Is it really possible that, as healthcare marketers, we are already gearing our thoughts toward 2016 marketing strategy? Absolutely! Why? Because I know that it takes time to develop a solid marketing strategy that results in positive outcomes.
More importantly, your patients are changing how they do business with health care providers and having your thumb on the pulse of this trending interaction can you give a competitive edge in a busy healthcare market space. Let’s take a look at the primary trends that will be affecting your future strategy.
5 Marketing Trends to Look For in 2016 for Healthcare
Searching for Answers
Where do your patients start their journey for healthcare information? According to Pew Research, when asked to think about the last time they hunted for health or medical information, 77% of online health seekers say they began at a search engine such as Google, Bing, or Yahoo. Another 13% say they began at a site that specializes in health information, like WebMD. Just 2% say they started their research at a more general site like Wikipedia and an additional 1% say they started at a social network site such as Facebook.
The answer is clear: healthcare providers need to incorporate a top of funnel search engine optimized strategy in their plan. If potential or existing patients first seek information online, and they can’t even find your hospital or practice, you aren’t even in the ball game!
It shouldn’t be a secret that people use their cell phones to do business, and searching options for healthcare is no exception. In fact, studies released over the past year indicate a huge shift in the way people search – approximately 80% of local searches are conducted from mobile phones. In addition, 91 percent of Americans have a mobile device within reach 24 hours a day. Through responsive web design, your health care system, hospital or physician group website can also be within their reach.
That’s why on April 21, 2015 Google released an algorithm update that affects ranking for non-mobile responsive friendly websites. Simply stated, you not only need a website that creates a positive visitor experience, it needs to be mobile responsive. Patients or their caregivers have no patience for hard-to-use websites on their phone. The website is no longer a separate tool in your toolbox, it’s the live and dynamic center that all marketing strategy should be designed around.
Patients and caregivers really are not interested in propaganda about how great your organization is, at least not initially in their online search. They are seeking helpful educational information that will help them make informed decisions about what their next step should be in consulting with a healthcare professional.
According to Pew Research, 72% of internet users say they looked online for health information of one kind or another within the past year. This includes searches related to serious conditions, general information searches, and searches for minor health problems. In fact the third most popular activity that people do online—right behind checking email and using a search engine—is looking for answers to health questions.
You should be curious as to where your potential patients are seeking information. According to Mashable the online resources most frequently accessed for health related information are: 56% searched WebMD, 31% Wikipedia, 29% health magazine websites, 17% Facebook, 15% YouTube, 13% a blog or multiple blogs, 12% patient communities, 6% Twitter, and 27% none of the above.
It stands to reason then that there will be a continued demand for educational content in the form of blogs, social media, white papers, checklists, videos, podcasts and email that are designed to create a personalized experience for the patient. Developing a content strategy that touches the patient at the right time, with the right information in the right channel will be a key element of developing a relationship with potential new patients.
Good ole’ WOM (word-of-mouth marketing) is still important to healthcare audiences. The informal conversations among family, friends and co-workers will continue to be an important driver of referrals. However online reviews of healthcare providers are even more important. In fact, the number of patients using online reviews jumped 68 percent from 2013 to 2014, one survey found.
The reality is, however, online reviews are not only the accepted form of “informal referral” they actually are a driver of whether a patient will select your services. In fact, 6 out of 10 patients use online patient reviews before selecting a physician.
It stands to reason when planning your 2016 marketing strategy to incorporate a reputation management plan consisting of online review sites and social media to encourage reviews from satisfied patients as well as a plan to manage your online brand. As a result of the internet, you no longer have full control of your brand; however, you can manage how you guide people to interact with your brand and how you respond to their experiences.
Make Social Media Sticky
People like to be social, thus the reason social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest etc. have experienced such a rapid growth. Patients want to be in control of their decision making around their healthcare and seek advice from their social network.
You may not think that hospital readmission rates affect how your patient’s perceive your brand. However in a recent study published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine--which compared how 4,800 U.S. hospitals rated on Facebook's five-star scale with their 30-day readmission rates--researchers found that the average Facebook rating was higher for hospitals with lower-than-average readmission rates, while hospitals with the highest readmission rates received fewer stars from Facebook users.
Social media has greatly impacted how health care providers engage with patients online. Consider these statistics:
- More than 40% of consumers say that information found via social media affects the way they deal with their health. (Source: Mediabistro)
- 90% of people that responded to the survey from 18 to 24 years of age said they would trust medical information shared by others on their social media networks. (Source: Search Engine Watch)
- 41% of people said social media would affect their choice of a specific doctor, hospital, or medical facility. (Source: Demi & Cooper Advertising and DC Interactive Group)
- Parents are more likely to seek medical answers online, 22% use Facebook and 20% use YouTube. Of non-parents, 14% use Facebook and 12% use YouTube to search for health care related topics. (Source: Mashable)
- 40% of people polled said information found on social media affects how they coped with a chronic condition, their view of diet and exercise, and their selection of a physician. (Source: HealthCare Finance News)
The results speak for themselves: patients and caregivers use and rely on social media for healthcare decisions. How healthcare providers strategically use social media in 2016 will determine the results.
Obviously, healthcare pricing, delivery, and quality of care are top concerns with consumers due to the changing tide of healthcare reform. And similar to consumer-expected evidenced-based outcomes, healthcare CMOs should expect no less from their digital marketing outcomes in 2016.
Healthcare consumers expect more and no longer want to be bothered with self-serving promotional messages that invade their space. Taking the time to segment generational preferences will be the foundation of a solid 2016 digital marketing strategy that ensures a personalized message delivered in the right channel at the right time will hit the mark for obtaining brand recognition and loyal patients.