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Healthy living goes high-tech

Maria Cerceo Slade, senior director of marketing and communications for Aria Health Systems, has increased Aria’s presence on social-media platforms, including Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube and Foursquare. JENNY SWIGODA / TIMES PHOTO

Aria Health’s marketing team has revamped its Web site, introduced mobile versions and joined social media networks.

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Hospitals often find themselves in a Catch-22 when trying to promote their institutions to the public.

That is, it’s kind of difficult to deliver an upbeat message when you’re talking about cancer, strokes and heart disease.

“It becomes almost like noise at a certain point, because if you’re well, you really don’t want to think about (being ill),” said Maria Cerceo Slade, senior director of marketing and communications for Northeast-based Aria Health.

Slade and her colleagues at Aria think they’ve found a cure for the health-care marketing dilemma.

In recent months, they’ve revamped and animated their Web site and introduced new “mobile” versions for users of smart phones like Blackberry, iPhone and Android. They’ve increased Aria’s presence on social-media platforms including Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube and Foursquare. And they’ve created a new interactive online “community” that in its first few weeks has already attracted about 600 registered members.

Most important to the campaign, according to Slade, is its prevailing message: promoting Aria as a destination for preventive health care and wellness, in addition to its array of acute-care services.

“This allows us an opportunity to communicate with those who are well,” Slade said “It’s about our services and programs, but it’s also a community destination for the discussion of topics, and if (users) are in need of (medical) services in the future, we’re creating a bond with them.”

While flashy Web sites, online networking and social media are old hat by now, generally speaking, Aria is actually one of the first medical institutions in the region to employ such a comprehensive package of tech platforms.

It claims to be the first “health system” in Northeast Philadelphia and Bucks County to offer a mobile Web site “for our community members on the go,” said Kathleen Kinslow, president and CEO of Aria Health.

Aria launched the mobile site on Sept. 6.

The health system operates three hospitals: its Frankford and Torresdale campuses in Philadelphia, along with its Bucks County campus in Falls Township, near Oxford Valley Mall and Sesame Place.

Slade, her staff and an outside consultant began working on the multi-media project last year and re-launched the AriaHealth.org Web site in September 2010. It’s designed for desktop and laptop computer users.

“The prior site was pretty much static,” Slade said. “This one has movement, images and you’re able to see embedded video. (The home page) brings many of the (site’s) assets right to the user’s fingertips. With one click, you can find a doctor or a campus location.

“When you look at (Web) site architecture, you look at layers. Where it may have used to take four or five clicks (to get to a specific page), this takes one.”

Aria spread the word about its redesigned site through its various conventional marketing tools, including newspaper, magazine and billboard advertising. The institution plans to continue using those traditional methods, Slade said.

Traffic to AriaHealth.org has shown a steady incline since the relaunch. Aria officials expect that the new mobile site will attract even more users because Web browsing in general is trending more toward smart phones and away from personal computers.

Researchers project that, by 2014, more people will be accessing the Web through their phones than through laptops and desktops, Slade said.

Perhaps the most-user-friendly element in Aria’s new marketing strategy is the YourAriaHealth.org online community. Though there’s a link to it on the main Web site, YourAriaHealth is very much its own entity. It’s free to sign up.

Members include Aria employees, patients and other health-conscious folks. The site features blogs, member chat rooms, an events calendar, user polls, health-related news links and fun activities.

Slade’s pet project is the “Question of the Day” sweepstakes, where users can win such prizes as an iPod touch, Amazon Kindle, digital camera and gift cards for answering daily questions about health topics, along with Northeast Philly and Bucks County trivia. Contests will run weekly through Dec. 23.

Users are encouraged to “share” content with their friends via Facebook, Twitter and e-mail to improve their chances of winning a prize. This helps Aria by drawing more traffic to the site and allowing the health-care provider to gauge public interest in its activities.

“With these tools, you realize what kind of synergy you have and you can breathe life into the traditional (promotional) outlets,” Slade said.

Looking ahead, Aria hopes to employ more video on its sites, allowing the public to view interviews with Aria physicians, animations or simulations or medical procedures and perhaps some real-life procedures. Visual content could help Aria promote its minimally invasive and robotic-assisted surgery options, or its on-site and off-site special events.

Also, Slade hopes to develop specialized Web sites in the same model as the main site for each of Aria’s three campuses, with more localized information. Another idea is to develop custom smart phone applications.

“The success of it is really going to hinge upon the broad approach that we’ve taken,” Slade said. ••

For information about Aria Health, visit www.AriaHealth.org. To join the online community, visit www.YourAriaHealth.org

Reporter William Kenny can be reached at 215–354–3031 or wkenny@bsmphilly.com

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