It’s no secret that the healthcare industry is undergoing significant changes. This heavily regulated industry has sometimes been slow to adopt new strategies, but a digital revolution is transforming how healthcare organizations communicate with and meet the needs of patients. This affects not only patients, but providers, insurers, and marketers as well. Active use of digital communication channels helps healthcare organizations better understand their patients’ needs, resulting in better relationships with those patients. By focusing on positive experiences across all interaction points, healthcare firms can retain and nurture current patients while acquiring new ones.
Healthcare is typically a top priority for most people. However, people aren’t just concerned with their health; they want control over it. According to Pew research data, 72% of Internet users sought online resources for information regarding health within the past year.
With a vast majority of patients looking to the Internet for health solutions, healthcare professionals and organizations have an opportunity to leverage their digital marketing efforts to effectively reach consumers with relevant health information. The demand for digital access to health information will most likely increase. Therefore, organizations that relate to and engage with their audiences are more likely to succeed. Let's review some of the key trends of digital communication in the healthcare industry.
People everywhere are struggling with content overload. In some cases, content is perceived to be irrelevant, time-consuming, and even boring. Yet, when users are able to cut through the clutter and locate specific information, they tend to feel less overwhelmed and more in control. So what does personalized content do? It delivers a brand experience at a personal level by tailoring the message to the patient’s wants and needs.
This personalized communication increases overall engagement in terms of attracting and acquiring new patients. A healthcare brand with a particular audience in mind, such as women with breast cancer, doesn’t need its message to reach the masses. The message just needs to reach the specific category of women it seeks to target.
There’s a wealth of information available to healthcare consumers and when people are searching for answers, they want immediate access to the specific information they are seeking. Personalized content should be clear, concise, and easy for patients to locate.
There are different types of personalized content:
- Segment-specific content speaks to an industry vertical. In other words, marketers segment audiences based on interests, demographics, and geographical location.
- Persona-specific content focuses on needs of specific healthcare consumer groups. Marketers create content based upon the group’s healthcare decision behaviors.
- Stage-specific content relates to a certain stage of the patient’s decision process. The content could be tailored to what patients previously searched for on a site in order to help them finalize their purchase decisions.
- Patient-specific content is highly qualified for an individual patient or prospective patient. Marketers must have significant data and advanced technology for these highly personalized messages to reach certain patients at the right time. The more detailed the data, the more personalized the content.
These carefully crafted, targeted messages help build a relationship between the audience and the brand, but that’s not all. Consider personalized content a tool to connect with the patient on an emotional level. Emotions have a profound influence on any purchase decision, and healthcare decisions can be particularly overwhelming for patients and patient advocates. Healthcare consumers are more likely to remember a product or service if the message forms an emotional connection. Well-targeted messages ensure relevancy because content that is applicable to the individual patient reading it, gives that patient a sense of control.
Video advertising is growing at the expense of television. In fact, 1 in 2 patients watches videos online to learn more about a personal health condition, healthcare providers, or to research a treatment or procedure.
Videos actually tend to be more persuasive than text and have a greater audience appeal. Medical professionals are beginning to offer webcasts, webinars, and live chat sessions on their websites and social media channels. The live video chat sessions between doctors and patients allow the patient to feel more involved and engaged. Along with efficiency and educational impact, patients are able to receive a response within seconds rather than waiting up to several weeks for an email.
When a health issue arises, patients have the expectation of receiving care as quickly as possible. Access and ease of consultations are more important than ever and for the first time, patient healthcare options are not limited by geographic location. Telemedicine grants patients with access to a doctor without the waiting rooms. It hasn’t made its way into all domains of medicine yet, but according to the American Telemedicine Association, more than 15 million Americans received some sort of remote medical care last year and the use of telemedicine is expected to rise over 30% this year.
These virtual visits are most commonly used for follow-ups, management of chronic conditions, medication management, assisted living support, and specialist consultations. It offers providers a competitive edge while patients are able to bypass barriers to cost, location, and lack of expertise. Needless to say, opportunities abound for remote healthcare monitoring, especially with an increasing focus on value-based care (keeping people healthy) instead of traditional fee for service. Telemedicine offers new challenges for marketers to communicate the benefits of the technology, and alleviate fears of both providers and patients.
More and more, patients are looking for easy answers to their health-related questions, and it seems most of them are going mobile to find them. According to KPCB Mobile Technology Trends, over half of web traffic comes from mobile and tablets. If healthcare websites are not designed with mobile users in mind or take too long to load on a mobile device, the site could miss out on many potential patients.
A website not optimized for mobile will not only result in a poor user experience on mobile devices, but the site will also rank lower in search results, leading to a loss of prospective patients. Patients aren’t just exploring healthcare options online; they are becoming more accustomed to contacting and scheduling appointments with providers through websites.
There are three basic components to consider when optimizing a website for mobile:
- Readability: The material on the page should fit the size of the screen. Therefore, readers won’t have to zoom in and out to see it.
- Navigation: Can patients easily find what they are looking for? Content should be searchable and clear. Be sure that the information on your services, insurers accepted, location, and quality of care is easily located. Also, provide a quick and accessible route for the patient to obtain additional information, such as through a chat function or call button.
- Functionality: The website needs to work, meaning it loads quickly, links are active, and pages are complete. When a website is broken, it’s useless and Internet users won’t spend more than three seconds trying to tamper with it.
Data Driven Decisions
One of the biggest trends, as well as challenges, for healthcare marketing is the ongoing transition of marketing from a communications focus to a technology focus. Meaning that, marketers must target customers more accurately, track effectiveness, and prove return on investment (ROI) of marketing programs. Measuring performance establishes accountability and enables data driven decisions for continuous improvement of marketing efforts.
Healthcare providers can utilize a patient relationship management system to capture data on what content patients, patient advocates, and potential patients are viewing and where each patient is in the healthcare decision journey. Marketing software like HubSpot, for example, helps tailor content for website and social media visitors based on the company’s data. With the help of marketing automation and patient relationship tools, healthcare marketers can better understand their audiences, resulting in more targeted messaging and expanded reach across search, social media, mobile, and direct informational campaigns.
All of the above led to an entirely new trend in healthcare: Patient empowerment. Innovations in technology make it much more possible for patients to be actively engaged in their own care. Patients increasingly make decisions based on information instead of intuition, and are demanding a more convenient, transparent, and personalized service.
After patients express interest in any of your content, you can encourage them to take action by offering online registration for an informational event, inviting them to schedule an online appointment, or assisting them in finding a physician. Make it easy for patients to use your technology. For example, in addition to offering online appointments, let patients see the wait times at urgent care facilities.
Access to available health information and new technology enables patients to better self-manage or to become a more informed team member of the doctor-patient relationship. Digital communications affect the way health providers treat their patients, not just their patients’ ailments.
Have you had your digital communications diagnosed? Perhaps it is time for preventative marketing care?
CATMEDIA is an award-winning Inc. 500 company based in Atlanta, Georgia. Founded in 1997, the company specializes in advertising, creative services, media production, program management, training, and human resource management. As a Women Owned Small Business (WOSB), CATMEDIA provides world-class customer service and innovative solutions to government and commercial clients. Current CATMEDIA clients include Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), Office of Personnel Management (OPM), and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
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