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Iatrophobia – that’s the scientific term for fear of doctors. While this official diagnosis affects only 3 percent of the population, there is something to be said about the relationship between anxiety and going to the doctor. The drive to the doctor’s office is hardly ever a peaceful one; a million thoughts might be running through a person’s  head – “What if they find something wrong with me?” “What if I have to experience something painful?” “What if, for whatever reason, I don’t come out of there alive?” And, as featured in The Journal of General Internal Medicine, these worries can be a powerful deterrent. According to the 2014 study, “Why do People Avoid Medical Care? A Qualitative Study Using National Data,” approximately one-third of respondents reported avoiding the doctor, even when presenting serious symptoms. Researchers traced this behavior back to a few factors, the primary ones being financial concerns, time constraints, lack of insurance and fear of diagnosis. Some participants reported waiting up to five years to see a doctor when symptoms developed. Looking at these statistics, it’s clear that healthcare needs to be approachable and accessible in order to save lives – and that’s where patient events come in.

The purpose of most patient-focused healthcare events is to put a face to a name and communicate relevant information. In a survey performed by Becker’s Hospital Review, researchers found that “increased clinician-patient time” and “enhanced patient access to  relevant services” were the most effective means of engaging with patients. Information sessions give prospective patients the opportunity to learn about specific medical procedures, read healthcare infographics and take in other forms of useful healthcare education, ask any pressing questions and meet their care team. Insurance and financial planning is another point of concern for many patients, so your healthcare facility may want to hold a separate event that addresses coverage. Healthcare providers can also make resources available that enhance community wellness, such as blood pressure screenings, first aid training and CPR classes. Seminars are also just as much a learning experience for healthcare providers as they are for patients. During these events, physicians and staff can get a better sense of how the community  perceives their services, uncover areas of improvement and optimize strengths.

When hosting these events, it’s important to remember who your audience is and the demographics of your local community.  The average person will not understand medical jargon and scientific terminology, so it is essential to make topics as relevant and comprehensible as possible. According to the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, “nearly nine out of ten adults may lack the skills needed to manage their health and prevent disease.” Knowing this, the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion recommends seminars use “plain language,” which uses the active voice to simply and coherently break down complex points into easily understood pieces. Including definitions for complicated terminology, general overviews and recaps are an effective way to communicate health topics to the layperson. To reach an even wider patient audience, share resources in a variety of languages and make sure multilingual staff members are available to consult with non-English speakers.

In addition to developing an itinerary and literature, marketing is essential to the success of your healthcare event. From social media campaigns to landing pages and email blasts to direct mail, there are a variety of ways to get the word out and, to maximize reach, consider using all of these healthcare marketing tools in tandem. When developing promotional content, be sure to use phrases like “Sign up for more information” or “Please RSVP” as a call to action. This messaging will prompt prospects to actively learn more about the event while also compositing a list of CRM data that will prove useful for future marketing endeavors. If you are curious about how well your campaigns are performing, signup lists can provide solid, baseline numbers that will shed light on the effectiveness of your current marketing strategy. And in efforts of maintaining a relationship with the event attendees, these lists can be used to track follow up with the individuals after the event.

Presenting content in a personable, informative and understandable way levels the playing field, so to speak. It makes that once-intimidating relationship far more approachable. As noted in the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions’ 2015 Survey of US Health Care Consumers, patients want to play an active role in determining what type of treatment is right for them. This means working with doctors to make decisions rather than passively receiving instructions. Thirty-four  percent of these participants believe that doctors should encourage patients to research and inquire about their treatment. Healthcare events do more than educate, they put a face to a brand and present a unique opportunity to reach patients on a personal level, which, in turn, boosts engagement.

These days, it’s not enough to have the best technology, physicians and staff – now, healthcare providers are expected to share this knowledge in a way that actively resonates with patients. Seminars, online patient education, information sessions, meet-and-greets and other patient education strategies are a great way for healthcare providers to position themselves as industry leaders while bettering their communities as a whole. Healthcare is as personal as it gets – and maybe that’s why it’s perceived as “scary” or “intimidating – however, with enough knowledge and the right resources, that perception can be changed for the better.

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