Ten Adams

SHSMD 2018: Seattle Delivered — Rain And All

October 30, 2018 | Engagement

A quick lesson on shaping patient experiences.

Seattle Native:

“We’re sorry for the rain while you’re here.”


“WHAT? This is Seattle! It rains here all the time, right?”

Apparently not. My expectations were not at all what locals wanted me to experience. And this is exactly where we are with patient experience in 2018. Patients are not receiving the excellent experience your system is working hard to provide.

But before we dive in, let’s give a shout out to Society for Healthcare Strategy & Market Development (SHSMD) and the city of Seattle. SHSMD chose an amazing city for this year’s conference. Seattle’s views, food, walkability and green surroundings bring energy and calm in the same breath. It was an excellent visitor experience for me, but the locals didn’t think so.

And while destination cities and health campuses are quite different, there’s so much we can learn to bring energy and calm to patients.

At SHSMD 2018, I heard an underlying message threaded through this year’s sessions, keynotes and presentations: listen to your patients. Listening goes behind the HCAHPS survey. It’s truly hearing what your patients are saying so you can build better experiences for them.  

In a Monday session on leveraging your visitor feedback to improve your website, I heard that patients don’t know which doctors are specialists and which are not. Gasp! But for real — why would they? We in healthcare coined the term ‘specialist’ but what’s the criteria to designate a provider a ‘specialist’ today? Do we help our patients by asking “What type of specialist are you looking for?” when we should be asking “What type of doctor are you looking for?”

Just listen. Be simple. Be the patient.

In a theater presentation on delivering a more personalized experience to patients, the presenter asked us point blank: why are you spending large amounts of money on consumer advertising with breast cancer services, when we really should be investing in referral marketing with physicians who drive those patient decisions?

Look at the journey. Be simple. Be the patient.

In another session on the impact of your healthcare brand in social media, we learned how physicians are great tweeters and connect easily with patients because patients are hearing from a person, not a service. But it’s not an easy task. It takes a lot of upfront discipline and consistent management to guide these physicians to get the best out of their tweets.

Be disciplined. Be consistent and simple. Again, be the patient.

But where does one even start?

Start on the inside of your health system. Start with your vocabulary to set the tone and culture. Embed it during the onboarding process, on your intranet and in your huddles.

Look at your wayfinding — both physically on your campuses and digitally. Do they match each other? Does one say ‘Heart’ and the other say ‘Vascular’? Are you expecting your anxious new patient to make the connection?

At Ten Adams, we are continually asked to help improve patient experiences for our clients. Our advice is to shift your mindset, truly dive into the patient mentality and start simple. You can start by mapping individual patient journeys, even rudimentarily, and performing an audit of your vocabulary and description of services. And we’re here to help you provide experiences that match patients’ expectations and reinforce your identity.


A patient’s expectation is no different than my own of the rain in Seattle — and when I arrived, it was there. And there again the next day. And the locals focused on it. But the following afternoon, the rain stopped and uncovered more than I’d imagined. The sun came out. I saw Puget Sound, Pikes Place, seaside patios, amazing flowers and chocolate pasta! Why didn’t the locals tell me about these? It so would’ve shaped my expectations.


For patient experiences, it is about shaping their expectations. Listening, easing their journey, and working to really connect on their level are the answers we heard at SHSMD. And as for Seattle, I can’t wait to return, and I really hope it rains, because that’s what I expect in Seattle!

About Ten Adams

Ten Adams is a healthcare branding, marketing + advertising agency. We are strategists and creatives that transform business challenges into powerful brand experiences for hospitals and healthcare organizations. Relax. We know healthcare.

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