When Great Lakes Practice Transformation Network (GLPTN) came to us during the week before Christmas last year, the ink was barely dry on its 4-year $46.4 million grant from Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).

The timeframe was tight: GLPTN needed to recruit 11,500 doctors or other clinicians by the end of June 2016 (and as it happened, the deadline would soon be moved up, to the end of April). GLPTN was 75% of the way there in terms of recruitment, but it still needed to recruit the remaining 25%— and finalize the enrollment of most of the rest.

Comprised of 35 partners from universities, health systems, and providers in Indiana, Illinois, and Michigan—all under the direction of the Center for Health Innovation and Implementation Science (CHIIS) at Indiana University—GLPTN is one of several national networks to have formed as part of the Transforming Clinical Practice Initiative (TCPI), “a strategy advanced by the Affordable Care Act to strengthen the quality of patient care and spend health care dollars more wisely.”

GLPTN knew what it was going to do and how to do it. The challenge was in how to tell its story to an audience (physicians, mostly) who were very busy and somewhat weary of pie-in-the-sky promises to improve care quality. Our task, then, was to explain to doctors the benefits of GLPTN in a way that was as meaningful as it was succinct.

But every time we tried to do this, we came away with a headache. We had just switched our coffee service. Perhaps an unusually high level of caffeine was crossing our blood-brain barrier. Or perhaps it was the profusion of acronyms and initialisms in the discovery materials. We compiled a glossary of national healthcare players and terms, switched to “half-caff,” and regrouped for a strategy meeting.

As we tried again to bottom-line the value that GLPTN offered, it became clear that we needed more information. A series of conference calls followed, with GLPTN and its partners from around the network. We also did a further round of background research. We dug into their project narrative and CMS’s original Funding Opportunity Announcement for TCPI.

As we traced the program back to its roots, it became clear: Changes were coming, and fast, to the way medical care was provided in the United States. GLPTN was a helpful group of experts who could show clinicians and their staff how to adjust their processes, procedures, and technology so that their practice, and their patients, could succeed in a changing healthcare landscape.

We created detailed positioning and messaging around this central idea, putting it in terms that we knew busy physicians could quickly understand.

GLPTN and its partners immediately used the new messaging in a mailer, netting a response rate of over 8%—including some from big provider groups they had never talked to before.

Adding Lights and Music

Now that our heads were clearer, the project became a more straightforward matter of marketing. We put together a PR plan—including an editorial calendar, an email template, content recommendations, and media pitches—to spread the word among the medical community in the Midwest. And we started work on a video, with the goal of presenting the program—and the new positioning and messaging—in a way that was even more friendly and concise.

First, we looked at videos that other practice transformation networks were doing, which were mostly voiceover explanations of their programs over B-roll. We felt that, since we were describing mainly new processes and quality goals, we should tell the GLPTN story by not relying on footage of how things had been done in the past. We needed an approach that could show how all the pieces would work together in the future. We needed footage of something that didn’t exist just yet.

We needed an animated video.

The animation took shape in collaboration with animator Mark Olsen, after a few rounds of feedback over the script. We had started with the idea of doing a recruiting video, but once the messaging began to work (and after the enrollment deadline had been moved up), GLPTN realized that a persuasive explainer video would be a better use of their funds. We removed the call to action and concentrated (with the help of Mark’s dynamic visual ideas) on bringing their four-part change package to life.

What we (and GLPTN) love about the video is the way it keeps all the parts in constant motion, showing not only the urgency of the change that’s coming, but the energy that GLPTN offers to get practices on the track to success.

Fast-Acting Medicine

We believe in the value of good storytelling. Much of what we do as an agency is based around getting our clients’ stories just right. So it’s nice now and then to be reminded just how effective a just-right story can be.

Even before the video was finished, we got word from the clients that the messaging was continuing to get a strong response. In fact, recruiting went so well that GLPTN’s territory was expanded—with the addition of Kentucky and Ohio—to five states.

CMS promised to feature GLPTN’s messaging in its national newsletter. And the American Medical Association’s national publication, AMA Wire, decided to launch an exclusive series on GLPTN for the duration of the initiative, so impressed were they with GLPTN’s messaging, website, overall brand, and reach. The series will go out to over 300,000 subscribers and, according to the AMA, will reach one million people across social media, newsletters, and other channels.

As for GLPTN, it has so far recruited more than 15,300 clinicians, 34% more than initially required, and is now the largest organization of its kind in the nation. Which makes us pretty proud to have been a part of that story, and excited about how we might be able to help in the future.