Purpose-Built Content and Patient Journeys

“Purpose-built” is a concept most often associated with physical design — buildings, vehicles, even kitchen implements — but it has relevancy to content as well.

Purpose-built pretty much means what it says (I love when terms are clear like that!): designed to serve a specific set of uses and standards. But there’s also a lot packed in there: understanding the user base and its needs. Does the intended driver need a vehicle that can transport patients? Win a NASCAR race? Haul gravel? Do the building residents need tech-enabled workspaces? A serene retreat? Does the chef need a kitchen implement for stirring or chopping?

In content strategy, we translate these principles to understand the audience and its associated need state, then write, illustrate or record to fit that mode.

When members of the Internet Strategy team sit down with colleagues and clients to plan a new initiative, the first question generally is, “Who is the audience?” That often gets defined pretty broadly — consumers, potential students/trainees, colleagues.  At times, as content creators — and designers, architects, communicators — we need to push further. Why would they be seeking this content at a given point in time? What are we going to say that is relevant to them? How are we going to present it to them?

Building Waypoints on the Journey

Based on those answers, a variety of content might be created for the same person, because let’s face it — no individual is a static piece of cardboard. People are constantly in flux in terms of their identity and needs states. One of the catchphrases in use today that defines that for health care consumers is “the patient journey.”

[themify_quote]When we marry the idea of understanding the individual across several needs states to creating content suited to serve those specific moments, we get purpose-built waypoints for his or her journey."[/themify_quote]

For instance, Jane Doe might engage with an infographic on her Facebook feed because it catches her eye — even if she didn’t really have say, breast cancer, on her mind. But three days later, when her sister is diagnosed, she wants to look up more medically oriented content about symptoms, staging and diagnosis, and then perhaps investigate different treatment options so she can understand and support her sister — and, if she’s anything like my sisters, tell her sister what to do. She may want to better understand why her best friend’s cancer metastasized while her sister’s has not. As a relative of a survivor, she may engage with material supporting breast cancer research. And of course, she is likely to be more vigilant about scheduling her own mammograms and will possibly look into 3-D scans.

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Jane Doe is on Facebook and runs across the Johns Hopkins Medicine breast cancer infographic in her news feed. When she clicks on it she spends some time on the monthly web package page at hopkinsmedicine.org.

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Three days later, Jane’s sister tells her she has been diagnosed with breast cancer.

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After meeting with her sister, Jane remembers the infographic on Facebook and goes back to the web package.

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There, Jane learns about treatment options and new research at Johns Hopkins.

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Jane meets with her sister to share the information she learned from the website.

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Jane is going to be more vigilant about scheduling her own annual mammograms.


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To illustrate that on hopkinsmedicine.org, the Health Awareness Months packages and their supporting social media campaigns act to curate content across all these need points and serve them up in relevant ways for this multineed audience member.

We create this content in collaboration with many of our Marketing and Communications colleagues, but also, importantly, with stakeholders across the institution — clinical faculty, department administrators and researchers. And as centrally located content, these packages are more findable and present the multidiscipline approach many of these complex conditions require, which is the hallmark of Johns Hopkins Medicine’s patient-centered care. Perhaps most importantly, these packages capture a relevant but passive audience and allow us to begin to engage with them on their journey to improved health.

If you’re wondering how to raise awareness of the condition for which your team is seeking to provide a greater volume of care, please reach out to us. We’d be happy to talk to you about the possibilities.