I know I’ve gone over this in other articles and even in podcasts, but I’m excited to tell you more about patient personas. Because we—no matter our role in life or our job title or where we live—are all patients at some point.
Most of us were patients in a hospital at the moment we were born. And most of us encounter the healthcare system again at some point in our lives. That’s why I love patient personas, because companies might have products that only touch a certain segment of the world—but healthcare really touches everyone.
So when we talk about patient personas, we’re getting personal, because we’re talking about ourselves. And it’s easy to lose sight of that as a health tech company, a medical provider, or a large healthcare organization. It can be easy to forget that patients are people, and we need to serve them responsibly.
Let’s kick off by recapping what patient personas are in case you missed our other posts. We’ll get into why they’re important, what makes them different from ordinary personas, and more.
What Are Patient Personas and What Is Their Value?
At Uhuru, we use buyer personas to guide our marketing and sales efforts. A patient persona or patient profile is a detailed, semi-fictional person who represents your ideal patient.
You build these personas by identifying key traits and similarities between your patients in order to illustrate a portion of your target audience. Using your patient personas allows you to identify who you’re trying to attract to your healthcare practice and how to reach them. Ideally, using these patient personas will influence every marketing strategy and decision for your healthcare brands.
One of the most challenging aspects of direct-to-patient marketing is making sure your advertising dollars are reaching the right types of patients at the right time. That’s why it’s so valuable to your marketing strategy.
Other consumer-driven industries have been using this idea for years to create personalized, online experiences for their consumers. But if you haven’t asked yourself, “Who is my ideal patient and what do they look like?” you probably aren’t utilizing all your resources effectively.
What’s the Difference Between Patient Personas and User Personas?
If you’re building a technology product, you’re probably familiar with a user persona—but that type of persona focuses on details like ease of use and the user experience. Buyer personas are more focused on high-level goals. Remember: a buyer persona may be a team of decision-makers with different goals and expectations—not always the end-user.
For patients in particular, consider how their health affects their day-to-day lives, their relationships, their activities (work, recreation, etc.), and how you help them overcome challenges. While you still have to focus on the user experience, a buyer persona helps you target your messaging to those people, speak to their pain points, and solve the problems they have.
How Do You Create Patient Personas?
It’ll be similar to creating a buyer persona, but you have to keep in mind how a patient’s health affects their everyday lives and decisions.
The first thing you should do is take a look at their backgrounds. You’ll need details about a person’s health demographics, such as gender, age, household income, psychographics, ethnicity, culture, generation, interests, hobbies, and goals.
Analyze what their primary and secondary health goals might be—what their challenges and frustrations are. To accomplish this, you can try holding interviews or surveys. The data from those interactions will help you understand your persona and make your content far more relatable and engaging.
Next, look at what their objectives are. Is it insurance coverage? Is it specialist availability, delays in appointments, or difficulty finding parking? What are their objections and how can you overcome them? You’ll need all of this to build relevant and meaningful content.
Make sure they understand the resources offered to them and have reasonable access. What platforms do they use in their daily routines? That knowledge will help you understand where to reach them with your content.
Finally, get specific with your patients’ problems. If your prospective patients have symptoms, are they acute or chronic? How did they find your health system? Were they referred? Was it discovered through an online search or by word of mouth? How did they first contact your organization? What was the experience like? How long did it take for them to arrange a visit? The answers to these questions will help you find the best way to engage your patients.
How You Can Use Patient Personas to Find More Patients
Remember, you’ll be using your personas to become a trusted resource for your current and future patients. Aim to be the person or organization that they think of first when they need the type of care, digital health tool, or platform. They know there are other options—we want to make sure they go to you.
One way to use your buyer personas is to design a patient-centric website. With this new information, you can build your brand messaging around the value you provide to that specific person. Bake it into your marketing message and content.
I also highly recommend using your patient persona to identify the searches your patients use to find health information. That way, you can make sure you show up in those searches.
Many medical provider websites are not optimized for search, and they may have some good traction with branded keywords—but what about those “problem-aware” patients? For example, someone might know they need diabetes care, but they don’t know of a provider yet. If you don’t rank for “what’s the best diabetes care provider near me” or other relevant keywords, you miss out on a huge patient population you could be helping.
You can also use your persona to understand audiences for social media advertising. Just like a patient-centered website, this is a great opportunity to deliver precise messages to the right people. To connect with your prospective patients and get found when they’re searching for answers online, you have to understand them and provide the content they’re looking for—at the precise stage they’re looking for it.
For example, if they’re just starting to become aware of their problem, they won’t necessarily know what the solutions are yet. They’ll be searching for something very different than someone who knows they have a problem and is thinking over their solution options.
At the top of a marketing funnel, when a person is just becoming aware of their problem, they may type things like, “What is diabetes? What does diabetes mean for me? What do I do if I’ve been diagnosed with diabetes? How do I lower my insulin level?” Those are questions that don’t have anything to do with your brand—they don’t mention your name, so the content shouldn’t be about you.
However, with an inbound marketing methodology, you can swoop in, creating content that answers those questions and provides a path forward. When they’re searching for a solution, they should find you.
