Why is digital marketing critical in healthcare?

It’s not difficult to find statistics on the importance of digital marketing in today’s Internet era. Digital marketing is, in fact, forecasted to increase by 35% throughout 2016, with roughly one-third of marketers planning to shift advertising budget to digital to increase ROI.

While many industries have embraced digital marketing as a means to reach and more effectively communicate with their target audience, the healthcare sector in particular has been slow to adopt digital strategies.


For starters, healthcare faces some unique challenges, including patient confidentiality and privacy concerns (with potentially hackable electronic systems) as well as complex data systems that are often incompatible with third-party solutions. Many healthcare marketers face the added challenge of dealing with hospital marketing departments that are reluctant to change.

But the fact of the matter is healthcare marketers have an unprecedented opportunity to leverage digital marketing to drive market share, create transparency, improve performance, and engage patients.

Let’s take a look at why digital marketing is so critical in healthcare:

Develop an Understanding of Healthcare Consumers & Patients

In order to understand the impact of digital marketing in healthcare, it’s important to first understand today’s healthcare consumer. 

According to Pew Research data, 72% of Internet users say they looked online for health information within the past year. Seventy-seven percent of online health seekers say they began their last session 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.

What these statistics show is that healthcare consumers and patients are increasingly seeking out health information via digital media.

So what does this mean to the modern healthcare marketer?

As noted in an Advice Media article, the healthcare industry can amplify its audience reach through digital marketing tactics such as search engine marketing, social media, and mobile marketing. Hospitals and other healthcare providers that employ search marketing techniques, such as website optimization, will rank higher in search results, and therefore be seen by more Internet users.

In addition to search marketing, social media also allows healthcare marketers to more effectively reach consumers with relevant health information. In fact, 92% of consumers say that they trust social media and recommendations from friends and family above all other forms of marketing or advertising, especially for health information and health provider recommendations.

It’s important to note that patients who search the web and engage on social media are often accessing these platforms on their smartphones. Patients are looking for both information and a good user experience when they interact with a hospital or healthcare provider online. Healthcare marketers, as a result, must make it a priority to strengthen their mobile presence.

Reach the Right Patient with the Right Message at the Right Time

In order to fully leverage digital marketing channels, healthcare marketers need to be sure they have the right data in place to create personalized, relevant patient messaging.

The idea is to reach the right patient with the right message at the right time.

The obvious question is: How can hospital marketing departments find this information?

With a centralized data hub – that pools specific demographic, social, and behavioral information – in place, marketers can use consumer data to determine patient communication preferences in order to make the greatest impact. 

Consumer data shows, for example, that some patients prefer accessing information on websites or patient portals, while others prefer social media or mobile apps. By leveraging patient information collected and analyzed in this type of data hub, marketers can create personalized communication strategies used to attract and retain patients. 

The end result is, of course, increased patient engagement, which ultimately leads to a healthier society overall.

Final Thoughts

The healthcare sector may be lagging behind other industries when it comes to digital marketing tactics and strategy, but that doesn’t mean that the opportunity isn’t there for healthcare marketers to leverage digital to engage patients. 

By incorporating digital marketing into existing marketing tactics, healthcare marketers can develop an understanding of consumers and patients and extend their reach across search, social media, and mobile. The key is to take advantage of the wealth of consumer data they have gathered across various channels and target patient messaging accordingly.

How is your healthcare organization using digital marketing? 

Kristin Hambelton 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. Kristin was part of the executive team that drove significant year-over-year growth, leading to the sale of the company to Adobe for $600M. Prior to Neolane, Kristin held marketing leadership roles at IDC, Kronos, and Digital Equipment Corporation. She has been recognized for her achievements by several organizations, including a Bronze Stevie Award for Female Business Executive of the Year and Sales Lead Management Association's 20 Women to Watch.

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