Using the hero’s journey to overcome the fear of surgery

Six weeks ago, I had laser eye surgery. By doing so, my relationship with the medical procedure I’ve marketed for almost 20 years changed forever. I became my customers’ patient, and it transformed my understanding of their patient’s psychological journey and what they most fear and desire.

I’ve included the video of the full 16-minute laser eye surgery operation in this post, in real-time from start to finish. As you will see, I’m as cool as a cucumber. I’m not anxious in the least. But things didn’t start off that way. I now understand, first-hand, what’s beneath the surface of a patient’s experience before, during and after this extraordinary journey.

I’ve spent a half a career working to make people aware of laser eye surgery and helping prospective patients overcome the obstacles in their way. Since having surgery, am I throwing out anything I knew before I had it? Not at all. I’m adding a new layer to my understanding of this experience – especially how it relates to fear and how to best deal with it.

Most people working in this field know that the two most significant barriers to adoption is 1) cost and 2) fear. As I’ve progressed through my career and my personal eye surgery journey, my experience convinces me that one is considerably more significant than the other.

How I know fear is the most significant barrier to more people having laser eye surgery:

As the race to the bottom has proven, price-cutting is not the route to jump-starting eye surgery volumes. For the majority who could benefit from laser eye surgery, even the lowest-price inducements of £399/eye are insufficient. No, the price objection is a superficial smokescreen that masks a deeper objection – fear. Helping people overcome the fear objection, therefore, is one of the most important jobs for anyone offering laser refractive surgery.

Having laser eye surgery will likely to be one of the most memorable experiences of my life – all the more notable because I’ve immersed myself in this business for almost 20 years and will most likely remain heavily involved over the next 20 years.

Despite my knowledge, my journey – both physical and psychological –  followed a familiar narrative structure that illustrates the kind of patient story that I believe can help overcome a patient’s natural fear of surgery.

If you’ve ever consumed popular entertainment, the Hero’s Journey will be familiar to you. It’s a well-used story arc that forms the basis of our most famous stories, myths and legends.

How can you use this character arc in written, audio or video patient stories to help your patients motivate themselves? I hope to answer that question in this post. Before we get started, however, understand these crucial points:

  1. The purpose of a patient story is to elicit emotion. For the story to compel, it must make people feel something, not just think about something
  2. The three elements of any compelling story are a hero (or protagonist), their desire, and a conflict. In the ‘Hero’s 2 Journeys’, Hollywood story consultant Michael Hauge puts it this way: “Every good story is about a captivating or emotionally involving character who is pursuing some compelling desire and who faces seemingly insurmountable odds in achieving it.”
  3. Position the patient as the hero of the story (not you, the clinic or the surgeon). You must position yourself as the patient’s mentor or guide. Frame their desire as a life without glasses (not having surgery). Set the conflict as their own fear, or another circumstance that made it extremely difficult for the hero to get what they wanted.
  4. Consider both the hero’s outer journey (having surgery to get a visible result) and their inner journey (how they are growing and transforming psychologically, emotionally or spiritually as a result of their journey)

My Hero’s Journey in 12 Stages

The diagram I’ve included below represents the 12 Stages of the Hero’s Journey. This arc is a popular narrative structure derived from Joseph Campbell’s Monomyth explained in his book “The Hero With A Thousand Faces”1 and adapted by Christopher Vogler in the Twelve Stage Hero’s Journey2.

The reason this metaphor is so commonplace is that it’s worked on us for millennia – across myths and legends of many cultures from ancient to modern times.

There’s something about our brains that implicitly understands and identifies with this all-embracing monomyth. We can’t help but be compelled by it, despite its ceaseless repetition across all forms of storytelling – from film, in games, in literature and television.

Writers have used The Hero’s Journey for centuries because it works. You too can make it work for you. In the post that follows, I’ll frame my patient story using the stages of the Hero’s Journey so that you can see how you can help frame any patient’s story into a compelling tale that will inspire other prospective patients.

