People seeking healthcare providers have more information at their disposal than at any time in history, so it’s more important than ever for healthcare marketers to be creative to ensure their message stands out.
In the generally conservative world of healthcare marketing, that’s not always easy. However, when you find that right campaign, the results can be eye-opening. Here are three great examples.
Marketing Is More Personal Now, So Be Personable
Dare to be fun, engaging and interactive. United Healthcare did just this with their award-winning 2014 campaign called “We Dare You.”
The campaign included monthly health tips shared in the form of dares. One month they challenged people to share a photo of fresh produce. Another included a challenge to incorporate 30 minutes of physical activity into your day. Participants tagged their entries #wedareyou and won prizes for top entries. More than 3,000 photos were shared per month.
Give a Voice to Your Biggest Advocates
Medical device manufacturer Medtronic achieved this by sharing the stories of how their equipment has helped a wide range of people live fuller lives. Each of their patient stories, in written and video form, is about a person who had a problem solved by a Medtronic device. To encourage sharing, they offered rewards to patients, such as a $20,000 charitable grant that winners can use to serve their communities. This successful technique is an example of promoting benefits instead of just features.
Connect with Consumers in their Language
The 2015 campaign called “Melanoma Likes Me” by Melanoma Patients Australia targeted 15-30 year olds, the age group at the highest risk of contracting melanoma. Rather than an all-encompassing, multi-channel marketing approach, they went right to where young people live: Instagram and Twitter. And they had some fun doing it.
MPA created an online persona for Melanoma that responded to, liked and followed over two million young Australians’ social media activities. After visiting the Melanoma Instagram or Twitter accounts, consumers were directed to a Melanoma prevention website intended to raise awareness and urge people to think about their choices.
As the campaign concluded, the algorithm that cost $430 to create had earned over $5 million in media value. Melanoma Likes Me was recognized for a Silver Lion at the Cannes Media Lions Festival of Creativity.
Modern consumers have no problem searching the internet for healthcare information. Facts and figures alone are not always enough to win them over. As these three examples showed, you need an emotional tie.
As out-of-pocket expenses for medical care continue to rise for consumers, the need for hospitals to become as transparent as possible with pricing is more important than ever. Clearly, consumers should have greater access to what their treatment will cost so they can evaluate their options and make the best, most cost-effective decision.
But is this happening? Do consumers shop around for the best price when their health is at stake?
A recent Harvard Medical School study showed patients with access to a price transparency tool spent the same amount of money on their outpatient care as those who did not have the information. The study, which involved outpatient care for 149,000 employees at two national companies in 2011 and 2012, found that only 10 percent used the tool.
The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development Health at a Glance 2015 edition reports that the US spends more than any economically developed country on healthcare because of, in part, the “highly fragmented nature of the health system.” There is a lot of waste within the US healthcare system in the United States, consumers have no real understanding of what they are spending and they are not taking advantage of the tools available to lower their spending.
It Starts with Perception
Even though there is no evidence that higher prices translate into higher quality, many consumers still believe this to be true. In a survey published by Health Affairs, a journal of health policy research, most of the people who had compared pricing believed price and quality were associated. Thus, the challenge for healthcare providers is to train consumers to understand pricing and how it relates to quality, and to educate them on how best to compare the medical services being offered.
Price transparency was designed to give consumers more control of their spending and, by extension, lower overall healthcare spending. The Harvard Medical School study revealed a need for healthcare providers to find better ways to engage consumers to research medical costs.
“We’re trying to change a culture here,” said Barbara Anthony, a senior fellow in healthcare at the Pioneer Institute, a non-profit think tank, in an article by the Boston Globe . “You don’t do that by saying, ‘Here’s a site, go use it.’” According to Anthony, insurers need to “double down their efforts to motivate consumers to choose high-value, low-priced services.”
In an article that appeared in the American Medical Association’s AMA Journal of Ethics, a key tie of cost to quality would be to tailor payments to decision-making entities (clinicians or health care organizations) based on outcome measures. Increased adoption of value-based purchasing practices and the creation of accountable care organizations, which tie reimbursements to quality metrics, are examples of this.
Transparency Tools Made Easy
Hospitals can make price transparency tools more user-friendly through mobile apps, text messages and emails that encourage consumers to take advantage of the pricing resources. An immediate reward such as a gift card for using a pricing tool is another good idea.
Insurance companies and healthcare facilities can work together to create tangible benefits that will drive consumers to research medical costs. It works. For example, in another study by Health Affairs, patients given a price transparency tool generally choose less expensive options when selecting an MRI provider.
