Healthcare Marketing: Tips for Branding Your Practice

A hospital administrator meets with colleagues.

We live in a digital age. The coronavirus pandemic accentuated this fact in health care, as many providers turned to virtual appointments, online scheduling, and new apps. Healthcare marketing is more important than ever as 43 percent of millennials, 44 percent of Generation X, and 20 percent of baby boomers are expected to switch healthcare providers in the next three years. Convenience, communication, scheduling ease, and office interactions are all factors contributing to the switch.

A well-branded provider with an established digital footprint will stand out among the rest in terms of patient experience and convenience. Patients are looking for digital experiences like text confirmations and online scheduling ease combined with a welcoming office environment. But what is healthcare marketing? Why is marketing important in healthcare? And what marketing strategies for healthcare organizations are there?

What Is Healthcare Marketing, and Why Is It Important?

Healthcare marketing supports healthcare practices by facilitating a relationship between providers and patients. Marketing helps create a practice’s brand and promotes said brand with the goal of bringing in new patients. Today, 81 percent of patients are not happy with their healthcare provider, according to a Prophet study. This is due in part to their poor experience interacting with the online platforms and services. They experience a disconnect between the promised service and the online presence.

According to Combo, 89 percent of patients look online for healthcare providers. With patients having seemingly endless options to choose from, standing out and having an accessible website are important for providers who want to grow. This is where healthcare marketing comes into play.

From a responsive website and consistent branding to search engine optimization, ads, and social media, marketing is an important way for healthcare practices to retain current patients and gain new ones. Marketing also is a great tool for providing important information to patients and keeping them up to date with the latest health procedures and news — think masks, hygiene, and COVID vaccination information.

Worth noting is that federal health marketing laws and regulations need to be followed during this process. HIPAA, GDPR, and the CAN-SPAM Act lay out some of healthcare marketing’s do’s and don’ts:

  • HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act): maintains mandates on sharing information and electronic billing
  • GDPR(General Data Protection Regulation of the European Union): regulates personal data processing, protecting how doctors, hospitals, and marketers use patient information
  • CAN-SPAM Act (Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing Act of 2003): regulates emails, specifically the information they can contain and patients’ ability to opt out

Marketing Strategies

To create the most impact, a few marketing strategies for healthcare organizations need to be implemented. But, it all starts with branding.

Developing Consistent Branding

Creating an authentic and consistent brand is the first step in marketing efforts. A brand can be defined as an identity or the way a business is viewed by an audience, and it is used across all marketing efforts.

Most patients have a large number of healthcare options to choose from, with many looking relatively the same: white coats, smiling doctors, shiny buildings. Building a brand can start with targeting an audience and discovering their needs. This will be part of the outward-facing brand’s foundation. It will also help make the organization appear personable.

Branding can be done outside of private practice as well. Hospital branding is also important and can help gain new patients and retain old ones.

The brand should highlight who the business is, what makes them unique, and how they treat patients. Examples of brand identity components include staff characteristics, the office environment, and what the patient experiences. From this, the brand can be translated into slogans and brand mantras that allow for consistent messaging throughout all marketing efforts.

Building a Responsive Website

After identifying and creating a brand, itis time to implement it. This can start with revamping the website — a very important step in healthcare marketing.

As previously mentioned, 89 percent of patients find their healthcare provider online, and 60 percent of people access the internet on their phone, according to Combo. This makes having a responsive, accessible website all the more important. Having a responsive website means that it has been optimized for mobile users, changing the page’s size and layout to best fit a phone. This impacts the user experience.

The user experience encompasses both how someone interacts with a website and how that website responds. It includes such things as loading speed, the tone of the writing and design, functionality, and the user’s ability to accomplish their goal (like booking an appointment). Having a well-functioning website will help retain the user, or potential patient in this case, and give the healthcare organization a better chance of gaining them as a patient.

Using Paid Search Ads

Most consumers are using search engines like Google to find healthcare information. Promoting an organization through paid search ads will reach a large audience of potential patients. Pay-per-click ads can be targeted to a specific audience. For example, ads can be filtered by location and with keywords. This means only local users will be targeted, which moves the organization to the top of the search.

Asking for Reviews

Part of building a brand — and an important marketing strategy — is seeking out reviews. According to Combo, 72 percent of patients used online reviews while finding a new doctor in 2019 — and 88 percent trust those reviews.

Asking patients to leave a review will build the organization’s credibility. These reviews should be easily found on a website and should also be monitored. If a bad review is left, Combo suggests responding within 12 hours. This shows the outside audience that the organization cares about their patients’ experiences and will continually work to make them better. Known as healthcare reputation management, this helps maintain a positive online brand perception.

Social Media and Healthcare Marketing

Social media and healthcare marketing go hand in hand. Many patients have phones and use them to access social media as well as to find new providers, two-thirds are active on social media daily. Social media allows healthcare organizations to connect on a personal level with patients — keeping in mind HIPAA and other healthcare regulations. It also helps them reach a new, young audience.

Many providers have been successfully using social media to gain a following for years. For example, Dr. Sandra Lee, known as Doctor Pimple Popper, has used YouTube, Instagram, and, most recently, TikTok to promote her dermatology practice and gain patients while providing healthcare information and entertainment.

Further Your Education in Health Administration

Utilizing marketing techniques is a responsibility of healthcare administrators who want to maintain and grow their patient base. Students can gain practical experience while learning leadership and analytical skills through Tulane University's Online Master of Health Administration. Start a career in health administration at Tulane University.

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ComboApp, “Healthcare Marketing Strategy: 10 Actionable Tips in 2020”

Prophet, “The Current State of the Patient Experience”

Solutionreach, “The Patient-Provider Relationship Study: The Ripple Effect Starts with Boomers”

Our World in Data, “The Rise of Social Media”