The Hero's Journey

1. The Ordinary World

I first noticed trouble reading my mobile and needing reading glasses in dim light. At first, I was 99% sure I was going to get laser eye surgery. This is, after all, an ordinary world experience for most people in their mid-forties. However, I lived with the problem (presbyopia) for about three years.

This is the time for surgeons to understand their patients before-state.

  • What do they have and feel before surgery?
  • What’s their average day like?
  • What their status? (How do they imagine others see them?)
  • How do they see themselves concerning how life is and how it ought to be?

When structuring your patient story, ensure you introduce your hero while they’re in the ordinary world by enabling your audience to empathise with their challenges before their transformation. I advise marketers do this in awareness marketing, regardless of channel (search, social, direct, and broadcast). The goal is to present your hero as someone with whom people can empathise. They must become the hero and identify with her. We want them to experience the same emotions with the hero.

How? Hauge advises you make the hero identifiable by employing two or more of the following elements when introducing the hero:

  1. Make the audience feel sympathy for the hero by showing them as the victim of some undeserved misfortune (I needed glasses at 40-something and was scared of having surgery for 3 years – see below)
  2. Highlight how the hero is in jeopardy (how can I continue wearing glasses while marketing laser eye surgery? Will I lose my credibility and authority in the field?)
  3. Show the hero’s likeable side. Highlight how they are a kind-hearted or good person. Show how others like them.
  4. Show the hero’s funny side. If they have a sense of humour, put it on display. We like people that make us laugh and have the courage to take risks and say funny things where we may not.
  5. Show the hero’s power or ability. Show how they are good at what they do. We admire, are attracted by and want to become people who have extraordinary abilities or previous successes.

This stage is your opportunity to help your audience identify with your patient avatar’s ‘drives, urges and problems’. This is the hero’s – your patient’s – before state – or their ordinary world. Their growth and transformation can only occur when they leave the ordinary world and start on the often scary path towards the special world – out of their comfort zone and into discomfort.

Rod wearing reading glasses

Me, in my comfort zone, rocking my reading glasses.

2. Call to Adventure

Unlike most people who discover they need reading glasses, I knew this was coming.

At first, glasses were novel. I’d be lying if I didn’t admit I that I even liked the way I looked in them. A little wiser; perhaps, a tad more seasoned. Over time, however, these glasses became a hassle (as they almost always do), and I began to despise them as the enemies they were.

I regularly felt the call to adventure as I recalled a life without my reading glasses, in every text message I received, every restaurant bill I squinted at and every book I opened.

Like many people in their 40s, I made more time for physical activities as I entered this decade of life. Today, training at the gym, cycling a few hours a week, snowboarding in the winters, swimming and yoga – are all routine for me now. As are the plethora of devices, from smartphones to watches to cameras that enhance these activities.

What’s worse is that I felt some self-manufactured pressure to have eye surgery. How could I continue speaking and consulting on how to effectively sell and market laser eye surgery without having the courage to go through with it myself?

At this stage, you must put your patient’s problem on display and show how their call to adventure gets the story rolling because it throws their ordinary world off-balance. Your patients do not seek surgery at this stage; instead, they seek transformation to an after-state. Surgery is only a possible vehicle towards an after-state.

This stage is your opportunity to show the appeal to the adventure of the after-state – a special world free of spectacles. For example, after-states could be freedom from glasses, an enhancement of ability, and the expansion of opportunity) when you’re aiming to engage your prospective patients on social media and on your website. These types appeals are significantly more persuasive than the more common self-centred branding, claims of superior expertise and technology, or inducements to save money that we see most in health advertising.

Know that it’s normal for a hero to need a succession of calls before finally realising that their challenge must be met. Interview the patient to find out what their call to action was, and if and how they at first refused the call.

3. Refusal of the Call

Despite being keen to re-engage in the life I had before glasses, however, I repeatedly refused the call for about 3 years. Does this sound bizarre? Why would I needlessly continue to wear glasses when there was a safe and effective alternative without them? I had two reasons.

