Takeaways from NESHCo 2017: Six Topics Healthcare Marketers Are Talking About

Takeaways from NESHCo 2017: Six Topics Healthcare Marketers Are Talking About

We recently attended the 2017 NESHCo conference (New England Society for Healthcare Communications) and heard some great thoughts and ideas about communicating with consumers in our rapidly changing healthcare marketplace. This year’s theme was “Navigating Today’s Healthcare Environment,” and here are some takes on relevant issues that caught our attention.

1. Pricing – Consumers are placing more importance on payments and cost messaging, but they don’t understand how healthcare pricing works and don’t feel like they have any control. Patients are exposed to “generic narratives of pricing” due to variances among providers and insurers. Consumers are also getting inconsistent information about the relationship between value and quality.

(Paul Griffiths, MedTouch and Robert Wasserman, Hallmark Health)

2. Customer Journey Mapping – Journey mapping informs marketers about the touch points that most influence consumer choice and what the ideal customer activation and acquisition experience looks like. It all starts with understanding customer personas and how to tell stories that help engage with them at their “moments of truth.” Journey mapping that delivers strong ROI requires a collaboration between marketing and operations that ultimately creates repeat customers and brand advocates. Today, more often than not, a customer’s healthcare journey begins online. The important factors of the consumer process to understand are:

  • Actions
  • Motivations
  • Questions
  • Obstacles
  • Endorsements

(Carla Bryant, Corrigan Consulting)

3. Understanding Consumer Emotion – Science shows that the part of the brain that controls emotion reacts at a much faster pace to pictures, colors and emotions and that these impressions produce better memory recall. Women make the majority of health care decisions for others (59 percent), but they often lack confidence in the decisions they are making due to hectic schedules, lack of reliable information and a general sense of distrust in the industry. So we must become more relationship-based in our efforts … the “Know-Like-Trust Factor”. Ways to do this include:

  • Personalizing physician bios
  • Telling stories
  • Making consumers feel empowered
  • Making social media authentic, empathetic and interesting

(Kirsten Lecky, Writer Girl)

4. Campaigns – To set key performance indicators (KPIs), start with clarifying the purpose of the marketing campaign. What is the strategic initiative? Is it in response to a competitive threat? To increase capacity? Clarify KPIs in terms of new patients, patient retention, physician recruitment, etc. Executing a quality campaign takes time, so give it the commitment it needs. Content is still most valued by healthcare consumers.

(Paul Griffiths, MedTouch and Robert Wasserman, Hallmark Health)

5. Content – Start by gathering relevant information based on the target audience, then establish tone and POV. Appoint “blog champions” within the organization. Commit consistent time and resources. Increase the content life cycle by telling captivating stories that retain value and can be retold. Engaging content survives many uses. Focus on what your patients and providers are talking about. A Hallmark Health blog about a patient who overcame an opioid addiction led to a 258% increase in readership from the previous month.

(Paul Griffiths, MedTouch and Robert Wasserman, Hallmark Health)

6. Big Data – People are still stumped by digital media. There is the “creepiness” factor and misconceptions about the difficulty of HIPPA compliance. CRM is used for population health, patient education, predictive modeling and target segmentation. Its adoption is driven by the size of the enterprise. When utilized, it enables engagement, e.g., medical records, billing records, class registrations, website/campaign data, personas, demographics, etc. Some health systems are using digital metrics to segment their direct mail lists based on those who are most likely to read their newsletter.

(Theresa Komitas, KishHealth System and Eric Silberman, True North Custom)

Why Is Healthcare So Far Behind in Digital Marketing?

Why Is Healthcare So Far Behind in Digital Marketing?

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 changeas 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:

  1. A heavily regulated environment leads healthcare organizations to be cautious by nature and slow to change.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. The older demographic for many service lines, e.g. heart and vascular, consumes traditional media at a higher rate than other target audiences.
  5. 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.