The critical importance of emotional triggers in healthcare IT

The influence of emotion in the healthcare IT marketing segment may be ready to skyrocket.

I would argue that not since Y2K has there been more angst in the marketplace caused by the uncertainty generated by the U.S. election results.

A recent headline in Healthcare IT News pretty much sums it up: Execs express dystopian view of Trump presidency’s impact on healthcare

To save you the trouble of Googling “dystopian” (like I had to), the definition is “a society characterized by human misery, such as squalor, oppression, disease and overcrowding.” It doesn’t get more emotional in the B2B world than that!

Healthcare IT professionals are no stranger to human suffering and disease, but rarely has it been transmitted by a presidential election. So how will this effect efforts to reach this audience and calm their nerves?

There is no shortage of books and seminars related to emotional intelligence being a key element in the science of “why they buy.” Emotional factors range from something as simple as having a pleasant and engaging phone call to portraying subtle emotional nuances through content. These emotional triggers often result in “data exhaust” that translates into to some very powerful buyer insights.

In the healthcare industry, a controversial election was really not needed to increase emotions. Fear of interoperability failures, cybersecurity breaches, privacy concerns and skills shortages have been discussed in HIT in recent months, and these bi-partisan concerns will continue to challenge the industry.

But what makes Friday, January 20, 2017, different is that there could be seismic changes in the way healthcare is conducted and how dramatically its technology backbone will be affected. HIT executives have already received mixed signals from the President-elect regarding the course ahead.

Will it truly be dystopian, as many healthcare executives predict? Or will it eventually be a Y2K event, where what happens never quite reaches the catastrophic expectations felt around the world? (I’ll never forget staying up to watch New Zealand’s new year for reports of any massive techno-collapses of major businesses or government institutions.)

So what can you do to talk to your clients or potential clients at this time? How can you prepare your organization to address emotions related to the potential changes ahead?

In my work, I immediately started to capture emotional indices from articles in HIT news outlets that contained quotes from leaders on Obamacare-related concerns. While no surprise, a word cloud based on the dystopia story linked above showed a prevalence of fear, uncertainty and doubt, along with unhappiness, disaster fraud and suffering.

These words can become important additions to our data taxonomies, given that they give us a much better understanding of how these emotional triggers will resonate in future engagements. Further, it gives us a better indication of what readers and potential clients are tending to gravitate toward.

Client-facing sales and support organizations can engage with clients, listen to and report back their concerns. Behind the scenes, marketers have the ability to use social media, blogging platforms, etc., as “listening stations” for emotional triggers. An ability to capture these themes using structured or unstructured data can be key in building empathic content and sales enablement materials.

Going forward, HIT buyers will be more reliant on finding trusted partners, given what’s at stake in their technology and finance infrastructures. Potential buyers may still want vendor brag sheets, but during periods of uncertainty, they are looking for thought leadership, deep insights and trust.

And, if done well, the ancient art of storytelling can be one of the most powerful tools used to establish trust and credibility during periods of market chaos. Just as with face-to face communications, storytelling in written case studies and social media can build in emotional triggers to add a more tangible feeling, tone, cadence, intersections and, most importantly, empathy. Bullet points can rarely convey this depth of emotion.


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