My public (and rational) reason was that I wanted to have and feel what my customer’s target markets have and feel. I wanted to experience day-to-day life as a glasses-wearer. I wanted to know how people would see me with reading glasses. Clearly, this knowledge would be grist for the mill for my stock in trade: empathising and inspiring people to overcome their fears and have laser eye surgery. This was all true, but only partly.

Why did I delay having laser eye surgery? To be brutally honest, I was scared.

My more private (and irrational) reason was: I was scared. How could someone who knows so much about laser eye surgery possibly fear it? Was knowledge not sufficient to dispel my fear and insecurities?

“There’s no room for facts when our minds are occupied by fear.”
― Hans Rosling, Factfulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About the World – and Why Things Are Better Than You Think

I experienced fear for the same reason many people fear terrorists, immigration, or dying in an aeroplane disaster. I was being irrational. The seeming comfort of my world with reading glasses, however, did not last. I realised that having laser eye surgery to remove them was a challenge I needed to undertake.

Elective surgery is a significant investment of time and money. People make many excuses and often must deal with other pressing challenges before they seriously consider it.

Fear – of doctors, procedures, surgery, needles, tests, pain, side-effects, poor outcomes, going blind, failure of the operation, health care settings and the people in them (collectively known as “medical fear”) and fear of the unknown is a common objection.

So, what did I do? Against my self-protective interests, on one day, I called up 3 clinics and booked my appointments. I effectively “burned my ships”3, with those phone calls.

Now, I was committed. Now, the discomfort of backing out caused greater imagined anxiety than the prospect of having surgery. The quest was before me.

Fear is common in anything new (not new to you, but new to a patient). Fear in people will never go away as long as they continue to grow or cope with changes in their environment. Susan Jeffers4, a psychologist who devoted her career to understanding fear and how to overcome it, said:

“Every time you take a step into the unknown, you experience fear. There is no point in saying, ‘When I am no longer afraid, then I will do it.’ You’ll be waiting for a long time. The fear is part of the package.”

Refusing the call is normal! Expect it and work help your patients to overcome it. Feature it in your patient’s story.

Framing the outer journey to a life without glasses as a personal growth experience is fundamental. Every modern day hero – from Luke Skywalker to Wonder Woman to Frodo Baggins to Alien’s Ellen Ripley to Neo in the Matrix – when starting their journey of transformation experienced fear. Often, that fear is of the unknown. Feeling the fear and doing it anyway5 is the only way they moved forward and grew as a result.

Think about every Hollywood movie you’ve watched. The refusal of the call is an essential stage of the journey. As Vogler says: “Without risks and danger or the likelihood of failure, the audience will not be compelled to be a part of the Hero’s Journey.”  A dramatic story demands stakes. If the patient does not experience any perceived threat or danger, the story loses interest.

It’s now worth taking a moment to discuss patient fear and how to overcome it.

If you want to help your patients overcome their fears and assume that if you can only inform them enough; that knowledge alone is sufficient to dispel their fear – you’re partly right. Because fear is often irrational, however, cold-hard rationality alone isn’t enough to help a person overcome their fears.

You have to acknowledge – loudly and clearly – that their fears are real, that what they feel is normal and legitimate, and that you can help them overcome their fears. Crucially, however, taking action – no matter how small6 – is a mandatory pre-requisite to overcoming fear. The more options you can give your patients to make these micro-commitments, the more opportunities you’ll give them to overcome fear with action.

In your patient story, show how the hero took these micro-commitments and how their action led to the eventual erosion of their fears.

Consulting with Dan Reinstein

On familiar ground: Consulting with Professor Dan Reinstein

4. Meeting the Mentor(s)

I booked my appointments to meet my would-be mentors – my prospective surgeons and clinicians. They would give me insight, advice, and the green light to have surgery. I also hoped I’d get some borrowed self-confidence, wisdom and experience. These guides and mentors would serve to dispel my doubts and fears and give me the strength and courage to continue my quest.

