The Changing Digital Landscape: What Healthcare Marketers Need to Know

The healthcare industry is evolving. The shift toward value-based care has brought with it changing priorities for healthcare consumers and marketing professionals.

As the modern landscape evolves, it’s crucial that marketers align their efforts with these changes in order to engage their audiences, successfully acquire new customers, and retain existing patients.

One of the most notable areas of constant change is the evolving digital marketing landscape. As consumers begin taking more responsibility for their individual health, they now hold healthcare providers to a much higher standard – and digital is a big part of that.

In fact, a recent study found that 90 percent of those surveyed wouldn’t hesitate to leave a provider that isn’t offering satisfactory digital experiences. What’s more, 88 percent of respondents younger than 40 said they’ll choose their next provider based on how strong their online experience is.

Marketers must now look to their digital efforts as a core driver of value for consumers and patients. Given the frequent changes impacting the healthcare industry, it’s important marketers recognize the emerging changes impacting search, content, social media, and overall user experience.

In this post, we’ll explore four digital marketing trends that are shaping the success of modern healthcare marketing.

1. Integrate Digital Tools to Improve User Experience

Modern healthcare consumers expect their digital experiences to be seamless and integrated with the services they rely on—a reflection of the experiences modern retail brands like Amazon have provided for some time now. However, across the healthcare industry, only 30 percent of existing patients would give their providers an “A” in technology usage.

This is because the overwhelming majority of healthcare organizations still don’t take into account the impact their digital marketing, website, services, and resources have on overall customer experience. Moreover, many healthcare organizations still operate with cluttered, siloed channels.

Take, for example, the use of patient portals, which give consumers the ability to access their healthcare information from their preferred devices. If they can access their portals in a seamless and intuitive manner, consumers are more likely to leverage their portal for better health outcomes, while associating the brand with positive customer experience.

However, if a patient or potential customer has to navigate across a cluttered website, or worse, move to a new website altogether, the benefits of services like patient portals go unused. With one in three users abandoning a site because they can’t find what the need, the healthcare organizations that can integrate their various tools, resources, and marketing efforts into a cohesive user experience will be more likely to stand out from competition, acquire new customers, and retain existing patients.

Consider the following best practices for improved customer experience:

  • Make sure your website, content, tools, and resources are easy to navigate
  • Personalize marketing and customer interactions to help consumers and patients navigate their health system and boost engagement
  • Engage audiences with content that connects them to health and wellness opportunities
  • Ensure landing page design is easy to digest and engage with
  • Place vital information in the same area across content so users know where to look

2. Provide Relevant Content for Search Engines and Consumers

Since 2011 when Google first introduced its Panda update, the importance of relevant and quality in content has only grown. However, the definition of relevant content changes with the trends and preferences of modern healthcare consumers. With this in mind, healthcare content now needs to focus on the immediate gratification that consumers have come to expect when searching for healthcare content.

As the second highest searched service online, the demand for quality healthcare content is greater than ever before. However, a staggering two-thirds of healthcare systems report their content marketing efforts as being only “somewhat effective.” In order to provide the kind of high-quality content that both consumers and search engines alike demand, marketers need to understand what constitutes relevant and quality today.

When Panda was first introduced, its goal was to prioritize healthcare content that was original, trustworthy, appropriate to the given search query, and offered insightful information without “keyword stuffing,” excess advertisements, or duplicate content. This is still a benchmark for quality content; however, marketers must now focus on targeting their efforts toward “micro-moments” that digitally savvy consumers expect.

These micro-moments have been defined by Google as, “an intent-rich moment when a person turns to a device to act on a need—to know, go, do or buy.” With this in mind, content now needs to focus on providing:

  • Local convenience geared toward “where can I go?” queries
  • Content that helps consumers learn about specific signs, symptoms, and the actions needed to address “what’s wrong with me?” queries
  • Content that establishes authority and trustworthiness like physician reviews, awards, academic papers, etc. that help consumers make a decision when choosing a healthcare service
  • Seamless options that let patients book an appointment quickly and easily

3. Incorporate Video to Boost Social Media Engagement

In this survey, more than half (57 percent) of consumers indicated that their decision to receive treatment from a particular facility was strongly influenced by the provider’s social media presence. Given the role social media plays when engaging patients across their healthcare journey, it’s important to note the growing popularity of video in social media efforts.

According to Cisco, video traffic will make up 82 percent of all consumer internet traffic by 2020. Further emphasizing the importance of quality video content, social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram have begun to prioritize video content more than static content, healthcare marketers who haven’t incorporated video into their social efforts are missing out.

For healthcare marketers, this is an opportunity. Leveraging the live streaming capabilities of social media allows healthcare brands to engage potential customers and patients in real-time, while testimonials, provider reviews, symptom descriptions, and wellness tips and tricks help reach new audiences and establish brand authority. For example, healthcare marketers can share the stories of inspirational patients and providers or create a video series to highlight a high-value service line.

4. Voice Search: Understand How Customer Find You

Five years ago, the role of digital assistants was just beginning to make waves across the consumer landscape. In 2018, it’s commonplace: Voice search accounts for 20 percent of all searches and is projected to reach 200 billion searches a month by 2020.

The popularity of digital assistants like Siri, Alexa, and Cortana are now becoming a part of our daily lives as we use them to help navigate the healthcare landscape—from finding the nearest walk-in clinic, to educating themselves on specific symptoms.

For healthcare marketers, this trend provides an opportunity to drive new leads and expand upon their existing location-based marketing.

Similar to traditional SEO efforts, consumers want to be able to find quick, relevant solutions to their healthcare needs. However, the main difference here is that in order to optimize content for voice searches, healthcare marketers need to cater to the natural language we use when engaging with voice search. Where traditional search may focus on shorter, specific keywords, healthcare marketers need to consider long-tail, common language.

Think about it this way: if you’re looking for a nearby hospital you might type, “hospitals near me.” However, using voice search to find a location might look something more like, “Siri, where’s the closest walk-in clinic?”

In order to optimize content for the shifting role of voice search, consider the following tips:

  • Use conversational language that mirrors the speech of target audiences
  • Include long-tail keywords
  • Clearly define your locations, hours, services, providers, etc.
  • Give clear and direct answers across FAQ pages and other significant questions

Final Thoughts

In order to meet the high expectations of modern consumers, healthcare marketers need to recognize the shifts happening within the healthcare sector. In this effort, the role of digital marketing and its impact on consumers has seen dramatic shifts recently. For marketers, changes in SEO, social media, content, and user experience represent unique opportunities to stand out from competing organizations while optimizing their efforts for modern consumers and patients.

Chris Girardi

Chris Girardi

Chris Girardi oversees all staff and functions of Evariant’s multi-channel digital media offerings including planning, analysis, management, execution and analytics. He has over eight years of experience in digital media and direct response marketing.
Chris Girardi