A patient-first approach to a new digital marketing platform

A large, national hospital system had an old website platform and knew they needed a fresh approach. Even though they had a very capable internal team, they engaged with Branch Strategy to offer an independent perspective and focus. How did they stack up against their top competitors? Why were their existing personas not influencing the end product in a meaningful way? How could they build a better solution?


One of the biggest challenges in enterprise marketing is scaling the solution. We want technology to help us divide our costs by the number of locations we serve, not multiply it. Building a website for an enterprise organization makes this goal difficult as we often have to manage regions, divisions, markets, locations, and departments. Trying to please every level while also meeting business goals can lead to burn-out and a less-than ideal end product.

With this project, our goal was to identify what was wrong with the current
website platform and what needed to be fixed on it. We needed it to be patient-first, not internal customer-first.

As we evaluated their current personas, we discovered two key issues:

  1. The information for each persona wasn’t written with an outcome in mind. They lacked traits, feelings, and fears that should heavily influence the end goals.
  2. Being a hospital system with locations across the United States, their target patient was … everyone. They had hospitals serving every demographic we identified making website design and development tough. How do you build a website that works for everyone in America?


We know it’s really hard for our patients to find care, but we don’t know where to start.


We first completed an analysis to identify competitors. Although this client was competing at a national level, their hospitals competed at a local level. They weren’t unaware of these competitors, but our independent analysis allowed them to focus just on a small, sample-size set of competitors and gave the project a manageable scope. This set up the competitive benchmarking phase of the project, which gave business leaders clear rankings of themselves against their competitors. The heuristic analysis, technical evaluation, and usability testing we completed as part of this benchmarking allowed honest conversations of the key things that were wrong with the current digital platform.

We then needed to identify who the patient is within the scope of fixing the digital marketing platform. As we had previously discovered, the patient personas their internal groups had done and previous agency partners had provided tried to cover everyone who was in their target demographic. We flipped this traditional approach to digital strategy by doing patient journeys first. We went to service-line leaders at the national and division level and asked questions ranging from business goals to how patients navigated care.

The patient journeys and patient personas we created were very focused, allowing us to go deep on the needs of patients. We weren’t changing the need to meet every diverse demographic group but knew if we went deep instead of broad, we could really find out what the patients were looking for online. We validated that what would work for these select patients would work for everyone, but for the first time, were able to bring a much-needed focus on the patient that the organization had never had before.


Branch Strategy was able to bring an honest evaluation and real, tangible solutions that can scale while still meeting the needs of individual divisions, hospitals, physicians, and patients.

The solutions we identified quickly rose to be a top-three initiative of this Fortune 100 company, as getting the digital marketing platform to be patient-first was no longer seen as a nice-to-have, but a necessity. We were honored to co-present this project at the HCIC (Healthcare Internet Conference) to share with others in the healthcare community, hoping to contribute to the greater good of hospitals becoming patient-first.

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