The only way for patients to overcome the fear of doing something is to do the thing that scares them. Jeffers adds

“When you do it often enough, you will no longer be afraid in that particular situation. You will have faced the unknown and you will have handled it. Then new challenges await you, which certainly add to the excitement in living.”

The idea of feeling the fear and doing it anyway an is the basis of systematic desensitisation, a well-proven treatment of phobias. This therapy aims to remove the fear response of a phobia by systematically exposing the anxious subject to more anxiety-producing stimuli of the thing that induces fear and substituting a relaxation response to the conditional stimulus gradually using counter conditioning.

  1. Rewarding patients for their demonstrated courage in booking the first appointment can help them to remain consistent with their prior actions and keep their scheduled appointments.
  2. For many patients, merely walking into a clinic where surgery is performed will cause anxiety. Initiating a warm welcome call a week before to let them know you’re eager to see them and calm their worries (buyer’s remorse) serves to reduce DNA rates.
  3. Meeting the mentor (that is, the surgeon – or an extremely credible optometrist) is crucial. Importantly, the mentor needs to demonstrate their authority to guide the patient, providing a map and the empathy the patient requires to submit to their instructions.

Many clinics seek to save time and costs so they skip these steps. I feel that’s an error for various reasons – number one is that the patient fails to meet the mentor who helps them get over their fear (ergo, more delay and more declines).

5. Crossing the Threshold

I willingly crossed the threshold into each of the clinics between the ordinary world outside and the special (clinical) world inside. This step signals a commitment to the hero’s journey. The stakes raise further.

At first calls and appointments, seek to identify what the patient fears explicitly. As an exercise, ask them to rank the aspects of the surgery that causes them to be anxious.

Give them, or direct them to, a resource to help them learn simple relaxation or coping techniques such as meditation, tensing and relaxing parts of the body (progressive muscle relaxation), and breathing exercises. Many smartwatches, like the Fitbit and the Apple iWatch, have built-in relaxation routines patients could use. YouTube is full of videos that demonstrate and guide people through meditation, progressive relaxation and stress management approaches.

Understand that many patients feel like crossing the threshold is a liberation of sorts. They’ve finally made a commitment, taken a risk in even showing up, and begin to anticipate the resolution of their problems with excitement and positivity. Take advantage of this state to show the patient that you can measure up to their expectations of a mentor who can confidently lead them towards the conclusion of their journey.

Does knowledge alone dispel fear?

Does knowledge alone dispel fear?

6. Tests, Allies, Enemies

I met many allies along my route, in the form of receptionists, healthcare technicians, patient liaisons and clinical staff. I underwent a series of tests and challenges that evaluated me in a variety of ways.

Obstacles were thrown against my path – a surprisingly short eye (I didn’t know I was long-sighted), a strange wavefront, and the first prospect of having SMILE only to realise later that I was having LASIK. I overcame each presented challenge on the journey toward my ultimate goal – freedom from these pesky rimmed enemies – my reading specs.

Systematically expose prospective patients to what they fear (from least to most) and have them connect the successful coping mechanism with each increasingly fear-inducing stimulus. For example,

  1. Calling some of your measurements “test-drives” for those who fear people touching their eyes can help.
  2. Guiding patients into the surgical suite and asking them to relax on the treatment bed might be useful to help the anxious cope with the unknown.

You don’t need to be a trained psychologist to carry out these techniques. Many people, myself included, practice approaches to calm themselves in the face of fears to successfully transcend them. For example, I have a little ritual I practice whenever I’m about to lift a weight I feel is a new challenge: I will typically silently mouth the words “I can do this” and then proceed to do it. When I’m about to throw myself down a challenging hill on my snowboard, I’ll similarly clap my gloves together two or three times before I lean into it.

