Maintaining a Competitive Edge by Uncovering Unmet Needs


Confirming a Hospital System’s Identity

When a competing system planned a move into the community, Baptist Health (now Brookwood Baptist) faced the potential of losing a significant revenue base in addition to their well-established share of the highly competitive central Alabama market. To overcome this obstacle, they would need to understand and engage with the Chilton County community on a deeper and more personal level than ever before to reaffirm the health system’s long-standing relationship with the community.

Strategic Foundation

  • Ethnography
  • Design Thinking

Deliverables & Tactics

  • Human-Centered Strategic Roadmap
  • Documentary Filmmaking

Baptist approached LIFT for guidance through an anthropologic and strategic design thinking exercise to help inform, articulate and deploy an unconventional, human-centered marketing program.


The objective was to clarify the reality at ground level—specifically the needs, motivations, and beliefs of the residents of Chilton County as related to Shelby Baptist Medical Center and the perceptions of the new hospital.

The Power of FIlmmaking

In almost every project client we engage with, filmmaking becomes essential to delivering results. Not only is documentation a vital piece to the research puzzle, but video has the power to move people. A report detailing research findings has immense value, but only through film does that report come to life.

  • Illuminate the needs and motivations of the consumers in Chilton County community. We also sought to understand the market drivers shaping the situation.
  • Uncover cultural drivers within the Chilton County community that Shelby Baptist Medical Center could leverage into messaging that would compel continued willingness to drive further north (and past the new hospital) to access care at the care Brookwood Baptist provides.


The study focused on community beliefs and cultural drivers of behavior. As complicated as the reality was at ground level, we believed that with the right insights into community beliefs we would be able to articulate a marketing and communications plan that would protect as much share of market as possible and establish a renewed sense of partnership in the community.

Competition among healthcare providers in rural markets can be tough. Hospitals situated near these often-remote communities are generally the first-line providers of care and access to healthcare services. To put it more simply, hospitals that are closer are often at a strong advantage. Such was the challenge faced by Baptist Healthcare, who had enjoyed years of a solid relationships providing care to Chilton, Ala. — an important rural community 30 miles south of the hospital.

Furthermore, there was an existing sense of abandonment within the Chilton community. Shelby Baptist Medical Center had abandoned the Chilton community years prior by closing down a facility in Chilton and thereby leaving the community of Chilton with no immediate access to hospital system care and forcing them to drive further north for care. The cultural significance of this reality was inextricably linked to the psyche of the community and was a significant area of focus.

To provide the context needed to strengthen relationships within the community, LIFT deployed an ethnographic team to Chilton to conduct community interviews, business intelligence analysis, and an in-depth ethnographic immersion into the community. Ethnographers spent time with the people of Chilton County to better understand their lives, beliefs, healthcare needs, level(s) of consumer competency, and social emotional drivers of healthcare behavior and relationships. Their findings provided Baptist with the context needed to better understand the sensibilities and needs of the community on a more personal and human level.


The cultural nuances uncovered in the study proved to be a powerful driver of consumer behavior and was highlighted as a key area of strategic focus. Baptist learned that a human-to-human approach was very important to sustaining and strengthening the relationships present in the community. Through this experience, Baptist achieved clarity around healthcare beliefs and cultural drivers of healthcare decisions.