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October 8, 2020

How to get patients to come back – Communicating trust, safety, and health through design

It is well established that people have been putting off healthcare because of fears of getting COVID-19. From getting routine physicals, vaccines, and dental care to undergoing needed or elective surgical procedures, treating chronic conditions, and even going to the emergency room, people have elected to delay or forego treatment. Medical providers have had time now to establish protocols so that patients can get in-person treatment safely, yet visits are still down. So much so that medical centers, practice groups, behavioral health organizations, and other providers have launched advertising campaigns asking people to get the care that they’ve delayed, stressing that it’s safe to do so. Not only is this important for people’s health and safety but it’s also important for the financial health of the medical community, having lost significant revenues from the pandemic.

Messaging patients that they shouldn’t delay healthcare and that it’s safe to come back to physical environments for their treatment (telehealth can’t address everything) seems pretty straightforward. But, just saying that may not be enough, especially in this time of heightened anxiety and fear. The presentation of the messaging – its look, feel, and organization, in addition to its messaging, is critical in order to support and reinforce the trust and confidence patients seek. In fact, in this current environment, it may be time to reevaluate your brand as a whole to ensure that it clearly communicates the essential feelings of trust, safety, and health.

We have provided branding, graphic design, and communications solutions for a range of healthcare brands over the years, and what we’ve learned is that it’s impossible to underestimate the power that strategic design can have on a healthcare brand’s reach and resonance, especially in regards to building the three essential brand elements of trust, safety, and health. Beyond that, sophisticated design can go a long way in supporting a healthcare organization’s reputation as an industry leader, especially as it relates to appearing cutting-edge, modern, and forward-thinking. Communicating that your technologies or treatments and, ultimately, your quality of care are advanced will only be effective if your brand elements support that claim and appear equally as sophisticated.

Marketers often underestimate the importance of color and font selection. It’s no secret that our minds interpret different fonts and colors differently. Jarring, bright colors translate as intense and alarming versus the calming effect of soft and neutral shades; bold, sans serif typefaces in all caps can appear aggressive while serifed, lowercase typefaces feel friendlier. Font designers strategically consider the emotional and psychological impact of their letter shapes, and a good graphic designer knows the importance of color psychology and font selection, especially when establishing something as important as patient trust.

Layout and information organization are involved, too. A deluge of technical information is not what any visitor wants to encounter when looking at a website or brochure, especially as they may be feeling distressed when looking for help. Thoughtful information architecture is essential for even the smallest item; text and data must be presented efficiently, with just enough to communicate the essentials but not enough to overwhelm. That’s why it’s important for designers to be considerate of a healthcare organization’s key audiences, so they can put themselves in the shoes of the audience in order to envision the most seamless, pleasant user experience.

Copy and text choices must be considered when looking at an organization’s graphic design, as well. Many healthcare marketers err on the side of sounding clinical to convey knowledge and experience, which unfortunately can feel cold and overwhelming (cold feels like the same as unfriendly) to the viewer. Striking a balance between dry, technical information and friendly copy is important so that your audience feels engaged and informed.

The right graphic design has the power to counteract client stress, convey competence and sophistication and communicate friendliness, warmth, and welcoming. Any brand element, whether it’s a website landing page, rack-card, neighborhood flyer, billboard, or digital advertisement, can convey these feelings, which together establish a sense of trust in your brand. The options for establishing an immediate emotional connection with your target customers are endless, and it all begins with the right look and feel.

Lastly, it’s important to truly know the audience that your healthcare organization serves; you can tailor your brand experience to your target patient with this knowledge. The design, voice, and photography (in fact, all creative brand elements) of a healthcare brand should differ greatly depending on whether it serves urban Boston families or a rural Virginia community; the branded experience offered to patients should be customized to put them in the focus. Demonstrating that your healthcare organization has unique insight into their concerns and can be attentive to their unique needs can help your audience feel safe and understood from the get-go. And, this feeling of initial trust helps build long-term brand loyalty.

Think about the words that you want a visitor or patient to associate with their experience at your organization; then apply those emotions to the way your brand looks now. These words could include pleasant, reassuring, efficient, organized, clean. Does your brand support and enhance your ideal patient experience? It should. If there’s a gap between the appearance of your brand now and the way you want it to look, we encourage you to get in touch with us here – we’d love to talk with you about what you’re looking for and how our team may be able to help. To explore some of the work we’ve done for healthcare organizations, please visit this page.

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