After the initial period of optimism generated by simply crossing the threshold, the patient needs to acclimatise to the special (clinical) world. These can include inconveniences like

  1. sitting idly in a waiting room without much to do but worry,
  2. waiting much longer than is seemingly necessary,
  3. overhearing reception and clinical staff carry-on about trivial pursuits,
  4. and generally feel like a stranger in a strange land.

This stage is an opportunity for your staff to position themselves as the hero’s team – like a Fellowship to Frodo, Luke’s fellow rebels aboard the Millennium Falcon, or Neo’s crewmates on the Nebuchadnezzar. Everything the patient sees “on-stage” should feel to them like it’s designed to help them on their journey. If it doesn’t, stop the behaviour and move it “off-stage”, out of the patient’s scope of observation.

Your front desk staff’s number one job at initial appointments is to ease the patient’s tension, focus on their comfort, reduce their anxieties and ensure they are kept abreast of what to expect – especially when things change from the expected norm.

Patient liaisons must assume the role of an ally, walking alongside the patient on their first appointment pathway, introducing them to the other allies and mentors along the way.

Hero’s often have an ultimate sidekick they can trust, which is why I always encourage you to invite your patient’s significant others to travel alongside them on their journey.

7. Approach to the Inmost Cave

Almost metaphorically, the surgical suite at the London Vision Clinic is in the basement of the building on 138 Harley Street, very much an inmost cave.

All my successful tests prepare me for this moment. Accompanied by my No.1 ally, my partner Laura, the nurse helps me make final preparations before taking that final leap into the great unknown.

At the threshold to the inmost cave, I worry I might once again face some of the doubts and fears that first surfaced upon my call to adventure. I take a moment to reflect upon my journey and the treacherous road ahead, quickly finding the courage to continue.

At this stage, don’t underestimate the soothing power or human touch. A permitted touch on the shoulder can go a long way to reassure someone who is anxious.

At the London Vision Clinic, I received a shoulder and head massage from a massage therapist – a standard offer to help calm patients, regardless of their degree of anxiousness. In the uncluttered, designed-for-purpose room I had my massage, the lights were dim, the scents of calming essential oils and the soft touch of the masseuse all helped.

When the nurse explained the post-operative drop routine I’d adopt over the following 7 days, she offered me a square of dark chocolate. A sweet gesture to be sure, but also a demonstrated method of increasing levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin, which may help reduce the stress that leads to anxiety.

Having a friend or family member accompany the patient into theatre might seem like a needless inconvenience (especially if they’re anxious themselves!). Still, it can help an anxious patient feel a sense of familiarity in unfamiliar surroundings.

8. The Ordeal

The Ordeal in any hero’s journey is sometimes a dangerous physical test or a deep inner crisis that the hero must face to survive or for the world in which the hero lives to continue to exist.

As nearly everyone who’s had laser eye surgery knows, the imagined ordeal is significantly more terrifying than the event itself:

This is, of course, the main event. For most, it’s over before they know it. The highlights for me where likely not what you might think (if you’re a surgeon):

