The future of healthcare marketing

In today’s digital world, consumers are no longer reliant on traditional methods of communication to get their information, e.g., billboards, direct mail, radio ads, etc. Mobile technology and the rise of smartphones have made information easily accessible, therefore to keep up with consumers’ evolving demands, marketers – and specifically healthcare marketers – must be flexible and willing to adapt with this shift.

Given one out of every 20 Google searches are healthcare-related, the behavior of the average consumer has evolved with higher expectations from their health systems and hospitals. Spurred by the digital revolution and shifting demographics, patients are curious and connected, whether online or on-the-go empowered by personalized access to health care information from wearable devices, health and fitness apps, and social media. Despite this change, the way hospitals and health systems attempt to reach and engage these consumers has essentially stayed the same – in fact, only 14 percent of 2015 healthcare marketing budgets were allocated to digital activities. This is significantly lower than just about every other industry.

As a forward-looking initiative in healthcare, the term “personalization” has become a more recent focus for healthcare providers from the clinical perspective. With an emphasis on personalized medicine, patients expect to be cared for to meet their individual needs. But what about personalizing marketing to ensure the right patients are receiving the right messages? Why not apply the same theory of precision medicine to healthcare marketing efforts?

In a Greystone whitepaper, “The State of Digital Marketing in Healthcare in 2015,” the biggest takeaway was that the healthcare industry is far behind others when it comes to digital marketing. With a changing reimbursement mix due to aging baby boomers and an increasingly competitive market driven by acquisition and consolidation, health systems and hospitals are struggling to adapt, and specifically how to effectively communicate and engage with consumers and patients.

It’s time to change the way we think about healthcare marketing. With hospitals experiencing declining margins and unprofitable growth, patient acquisition – and the revenue that comes along with it – is paramount. Marketing departments have an opportunity to be included in – and even responsible for – revenue-generating activities for the health system. But in order for that to happen, marketers need to rethink their marketing strategies to not only align to consumer digital expectations, but more importantly, correlate marketing spend and effort to specific results.

Historically, and in some cases even today, health systems have used traditional methods of engaging with patients, including billboards and direct mail. Yet, how can a marketer prove that for every $1 spend, for example on a billboard, returns at least $1 in revenue back to the health system? And, how are marketers able to communicate that value and revenue generated to internal constituents to demonstrate the effectiveness of marketing tactics?
It’s vitally important for healthcare marketers to adapt their strategies to focus on more digital efforts, and specifically being able to tie marketing spend to results, something only possible through newer technology that is available today, including customer relationship marketing platforms.

When armed with digital capabilities, marketers in health systems are able to attract, engage and retain patients – but it requires a transformation in the approach to marketing that addresses the new digital healthcare consumer. Technology plays a central role, so marketers must also be willing to flex their tech skills, but it is well worth it, as proven by other digitally-forward industries that have already undergone the shift.

By transforming the marketing department in healthcare, marketers can help their health systems not only meet the challenges they are facing, but thrive and grow despite them. It’s never been a better time to be a marketer in healthcare, as it is an opportunity to learn, grow, and contribute to your organization in a way that was never possible before.

About Kristin Hambelton
Kristin is responsible for leading marketing at Evariant. She oversees all marketing strategy and operations including product marketing, branding, demand generation, and corporate communications. Prior to joining Evariant, Kristin worked for Adobe as a result of their acquisition of Neolane, where she served as vice president of marketing. She also held a variety of marketing leadership positions at other high-tech organizations including Kronos, IDC, and Digital Equipment.

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