As the definition of what exactly constitutes a point of care expands, so, too, does the cast of characters engineering that expansion. Creatives, strategists and technologists remain major players — but these days, teams operating in the point-of-care space have grown to include celebrity wranglers, wardrobe stylists, photojournalists, comedians and even a few bus drivers.

That’s right, bus drivers. When GE HealthCare was searching for an effective way to inform providers about its Carescape monitors, it decided to apply point-of-care thinking to professional sales calls. The company organized a 24-city bus tour, bringing the monitors to hospital parking lots. It then scheduled 60- and 90-minute appointments with providers, walking them through ways the new technology could affect patient outcomes.

Meredith Gannon, CMO, patient care solutions at GE HealthCare, stresses that this isn’t just another rep-visits-doc approach. Rather, it represents an attempt to push as close as possible to that point-of-care moment when provider and patient meet.

“We want to make sure that we’re bringing in the right capabilities as we talk to care teams, and drive valued innovation back into the market for our customers,” she explains. “The bus tour was a way to reach customers who can’t or won’t travel to trade shows. We get deep insights into how their work is evolving, and they get an immersive experience with this technology.”

For most of its existence, the point-of-care channel wasn’t exactly a hotbed of collaboration, let alone one that could conceivably embrace rock-star-grade touring buses. Efforts often amounted to a stack of brochures, laminated educational materials and the occasional digital poster.

Now, as screens have become an expected component of the point-of-care experience, the channel’s leading companies have raised the ante. They’ve added flash to the content mix, often in the form of celebrities sharing their health and wellness stories. They’ve also transformed the traditional print handouts, supplementing them with video and optimizing them for mobile consumption.

Many of the changes were spurred by the changing definition of point of care in COVID’s wake. “Since the pandemic, we’ve seen an explosion of the ‘healthcare moment,’ which often happens outside the provider’s office,” notes Phreesia Life Sciences VP of content strategy Alexandra Beneville. “Point of care is so much more expansive now. It includes all these digital moments around the appointment, as well as virtual appointments and the communication around them.”

Today, Beneville explains, a typical POC crew looks like any other big digital marketing team. “You have client services, creative, operations, project management and strategists, all the traditional roles you would expect. But you also have experience designers, engineers, data scientists and analytics teams. There are short-copywriters and long ones. Graphic animation is big,” she continues. “They all work together to make sure that they’re building content and delivering it in ways that improve that healthcare moment, whenever it happens.”

Even language translation has evolved: “We’ve added ways for users to toggle between Spanish and English,” Beneville adds.

African female doctor having live stream about injection
Source: Getty Images.

According to PatientPoint EVP of content and creative Kate Merz, meticulously managing all facets of the user experience has become even more critical. “As the ecosystem has evolved, we’re more conscious of the timing of pre- and post-visits, wait time and time in the exam room,” she explains, referencing PatientPoint data revealing that patients spend an average of 12.3 minutes in providers’ waiting rooms and 11.4 minutes in exam rooms.

Which doesn’t mean that the imperative for marketers to educate patients quickly and efficiently has waned. (QR codes are gaining in popularity in this regard.) At the same time, providers are keenly aware that they need to do more to put nervous patients at ease. PatientPoint research suggests that individuals are more apprehensive about their care appointments than they once were, with 48% of Americans saying they feel anxious before a doctor’s appointment. That’s up from 39% in 2022.

Merz believes humor might help ease the tension. For example, one of the company’s quick-hit “Medical Timeout“ videos makes fun of doctors’ tendencies to speak in incomprehensible jargon. PatientPoint has also unveiled lavishly shot videos of patients describing their experiences with lung cancer, obesity, asthma and more.

More and more marketers are using the power of such first-person narratives to connect with patients. Testimonials have always been an integral part of healthcare marketing. But thanks to work from organizations such as Dotdash Meredith (parent company of Targeted Media Health, which has created content for the point of care for more than a quarter-century), such content is coming to life in entirely new ways — and in entirely different settings.

“We’re trying to influence the patient-doctor conversation so that patients are more informed,” says Targeted Media Health VP of strategy and marketing Dan Rubin. “People are doing work before the doctor’s appointment, but they also might want to take our

information with them to have a better conversation with their family or for their

next appointment.”

The core of TMH’s business starts with guides, which “serve as the launching pad for us to do other things that we know the patients are looking for, like converting content to video,” Rubin adds. By way of example, he points toward the company’s People Health guides, which often focus on celebrities. A recent edition featured radio legend Robin Quivers discussing her long battle with endometrial cancer.

“It was so well-received that we ended up running it in the national edition of People and online as well. It moved way beyond the point of care,” notes Targeted Media Health SVP and managing director John Kenyon.

Then there’s People en Español Salud, led by editorial director Joaquim Utset. “We usually try to feature celebrities, but we don’t mind having regular people on our covers,” he says. “We are doing health in a very personal way.”

Indeed, selecting the right subjects for patient stories has become increasingly important to marketers trying to connect with diverse audiences. “There’s been a need for that for a long time,” says Cheryl Grant, editorial director, special projects at Dotdash Meredith’s Health and Verywell Health. “We are writing in the voice of the Black community; we’re not faking it or just swapping out imagery. Our content is being built by the community and placed in the community, often in neighborhoods that have been unrecognized for decades.”

While most point-of-care content is targeted at patients, marketers have increasingly turned their attention to creating material that will simultaneously appeal to healthcare professionals. “Point of care remains one of the most important channels to help doctors interact better with patients,” says Jane Steen, VP of marketing at GT Medical Technologies, which markets a radiation therapy for patients undergoing brain tumor removal surgery. To that end, the company offers to arm physicians with clinical data and product demos.

GT is also working to develop better content for emergency rooms, which serve as the backdrop for the most fraught of point-of-care encounters. “Patients diagnosed in the ER often learn they’ll be sent to an operating room within 48 to 72 hours, so we’re trying to use geofencing to reach them,” says Steen.

Theragen, on the other hand, is using the point-of-care channel to educate patients about devices they’ve never heard of. The company markets ActaStim-S, a spine fusion stimulator that promotes bone healing after surgery.

“Because it’s prescribed, the patient doesn’t have a choice in which stimulator they get — and because the patient doesn’t have a vote, we don’t advertise or promote to the patient,” explains Theragen CMO Chris Mills. Adding to the mystery is that the stimulators cause zero sensation. “You can’t even feel them, so we educate patients on what electrostimulation devices do,” he adds.

Because there is such a high failure rate for fusion surgeries — as high as 40% — it’s vital to give patients the information they need to increase their chances of full recovery. “The more they understand, the more compliant they are and the better the results,” Mills says.

Patients generally wear the devices for nine months following surgery, in the process transmitting a wealth of data to Theragen. That data could well influence future point-of-care content. “We’re testing ways to spin all that data into something more useful for the doctor’s office,” Mills adds.

In the months and years ahead, look for point-of-care players to use this data — and any/all other information gleaned from patients or providers — in a way that maximizes the responsiveness of their offerings. “A provider might say to us, for example, ‘I don’t think we’re giving our patients as much as we should about RSV.’ Because we’ve got 60 or so people dedicated to content and creative, we can pivot,” says Merz. “We’re getting better at that all the time.”

Meanwhile, change will likely remain the only constant in and around points of care. “It’s a culture of innovation, and it’s built on the recognition that people don’t want to be sold,” says Kenyon, who serves as co-chair of the Point of Care Marketing Association. “They want to be informed.”

And they want that information at moments when they are most engaged, Kenyon adds. “No matter where they are — whether online, in an electronic health record or a physical office — we’ll find a way to be there.”