  • Holding on for dear life. The nurse gives me a plush toy to hold onto as I lie down on the treatment bed. Common anxiety symptoms include muscle tenseness, trembling and sweating. Fortunately, I have none of these. I am calm and relaxed. However, I can imagine that the plush toy helps to alleviate these symptoms.
  • Snug as a bug in a rug. A heavy blanket covers me. Presumably, this helps to keep me warm in the cool room. Secondly, I imagine it also prevents people from reflexively lapsing into self-protection mode by bringing their hands up to their face in a panic.
  • The magically reassuring power of well-timed words. “Perfect… perfect… perfect… great… fantastic… beautiful… you’re doing great… it’s all going perfectly…” In the right hands, having laser eye surgery can feel like a terrific ego boost. I had no idea I could be such a great patient! In reality, Reinstein and his team are pros at relieving anxiety and making you feel like you’re doing everything right while doing nothing but lying there like a stone. If I didn’t know any better, I swear he’s had training in hypnosis.
  • The nurse is a fear whisperer. The nurse whispers something reassuring into my ear as the surgeon moved from the VisuMax (femtosecond laser) to the MEL 90 (excimer laser). I later can’t remember what she says, but her tone of voice is like an aural sedative.
  • Experiencing oneness with the universe. Physically and visually, the surgery is a smooth and comfortable ride with a fantastic kaleidoscopic view. The suction ring slowly closing in makes me feel like I am on a spaceship docking to a space station. The under the knee and neck-head support help me feel snug and securely comfortable – enabling me to lie back and relax without the need to fidget or adjust myself. The bed that pivots me from the VisuMax to the MEL 90 gives me the sensation of weightless floating from one position to another. Everything feels efficiently orchestrated to the very last detail.
  • A need to know basis (the empty silence is scary)! Reinstein tells me everything I need to know, only a moment before it happens. His timing is impeccable. He says what’s going to happen and it happens a second later. Not once do I wonder: “What’s going on?” I’ve been in a lot of operating theatres, watching this exact procedure. Some surgeons are silent. Others have music playing or only talk to their surgical team. I find Reinstein’s patient-focused approach works perfectly for me and helps me have a stress free experience. I can even say: I enjoy it!
My Laser Eye Surgery Support Team

My Laser Eye Surgery  Team – flanking me from left to right – my guide and mentor Dan Reinstein and my most-trusted ally and side-kick, Laura Livesey

9. Reward

After successfully defeating my true enemy – fear itself – I experience the instant reward of clear vision. I am transformed into a new state, emerging from battle as a stronger person and with the prize of new eyes. I’m now ready – dark glasses worn and armed with an armamentarium of eye drops and shields – to journey back to the ordinary world.

With LASIK, patients typically experience the “Wow Effect”. It’s a powerful moment that you should help celebrate.

It’s not an experience I have, because my distance vision was perfect before the procedure. As I rise from the bed and walk to the microscope for any final flap adjustments (perfectionism on display). I see everything through what looks like a misty sauna. My near vision, however, is instantaneously better.

Typically (for short-sighted patients), Reinstein will ask patients to look at the clock on the wall and tell him the time. It can be an emotional experience for many. The sense of relief (it worked!) is palpable and reinforced at that moment. At this moment, you want to make your patient feel like King Arthur who’s just pulled Excalibur from the Stone.

The day after laser blended vision

Result! The day after laser blended vision I’m seeing great at both distance and near.

10. The Road Back

The road back is long. I am now 6 weeks into the 3-6 month adaptation period toward the vision I enjoyed five years ago. My painless recovery was happily swift and uneventful. My near vision is fantastic, as I can testify by writing this post without the aid of glasses. My distance vision, however, is expectedly blurry – a known and certain side-effect of laser blended vision that should pass in time.

On the night of the surgery day, I get an SMS from Dan, asking me how my eyes are doing and if I want to go to the 606 Jazz Club and watch him play. Of course, I know this text is coming, as it has for every one of Dan’s patient for years. Still, it reassures me that he’d invite me out, further encouraging me that all is well, and life can now swiftly return to normal.

The next day, I see Dan for my 1st-day postoperative appointment. I’m seeing 20/15 at distance and N4, the tiniest print on the card. We take a few pictures for posterity, and I return to work that day.

Along the road to recovery, I receive loads of good wishes and congratulations on social media and face-to-face. I feel, truth be told, like a hero who’s successfully walked a road that many fear to tread.

The seven-day recovery period has me instilling drops into my eyes every couple hours on a routine schedule. I also need to put eye shields on when I sleep, lest I rub my unconsciously rub eyes.

The road back can be so much more than post-op visits. Imagine different ways to celebrate your patient’s return to their ordinary world to keep it as special as possible. Recognition, token gifts or cards, follow-up calls in between appointments, all can help to lend your hero assistance as they recover from their ordeal.

