Keeping up with digital trends is an endeavor—especially in an industry as ever-changing as healthcare. From legal restrictions and HIPAA limitations, to market structure and changing consumer behavior, healthcare marketing can be a convoluted, challenging process. What works for one organization may not work for the next.
However, rather than compete, we often hear of healthcare organizations throwing in the towel by relying on outdated methods.
The reality is that digital marketing matters more than ever. In 2019, digital advertising spend in the U.S. is predicted to exceed traditional advertising for the first time. Thanks to technological advancements—in both personal and medical technology—more emphasis has been placed on the patient experience. Consumers now have an unprecedented ability to research information and compare providers.
Why is Digital Marketing Important in Healthcare?
As we’ve already mentioned, modern patients want to see how practices adapt around their lives. Healthcare consumers demand choice, customization, and convenience. And if you don’t have a digital healthcare marketing strategy for your practice, it may be time to reconsider.
1) Target Your Patients with SEO
Digital marketing is a rare industry that allows businesses to track results in real-time. Things such as ad copy, web page layout, and contact form placement influence how patients interact with your practice. Using the right data helps uncover what patients are most interested in—and how they go about searching for that information.
A refined SEO strategy can optimize your digital efforts around topics your actual audience is typing into search engine result pages. For example, an individual trying to find a cardiology practice may search for terms such as heart questions, cardiovascular health, and open heart surgery cost.
SEO organizes websites so that patients can access information they want to read. It helps you create relevant pages that appear on search engine results for terms related to your patients’ search queries. And it can inform the creation of website content, blog posts, social media campaigns, and ad copy—so that messaging is aligned across all marketing efforts, creating a unified answer to your future patient's specific healthcare needs.
2) Reach Patients at the Right Time with PPC
The way that people interact with healthcare facilities varies based on their needs. People may be proactively searching for a new primary care physician. Or, they may be looking for an urgent care facility in a time of emergency. Others may be anxiously searching for prescription side effects or disease symptoms (hello, impromptu WebMD searches!).
Regardless, people are using search engines to look for specific solutions to a problem. And if you aren’t taking the time to understand what they’re looking for, you’re missing out on potential new patients.
Improving your organization’s patient acquisition efforts means delivering streamlined communications across the right channels. Pay-per-click (PPC) advertising enables organizations to pay for targeted ads across a defined geographic location and specific channels. For example, an urgent care facility could invest in Google Ads to target a specific location—say, Urgent Care Center NYC—to entice patients to visit their facility.
PPC offers health systems immediate, consistent visibility—which serves as a foundation for awareness and new leads. Ultimately, paid advertising efforts ensure that local users are able to find your practice, no matter where they are in their healthcare journey.
3) The Patient Experience and Regulation
While it has always been an ethical concern for hospitals to provide a top-notch patient experience, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has made it a financial imperative as well. The HCAHPS survey is the first national, standardized survey to measure patient experience.
In addition to providing objective data about patient care, the survey is designed to incentivize healthcare systems to increase their focus on experience and engagement. In fact, HCAHPS results are directly linked to Medicare reimbursement, and influence whether hospitals lose or gain payments.
While initiatives such as the HCAHPS survey qualify a hospital’s in-person experience, a patient’s journey begins well before they step foot in your facility. First impressions mean a lot in healthcare. And oftentimes, this begins when a new lead interacts with a piece of your digital content.
Digital marketing sets the stage for the patient journey.
It’s essential to establish expectations and create trust with your patients. This boils down to delivering on your promises. If you run social media display ads touting the cleanliness of your hospital, your waiting room should be spotless. And if you publish blog posts that push the professionalism of your staff, you should deliver a seamless experience—from your receptionists down to your doctors.
Ask yourself the following:
- How do I portray my organization to my patients?
- Is there a disconnect between my online presence and my in-house patient experience?
- Are members of my practice aligned on how they communicate our values across all patient touchpoints?
Healthcare digital marketing can reach new patients across numerous channels and keep current patients engaged with personalized outreach efforts. By investing in SEO and PPC strategies to reach a local audience, and creating relevant marketing messaging, your practice can increase its reach and cater to patients at the right time in their decision process.