Highland Marketing: Engaging with the NHS; an example of how to do it

In our first article for The Health Tech Newspaper, we noted that healthcare thrives on innovation. Also, that because small and medium sized businesses can be a great source of innovation, you’d think the NHS would be anxious to work with them.

Also that, in practice, things are more complicated. The NHS is complex. It’s made up of national bodies, regulators, commissioners and trusts that will all have their own targets and priorities. Those priorities will be affected by the policy and financial climate in which they are working. Different professions will have their own input; as will patients.

All this means that it is extremely important to identify your real market within the NHS and to work out how to address the people working in it. Having the right message and value proposition is crucial; it needs to be memorable, relevant and delivered at the right time and in the right format to do its job.

The Patientrack challenge:

One Highland Marketing client that found itself in this position was Patientrack, a supplier of digital observations and early warning systems.

It develops systems that enable nurses and other healthcare professionals to record the observations, that used to be recorded on paper charts on the end of a patient’s bed, on mobile devices. These systems not only save time; they can be used to trigger alerts for clinicians if the observations suggest that a patient is deteriorating.

In 2016, Patientrack wanted to expand its customer base in Scotland. It already had one customer there, NHS Fife. It had good evidence that its system improved patient safety to the point where it cut unexpected cardiac arrests by up to two thirds.

It had a great opportunity to spread news of its success at eHealth Scotland 2016, an annual conference that brings together health and IT professionals to network and exchange best practice. What it needed was an intensive PR and marketing campaign to make the most of the opportunity.

Getting the story out

Highland Marketing visited NHS Fife to interview senior clinicians using the Patientrack system and to draw out stories about how they were using it to improve safety and care. The PR team researched Scottish policy to identify which of these messages would resonate across the country’s healthcare system.

A case study was produced and linked to an address at eHealth Scotland by a senior clinician from the health board. Appointments were made with key influencers in the Scottish eHealth market, giving Patientrack and unrivalled opportunity to show the impact it was making.

This raised awareness of the company at ministerial and senior-official level. Meanwhile, Highland Marketing also researched the Scottish press to identify influential journalists. Key publications were targeted with a hard-hitting press release to ensure wider coverage of the story.

More than 50 pieces of coverage were secured. The news was picked up by Scottish national papers and BBC Radio Scotland, and by specialist trade publications including and UK Authority.

This helped to drive visits to Patientrack’s website and social media activity; visits to the company’s website more than doubled and profile views of its Twitter account jumped from 30 to 250 on a single day.

Learning the right lessons

The Patientrack example shows that it’s worth investing in well researched, credible content that can be used as the focus of a campaign that will excite the press, your market and champions, the events you attend and, ultimately, the influencers that you want to reach.

Donald Kennedy, the managing director of Patientrack, said: “Highland Marketing did a fantastic job of maximising our profile in Scotland within a relatively short timeframe. It shows how they can help any technology organisation demonstrate its value to the market, by developing excellent relationships with our customers to bring the best of their work to light.”

Of course, it’s necessary to follow up. As we said in our last article, the procurement cycle for the NHS can be lengthy, and patience and persistence is needed to keep engaging with the right people.

But the NHS has some excellent people who do want to champion innovators. NHS Fife was happy to demonstrate what it had achieved to those who went to eHealth Scotland 2016 and beyond.

So once you have found the right people, you have a good chance of gaining or widening a foothold in the market and building from there. The key message is to have the content and approach that will get you in front of the right people.

Read the full Patientrack story  

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