11. Resurrection

My eyes are anew. I return back to the ordinary world, a changed and wiser man who’s learned much and proven himself capable of facing many terrible dangers.

As I reflect upon my journey, I can’t help but think about how easy it all was. Sure, my life has been marginally inconvenienced, but on balance it’s nothing compared to the benefits.

More powerful than the visual transformation, I am again imbued by a sense of self-confidence. I’m reminded that pushing through fear is less frightening than living with the bigger underlying fear that comes from a feeling of helplessness.

According to Jeffers:

“This is the one truth that some people have difficulty understanding. When you push through the fear, you will feel such a sense of relief as your feeling of helplessness subsides. You will wonder why you did not take action sooner. You will become more and more aware that you can truly handle anything that life hands you.”

Patients want to be understood and empathised with. They need their guide (that is, their surgeon or clinic) to appreciate what they have, how they feel, what their daily life is like, and their status before they guide them to where they want to go.

Most importantly, they don’t want their surgeon or their clinic to be the hero. That’s not an effective way to calm their fears. They already expect the surgeon to be fearless. They, the patient, must overcome their own anxieties and transform into the hero and protagonist of the story, with the aid of the guide.

12. Return with the Elixir

I return with the elixir of clarity destined to bring hope to those I left behind, re-convinced of a direct solution to their problems and a fresh perspective for you – my readers – to consider.

Not only was I afraid when facing the unknown, so is every other patient.

Jeffers says:

This should be a relief. You are not the only one out there feeling fear. Everyone feels fear when taking a step into the unknown. Yes, all those people who have succeeded in doing what they have wanted to do in life have felt the fear – and did it anyway. So can you!”

This truth relies on social proof, which is a psychological phenomenon where people assume the actions of others in an attempt to reflect correct behaviour for a given situation.

One of the worst things you can do is to tell people that they shouldn’t be afraid, or that they’re alone in their fear. In truth, most people are fearful of eye surgery, and that’s OK!

People assume many coping strategies to assuage their fears through social proof. For example, one of the primary reasons people look at reviews before making a purchase is because they are anxious to know how others experienced and overcame their fears.

When soliciting reviews, I advise prompting your patients to cite their fears and how they overcame them before surgery as the central theme of their reviews. For example, when asking for reviews, ask the happy patient:

  • What are the problems you experienced before you discovered what you could do about your eye problem?
  • What did you want to do or accomplish after surgery? (What was your call to adventure?)
  • Did you at first refuse the call? If so, why, and for how long?
  • What frustrations did you experience when trying to solve your problem?
  • What’s different about dealing with us compared to others you tried?
  • Take me to the moment when you realised that the treatment worked?
  • Tell me what life looks like now that you’ve solved or are solving your problem?
  • What would you tell someone who was scared about eye surgery?

Social proof is powerful. One study, cited in the Washington Post, even showed how positive social proof can be more influential than saving money.

The Hero's Journey

Understanding and applying the Hero’s Journey

What I’ve shared above is my personal example of the Hero’s Journey, illustrated in the diagram above.

Patient stories are one of the best ways to help people overcome their most significant objections to surgery – fear of the unknown being the most significant.

What would persuade you more, a statistical chart, a 5-star review or a detailed video or textual account of how someone transformed their life through eye surgery? All three are great, but one is far more potent than the other.

For most people, stories are more persuasive than praise and statistics because individual examples play into our natural predisposition to remember stories more than numbers.

Stories are compelling because they can transport us to the journey as it unfolds. Watchers or listeners of a good story can put themselves in the picture and step into other people’s shoes.

The most compelling stories position the patient as the hero, with the surgeon as the mentor or guide. You can do this by crafting stories around your patient’s experiences and the Hero’s Journey – including their fears – and featuring them in every way you communicate.