Educate and Build Loyalty
Consumers obviously want to reduce their out-of-pocket expenses and the best way to achieve that goal is to have the ability to shop and compare when considering a medical procedure. Healthcare providers that enable consumers to do that through pricing transparency that is quick and easy will gain consumer trust. You may not always be the least expensive, but if you can explain why, you will gain consumer respect and a new patient.
By engaging and educating consumers from start to finish with detailed pricing and data, patient satisfaction is enhanced and loyalty is built.
I’m always on the lookout for interesting observations about the latest changes, trends and tactics in healthcare marketing. Here are five takeaways from marketing strategists I admire:
- While physician recommendations are the most important factor in provider selection, additional information offers an influential stamp of approval.
Research shows that advertisements build brand awareness of hospitals and that there is a relationship between this image building and market share. Ads are especially effective in adding credibility once a PCP has recommended a particular hospital or provider. (Jeff Steblea, Market Street Research)
My comment: Invest in a complement of B2C and B2B brand marketing activities and find ways to introduce more metrics-based success measures to validate the investments in each (see #2 below).
- Use measurement to market your marketing.
Tag everything to know what is working and ensure that marketing gets proper credit for it. Create baselines, analyze metrics, look at what isn’t working and fix it. Look at financial investment vs. increase/decrease in traffic. Keep dashboards simple, especially when getting started. Here are some great tools: Wistia for video analytics, Marchex for phone call tracking and Sprout Social for social media. (Dan Dunlop, Jennings & Brooke Tyson Hynes, Tufts Medical Center)
My comment: A good place to start thinking about how to better measure ROI is the fabulous SHSMD publication entitled “Life Beyond Promotion: Core Metrics for Measuring Marketing’s Financial Performance”.
- Simplify market facing brand architecture.
Today’s healthcare consumer gets confused by the network of providers they have to navigate. They deal with hospitals, systems, physician groups, labs, imaging centers, even holding companies. And they get communication and bills from all. (Chris Bevolo, ReviveHealth)
My comment: Streamline brand architecture and naming conventions to cultivate consistency, clarity and brand recognition, and, ultimately, brand recall and value.
- Be strategic in managing change and the “endings” involved.
Our ability to manage organizational change is particularly applicable in healthcare these days because of acquisitions, mergers, affiliations, re-brands, etc. If we don’t understand our role in change, it becomes a lost opportunity. When employees affected by these changes are left in the dark, they will misunderstand. Change is inevitable and we must lead this change as effective communicators. The “people element” is often left out of the process. Ultimately, understanding is more important than agreement. Acknowledge people’s losses and understand that grieving is natural and necessary. Give people all the information they need and clarify what is and is not ending. Be open, talk and let people lament. In the end however, remove excuses to hold on to the past. (John Looney, Lahey Health & Julia Sorensen, Cooley Dickinson Hospital)
My comment: Include a plan for internal communication when undergoing any change of consequence to the organization. Bring both top and middle-level opinion leaders to the table early in the process for input and buy-in.
- The revamp of a major healthcare website should be guided by a 3-year roadmap.
Year one starts with a digital strategy built on research, digital governance, staffing plans, digital change management, tools and infrastructure. Next is site design, CMS, mobile, content development, SEO, training and analytics. Year three is the year of optimization, including patient portal, eWorkplace, content management, service lines and social media. (John Bidwell, Baystate Health & Elizabeth Scott, MedTouch)
My comment: Be inclusive in the web planning process by bringing a variety of individuals into the project early on. Pay particular attention to the relationship between marketing and IT. Be realistic about your timeline given how deliberate this process can be in the hospital setting.
Your son and his buddies are playing touch football in the backyard after school when he twists his ankle. He’s in pain and you’re not sure if the ankle is broken or sprained.
It is 6 o’clock and too late to get in touch with your primary care physician. You consider bringing him to the emergency room, but the wait could be long, the expense considerable and, after all that, it may just be a sprained ankle. At least, that’s what you think.
So, as little Johnny is laying on the ground, you pull out your phone to do a quick Google search to find out the signs of a sprain and a break. The first Google listing you see says “Urgent Care – Book an Appointment Online!”
The urgent care is nearby, so you click. You quickly get an appointment for that night. It takes less than an hour – including x-rays – to find out Johnny has a sprained ankle.
This type of instant buy is why urgent care clinics are competing for space within Google’s search results and why you should also be there. After all, if you’re not in that space, then your competitor is.
