The hospital marketing landscape is now more fractured than ever before. While healthcare costs are skyrocketing, reimbursements have dropped in recent years. With tighter marketing budgets overall, traditional and digital channels compete for hospital marketing dollars at every turn. Yet in reality, marketing is a central driver of hospital revenue – therefore, hospital marketing teams must modernize their strategy to integrate a broad range of tactics and channels to more effectively reach today’s busy, distracted consumers.
According to a recent survey, healthcare marketers consider themselves behind the curve in terms of digital marketing proficiency in comparison to other industries such as banking and e-commerce retailers. Nonetheless, healthcare systems have begun diversifying their digital marketing tactics:
Geo-fencing, SMS and text messaging, and real-time marketing tactics are more prolific than just five years ago. These trends will only continue in 2020 as older channels – such as direct mail – begin to decrease in popularity and effectiveness when used independent of larger integrated multi-channel programs.
In addition, another study by BIA/Kelsey found that hospitals spend on local advertising is increasing: Hospitals in the US spent an estimated $4.90 billion in 2017; this figure is expected to increase steadily into 2020 and beyond. The same study also revealed the following:
- “Among all hospitals, larger marketing budgets are concentrated in research hospitals, where new technology and therapies are developed. Medical innovations provide the highest return to the inventor, often a hospital, early in the adoption cycle.”
With this 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 several relevant statistics to help inform and guide your 2020 healthcare marketing budget.
- 81 percent of consumers are unsatisfied with their healthcare experience
A recent Prophet study exploring the current state of the patient experience uncovered this alarming statistic – and it only gets more troubling: As the study uncovered, the happiest healthcare consumers were those who interacted with the system the least.
Customer expectations have evolved over the past decade. With consumerism coming to healthcare and more consumers taking control of their health, patients expect a seamless experience from start to finish when interacting with a hospital or health organization. Their experience involves not only the time spent interacting with a physician, but also marketing outreach, conversations with front desk staff, and follow-up communication. Unfortunately, this end-to-end experience often falls short of expectations.
- Nearly three in four agree with the statement “I wish healthcare providers would communicate with me more often between appointments”
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, consumer expectations are evolving rapidly. A study by West recently found that most consumers would like more communication with them between appointments – 88% would like automated communications to encourage patients to take specific actions.
In order to achieve success, key stakeholders (in marketing to patient experience to operations to physicians, etc.) need to come together to dedicate time and budget towards improving the patient experience. With technology and data analytics in place, marketing can assist by identifying areas of the patient journey where communication and automated workflows can bridge the gap left by experience shortfalls.
Studies have repeatedly shown that investment in patient experience can generate significant ROI for hospitals and healthcare organizations. An Accenture study found that hospitals with superior patient experience generate 50 percent higher financial performance – no small number, especially when margins are already stretched thin.
Patient Acquisition and Convenience
- Nearly half (45%) of 18-29-year-olds said they didn’t have a primary care doctor
A Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) survey found that 26% of 1,200 respondents said they didn’t have a go-to primary care physician. However, when you start to look at specific cohorts, the trend becomes clearer: 45% of 18-29-year-olds don’t have a PCP. This group is opting for more convenient forms of care such as urgent care and telemedicine. Furthermore, office visits to primary care physicians are on the decline. Between 2012 and 2016, visits dropped 18 percent overall.
Hospital marketers should consider the role of lifetime value in creating strategies to acquire these younger patients. While nearly half of 18-29-year-olds don’t have a PCP, the number falls to just 28% in the next cohort (Americans aged 30 to 49). Investing in strategies to acquire these new professionals has a long tail payoff.
- Local convenience is a key factor: “Near me” searches on Google for health-related services have doubled since 2015.
Research conducted by Google found that, in keeping with trends across other consumer industries, local convenience is a key factor for healthcare systems’ success. Patients are no longer willing to travel long distances to see a provider – and, when possible, they’ll choose a provider based on distance as opposed to perceived quality of care.
Hospital marketers, therefore, should dedicate resources towards local search marketing – especially via mobile search. Using location-specific keywords, geofencing, and extensions can help. In addition, targeting convenience-focused keywords on your website (like “online appointments” or “open weekends”) can help your organization stand out to consumers seeking quick treatment. Real-time data, such as live emergency room wait times listed online, is also beneficial.
