Transformation of the Marketing Function in Hospitals

This is the first in a series of three blog posts that discusses how healthcare marketers need to transform their approach to adapt to shifting buying and searching behaviors. Read our second post about having the right skills to effectively reach and communicate with patients and physicians and our third post about what modern healthcare marketing departments need to do to refocus, reorganize, and stay relevant in the digital age.

Healthcare marketing strategies are changing in response to the move toward value-based care and an increasingly competitive market. As a result of these changes, hospital marketing departments need the right tools and team members in place to effectively reach and communicate with patients and physicians.

Hospitals can either be overwhelmed these shifting marketing strategies or they can become leaders in the marketplace. As overhead shrinks and budgets are cut, healthcare marketers need to focus on strategy and use thoughtful resources to move their organizations toward critical goal completion.

This shift in healthcare marketing is occurring in two ways: with people and with technology. Let’s take a closer look at each:

Marketers Are Adapting

How do hospital marketing departments become change agents? As a first step, it’s critical to understand the dynamics of the marketplace, including marketing strategies for competing hospitals’ and the general healthcare field.

Once marketers understand the landscape, they must communicate with service-line professionals to determine hospital needs and goals and begin translating these into marketing actions.

These marketing actions should be “precision marketing,” which thrives on social media, web technologies, and data analytics to target and engage specific individuals. In this digital age, customers are online searching for health information. Marketers need to deliver information where their consumers are – whether that’s on social media, patient portals, or hospital websites.

To better engage current and future patients and physicians with digital marketing tactics, it’s crucial to assess the skills and resources needed. These resources should include social media, Internet strategy, and quality content to name a few – along with a talented team to analyze, build, and implement strategies.

As a result of the digital trend and growing importance of big data analytics, successful marketing teams will also need tech-savvy marketers who can take initiative in data management and analysis.

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The Consumer at the Center of Marketing Strategy

The consumer is at the helm of the healthcare transformation, so marketers need to start approaching healthcare like a consumer market. But what does this entail?

For starters, marketers need to be able to deliver personalized messaging based on specific consumer data (demographic, psychographic, social, behavioral, etc).

This is where a healthcare CRM comes into play: Marketers can determine patient communication preferences and craft messaging that will make the greatest impact on engagement and retention and ultimately boost revenue.

Price transparency is also essential for consumers now that it’s easy to shop around online for other healthcare providers. If hospitals aren’t reaching the right audience with the right message when they search the web for healthcare information, they will miss the opportunity to acquire new patients.

Return on Marketing Investment (ROMI)

With all of these assets in place, marketers can pilot a program with clear, defined business goals in mind. In a value-based healthcare landscape, marketers are no longer brand people – they need to be revenue generators. Tadd M. Pullin, Senior VP of Marketing and Strategy Development at The Nebraska Medical Center, says that successful marketing in a value-based environment “calls for a clear business strategy and measureable outcomes for ROI as corporate overhead, including marketing budgets, will shrink.”

It’s vitally important for healthcare marketers to be able to communicate the value of marketing, especially in terms of the ROMI, to the rest of the organization. University of Pennsylvania Health System CMO Suzanne Sawyer says, “We’ve been able to share [lead numbers and patient conversion percentages] with our senior leadership — finance, all the key leaders, our clinical leaders and our administrative leaders. Now they see the impact of marketing whereas before it was very difficult for me to substantiate the impact of our work.”

Technology Is Evolving

As healthcare marketers start to shift their approach to marketing in a value-based landscape, they must have the right tools and technology in place to reach prospective patients and consumers with effective messaging.

A healthcare CRM is necessary for segmented targeting and other data-driven marketing efforts. Marketers need to understand consumer behavior and insight and leverage content across all channels to engage prospects. With a CRM, hospitals can continuously listen to and gather data from the consumer in order to anticipate the information they will need.healthcaretablet

Social media is another marketing tool that’s increasingly valuable for healthcare marketers. Maintaining a consistent online presence is crucial as more patients use social media to find information about healthcare providers. Hospitals can use the CRM to figure out what healthcare information would benefit patients actively searching on social media. After, a social media team can implement this marketing strategy on a hospital Twitter handle, Facebook page, and more.

Another technology that will benefit hospitals is marketing automation tools for always-on, data-driven communication, according to Chief Martec. This technology helps hospitals deliver consistent reminders about appointments, medicine, and lifestyle content to patients. Ultimately, these automated communications serve to drive behavioral change and improve patient outcomes by keeping patients in constant contact with their healthcare providers.

Data management platforms are also extremely beneficial to modern healthcare marketers. With the wealth of data available to healthcare marketers – around 25,00 petabytes of information by 2020 – an effective data management solution is critical. Marketers with access to a 360-degree view of their patients may be able to help hospitals predict health conditions before they occur.

With these tools in place, healthcare marketers can measure patient awareness and engagement as well as track leads such as new patient generation. Metrics like these are critical for the marketing department of today, says Sawyer. “Marketing has to be more accountable than we’ve ever been before, and now that it has changed so much and become more of a technology business, we are able to be more efficient, more precise in reaching the right kind of individuals for the work that we are doing.” 

Final Thoughts

In today’s healthcare landscape, marketers must keep up with shifting marketing strategies and tactics in order to remain competitive in the marketplace, reach the right patients with the right messaging, and ultimately succeed in their marketing efforts.

It’s critical to establish clear goals, implement digital marketing strategies, and measure the effectiveness of these tactics in order to secure budgets and prove ROI to decision-makers.

In a value-based environment, the ability to prove the ROMI in healthcare will only become more critical to marketing efforts. Having the right team, skills, strategies, and technology in place will put marketers on the right track to improving hospital revenue.

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Gary Druckenmiller

Gary Druckenmiller

Gary Druckenmiller, Jr. is Vice President, Customer Success at Evariant. He functions as lead strategist, digital marketing thought leader and C-level executive sponsor for all of Evariant’s enterprise clients, primarily focused on advising health system leadership of opportunistic methods to improve their digital presence and interactive growth potential. Prior to Evariant, Gary served as Vice-President for Harte-Hanks, responsible for healthcare digital strategy and deliverables including multi-channel campaigns, paid digital media, social media, CRM and analytics. Gary has been with Evariant for 8 years and can be heard often on the hospital marketing speaking circuit. Gary has a bachelor’s degree in marketing from Bentley University.
Gary Druckenmiller