The Virtual Care Blog

3 Key Ways Marketing is Changing in Healthcare

Posted by Teresa Iafolla

Your patients don’t look for you in the phonebook anymore. TV commercials? You’ve been skipped. And if your patients are millennials, they may not always ask for referrals either.

In an age dominated by the Internet and mobile devices, healthcare providers have had to make extensive changes to their marketing strategies in just the past couple of decades.

Here are three major ways that healthcare marketing is changing to keep up with the times.

  1. Content Marketing for “Online Diagnosers”

According to Pew Research Center, about one in three American adults has used the Internet to figure out a medical condition. Pew labels these individuals as “online diagnosers.” What also stands out is which patient demographics are more likely to be online diagnosers (so if these are your target groups, listen up!):

  • Women
  • Younger people
  • Caucasian adults
  • Those in households earning $75,000 or more
  • Those with a college or advanced degree

Healthcare providers want to take care of as many people in need as possible—that much is clear. But if something is minor and a patient can figure out and treat her diagnosis at home, that frees up an appointment for someone else who more critically needs to see you.

The trick is ensuring patients have the most factual, understandable, and easily applicable information at their fingertips to make that call. Enter: Content marketing from qualified healthcare providers.

More healthcare providers are using social media and blogs hosted on their websites (or articles they guest post on other websites) to share healthcare advice and information about diseases and treatments. Content marketing helps healthcare providers increase engagement with patients, establish thought leadership, build trust with potential new patients, and increase the reach of their digital marketing efforts through online and social media shares.

And if you’re worried that providing too much health information could deter patients from seeing you and weaken your caseload, think again.

According to the Think with Google report, “The Digital Journey to Wellness: Hospital Selection,” just before deciding to book an appointment patients tended to search for symptoms and condition terms. If your personal or practice’s name provides relevant, helpful health information, guess who the patient might look to first to schedule that appointment?

  1. Using Digital Marketing to Promote the Community

Supporting the local community and their social causes through your digital marketing efforts is key to building trust and reputation with your local patient base.

For example, Kaiser Permanente takes on social issues by featuring the diversity of its patients for its Thrive campaign ads. Christine Paige, senior vice president of marketing and digital services for Kaiser Permanente, told HealthLeaders Media, “They represent the richness of ethnicities and cultures in both our workforce and membership. Kaiser Permanente's core principle is that being healthy is a right, not a privilege.”

Healthcare providers who use content marketing to promote diversity or other healthcare-related causes, such as childhood obesity, diabetes, cancer prevention, or chronic stress relief, can connect with patients on a deeper emotional level. Supporting the causes that the community cares about through social media campaigns, blog posts, or other digital marketing efforts can better align you with your patients.

  1. Increased Adoption of Marketing Metrics

Marketing campaigns don’t do much to benefit your practice if you don’t measure the results. Otherwise, how can you determine which strategies work best and which are a waste of time and money?

Marketing measurement metrics aren’t nearly as widely adopted in healthcare as they are in other industries, but healthcare marketers are catching up.

The Society for Healthcare Strategy and Marketing Development (SHSMD), a personal membership group of the American Hospital Association, recently released a white paper that details the recommendations from the Marketing Metrics Committee the organization formed.

The white paper includes a list of 17 core metrics believed to be most important and needing to be most frequently evaluated. These include volume change, increased revenue, patient acquisition, brand awareness, and patient satisfaction. Having these types of resources can help healthcare providers and marketers boost their measurement efforts to better assess and adjust their campaigns in a digital landscape.

Still, once healthcare providers have all this data, how prepared are they to analyze and use it? If you’re feeling overwhelmed by marketing analytics, you’re not alone.

According to a 2015 survey of direct healthcare and medical device providers and pharmaceutical companies:

  • Two-thirds of respondents said they felt unprepared or very unprepared to develop patient insights from emerging data sources, such as wearables, and integrate them into marketing.
  • Just over half said the same about collecting and managing very high volumes of data quickly.
  • Even for existing data sources, such as CRMs and medical databases, 44% said they were unprepared or very unprepared to use that data in marketing campaigns.

Healthcare marketing has come a long way in adapting to trends in patient behaviors and communication styles. But providers in general still have many areas to improve and catch up with other marketing-progressive industries.

Teresa Iafolla

About Teresa Iafolla

Teresa Iafolla is an expert writer, researcher, and content wrangler who has previously worked as director of content marketing for a telehealth company and associate editor for a healthcare publishing company.

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