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Moving Past Anonymous to Engagement

Everyone watching the news lately must be troubled by the anger and violence demonstrated in events as diverse as the Charlottesville street battles and the Barcelona van assault on pedestrians. Attacking “other” people, the “anonymous,” seems much easier in today’s society, whatever the motivation or desired outcome.

Anonymity doesn’t always lead to attacks and violence. In fact, more often it causes us to ignore. Historically certain racial groups were “anonymous,” and in recent years the anonymous are poor, homeless, addicted, mentally ill. Perhaps we want to engage with the anonymous — and we hear that call to action from the pulpit on Sunday — but the idea of engagement is much easier than engaging on a personal level. When people are anonymous to us, they can be ignored, feared, pitied, or even attacked. The anonymous seem to deserve our worst.

Charlottesville and Barcelona may be extreme examples of this “anonymous” trend, yet the healthcare system in America has its own tendency to make people anonymous. We talk about “population health” instead of the health of individuals, “patients” and “volume” instead of people, and FTEs instead of nurses and caregivers. Health plans talk about “members” and refer to us by our numbers, and it often seems like personal circumstances and human judgement are removed from the equation. Anonymous means we can just follow process, ignore personal circumstances, and lump people together in convenient groups — demographically, geographically, and economically.

The truth we all know, deep in our hearts and souls, is that we treat people differently when we know them – what they like and don’t like, what they care about and how to connect with them. Anonymous is the enemy of engagement.

We may not feel that we can affect the direction of the country, or the presidency, or our society. Yet we have unusual influence in our role as healthcare marketers, because healthcare marketing is responsible for connecting with their entire community. And hospital marketing in particular can appeal to the “angels of our better nature,” helping people to see how they can live better, more productive, healthier lives. Healthcare organizations are uniquely positioned to engage with people – individuals at moments of great joy and sadness, but also all the moments that matter in between. We can be leaders in moving past anonymous to engagement.

February 8, 2018
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