What it Means to be Human First at BIDMC

September 1, 2014

by Ansuya Bijur

In a memorable scene in the best-selling novel Cutting for Stone, a doctor asks his medical students, “What treatment is offered by ear in an emergency?” One of the students replies, “Words of comfort, sir.”

Most often, patients meet clinicians under extremely difficult circumstances. Typically clinicians treat a disease—what ails the body. However, what ails the heart and the soul during and after a long illness may go unnoticed. After all, no X-ray, blood test, or scan can detect fear, sorrow, despair, or anxiety. And no medication can offer hope, support, or comfort.

BIDMC Human First campus poster

BIDMC Human First campus poster

At Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) in Boston, we don’t just treat a disease; we care for the person. We never forget that before patients are patients, they are people.

In a city like Boston—crowded with some of the world’s best hospitals—BIDMC is second-to-none in extraordinary medical care, ground-breaking research, and advanced medical technology. But what truly sets us apart from other hospitals is our promise to put people at the center of everything we do.

From this promise was born Human First, from the creative team of Ernie Schenck (concept and copy), Dan Bryant (concept and design), and Ansuya Bijur (overall creative direction).

BIDMC Human First subway poster

BIDMC Human First subway poster

We sum up the Human First philosophy here on our website: http://bit.ly/1zh6Uj8. To us, Human First is not just a tagline. It truly captures the remarkable spirit with which our nurses and nutritionists, physicians and phlebotomists, transporters and technicians care for patients every day.

It’s why, when a migrant worker from China was diagnosed with advanced-stage cancer, the nurses bought her a ticket back home (through a patients-to-patients fund) so that she could spend the remainder of her life with family. It’s why a team of caregivers organized a wedding in the ICU—complete with flowers and a cake—for a patient whose health was fading fast and whose dream was to see her daughter married. It’s why the cooks in our cafeteria make special food for patients of different religions to mark their holidays. It’s why a visiting nurse makes an unscheduled stop at a patient’s home because she senses something is wrong—and the visit helps save the patient’s life.

When we started working on a brand campaign, we wanted to make sure that our unique Human First promise would stand apart in a cluttered advertising space, especially since unaided recall of hospital advertising is very low among consumers. Most consumers will say that there is no differentiator between hospital ads.

Not so with Human First. BIDMC launched the Human First multimedia branding campaign in March 2013. TV spots from the campaign (you can see them here: http://bit.ly/1sesAtG) highlight both BIDMC staff and patients.

Ads appeared on TV, radio, and throughout the city at busy public transit stations and bus shelters. The hospital campus also features large banners of staff welcoming patients and reminding them of our commitment. A second run of the campaign began in October 2013.

BIDMC Human First bus shelter ads

BIDMC Human First bus shelter ads

In November, we conducted market research to understand 1) brand perceptions after campaign launch, 2) penetration and recall of TV spots/ads, and 3) changes in attitude toward BIDMC.

We discovered:

  1. In the first week of the campaign launch alone, we received 2,019 page views of the Human First stories on our website.
  2. The average time spent on a page was 1 minute 45 seconds, versus the average 10 to 20 seconds spent by visitors to a given web page (Nielsen Norman Group).
  3. As a result of the campaign, 69 percent of respondents had positive perceptions of BIDMC in the Boston-area hospital market. They associated “top-quality care” with BIDMC.
  4. Public transit, radio, and TV were the next most common places that respondents had seen the Human First campaign. Respondents felt that the ads delivered on the key message of Human First.
  5. Fifty-eight percent of respondents who saw the ads/TV spots/out-of-home posters were more likely to choose BIDMC for their health care in the future.

Rhonda Mann, CMO of BIDMC, says, “This campaign gets to the heart of what we all know about this place. What is uniquely BIDMC.”

Human First has been embraced by everyone at BIDMC, and we believe it has perfectly defined our extraordinary care and compassion. In fact, our COO, Nancy Formella, recently created a “Human First Hero” award that is given to one staff member each month for outstanding dedication. Additionally, an anonymous donor supported a Human First poster exhibit in March 2014. The posters showcased stories of the Human First spirit in action throughout the medical center. The do- nor plans to make this exhibition an annual event.

Human First is our motto because at BIDMC, we believe in medicine that puts people first.

Ansuya Bijur is Marketing Director at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Boston.