The conversation about the differences between the way women and men are treated medically in America continues to evolve. Some argue that women are treated fairly and others point to gender disparities that favor one or the other sex.
The fact remains that many diseases and conditions that affect women at higher rates than men, such as migraine and autoimmune disorders, or which are exclusive to women, such as endometriosis, have less money for research devoted to interventions to treat them, and few studies looked at the effects of treatments specifically on women.
There is also the endless conversation about how women and men report their own health differently, with a bias in the medical system to perceive women as complaining too much about the pain and prescribe less opioid pain relievers in the emergency room despite fair symptoms. A study published in the European Journal of Public Health tried to put an end to the “women as complainants” argument. He found that women more frequently report being in poor health because they or they are less healthy; they or they suffer more intensely and, by WHO, “Tend to be more affected by long-term and chronic illnesses, which significantly affects the quality of their life.”
But the fact that this conversation is still happening shows that even scientific evidence isn’t enough to sway a deep-rooted medical bias against taking women’s reports seriously.
The problem isn’t just a cultural argument over who’s got the worst of America’s complex healthcare system. Gender bias in health care has deadly consequences. In August 2018, a study published in PNAS suggested that when women are treated by male doctors in emergency rooms, they survive heart attacks and other traumatic health episodes at a lower rate than when treated by female doctors – or, interestingly, only when treated by male physicians who practice with more female colleagues or who treat more female patients. The study showed that in patients who had a heart attack in Florida over a 20-year period, patients treated by male doctors had a higher death rate.
In my last post on Gender Bias in Healthcare, I talked about ways in which marketers can address women’s concerns about being taken less seriously by doctors. This time, I’d like to focus on how marketers can help hospitals create internal communications aimed at turning the tide towards equality in healthcare. My work as CEO of Northlich, an independent healthcare-focused marketing agency, has taught me the value of internal hospital marketing campaigns in creating positive cultural change.
Here are four reasons why running an internal campaign is a good idea:
• It can help you expand the reach of women’s health. “Women’s health” traditionally means “reproductive health”. Corn studies have proven that sometimes there are dramatic differences between the sexes which justify different treatments for the same condition. If your hospital or healthcare system is trying to serve women in a more holistic way (which is a great idea), an internal campaign focused on the changes you make will help your employees better understand them before you publicly deploy them.
• It affects the patient experience. A quality experience for employees generates a better patient experience.
• This can stimulate employee advocacy. This, in turn, can improve the perception of your health system or hospital in the community. Happy employees usually say good things in the workplace.
• This gives you a chance to test the waters. If there is a problem with your campaign message (i.e. unintentional stereotypes, overly gendered language, etc.), your employees can spot it before it spreads to the mainstream. public.
Try these tactics to increase the effectiveness of your internal campaigns to improve the healthcare experience for women:
• Promote your organization internally as listening to women’s concerns. An effective internal marketing campaign with this goal can change employee attitudes, which can improve the experience of women in your hospital or healthcare organization.
• Treat your employees, and especially your nurses, like customers. When your staff sees that you are paying attention to their concerns, their commitment to your hospital or healthcare organization is usually increases.
• Focus on satisfaction. Even if an organization does not anticipate any change in the employee workplace, marketers can influence employees’ perceptions of their job satisfaction through internal messages that reinforce positive attributes of the workplace. Employee satisfaction has a ripple effect on patients’ perceptions of the quality of their care.
• Share success stories. Does your system have patients who have gone through the medical wringer before finally finding answers and hope through your doctors? Showcase their stories in your internal marketing. People seek careers in health care out of a desire to help others. When employees feel like they are contributing to positive results, it strengthens their commitment to their careers and your system.
Need a little more inspiration? Here is two encouraging news that show the beginning of a shift towards more equitable access to quality care.
• Recent regulations regarding the funding of medical studies by the National Institute of Health (NIH) have been amended to state that researchers who use animals must use both sexes in their studies. The positive effects were not immediate, as it took a while for the results of new studies to be published, but as more studies are completed that use animal research in animals of both sexes, the base knowledge about how drugs and treatments affect men and women will grow differently.
• Digital health startups have more women at the helm than traditional health systems. Startups can be great instigators who disrupt industry standards and drive progress.
To drive patient satisfaction, healthcare marketers must first look inside. Hospitals and healthcare systems that use internal campaigns to improve their organizational health and employee satisfaction are likely to reap the rewards in the form of increased volume and happier patients.