12 ways you can you use Hero’s Journey stories in your practice marketing

  • In your awareness and engagement marketing, show your patients you understand their “ordinary world” challenges and show them how life could be after they heroically make the first move away from their comfort zone. Speak to the fear directly in:
    • advertising campaigns
    • social media posts
    • e-mail marketing
    • blog posts
    • lead magnets like guides
    • infographics
    • media for publicity
  • On your website’s homepage. Using video or text, show the would-be hero’s adventurous life without glasses. Feature people they can identify with enjoying all the things they can do after completing their journey.
  • In your telephone calls. Help callers understand how others similar to them experienced fear of “crossing the threshold” and overcame their fears by booking an appointment. Have your telephone handlers memorise archetypical patient stories so they can share them using an abridged form of the Hero’s Journey.
  • In your consultations, where your patients “meet their mentors”, imagine all the ways you can help your patients feel like heroes. I’ve suggested several action points above.
  • In seminars and webinars. These events are most compelling when a patient shows up to directly share their hero’s journey. Help them tell it by crafting slideshows for them to present that follow the Hero’s Journey.
  • In video testimonials, interview your patients in such a way that they answer questions that help them share their story in the Hero’s Journey format.

Get our newsletter: Best Practice

What smart medical practice owners and marketers read weekly

Sign up now!

Why subscribe?

If you like our content but feel too busy to remember to keep coming back to our blog just in case we’ve published a new post, subscribe and you too will receive weekly notifications linked to relevant and timely advice about how to build the practice and life you’ll love. We’ll also throw in some subscriber-exclusive content that will enable you to stay ahead of the competition. We’ll keep your email address private and you can unsubscribe at any time.

Subscribe and get:

  • Powerful tips in succinct and timely articles
  • Insightful interviews that educate and inform
  • Useful videos that show you how to grow your practice
  • Invites to interactive webinars that teach real-world techniques
  • Case studies that show you how we reliably grow your colleague’s practices
Sign up now!

Do you use Facebook?

Like and follow our Facebook Page HERE to grow your private healthcare clinic with hundreds of other healthcare marketers.

If you enjoyed this post, you can also get updates from us. We’ll send email updates about new posts, and tips and tricks to build the practice and life you love. Just sign-up as a blog subscriber and you’re good!

Can I make a tiny request?

I know most people don’t share blog posts because they feel that us bloggers don’t need their “tiny” social share. But here’s the truth…

We built this blog piece by piece, one small share at a time, and we will continue to do so. So, thank you so much for your support, dear reader.

A share from you would seriously help a lot with the growth of this blog. It won’t take more than 10 seconds of your time. The share buttons are right here. 🙂

About the Author:

Rod Solar is the Director of Practice Development Consulting of LiveseySolar, a healthcare marketing and sales training company. Rod has created successful and engaging training systems for over 25 years. His advice routinely generates 6-figure incremental increases in income for his clients by teaching them how to systematically improve customer service while increasing sales at the same time. His training offers an elegant (and fun) step-by-step conversational approach which benefits surgeons, practice managers, hospital staff, and non-medical staff working in private healthcare settings. Rod wrote and delivered the Business Development, Clinical Governance and Medicolegal Issues module for the University of Ulster’s Postgraduate Diploma in Cataract and Refractive Surgery (Theory) - PgDip. He is a regular presenter at the European Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgeon’s Congress Practice Development Programme and has regularly published articles about healthcare marketing in The Ophthalmologist, Optician, European Ophthalmology News, Cataract & Refractive Surgery Today, Eurotimes and Independent Practitioner Today. Rod has been a professional salesperson (B2B and B2C), management consultant, college lecturer, an industry leader, and executive coach. His clients include Optegra, EuroEyes, ZEISS, Moorfields Private, London Vision Clinic, Thiele, and many other high-quality, private Ophthalmology clinics from the UK, Europe, USA, Canada, and the Middle East. Rod has a degree in Psychology and Human Performance from UBC. He lives in London, UK and you can follow him on Twitter: @rodsolar.

Leave A Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.