In the middle of the funnel, the patient considers the best solution for them. They may have defined what the problem is, and now they’re looking for a solution for that problem. “Who is the best endocrinologist near me,” “What’s the best place to get diabetes care,” “Which doctor should I go to for diabetes?” “Where do I go for diabetes care?”
They may be searching on Google, Facebook, or another service. Your job is to let them know why you’re the best person to provide their diabetes care. Make it crystal clear that you have real value to offer and you can truly help them.
Finally, their decision comes at the bottom of the funnel—where they’ll be looking for things like, “What should I know about Dr. Smith before going for a visit?” Is there anything I need to prepare?” “What do other patients think of Dr. Smith or of ABC Medical Company? What are they saying?” It’s important to answer those questions too, because it will determine how much trust you can build with your new patient.
If they’re unprepared for the appointment because they feel they weren’t given proper instructions, you’ll lose some of their trust. If there are negative reviews, you should make an effort to respond to that feedback and use those reviews to improve your practice or your company. Too many poor testimonials, and people will go elsewhere for care—but lots of good reviews will help a patient imagine returning for many years to come.
What Are Patients Looking For? How Can You Know What They Need From You?
If, when they’re worried out about their symptoms, you reassure them with content to prove you’re a reliable, resourceful, and highly knowledgeable professional, you’ll build trust. This is why it’s so essential to break through the noise with upfront value.
There’s a lot of information online, and it’s not always trustworthy or accurate. When you provide accurate, easily understandable information, it develops into a conversation that will establish a relationship and portray you as an industry leader.
It’s imperative that patients find a solution to their problem, but also feel that human and personal connection all the while—especially in healthcare. Patients want to be heard and educated at the same time. If you can combine those factors, you’ll connect with them on a deeper level, which will ultimately drive conversions and positive outcomes.
To make it even easier for them to decide whether you’re the best option, you should pay attention to a few factors. Insurance is one. Many patients choose a doctor based on their insurance plan, so make sure those details are available and easy to find. They want to feel comfortable. Insurance may bring them through the door, but comfort will keep them there. They need to feel relaxed, safe, and heard when discussing their medical issues and history.
Convenience is another important factor. Proximity is a critical factor when a potential patient is weighing your practice over others. Patients’ perceptions of you shouldn’t be overlooked, either. When they come to visit your office—or visit you online—they want to have a smooth, pleasant experience. They want to feel that they’re in the hands of a genuine professional. Your content plays a key role in that perception.
How to Connect With Patients—Not Just Market to Them
Personalize each conversation and connect to your patients in an organic way. A patient persona is different from a buyer persona because of this personal connection you develop.
Your future patients are in a vulnerable state. They’re looking for a live connection, especially if they’re experiencing a symptom they don’t understand or are socially isolated. Your bedside manner must extend into the digital space as well.
Depending on the health services you deliver, you may deal with patients who are at particularly difficult stages of their journey. It’s crucial that you empathize with what they’re going through and let them know you can help. Above all, you must be ethical, sensitive, and always considerate of the patient. That’s a difficult line to walk, but there’s no way to cut corners in a relationship with your patient.
Why Are Personas Important, and How Do They Help Your Organization?
Patient personas should be used by everyone, from sales to customer support teams—not just marketing. Marketing teams use the personas to attract the right people, whereas your sales team uses them to engage with your prospects.
By having a strong knowledge of your patient personas, your sales team will deliver value more quickly, without wasting their time with irrelevant information that doesn’t speak to that stage of the buyer’s journey.
As for the customer support team, patient personas also pose a great benefit to them—they help confirm values and communication preferences. By understanding your personas, your support team will be able to provide a higher quality, more aligned service for your patients.
Creating Offers That Compel Personas to Buy
Many patients may only pay for a portion of your services, or none at all. Recently, however, patients are paying out of pocket more often.
Ask yourself, “Who’s the ultimate payer?” If their health insurance is footing the bill, the patient may not have much choice in where they find care. But if they do have the decision, how do you convince them to buy?
I highly recommend creating a content plan. This is a structured outline of content that speaks to the challenges they have and gives them social proof from other people who used your medical or digital health services.
Next, your mission is to build a strategy to promote that content. Brainstorm how you are going to get it in front of them. They don’t know that you exist—let alone that you can help them. Construct a plan that gets prospective patients in the door and drives them through your funnel. You should build that relationship so they trust you and know you’re the person they want to work with.
Jumpstart Your Organization’s Marketing Plan With Personas
If you’ve read our articles or tuned into our podcasts, you know how passionate I am about educating healthcare experts on the use of personas. I think it’s fascinating how you can engage with future patients and speak to them on an intimate level to make that key connection.
Never forget that part.
Whether someone’s going through a scary time or just looking for someone to handle their annual check-ups, they want a human connection. If your competitor gives it to them first, you might not be able to capture them as a solid lead—and ultimately, they’ll slip through your fingers.
Utilize this connection as they move through your content and your marketing funnel. Make sure the final decision is you and your product or team. To learn how to create a strategy that gets results, check out this powerful resource—and don’t hesitate to reach out if you need help beyond that. My team and I are here to guide you every step of the way.