Digital marketing at Shriners Chicago drives patient acquisition by telling the 'amazing' story of its care


Far from merely attracting potential new patients, hospital marketing has the potential to not only boost an organization's quality of care but also greatly improve patient outcomes.

At Shriners Hospitals for Children — Chicago, for example, while patient acquisition is a top priority for the digital marketing team, their efforts go several steps deeper: According to Kara Miller, digital marketing coordinator, they are also focused on sharing the hospital's success stories and ensuring that patients in need are directed to the best possible treatment, whatever that may entail.

Here, Ms. Miller discusses Shriners Chicago's digital marketing strategy — which, she predicts, will continue to be driven by Facebook and Instagram for many years to come.

Editor's note: Responses have been lightly edited for length and clarity.

Question: What is your No. 1 priority today?

Kara Miller: My No. 1 priority is patient acquisition using our digital tactics and tools. That means trying to share our hospital expertise and storyline with as many potential patient families as possible. Our channels also have a secondary reach toward donors to our nonprofit hospital, which provides care regardless of a family's ability to pay.

I would also put a priority at the top of my list of making sure we're telling a good story about our care and services. Shriners Hospitals for Children — Chicago cares for a specialty pediatric population, many of whom have physical disabilities or differences. The stories of how we change children's futures utilizing clinical and surgical care and therapy are amazing. It is a privilege and a priority to share that storyline because our wraparound care and caring staff are differentiators for us. I can help communicate those stories in our writing, videos, podcasts, website, social posts and earned media stories.

Q: How do you see your role changing over the next three years?

KM: I keep waiting for the "shoe to drop" and social media to suddenly become so congested that businesses can no longer utilize it effectively. But it has not. We are still seeing a lot of parents making healthcare choices or at least beginning their healthcare journey by asking for recommendations and searching on Facebook or even Instagram.

I think video will continue to be important, but it was not the game changer everyone said it would be in digital marketing. We produce "in the moment" patient videos showing milestones and physician thought pieces in their areas of expertise, and will continue to do so.

Another expanding part of my role is capturing content from patients themselves. As more families produce content in their healthcare journey on social media, my role will involve capturing those journeys and allowing our hospital to join in sharing them so other families recognize our expertise in orthopedics, pediatric plastic surgery, cleft palate, spinal cord injury and rehabilitation. 

Q: What initiative are you most excited about today? How will it affect the future of healthcare delivery?

KM: Across the Shriners Hospitals for Children healthcare system of 22 locations, we are rapidly expanding our telehealth presence. It will be interesting to see how that initiative develops and enhances the care and services we already provide to children throughout the Midwest who travel to Chicago for our subspecialty pediatric care.

We also have a podcast series that dives into subspecialty pediatrics with physicians and clinicians who may care for more children with these specific conditions than the average physician elsewhere. For instance, our prosthetics and limb differences practice is the largest in the Chicagoland area. I am excited about the stories we've produced and the reaction we've received from associations who connect families with specific medical conditions.

Q: What do you see as the most dangerous trend in healthcare today?

KM: The pressure on healthcare systems to keep patients within their own system walls rather than referring out when a subspecialty provider elsewhere has seen more cases and may provide better wraparound care from the get-go. I appreciate when organizations recommend team-based care for certain conditions, such as cleft palate, which can require multiple surgeries and therapies over years across specialties. At the Chicago Shriners Hospital, our nationally recognized cleft team has in-house psychology, dentistry, orthodontists, plastic surgeons, audiologists, ENT and speech therapists all working together weekly on patients with clefts. Parents say how much they learn when they bring a child for an all-day team visit here versus other locations they may have visited previously.

More articles on digital marketing:
Banning hospital advertising could increase readmissions, study finds
Why marketing chiefs have the highest turnover in the C-suite
Consumers less willing than ever to share personal data, even for customized experiences, survey finds

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