February 12, 2019

Perceptions Disrupted: Alternatives to Medicine

In the wake of the opioid crisis, patients are showing hesitation to the idea of traditional pain medicine. Apprehension from the alarming statistics, government warnings and a non-stop barrage of media coverage has caused some consumers to challenge the “doctor knows best” philosophy.

As a result, the definition of medicine is shifting, and consumer habits are changing.

As more patients seek alternative treatments, we’ll continue to see a wave of anti-opioid treatment options for consumers. Successful organizations are positioning themselves to meet these changing expectations.

Illustrated by Johnny Utterback and Brian Burton

Get the message out

It seems obvious, but if consumers don’t know you offer alternative treatments to opioids, they won’t come to you. After all, why go through the bureaucracy of a hospital when they can get the treatments they want somewhere else?

Make sure you’re using all the available channels to tell a complete story of what you offer. Video is still the best way to reach a mass audience with an emotional message. If you have a strong social media following, tell a patient story. Let consumers see first-hand how your patients have found relief from alternative treatments. Whatever you choose, you’ll help ensure that your organization is top of mind for patients seeking alternative treatments.

Host a forum

Do you have doctors passionate about alternative treatments? Set up a TED-style talk and let your physicians demonstrate your brand’s position. This is an effective way to show your organization supports physicians who are doing something to combat the opioid epidemic and allows community interaction and feedback.

Host an event

Even if you don’t offer the service or treatment, you can still show you understand its merits. Perhaps several of your physicians recommend yoga or tai chi as an alternative treatment. If you have space, take advantage of it by hosting a sunrise yoga session or offering tai chi lunch in your cafeteria.

Don’t just tell. Show.

Traditional media is a great way to talk to people about what you believe. But showing them through a public relations stunt or an activation is a great way to show your brand is truly committed to a position. These tactics also demonstrate to consumers you’re willing to put your money where your mouth is. Make your stunt or activation creative enough, like these amazing examples from Payless, Capri Sun and The Columbia Journalism Review, and you’ll get the attention of prospective patients or better yet, the media, who can spread your message even further.

Stake your position through corporate sponsorship.

Maybe you don’t have space or time to host your own event. Show you still support the movement through corporate sponsorship. Attach your brand with the right events, and you’ll earn patient trust by proving you understand and encourage anti-opioid alternatives. Think of sporting events that promote healthy living, like fun-runs, group yoga classes, bike races, or find learning opportunities like talks and symposiums on mindfulness, healthy eating or mental health to sponsor.


Don’t limit your channels. The right combination of these strategies will work together to advertise your available services while showing that you support the ideals of the “movement.”

While it’s not clear how long the alternative medicine wave will last, one thing is certain. Organizations who fail to inform their customers of their position are destined to lose patients to organizations who communicate their position clearly.

To read about each of the trends disrupting the health care industry, download the complete 2019 Health Care Marketing Trends Report.