5 Game-Changing Hospital Marketing Trends to Watch in 2020 and Beyond

hospital marketingNothing has spurred more change in the healthcare industry than the recent transition to a value-based model for patient care. As explained by Michael Porter in his well-known article for the New England Journal of Medicine, value is dependent on “results, not inputs” in this new mode of healthcare: It is “measured by the outcomes achieved, not the volume of services delivered, and shifting focus from volume to value is a central challenge.” 

What this means is that healthcare organizations must entirely restructure their approach to success. While cost-consciousness will always be important, an organization’s ability to provide consistently positive patient outcomes ought to be the number one priority. In turn, marketing teams should dedicate time to refreshing hospital branding and messaging so that it focuses less on quantity of available services and more on long-term patient care outcomes.  

This concept of patient-centered value will continue to drive significant change across the entire healthcare industry over the coming years, and marketers must mirror these changes with their own efforts and strategies. Increased competition, tightly constrained margins, and rapid digital transformation are forcing hospital marketing teams to adopt an agile mindset and abandon old, outdated practices – perhaps even borrowing an idea or two from successful New Age retailers.

In other words: It’s time to say goodbye to mass-printed brochures, non-responsive websites, and dry, repetitive newsletters. Here, we’ve identified five game-changing hospital marketing trends to watch in 2020 and beyond – as well as some advice on implementing these tactics within your own organization. 

1. Video Marketing

Video is perhaps the most valuable medium hospital marketers have at their fingertips when it comes to fostering patient engagement and building trust. YouTube is the world’s second-largest search engine, processing more than 3 billion searches per month. Videos posted to social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn are just as popular: 75 million people visit Facebook’s video platform to stream over 8 billion videos each day. Another study found that video content attracts two to three times as many monthly visitors as standard, written content and also doubles the time visitors spend on the site.  

The data is compelling. So is the logic behind it: Healthcare, an innately personal, people-driven industry, is best expressed with narrative. Videos allow hospitals to share patient success stories, ask questions of their surgeons and physicians, and provide an image of the care experience in action. It can also help mitigate the “intimidation factor” that many patients feel when researching a hospital, decreasing the fear and anxiety associated with the medical environment. 

Whether it’s a short, 6-second non-skippable ad on YouTube or a social media page featuring full-length informational and story-based videos, any hospital can benefit from some form of video marketing. If you haven’t already, invest some of your marketing dollars into a capable video production company. Even if you start small, a handful of compelling videos can bring in hundreds – or even thousands – of new patients. 

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2. Local Search Optimization

A large majority of patients turn to search engines first when looking for a medical provider or hospital in their area – 89%, in fact. A strong SEO (search engine optimization) strategy is a critical first step for any hospital marketing team – but ranking highly in the SERPs for generalized, high-funnel keywords may not be the most practical approach. 

Why? Because the average person searching for “hip replacement surgery” could be located anywhere in the country – anywhere in the world, for that matter. If your hospital’s website is on the first page of results for “hip replacement surgery” but hundreds of miles away from your searcher, your efforts will bring in very little ROI. This isn’t to say an informational page won’t help build your brand authority – it just might not convert your site visitors into patients.

Enter local search optimization. Localized keywords (like “Dallas TX emergency room” or “cardiologist near me”) can have an enormous impact on overall organic search presence. These keywords typically have a lower search volume and, therefore, less competition. They also tend to bring in leads that are far more likely to convert. Of course, there’s more to local SEO than just the keywords.

To reach the top of your local search results, make sure to do the following: 

  • List your hospital or organization correctly and consistently on top online business directories – including accurate addresses, phone numbers, and hours of operation
  • Claim and optimize your listing on Google My Business and Bing Places for Business
  • Maintain an active presence on top physician review sites (such as Vitals, ZocDoc, and RateMDs)
  • Ask for patient reviews to let Google know that your healthcare facility is legitimate and reliable
  • Optimize your website and blog content to include local keywords such as your city’s name, state, or the metro area

3. Real-Time Data Personalization

Real-time personalization in marketing gives businesses across all industries a major boost in sales – and it can be even more powerful in healthcare. It’s easy to see why: Individualized content creates a better, more satisfying customer experience. It stands out amongst an overload of other information and advertisements to create an emotional connection between consumer and brand.  

Being that one’s own health is something that defeats most other consumer ‘needs’ (especially when an injury or illness arises), hospitals can benefit significantly from marketing that targets a patient’s individual health concerns. When doing so, however, marketers must take care to avoid breaching patient privacy. Complying with HIPAA and other regulations around patient data is paramount; marketers should be familiar with these policies and conduct regular audits to maintain data security.

In order to successfully personalize healthcare campaigns, it’s important to start with the right toolkit. Healthcare data is complex and difficult to manage without a comprehensive tool that centralizes information with robust analytics capabilities. A healthcare CRM (HCRM) can do just that, collecting and storing all relevant data and tracking interactions with every patient in your hospital’s network.

