Currently, more than 55 million Hispanics living in the United States represents a growing market for health care. However, barriers of language and culture can make it difficult to navigate the U.S. healthcare system. Translating content into Spanish is only one way for the healthcare industry to reach out this growing demographic. Marketing to Hispanics also requires developing cultural competency by investing time and energy in learning about the characteristics and needs of this diverse population.
David Luna, president of the National Forum for Latino Health Executives, remarks that cultural competence within the U.S. healthcare system should “begin with a willingness to inquire and discover the actual needs and preferences of the patient in a clinical setting, and of the populations that you have in your overall patient populations.” He offers the following tips for healthcare marketing to Hispanics:
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- Know your target market: Do not assume that all Hispanics share the same cultural heritage, religion, family values, health issues, and beliefs surrounding medical care. Thus, conducting a pre-translation cultural assessment is an invaluable way for healthcare providers to critically assess the impact of their message within the context of a target culture’s norms and preferences. Images, terminology, colors, tone, and level of formality are all taken into account during the cultural assessment. The cultural assessment not only provides guidance as to what content may require adaptation, but also helps the healthcare provider gain a better understanding of what is relevant to their target audience. For example, Hispanic millennials are going to have very different healthcare needs and ways of “consuming” information than their parents and grandparents.
- Understand that one variant of Spanish does not fit all: Hispanics in the U.S. hail from 21 countries where Spanish is the official language. However, each one of these countries has its own unique idioms and nuances in lexicon. For health insurance benefit summaries and legally required information, neutral US Spanish can be used (the federal government has published glossaries and other resources). However, if you are developing outreach and educational materials that connect on an emotional or personal level, using your target audience’s relevant terminology, idioms, and colloquialisms will help strengthen your message and increase your brand loyalty. Your language service partner can work with you to determine what variant of Spanish is best suited for your target.
- Appeal to the family: The Hispanic community generally places a strong emphasis on family and community, which is embodied in the concept of familismo. Important decisions relating to health and finances may not be made without first seeking the advice of a trusted family member. Healthcare providers need to understand the importance of the family structure within the Hispanic community when marketing to this demographic.
- Invest in localizing your web and mobile content: As of 2015 there were over 200 million Spanish-speaking Internet users, with 20 million of them living in the United States. A recent study conducted by the PEW Hispanic Center found that 83% of Hispanics got their health-care information from media sources including the Internet, television, and radio. Localizing relevant web content is an invaluable way to reach this growing demographic and also demonstrates that you care about the needs of your potential clients. Hispanics also happen to be avid users of mobile devices, so assuring that your website (including member portals and health resources) is mobile-friendly allows more interaction from clients who want instant access to healthcare information.
- Assure that all your Spanish-language information is current: Your Hispanic clients will expect the Spanish language version of your website and/or mobile application to have the same functionality as the English version. The Hispanic community takes brand loyalty seriously, and you run the risk of losing potential clients if your content is outdated or contains factual errors.
Because health care is such a personal subject, it’s essential to make audiences feel understood. Careful cultural adaptation and translation can tip the balance in favor of a particular brand or product. By the same token, a culturally tone-deaf message can be alienating.
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