It’s about leading.

How a nurse talks with a patient, how clean a room is, how often administrators help staff lift patients – that’s all audience work.

An audience isn’t a passive group of people. What’s different online today is that you get – this is a gift – you get to interact with your audience, enhance existing relationships and extend the range of your value to them.

Most of the talk about social media these days is focused on either the tools, or on strategies about how to integrate social media into existing strategies and operations.

No, that’s not the most important conversation. In part, because the existing strategies and operations aren’t that great to begin with.

The most important thing to talk about, learn about and ultimately master is this: people love being part of an audience that is lead by people who love to lead.

So, back to that question to you earlier about being a patient. How differently would you feel about your experience, if the doctors or administrators or executives thought about you as part of an audience? As part of something remarkable to be a part of? Not just a sick dog who’s expected to heal and sit like a good dog.

There are two kinds of patient audiences: the audience of patients and the audience with patience.

Not too many audiences are terribly patient. And if they happen to be because they have little choice in the matter, how much do you think they love you?

That’s why most people hate doctors’ offices and emergency rooms – in fact it’s why they hate Healthcare in general.

You see: blog posts, comments, tweets, patient rooms, waiting areas and support groups are all just different kinds of places to serve, educate, inform, entertain and love your audience.

If you don’t love your audience why should they love you?

If you look at the places where patients live and talk and write and wait as places to delight and care for people, you’ll know which tools – online and off – you need to master.

In healthcare, there are two kinds of audiences: The patient audience and the patient audience.

Which do you think is more valuable?

@PhilBaumann @HealthIsSocial

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0 Replies to “The Patient Audience”

  1. The “factory” models emerging in some physician’s offices is distrubing (to me). It requires patience and it requires the understanding that you may only see the doctor you came to see for a minute or two after their PA or NP has reviewed your case with them. “Appropriate?” — I don’t think so… but as I think Bryan is alluding to… some physician offices have few other options if they wish to remain solvent. Intersting post…. but has many many tentacles … and involves many players.

    1. Absolutely. Physician offices are a tough one – but they’re a good metaphor for the problems found in larger orgs (easy to pick on the docs’ offices 😉

      Some of the problems in larger systems include resources, but I also think there’s a mentality out there that’s cemented over decades about how to treat people – and it’s rather factory-model.

      As more communications go online, this idea of Audience will become more important – can you imagine online interactions mirroring what happens in some facilities?

      That’s the part about healthcare communications online that can be problematic.


  2. Interesting read, I don’t so much think it is about labeling your patients as it is as just treating people with respect. Whether you look at your patients as patients or an audience doesn’t matter. It isn’t the label or distinction that we give them that matters, but the way they are treated.

    Conversation, information, patient care, and respect are what people want. I have never gone into anything healthcare related or otherwise and expected to be thought of as an audience, but rather as a human being that deserves your (anybodies) respect and to be cared for properly.

    Don’t worry about monikers, instead worry about doing what is best for your patients.

    1. Adam

      Interesting point you make…

      …but we’re not talking about labels or monikers here.

      It’s about experience. It’s about how providers approach (not label) the people they serve.

      Agree entirely with you, but that’s not the point – it’s about providing the best possible care offline and on.


  3. Hi Phil,

    Your re-framing of the patient experience brings to mind a quote from Dr Jeffrey Borkan: “Every encounter with a patient and doctor is a cross-cultural experience.”

    This supports your intriguing notion of patients as audience. Perhaps worthwhile for hcp to think of the sentiment behind, “There’s no business like show business.” Patients are an audience who are not feeling well and looking to hcp to help ’em/us feel better. Just like show biz.

    Consider the parallel with the medical biz: a trained professional who takes delight in giving permanent/temporary relief.

  4. Oh, how different things might be if Healthcare and Patients were equals instead of one employing the other. Perhaps Patients would own the responsibility of their health and Healthcare would help them do it. Good goals to have.

  5. I’ve actually always enjoyed thinking of the patients as people to be entertained: both in the stand up comedy audience way, and the old-fashioned “entertaining guests for dinner” way. That I have a job where people walk in the door just to meet ME is awesome, humbling, and a blast. I agree that if we don’t act like you love your patients, we shouldn’t expect them to act like they love us.

  6. Phil, thanks for starting these important conversations.
    I see things a bit differently. I like to see my clients (don’t call them patients) as partners in their health care. I’m not entertaining them or performing for them. We are working together to improve their overall well being. I have responsibilities as the expert in how to heal, they are the expert in their experience, their body. I have actions I must take to facilitate their health and they have responsibilities to follow through. When we work together, I’m happy to go the extra mile to show that I believe they can hold up their end of the deal. Psychologically, this approach has much better outcomes then sending them out the door without homework and hope. Sure the packaging of my work space matters (decor, waiting room amenities, friendly staff) but I don’t feel I”m playing to an audience. I work so that we all put the play on together.

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