Not just for patient care: How hospitals are using AI for marketing

Artificial intelligence isn't just being used to improve patient care or streamline hospital administrative functions. It has entered the marketing department as well.

Health system marketing leaders tell Becker's they're employing AI to improve search engine optimization, gain insights on consumers and promote their brand strategy.

Somerville, Mass.-based Mass General Brigham has been integrating AI-driven tools to provide real-time consumer and market intelligence.

"One example of this work is using AI to categorize responses to open-ended market research survey questions," said Chief Marketing Officer Mark Bohen. "And we are exploring using AI to enhance our digital approach through social listening software."

AI-powered search engines now understand more natural language queries, changing the landscape for health system marketing, said Suzanne Hendery, chief marketing and customer officer of Reno, Nev.-based Renown Health.

"This means that our SEO strategies will adapt to focus more on conversational search terms and long-tail keywords to make our websites and information more accessible to potential customers and patients," she said.

Other health systems leaders say they've still evaluating how the technology might be deployed for marketing purposes.

"Our work across healthcare is human-centric. As marketers and communicators, we strive to tell the human experience of the journey of receiving care from North Memorial Health — and it's possible that AI will eventually support us in getting further, faster in our storytelling efforts," said Bjorn Gunnerud, chief experience and marketing officer of Robbinsdale, Minn.-based North Memorial Health. "For today, we're watching tools develop, keeping a close eye on the legal implications of the emerging technology, and, of course, we're having fun learning and testing along the way."

At Aurora, Colo.-based UCHealth, Livi, a virtual assistant, promotes the health system's "brand strategy to keep Coloradans healthy and out of the hospital, even if they're not yet our patients," said Manny Rodriguez, chief marketing, experience and customer officer.

"With resources like guided meditations and recommendations for outdoor recreation, Livi can help connect people to resources they want and need to live their best lives," Mr. Rodriguez said. "As the technology continues to improve, we look forward to creating even more resources that Livi can offer outside of the traditional healthcare realm to support whole-person well-being."

Brewer, Maine-based Northern Light Health's marketing department had chatbots answer COVID-19-related questions during the pandemic and uses AI to power accessibility tools on its website. But the health system isn't letting it write articles and blogs.

"While AI such as ChatGPT can provide a good writer with a framework, it doesn't think strategically and lacks warmth. A human touch is still preferred for quality in writing for people," said Suzanne Spruce, the health system's senior vice president and chief marketing and communications officer. "There can also be copyright challenges with using AI, and we feel strongly that produced work of authors and artists deserve to be protected."

Ms. Spruce said she can envision AI being used to generate simple web copy in the future.

Still, "Humans must still define what is appropriate, set standards and protections, and enforce them to ensure the good of AI prevails," she added.

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