Compelling Stats to Guide Your 2018 Healthcare Marketing Budget

The marketing landscape is more fractured than ever before; traditional and digital channels compete for marketing dollars at every turn. But in reality, you should have an integrated strategy that considers the broad range of diverse tactics and channels that can be deployed as part of your marketing mix.

According to a recent survey, healthcare marketers consider themselves behind the curve in terms of digital marketing proficiency in comparison to other industries, like banking and ecommerce retailers. However, healthcare systems are increasingly diversifying their digital marketing tactics:


With that in mind – and results from initial budget allocations rolling in – adjustments may need to be made, fresh ideas brought forward, and emphasis shifted. To assist in this effort, we’ve compiled relevant statistics and research to help inform and guide your healthcare marketing budget in 2018.

Patient Experience

  • 81 percent of consumers are unsatisfied with their healthcare experience

A Prophet study exploring the current state of the patient experience uncovered this alarming statistic – and it only gets more troubling. The happiest consumers were those who interacted with the system the least.

Customer expectations have evolved over the past decade and a seamless experience, from start to finish, is something that is both valued and sought out. The business side of healthcare, for a myriad of reasons – including concerns around data security and confidentiality, high costs, government regulations, and challenges with updating old technology – has been slow to evolve. However, as technology has advanced, consumers no longer differentiate across industries and now have similar expectations regardless of industry.

2018 healthcare marketing roadmap

In order to be successful, improving patient experience needs to be an organizational-wide initiative, but the marketing department should play a critical role. With technology and data analytics in place, marketing can identify areas of the patient journey where communication and automated workflows can bridge the gap left by experience shortfalls.

Many of the touchpoints (from patient acquisition to ongoing engagements) fall under marketing’s purview and studies have shown investment in patient experience can have significant ROI. An Accenture study found that hospitals with superior patient experience generate 50 percent higher financial performance.

Patient Engagement & Retention

  • 43 percent of Millennials are likely to switch practices in the next few years

Patient loyalty is a serious issue for healthcare providers, now and well into the future. Research shows that Generation X and Millennials are likely to switch PCPs in the next few years – 44 percent and 43 percent, respectively.

These stats speak to the increasing importance of deploying patient engagement and retention strategies. It’s not enough to provide quality care to patients. However, each demographic group has different expectations and desires that should be reflected in your marketing strategy. For example, millennials are more apt to seek out digital and mobile options for healthcare engagements, such as telehealth and mobile apps.

The study found that across specialties other factors came into play, including dissatisfaction with practice logistics, such as wait times, office/staff interactions, convenience, communication, and the ability to make an appointment with ease.

With a healthcare CRM and analytics capabilities, marketing teams can create programs for smarter retention that build loyalty.

Content Marketing

  • Two-thirds of health systems say their content marketing efforts are only “somewhat effective”

The good news is that nearly 70 percent of health systems are engaged in content marketing. The not-so-good news is the majority feel their efforts are not meeting the organization’s objectives. About half of the health systems are posting to social media daily and publishing new content to their website weekly.

Studies have shown the most successful content marketing efforts begin with development of a written strategy and quality, efficient content production. Investing time and money in upfront content marketing strategy can reap dividends downstream.

It’s critical that content efforts align with ongoing marketing campaigns, as well as support campaign goals, and add value to the patient experience. Patient journey maps, consistent messaging across channels, and investment in technology, such as data and analytics tools, marketing automation, HCRM, and an engagement center, can make the development and deployment of content marketing assets more effective and efficient.

IT & Analytics

  • 52 percent of hospitals used at least three connected health technologies

The 2016 HIMSS Connected Health Survey revealed the growing prevalence of technology in the healthcare field with more than half reporting they are using 3-plus connected health technologies. Consider these two additional insights:

  • 69 percent of said there was a focus on sending and receiving health data between the patient and provider
  • 47 percent of health systems expect to expand their use of connected health technologies over the next few years

Improving care coordination and developing a 360-degree view of customers and physicians is a continued focus in healthcare. With better data and systems, health systems are able to provide more personalized care throughout the patient journey.

Investment in analytics technology that enables greater visibility into data and stronger connections between organizations, providers, and patients, is a continued focus in 2018 and beyond.

Physician Referrals & Loyalty

  • 35-45% of referrals for adult inpatient care, as measured by revenue, go to a partner hospital

That means a significant amount of revenue driven by referrals is going to an out-of-network hospital. Getting to the bottom of leakage – and implementing ways to promote physician loyalty – can help health systems stay competitive and help the bottom line.

The strategic growth of referrals is key to revenue growth. Business development teams should invest in answering these types of questions:

  • Which orthopedic surgeon referred 60 percent of her cases to another hospital during the past six months?
  • What service lines within your hospital are the most likely to grow with the least investment required?
  • Does your organization’s caseload have the right mix of commercial/government payers? Inpatient and outpatient care?

With more data and insights at hand, more effective outreach, both in terms of targeting and communication, can be developed in coordination with physician relationship management teams.

  • 20% of patients don’t follow up on their doctor’s referrals to specialists

A University of Pennsylvania study found that 1 in 5 patients are not heeding their doctor’s advice and following through on specialist referrals. That translates to a significant loss of potential revenue. The research showed that patient engagement and a strong relationship between the doctor and patient made a difference in getting the patient to make the specialist appointment.

Marketing can support physician referrals by making it easy for patients to make appointments, such as implementing an online booking system or creating an outbound calling campaign to follow up on outstanding referrals within the call center.

Final Thoughts

While individual healthcare organizations have their own unique way of dealing with budget, it’s safe to say that all want to use their marketing dollars in the most effective and impactful way possible. Keeping tabs on the latest research and statistics offers timely and relevant insight into the state of healthcare marketing.

However, the most important takeaway is that maintaining the status quo is not going to move the needle for your organization. Marketers must always be looking for (and experimenting with) new ways to increase ROI, improve customer experience, differentiate services, and deliver superior care.

Top healthcare marketing initiatives

Sherrie Mersdorf

Sherrie Mersdorf

Sherrie is responsible for the demand center at Evariant. Her main focus is creating integrated cross-channel marketing campaigns, testing new marketing approaches, and closing the loop through effectiveness measurement. Prior to joining Evariant, Sherrie lead marketing at NewBrand (acquired by Sprinklr) and Cvent (NYSE:CVT) where her team executed tens of thousands of campaigns a year. She has a Bachelor of Science in Marketing Management from the Pamplin School of Business at Virginia Tech.
Sherrie Mersdorf