female doctor smiling at a young patient

The Changing Face of Healthcare Marketing

Years ago, physicians had no need for healthcare marketing. They were, in a sense, part of the family โ€œinheritance.” Doctors were passed down from one generation to the next. Relationships were established with parents, children, and, in some case, their childrenโ€™s children.

Doctors were trusted and their judgment was rarely questioned. This was due to healthcare information being largely out of reach for most.

That was then โ€“ this is now.

Now when consumers are faced with health issues, more than half go straight to the Internet. That’s according to a Pew Internet survey. Of those who searched online for health information, 35% didnโ€™t take the next step of consulting with a clinician.

When choosing healthcare providers or facilities, once again the Internet plays a role. A 2015 study by Deloitte showed that one-fourth of consumers reviewed scorecards or report cards. They used these to evaluate doctors, hospitals, or health plans. Nearly half of those surveyed said they are likely to use online quality comparison tools in the future.

These are just some of the stats worth considering when developing your own healthcare marketing. If you avoid active marketing, concerned that it somehow โ€œcommercializesโ€ medicine, you’re ignoring the expectations of todayโ€™s consumers. They demand choices, especially with their healthcare needs, and will explore all options before making decisions.

If you’re not on the healthcare marketing playing field, youโ€™ll be out of the game before it begins.

What consumers want in a healthcare provider

What do consumers care about? At the Becker’s Hospital Review annual CEO Strategy Roundtable, Richard Conn, MD had some thoughts. He said consumers consider accessibility in terms of office hours, offerings that address specific needs, and an exceptional patient experience. The AP-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research report listed 17 factors consumers evaluate. Most important? Accepting their insurance and the doctors’ experience.

As for the source of their information, the AP-NORC report noted that friends or family top the list. That was followed by media sources, doctors or other healthcare providers, or their health insurance company. This illustrates the value of using multiple methods to market your practice, since consumers rely on so many sources.

Although less frequently relied upon, scorecards and rating sites are becoming an increasingly important source of information for consumers. Deloitteโ€™s research has shown younger consumers and high-income patients are more likely to use these sources. Millennialsโ€™ use of these increased from 31% to 49% from 2013 to 2015. That’s an important point to consider since that group will soon surpass Boomers as the nationโ€™s largest living adult generation.ย As such, scorecards and ratings should be monitored, continually updated, and influenced as best you can.

How to market to consumers

When marketing to consumers, a โ€œone-size-fits-allโ€ approach is no longer effective. What appeals to Millennials, for example, may not strike a chord with Baby Boomers. Instead, gain an understanding of all your consumer segments. Understand their expectations, the resources they rely on, and the pain points they want addressed. Youโ€™ll be better able to speak on their terms.

That research will also provide insight into an effective marketing mix. It will highlight the healthcare marketing channels that will be most effective in reaching your varied market segments. The methods you use to reach these segments are just as important as the message itself.

Referrals from other providers and current patients are also an invaluable method for growing your practice. If youโ€™re not getting as many as you would like, bringing a physician liaison on board can help create value. According to Physicians Practice, employing a liaison can increase the value in referrals well beyond their cost for doing so.

For patients seeking a new provider, your website should provide quick details. Things like specialties, location, hours, and accepted insurance are important. But your site should also convey your office’s tone and vibe. What can they expect when they walk in the door โ€“ Warm and welcoming? Clean and clinical? Accessible and efficient? Setting the tone early can help “pre-screen” patients who may be looking for something else. And that can help reduce unhappy customers and poor ratings/reviews.

Don’t forget digital

A refined website should be at the top of your list. According to Deloitte, patient use of websites and portals continues to grow for a variety of reasons. They want to review health records, pay bills, request refills, and schedule appointments. All from the comfort of their home.

Newslettersย and eblasts are other options. They can serve multiple purposes, according to a Medical Practice Insider article. For instance, they keep your practice name top of mind with patients and referring doctors. They reinforce your credibility. They tend to get shared, extending your reach. And if you include the media, you could be asked to contribute your knowledge to an even broader audience.

Other considerations

There are other avenues you should pursue as well. Depending on the market youโ€™re targeting, that can include:

Interestingly, social media has been shown to have a major impact on how consumers view health facilities. According to Pharmacy and Therapeutics, studies show more than half of consumers are positively influenced by a hospitalโ€™s social media. 81% Of consumers also correlate a strong social media presence with the use of cutting-edge technologies.

Thereโ€™s no denying that a well-defined, comprehensive healthcare marketing strategy takes time, effort, and knowledge to provide results. But as Dr. Conn pointed out, โ€œMarketing can be effective if youโ€™re effective in your marketing.โ€


Enlist a healthcare marketing team for help

If you need help developing a healthcare marketing plan or conducting market research for your practice or facility, B63 can help. We are experts in strategic messaging, public relations and brand management – serving practices, hospitals, and networks. An EDGE-certified, woman-owned business in Southwest Ohio, B63 provides strategically-focused creative solutions with a sharp eye on metrics and ROI.

Call us today at 937.490.4000 for more information or schedule a free consultation at: https://B63LineDrivesMarketingMovesPeople.as.me/.