Speaking of patient engagement …

I'll be delivering a general session on patient engagement (and the role of marketing and communication) tomorrow morning at the New England Society for Healthcare Communication's Spring 2014 Conference in Mystic, Conn.

Here are several teasers:

Branding that makes a splash

Basketball. Softball. Cannonball. Which sounds more fun to you?

Yeah, it's definitely swimming. 

That's what USA Swimming says — and its new branding campaign backs it up.

The campaign has some really great spots, a new website (swimtoday.org) and an associated social media push. Even SwimToday's Twitter profile is fun:

The funnest sport there is, according to kids, moms, dads, fish, Yetis, that jogger down the street, and 11 industry-leading swimming organizations.

What a great brand message!



These Cats sure can play

Caterpillar makes massive machines that literally move mountains. 

In their ads, these big Cats also are graceful and precise. The latest is a large-scale game of Jenga played by Caterpillar's big machines.

It's surprisingly captivating. And also effective at showing how delicate these machines can be.


Source: Ads of the World

Bill Gates doesn't need Powerpoint to shine! #stopthemyth

Bill Gates has proven he knows something about philanthropy. And now marketing, promotion and donor communication.

The 2014 Gates Annual Letter from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is a masterpiece of philanthropic communication — an immersive online experience that very solidly makes the case for global assistance.

The digital "letter" has everything you would expect from a fundraising report and appeal — prose, facts, charts and compelling stories. It also sprinkles in videos, photos, charts and motion graphics, interactive polls, infographics and slide decks. The site's design is inclusive — it automatically translates into six languages, is responsive and looks great on mobile devices. And there's a downloadable PDF for those who want a more conventional annual report.

The "ask" comes in the form of a hashtag (#stopthemyth) that links to partners who are doing the work supported by the Gates Foundation. 

The letter focuses on three myths that keep us from *really* helping the poor. Bill and Melinda Gates are the authors of the three sections — they squarely attach their names and reputations to the content.

The three myths:

1. Poor countries are doomed to stay poor. 

Bill Gates:

"When I was born, most countries in the world were poor. In the next two decades, desperately poor countries will become the exception rather than the rule."

2. Foreign aid is a big waste. 

Bill Gates again: 

"Health aid is a phenomenal investment. … A baby born in 1960 had an 18 percent chance of dying before her fifth birthday. For a child born today, the odds are less than 5 percent. In 2035, they will be 1.6 percent. I can’t think of any other 75-year improvement in human welfare that would even come close."

3. Saving lives leads to overpopulation. 

Now Melinda Gates: 

"The planet does not thrive when the sickest are allowed to die off, but rather when they are able to improve their lives. Human beings are not machines. We don’t reproduce mindlessly. We make decisions based on the circumstances we face."

Finally, the letter ends with an affirming "Looking Ahead" section. The call to action isn't just about giving money — it's about busting the myths (remember the hashtag #stopthemyth) and showing that the "bad news" most of us hear every day can be replaced by the "good news" that comes out of global togetherness.

We hope you will help get the word out on all these myths. Help your friends put the bad news in context.

And to spread that news, Bill Gates asked Jimmy Fallon for his help in making a viral video.

Find a doctor meets the mobile, social age

A staple of any health system's website is its "Find a Doctor" service.

Now an Atlanta company has injected some mega doses of social and mobile into the equation and come up with a new service that is one part symptom checker, one part crowdsourced solution and one part doctor referral service.

The company is Sharecare, which just launched the AskMD mobile app for iPhone. Its promise:

More than just a standard symptom checker, AskMD gets you from "what's wrong?" to what you can do about it. 

Sharecare has some big names behind it, including a partnership with "America's Doctor," Dr. Mehmet Oz, and offers a web-based home for better health. It also partners with a number of other luminary organizations, from AARP to Mount Sinai Health System to Pfizer to UnitedHealthcare.

2014-0122-Sharecare 3.png

A key feature of Sharecare's website is the RealAge test, which goes through a lengthy Q&A process to generate a profile of each user by assessing health, medical and lifestyle issues. My age was 4.4 years younger than my actual age. 

The AskMD app is a simple yet comprehensive symptom checker that walks you through a series of questions to help pinpoint your health problem.

I used it recently after suffering a groin strain playing ice hockey. AskMD came up with nine possible issues and solutions and then asked if I wanted to be connected with a physician (I declined, knowing ice, rest and ibuprofen will likely do the trick).

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As services become more sophisticated — and patients get more comfortable using the technology — we will see spikes in patient engagement that will ultimately lead to better outcomes and higher satisfaction.

An app is never a substitute for real, in-person medical advice, but services like Sharecare and AskMD are helping us get closer to truly integrated health care.