With an HCRM in place, marketers can begin to segment data into unique patient personas. Questions like “what are the typical age ranges of patients in this service line?” and “What are these patients’ average income levels?” and “What are the key concerns or challenges they bring to us?” can help guide this process. Then, the right messaging can be created for each target persona and delivered at the right times – over the right channels – for that individual. Marketing automation, one of the the top five technologies we believe you need for effective marketing, is key to deploying these messages across channels. Here’s one example of how Scripps Health effectively applies these principles.  

4. Mobile-Friendly Website and Email Design

hospital marketingUp to 70% of global Internet traffic comes from mobile phones and devices. For your hospital’s marketing efforts to be successful in 2020 and beyond, both your website and your email outreach must adapt to a mobile interface. While this is old news for retail and other direct-to-consumer industries, healthcare still lags behind in terms of digital adaptation: Many hospitals have yet to build out a mobile-responsive interface for their websites and email marketing. 

Even without considering the quantity of mobile searches taking place, it’s important to be aware that your website’s search engine visibility as a whole is substantially dictated by its mobile responsiveness (or lack thereof). Google’s mobile-first index ranks SERPs based on the quality of the site’s mobile interface. This holds true even for searches conducted on a desktop computer – therefore, a website that is “mobile-friendly” needs to be a top priority for healthcare marketers: It serves as the foundation for all other digital tactics. 

What exactly makes a “mobile-friendly” website? First and foremost, it’s a site that is easy to view on screens and devices of all sizes – and this usually means it has a “responsive” design that repositions images and text according to the type of screen on which it’s displayed. 

In general, navigation menus and CTAs should be in large enough text for easy reading and content should be placed in fluid layouts so that images and text are not cut off. Hospitals must also regularly check up on their website’s technical SEO and functional performance: Factors such as the time it takes to load a mobile webpage can quickly cause your rankings to drop. 

Mobile-optimized emails should be designed similarly, with responsive layouts and high-quality images that stand out on screens of all sizes. Links should be easy to find, driving potential patients back to your website, and text should be relatively succinct and CTA-oriented. 

5. Chatbots

Chatbots have been around for awhile, but they’ve become far more sophisticated in recent years due to advancements in deep learning and artificial intelligence. While bots have many possible uses and applications within the healthcare industry overall, they’re already showing significant value in terms of ROI for hospital marketing teams. 

Imagine the following scenario: 

While sitting at his desk at work, John notices a sharp pain in his right knee. The pain has been lingering for the last several months, but it has now increased enough to become a distraction. He begins to research his symptoms and realizes it might be a good idea to visit an orthopedic specialist. 

John finds a nearby hospital with a reputable orthopedic surgeon and decides to make an appointment – but, at the moment, he is unable to step out of the office to make a call. About to give up, he nearly exits out of the screen – but then, something on the website catches his eye: A chatbot pops up in the corner of his screen, offering to assist with scheduling. 

John has a 2-minute chat conversation during which the bot collects his name, email, and phone number, offers available appointment times, and schedules a follow-up call with the hospital’s engagement center (at a time that he selects) to collect further personal details and confirm the appointment. 

In this scenario, had the bot not have been there to assist with scheduling an appointment while John was busy at work, he may have forgotten to do so altogether – or, perhaps, forgotten the name of the hospital or orthopedic surgeon and eventually chosen to make an appointment somewhere else. 

A chatbot provides a great deal of convenience for patients at very little cost, and, besides assisting with scheduling, can answer many common questions to provide a better overall patient experience. In addition, a chatbot is an excellent tool with which to encourage form completions and gather valuable contact information – even during non-business hours. This information can then be filtered into an HCRM for follow-up remarketing opportunities and continued engagement.

Final Thoughts

New technology, digital transformation, and a shifting consumer mindset all contribute to the challenges – and opportunities – hospital marketers will face over the coming years. While the healthcare industry still tends to lag behind others in its degree of marketing sophistication, this is sure to change. Younger generations of patients will have a lower tolerance for outreach that isn’t personalized, convenient, and specifically targeted to their needs. 

Hospitals that continue to deploy outdated campaigns will find that their marketing department remains nothing more than a cost center, receiving dwindling support from key stakeholders in the organization. In order to drive revenue and support ongoing growth, healthcare marketers must look to new technology and digital innovations to improve efficiency and deploy agile, multi-channel campaigns that reach the right people at exactly the right time. 

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Rachel Neely

Rachel Neely

Senior Healthcare Consultant at Evariant
Rachel Neely is the Senior Healthcare Consultant at Evariant. In this role, she serves as a healthcare marketing expert, guiding clients through collaborative workshops, identifying and reconciling points of marketing/physician ROI, overseeing the usability of Evariant products and solutions to ensure they meet client-specific needs, and collaborating with Physician and Marketing Practice Leaders to build new assets and points of view. Rachel holds a BA in Communication from Purdue University with specializations in Advertising and PR.
Rachel Neely