Here are 5 other reasons why pay-per-click is a good idea for the urgent care centers:
- Positive ROI is Extremely Likely
What is an urgent care patient worth? According to ConsumerReports.org, the cost of an urgent care visit on average is $120. At the completion of a recent PPC campaign, an EVR client saw a cost-per-lead of $31. If a patient spends $120 at your urgent care center, and you spent only $31 to get them, you’ll make $89 (before expenses). In addition, hospitals and health networks are seeing the benefit of offering urgent care as a way to improve patient engagement and increase new patients. According to the Urgent Care Association of America, 37 percent of urgent patients do not have an outside primary care physician.
- People WILL Notice You!
Urgent Care PPC ads are usually to-the-point compared to ads in other industries. The most effective urgent care ads usually answer common questions, such as:
“What time are they open?”
“Do they take walk-ins?”
“What are the wait times?”
When questions like these are answered right away, a user is more likely to click through to your website to learn more or to book an appointment.
- People Can Contact You Directly From The Ad
Google has made it extremely easy for businesses to provide contact access points for users to reach out. Using “Call Only” ads or putting a “Click to call” button on your current text ads will allow users to reach you easily with their mobile phone to book an appointment. If users would rather be “walk-in” appointments, Google allows advertisers to show their address within the ad. When the address is clicked by the user, they are given the option to add the address to a GPS navigation app in their phone.
- High Percentage of Clicks Turn In To Customers
People who are searching for urgent care have one thing in common – they are in a hurry and want care as soon as possible. For this reason, conversion rates (the percentage of users who perform a specified action from an ad, such as place a phone call or book an online appointment) are usually much higher than in other industries. One EVR client saw a conversion rate of 10% during their campaign – much higher than the PPC averages of 2-4%.
- You can reach people who aren’t thinking about urgent care
This is a great opportunity for brand awareness and attracting new customers. During certain times of the year, people will be searching for common seasonal illnesses or injuries. For example, people might be searching for flu symptoms in the winter or allergy symptoms during the spring. Placing an ad on these searches will gain exposure to those who may not be aware of you.
There are plenty of ways to advertise your urgent care office, but the best way to see results is with a pay-per-click campaign. You find users who are actively searching for care at that moment and you give them plenty of reason and ways to reach out and visit you.
How do people choose a hospital? There are a number of considerations, but understanding generational differences and how they affect selection behavior is a critical step toward new patient acquisition and patient loyalty.
Members of the Greatest Generation, Baby Boomers, GenXers and Millennials consider a variety of factors when choosing their healthcare provider. Are you developing the right message for each?
The Greatest Generation (born up to 1942): “Direction”
The Healthcare Strategy Institute study shows that The Greatest Generation selects hospitals first by physician direction, then by prior experience, reputation and proximity to home. This aging group of people relies on primary care physicians when choosing a hospital. They want to be directed. They also have rigid definitions of service, believing “the customer is always right.” While they are a declining population, the Greatest Generation has the most hospital stays.
Baby Boomers (born between 1942-1960): “Engagement”
Like their parents, Baby Boomers tend to select hospitals first by physician direction, then by prior experience, reputation and proximity. They also share information with physicians and nurses, and research recommendations before deciding. They want to be engaged. Their focus on quality of care measures is critical, as evidenced by their use of third-party comparisons and ratings as a means of decision making.
GenXers (born between 1961-1981): “Education”
This is the first generation that starts to stray from the way their parents did things, choosing a hospital by reputation, then prior experience. Physician direction drops on their list of priorities, just ahead of proximity to the home. They want to be engaged, but, more importantly, they want to be informed about their care. They want to be educated. GenXers are more likely to choose a hospital based on their most recent experience.
Millennials (born after 1981): “Connection”
This is where shifting values are most evident. Like Baby Boomers, Millennials tend to select their hospital by reputation, then prior experience, physician direction and proximity to the home. But they also value technology and seek information from multiple sources. They want to feel connected. Millennials value health information technology and, like GenXers, are more likely to switch hospitals if they lose confidence in the care provided based on their most recent experience.
So how does a hospital market to such divergent demographics?
Although loyalty is developed over many years and experiences, an opportunity exists to foster it within every age range. While The Greatest Generation values reputation and Baby Boomers are more likely to consider resources, all generations consider prior experience to be an important factor when choosing a hospital, so providing a positive experience at each visit is essential.
Understanding these differences will allow hospitals to deliver the right message, foster loyalty and remain top of mind.
The healthcare industry is conservative by nature and so is the way it is marketed. But the healthcare business is rapidly changing and conventional healthcare marketing needs to change as well.
According to the Forrester Digital Marketing Forecasts, the average American business will allocate 30 percent of its marketing budget to online/digital channels in 2016. However, according to Validic’s “Global Progress on Digital Health” Survey, 59 percent of healthcare respondents report they are either behind schedule with their digital health strategy or have no digital health strategy at all currently in place. With this in mind, it may be time for healthcare organizations to audit their marketing mix, review budget allocations and reevaluate their commitment to digital marketing.
