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. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, there has been an estimated 63-fold increase in telehealth use since the beginning of the pandemic.
Healthcare marketing is more important than ever. An estimated 64 percent of U.S. patients are expected to switch healthcare providers if their current one does not meet their expectations for managing issues related to COVID-19, according to a 2020 report by Accenture. As part of these new expectations, telehealth and virtual appointments are in high demand.
Many healthcare providers are in the process of determining how best to market the availability of virtual healthcare delivery, among other things. 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.
Those interested in learning more about what healthcare marketing is and its connection to public health issues can benefit from looking into relevant degree programs, such as a Master of Health Administration program.
What Is Healthcare Marketing?
Healthcare marketing is what 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.
Types of Marketing in Healthcare
Healthcare marketing can be split into two types: traditional and digital. Traditional marketing generally refers to using older forms of media, such as print, radio, television, and billboards. Digital healthcare marketing utilizes the internet.
Traditional forms of marketing include:
- In-person sales
- Direct mail
- Print advertisements
- Trade shows
- Word-of-mouth marketing
- Television ads
- Radio ads
Digital forms of marketing include:
- Social media
- Email marketing
- Search engine optimization
- Search engine marketing
- Pay-per-click ads
- Content marketing
- Influencer marketing
- Video ads
- Internet radio/streaming service ads
The big advantage that digital marketing has over traditional marketing is that its effectiveness is much easier to track. For instance, if a hospital sends a postcard to potential patients in the mail, they have no way of knowing how many people saw it and how many people threw it in the trash without looking at it. Digital marketing, on the other hand, tracks key performance indicators such as clicks, views, and conversions.
Why Is Healthcare Marketing Important?
According to PatientPop, the majority of people search online when selecting a physician. 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, healthcare marketing is an important way for practices to retain current patients and gain new ones.
Marketing can also help keep patients up-to-date with important information. When the first round of COVID-19 vaccines became available, many hospitals and healthcare facilities used social media and email campaigns to get the word out to their patients. Additionally, many healthcare websites added new pages specifically devoted to COVID-19 news and information.
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
Benefits of Healthcare Marketing
Healthcare marketing has many benefits, from both a business perspective and as a way of improving relations between patients and healthcare providers. The top benefits include:
- Increasing the reach of a hospital or healthcare facility
- Keeping patients informed of the latest news and information in real time
- Attracting new patients to a hospital or healthcare facility
- Keeping patients engaged as a means of retention
- Using digital marketing as a means of driving higher-quality leads
Steps to Building Your Healthcare Marketing Strategy
To create the most impact, healthcare organizations can utilize several marketing strategies.
1. Develop 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 practices as well. Hospital branding is 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.
2. Build a Responsive Website
After identifying and creating a brand, it is time to implement it. This can start with revamping the website — a very important step in what healthcare marketing is.
As previously mentioned, the majority of patients find their healthcare provider online. 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 smartphone. 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.
3. Use 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 keywords. This means only local users will be targeted, which helps move the organization to the top of the search.
4. Ask for Reviews
Part of building a brand — and an important marketing strategy — is seeking out reviews. When patients seek out healthcare providers, they check ratings and read reviews written by past patients to get a sense of the provider’s quality. The better the reviews, the more likely a healthcare provider will be able to gain new patients based on their reputation.
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 someone leaves a bad review, best practice suggests responding early, being sympathetic, and encouraging the patient to contact the practice directly to take the conversation offline. This shows the outside audience that the organization cares about its patients’ experiences and will continually work to make them better. Known as healthcare reputation management, this helps maintain a positive online brand perception.
5.Use Search Engine Optimization
Every hospital hopes to appear as the top result when a patient in their area searches online for a hospital. However, this is no easy feat. For a website to rank high with Google, for example, the website must be fully optimized, post unique content on a regular basis, and strategically use keywords and phrases that are relevant to patient searches.
For instance, “COVID vaccination near me” is a highly competitive search term. The hospitals and healthcare facilities that put in the work to optimize their websites as much as possible reap the benefit of appearing high in the search rankings organically, meaning they do not have to pay for the top spot.
Social Media and Healthcare Marketing
Social media and healthcare marketing go hand in hand. Many patients have smartphones 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. Healthcare marketing is what enables hospitals and healthcare providers to stand apart from the competition and keep their patients engaged and informed.
Students can gain practical experience while learning leadership and analytical skills through Tulane University’s Online Master of Health Administration program. This 54-credit program teaches students the most important skills and concepts relative to health care such as leadership, strategic management, analytics, and financial skills.
Start your path to a career in health administration and participate in the future of health care.