Once again, health systems can look to retail and e-commerce businesses for inspiration when marketing to today’s busy consumers. Engagement and retention can be aided significantly via focused efforts to improve convenience and accessibility – especially by geographically targeting consumers within a 5- to 10-mile radius.
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, both now and well into the future. Of those who do have a primary care provider, research shows that Generation X and Millennials are likely to switch primary care providers over the next few years – 44 percent and 43 percent, respectively.
These statistics speak to the increasing importance of deploying patient engagement and retention strategies. Personalized, consistent, and convenient communications are a must. Since each demographic has differing expectations and desires when it comes to their care, marketers must take the time to develop well-rounded patient personas and create custom communications that cater to each. For example, millennials are more apt to seek out digital and mobile interfaces for healthcare engagements, such as telehealth and mobile apps.
The same study also found that other factors came into play when determining engagement and retention, including dissatisfaction with practice logistics – such as wait times, office/staff interactions, and convenience – and the ability to make an appointment with ease.
In order to create smarter, strategic marketing programs, healthcare organizations must start with a robust healthcare CRM or another database that integrates analytics – with this information as a framework, marketers can understand which channels and touchpoints are most effective for each demographic and structure campaigns accordingly. While 80% of organizations use telephone calls, electronic health records (EHR), and patient portals to improve the consumer experience, only 35% use a centralized customer relationship platform.
In addition to being an essential technology to measure marketing effectiveness and optimize programs, benefits of CRM software include improved patient retention at 69 percent of organizations and reduced unnecessary utilization at 52 percent of facilities.
- 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 to some degree. The not-so-good news is that the majority feel their efforts are not meeting the organization’s objectives: Only about half of health systems are posting to social media daily and publishing new content to their website weekly.
Studies show that the most successful content marketing efforts begin with the development of a written strategy and processes for the creation of high-quality content. Investing time and money in upfront content marketing strategy can reap dividends downstream.
It’s critical that organic content efforts align with ongoing paid marketing campaigns and add value to the overall 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 impactful.
IT & Connected Health Technologies
- 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 of the surveyed organizations reporting use of three or more connected health technologies. Examples of these include online patient portals, remote monitoring of health equipment (such as home dialysis systems), telehealth services, and mobile rounding tools for physicians.
Consider these two additional insights:
- 69 percent of surveyed organizations said they are placing a majority of their IT focus on the communication of health data between 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 is an ongoing focus for hospital teams. With improvements in data and connected systems, healthcare organizations are able to provide personalized care throughout the patient journey – even when the patient is not physically present.
Research has shown that patients who are actively involved in managing their own treatment and care are better engaged with – and empowered by – their healthcare network. Hospitals therefore cannot underestimate the impact of connected systems and advanced IT functionality. Without it, there is a critical lag in data and communication that can undermine a system’s efficiency.
Physician Referrals & Loyalty
- 35-45% of referrals for adult inpatient care, as measured by revenue, go to a partner hospital
This means that a significant amount of revenue driven by referrals is lost to out-of-network hospitals – a trend known as patient referral leakage. Getting to the bottom of leakage, whether by promoting greater physician engagement or solving for common capacity problems, is a critical effort for hospitals that want to continue to meet their bottom line.
Furthermore, in order to increase revenue, hospitals must engage in the strategic growth of referrals: Marketers, liaisons, and business development teams should ask questions such as the following:
- Which orthopedic surgeon(s) referred 60 percent of his or her cases to another hospital during the past six months?
- Which service lines are most likely to grow with the least investment required?
- Does our caseload include an optimal mix of commercial versus government payers? Inpatient versus outpatient care?
To maximize strategic physician engagement and drive referral growth, healthcare systems should leverage a digital solution that integrates internal insights with market claims data – such as a PRM platform. This way, physician relationship managers can develop coordinated, targeted outreach to drive referrals in specific geographic areas, support a service line, or prevent leakage to competitors.
While individual healthcare organizations each have different priorities and limitations to consider when allocating marketing budgets, it’s safe to say that all want to use their marketing dollars on the most effective and impactful campaigns and tactics. Keeping tabs on the latest research and statistics offers timely, relevant insight into what’s working across the industry – and what isn’t.
However, the most important takeaway is that simply maintaining the status quo isn’t 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.