The healthcare industry is progressive in many ways, but marketing strategies tend to lag behind other consumer-centric industries. Why? With closely monitored HIPPA regulations, and the FDA constraining marketing efforts, it’s difficult for healthcare organizations to keep up with other industries’ marketing innovations. Additionally, marketing strategy is not the priority in healthcare — patient care is (and rightfully so).
That being said, a Deloitte study found that 52 percent of consumers search online for information about treatment options or more generally to learn about health concerns or care providers. According to the same study, consumers’ use of social media for health purposes also rose from 18 percent to 21 percent between 2013 and 2015.
It has become clear that consumers and patients are taking advantage of online resources both during initial research and ongoing care – thus, it is increasingly important that organizations take advantage of digital marketing to boost patient engagement and, ultimately, care outcomes.
First, let’s take a step back to discuss how healthcare marketing has evolved:
The Evolution of Healthcare Marketing from Traditional to Digital
In the past, healthcare marketing has focused on traditional tactics such as print, TV, radio, and direct mail. Marketers would launch campaigns and hope for the best, unable to make real-time adjustments once the ads were published.
Hospitals also had an easier time acquiring patients because the population was, in general, less proactive about their health. Plus, healthcare costs were much lower than they are now, so patients did not reject or delay procedures based on cost, as happens presently. hospitals often had enough patient inflow.
Today’s healthcare consumer is much different than the healthcare consumer of the past. Patients are healthier, live longer, and rely on healthcare organizations less. Today’s patients are also able to do extensive research online, which means they are more particular about the services they receive.
As Becker’s Hospital Review explains, “Hospitals are dealing with consumers who are remarkably smart, demanding transparency and two-way communication from their healthcare providers.” To appeal to this these consumers, healthcare marketers need to adopt digital marketing tactics.
4 Strategies to Improve Healthcare Digital Marketing
Let’s look at a few digital marketing strategies to improve patient engagement and organizational success.
1. Optimize for Search
According to a Think With Google Study, search engines drive three times as many visitors to hospital websites than other sources. The study also found that 44 percent of patients who research hospitals on a mobile device end up scheduling an appointment. As a result of consumers’ extensive use of search engines to find facilities or inquire about their health, healthcare marketers should keep search engines in mind when they optimize their digital presence.
Healthcare marketers can help search engines recognize and rank content by tagging a page with relevant keywords, writing informative page descriptions, and creating strategic HTML titles, among other techniques. This lays the groundwork for search engines to place your pages front and center when a relevant consumer searches for a pertinent health topic.
2. Create Effective Inbound Content
The goal of inbound marketing is to provide prospects with the right content at the right time. Ultimately, earning users’ attention with great content can capture more prospects and produce better results. Successful marketers can use healthcare CRMs (HCRM) to aggregate patient data from a variety of sources and produce data-backed insights that inform future engagement strategies.
Healthcare marketers can also use a HCRM in conjunction with marketing automation to build and deploy multi-channel tactics including email, direct mail, social and SMS, and then track the performance of these campaigns through a single dashboard.
Take the following example:
Say the marketing team comes across a new target: a male in his early 50’s who has previously been a patient at their health system. Because this health system has a healthcare CRM in place, predictive models can leverage information from previous interactions with their facility.
From the HCRM, marketing sees he scores highly in multiple predictive models, and as a result has a high propensity to be a potential candidate for hip surgery. The HCRM also stores his communication preferences (Email, in this case), and that it has been a few months since he came in for an appointment. This can trigger an educational email highlighting the benefits of hip surgery and what sort of recovery time to expect. The patient, after receiving this email, decides to make an appointment to come into the facility to learn more and see whether he is a good candidate.
In this example, the marketing team takes advantage of the healthcare CRM to create targeted outreach that reached the patient on the right channels. As a result, the health system reactivated a patient.
3. Engage via Social Media
Social media can be used to engage with patients, support physicians, and improve population health outcomes. Healthcare social media marketing strategies may include participating in discussions, networking, and promoting information about population health.
A healthy social media presence also helps attract patients. A recent study found that 57 percent of consumers’ decisions to receive treatment at a healthcare facility are strongly influenced by that provider’s social media connections, showing that patients trust healthcare organizations that engage online.
Physicians can also use social media networks to collaborate, share knowledge, and work together – thus potentially improve care outcomes.
4. Track ROI of Digital Campaigns
A substantial benefit of digital marketing is the ability to track and attribute results to specific campaigns and outreach efforts. For healthcare marketers, this is critical to understand what is working, what needs to be optimized, and how to use marketing budgets efficiently for the best possible results.
Before adopting digital marketing strategies, healthcare marketers would run marketing campaigns and hope for results. Now, healthcare marketers can build campaigns using past data and alter campaigns in real-time if they are not producing ideal results.
In addition to aggregating and analyzing patient data, a healthcare CRM also tracks and reports marketing campaign results. This way, healthcare marketers can attribute clinical and financial success to specific campaigns and showcase the value of their department.
Digital marketing has helped the healthcare industry evolve. By using search engines as a tool, creating targeted outreach with great content, engaging patients on social media, and taking advantage of reporting data, patient engagement and loyalty are improved, as well as marketing’s ability to confidently prove their value to the C-suite.
Digital has already fundamentally changed the way healthcare marketers operate – as the digital landscape evolves, the healthcare marketing industry will surely follow.