For example, healthcare has traditionally invested in print advertising at higher rates than other industries. Research by the Content Marketing Institute and Marketing Profs indicates that 47 percent of healthcare marketers incorporate advertising in print magazines as part of their marketing strategy and 43 percent use printed newsletters. That’s 34 to 54 percent higher than marketers in other industries such as travel, banking, education and insurance. The research also reveals that healthcare marketers use blogs 22 percent less than all marketers and spend 26 percent less of their total marketing budget on content marketing activities.
This needs to change. Why? Because health-related searches are among the top three online activities in the world, with 72% of internet users saying they looked online for health information within the past year.
Clearly online marketing remains a growth opportunity for many in the healthcare industry. So why do we lag so far behind in the adoption of online marketing tactics?
Here are five factors to consider:
- A heavily regulated environment leads healthcare organizations to be cautious by nature and slow to change.
- There is a general reluctance to embrace marketing in the healthcare industry. It’s a business where the ultimate goal is patient health and marketing is by no means the star. To be on the forefront of new marketing strategies and tactics can be difficult for organizations that are far from being marketing-driven.
- Healthcare organizations have a large variety of stakeholders, all of whom have preferences for how the organization is marketed. This creates an environment that makes it challenging to adopt new approaches.
- The older demographic for many service lines, e.g. heart and vascular, consumes traditional media at a higher rate than other target audiences.
- Measurability is a digital marketing driver and, as a rule, healthcare organizations don’t do this well. It is ironic that a culture that so highly prioritizes measurement and evidence when applied to health-related outcomes has been so slow to make the measurement of marketing success a similar priority.
Perhaps if we better understand the reasons why healthcare lags in the implementation of digital marketing, we can more effectively craft strategies to correct this shortcoming, like investing in a robust and responsive web platform. A successful digital market campaign needs to commit to content marketing and coordinating those efforts with proper Search Engine Optimization, and it needs to make full use of marketing automation to communicate effectively with selected segments of your target audience.
Hopefully, leadership will take note and act soon because the longer the wait, the more acute the need becomes. Healthcare providers that don’t adapt to change will not be able to keep up with their competitors.
The same goes for healthcare marketers.
In the new era of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs), medical homes and pay for performance, the primary care physician (PCP) is fast becoming the gatekeeper for admissions, referrals and treatment. According to a survey conducted by the physician recruiting firm Merritt Hawkins, for the first time, primary care physicians are driving more hospital revenue on a per-doctor basis than specialists. The study revealed that in 2013, median revenue per primary care physician is nearly $1.6 million, while specialists account for $1.4 million per physician.
Merritt Hawkins makes reference to major shifts in healthcare that have emerged since 2010. The ACA is of course a major factor, assigning more responsibility to PCPs to cut costs and keep patients healthier. As a result of these increasing pressures and challenging new revenue models, more physicians are seeking hospital employment instead of owning their own practices. According to an Accenture analysis, 36% of practicing physicians now hold an ownership stake in their practice, down from 57% in 2000. As a result, hospitals are capturing more direct primary care revenue as opposed to just referral revenue.
These trends reflect the growing role of primary care and consequently, the need to focus on improving the way in which these practices are marketed. Add to this the fact that millions of newly insured individuals will be entering the market via healthcare exchanges on January 1st and they will be looking for PCPs. Building a differentiated market presence for primary care and an orchestrated approach to acquiring covered lives is now more important than ever.
Understanding how consumers make their decision regarding who to use for primary care is the first important step toward building an effective healthcare marketing campaign. People learn of potential providers through a variety of means: personal referrals, advertising, online directories and information hotlines. So the healthcare marketing strategy must start by building communication tactics that will connect with likely targets at these touch points, create brand awareness and put your providers into consideration.
With your healthcare marketing strategy engaged and your providers on the “shopping list” of a growing number of healthcare consumers, decision making moves to other stages of consideration, not unlike any other typical buying process. These include the evaluation of the alignment of the provider with personal needs and wants, the comparison of features and benefits and the analysis of value. During this process, healthcare consumers make assessments based on the same new market drivers in play for all types of medical care in our evolving consumer-centric market: 1) outcomes (quality), 2) patient engagement (experience) and 3) price (value). Then for primary care, we add a fourth important factor: 4) location (convenience).
With competition as fierce as ever and the stakes so high, being passive and conservative is not an option for hospital marketers. The good news is that there are opportunities to gain market share for those who understand their markets and how they respond to messaging and initiatives.