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Hospital Marketing Strategies for Meeting the Needs of Modern Patients

min read
Hospital Marketing Strategies for Meeting the Needs of Modern Patients

Hospital marketing is always challenging because hospitals are typically not places where people want to be or have positive feelings about. Regardless, health systems and healthcare organizations need to focus more on creating effective hospital marketing strategies if they want to generate revenue and stay in business. 

We have an aging population and a rising demand for healthcare services. Yet many hospital departments — and even entire hospitals — are closing. In many cases, financial problems are the cause. A compelling hospital marketing strategy combined with standout patient care can help healthcare organizations keep revenue flowing, and the business growing.

This post provides a comprehensive overview of various approaches you might want to consider in your efforts to market a hospital, meet the needs of modern patients with high expectations, and foster a loyal patient base. Let’s kick things off with an overview of what hospital marketing is, how it has evolved over time, and how it is different from healthcare marketing.

What Is Hospital Marketing?

Hospital marketing is about using outreach, usually to the local community, to raise brand awareness and promote services to target audiences. Hospitals are just one part of a health system’s patient-facing facilities, but they require a specialized marketing strategy due to the unique nature of their patient base and services. 

Evolution of Hospital Marketing

Hospital marketing has evolved over the years, and that evolution has been accelerating lately. Fifty years ago, there were more than 7,100 hospitals in the U.S. and far fewer outpatient facilities. Marketing wasn’t a high priority for most health systems, and go-to marketing channels were typically print, TV, and radio. 

Today, fewer than 6,200 hospitals are operating in the nation, and there are far more ancillary healthcare facilities like outpatient and short-term care facilities. That means traditional health systems and hospital operators are facing increasing competition. Meanwhile, digital technology has brought more marketing channels that are easy for any brand to use in a campaign. And while outlets like TV and radio are still effective, digital marketing for hospitals is definitely on the rise.

Hospital Marketing vs. Healthcare Marketing

So, what is the difference between these two types of marketing in the healthcare industry?

Hospital marketing focuses on a target audience’s awareness of a relatively narrow range of hospital services. These services are largely centered on physician and surgeon skills, and range from routine surgical to accident and emergency (A&E) services. Some hospitals specialize in only one field, such as cancer treatment or heart disease.

Healthcare marketing strategies, meanwhile, cover the gamut of a health system’s healthcare services from wellness and preventive medicine, to surgical and treatment, through to palliative care and end-of-life services.

Now that we’ve set the stage for how hospital marketing is different from healthcare marketing, let’s look at several steps you can take to develop a strategy that meets the needs of the modern patient base.

1. Understanding Modern Patients

The first challenge for any healthcare organization that seeks to market its services is knowing the customer. No two patients are the same, even if they have the same medical needs. Demographics, technology, and financial security are factors that contribute to the mindset of new patients in contemporary healthcare settings. 

Identify the Target Audience

This process requires in-depth demographic analysis and the development and understanding of patient personas. Marketers also need to recognize the diverse needs and expectations of different patient groups.

Changing Needs of Patients

Hospital marketing teams must recognize that patients’ needs continuously evolve and are influenced by trends outside the hospital setting. For example, people are used to technology being a helper in their lives, and they now expect the same experience with technology in a hospital. And in this era of hyper-personalization, many patients now expect a higher level of personalized service during a hospital stay.

Customer Experience Journey

It’s critical to track hospitalizations and learn from the entire patient experience journey — from initial contact through admission to treatment and discharge, and even readmission. Tracking patients’ journeys can help you surface opportunities for service upgrades, personalization, and other approaches that contribute to a positive customer experience for patients.  

2. Leverage Digital Marketing

Digital marketing for hospitals is a nascent discipline, relative to some other industries. But because it can dramatically raise brand visibility and awareness, hospitals will want to expand their use of this strategy.

SEO for Hospitals

Your website is a focal point in your overall hospital marketing strategy, and search engine optimization (SEO) is essential to draw audiences to your site. Strategies for optimizing your website to rank higher in search engine results pages (SERPs) include:

  • Readability
  • High-quality content
  • Natural use of relevant keywords, both organic and local 
  • A strong internal linking structure and external links to reputable sites
  • A complete Google Business Profile (GBP)
  • Ease of site navigation

PPC and Display Ads

When you focus on optimization, you can drive more traffic to your website. Digital display or pay-per-click (PPC) ads on Google, Facebook, Instagram, and other sites can help, too. These ads appear as sponsored links above the first results on the SERP, increasing visibility and brand awareness even if users don’t click on them. Paid ads can also be strategically targeted to audiences using keyword bidding strategies.

You can use conversation tracking and analytics tools like Invoca to help support digital marketing campaigns for hospitals by tracking phone appointments and other calls driven by ads. Along with online conversions, this insight provides a full picture of how ads are performing so you can easily adjust marketing budgets and strategies on the fly when needed.

Responsive Healthcare Website

To fully capture ad-driven traffic, you must ensure your website is optimized for mobile use. Since 2015, when Google dropped Mobilegeddon on the marketing world, around 60% of online search has occurred via smartphone. Mobile-responsive design is a must in today’s marketing landscape, so your website should be as clear and intuitive on the small screen as on a desktop or laptop computer.

Email Campaigns 

Email is viewed by some as the digital age’s equivalent of “snail mail” but it is still very relevant for marketing, including hospital marketing. (Keep in mind that digital-savvy seniors who “don’t do social” will do email!)

Email can be a versatile and engaging communication tool. Push emails you send for the purposes of hospital marketing can range from short, single-topic CTAs promoting hospital services to full-blown informational newsletters with health and wellness advice and hospital and treatment updates.

3. A Patient-Centric Approach

Healthcare organizations are exploring strategies and initiatives prioritizing the needs, preferences, and overall experience of patients. This patient-centric, or patient-first, approach is all about the hospital’s ability to optimize patient journeys in the pursuit of patient satisfaction. There are several tools hospital marketers can use to accomplish this goal, and some top ones are listed below.  

Healthcare Customer Relationship Management (CRM)

A CRM system is an invaluable tool to help a healthcare system meet the needs of today’s patients. CRM tools and integrations manage patient interactions, personalize communication, and streamline processes to improve overall patient satisfaction and engagement.

Invoca integrates with leading CRMs. It uses artificial intelligence (AI) to analyze phone conversation data and automatically pass on conversation insights to CRMs such as Salesforce to update patient records. This process can dramatically decrease the workload for your hospital administrative staff while supplying your marketing team with actionable insights.

SMS Marketing

With 97% of Americans having access to a mobile phone, SMS text is a prime venue for delivering a personalized, patient-centric approach to hospital marketing. SMS text messaging is a convenient and relatively inexpensive way to send appointment reminders and other routine health information that patients might not want to have to clutter up email inboxes. It’s also an efficient tool for sending short marketing messages or links to relevant webpages.

User-Centric Website

You want your patients to have a positive experience when they visit your website. An intuitive design will help ensure your site supports a positive patient experience. Never force patients to click more than three times when they are looking for information. Make the content on your website, including FAQs, clear and concise. 

4. Prioritize Technology Integration

Adopting and using certain technologies and tools can help enhance patient engagement, streamline processes, and improve overall healthcare services. Here are a few ideas to consider:

Gamification

Incorporating gaming elements into the patient experience might not seem like a viable strategy since healthcare is often such a serious business. But you’d be surprised. Badges, rewards, and rankings can be integrated into health and wellness apps or devices to encourage healthy behavior from patients, such as walking regularly or eating well. Gamification is also a great tool for customer engagement since patients are presented with achievable goals and fun reasons to pursue them. 

Live Chats and Chatbots

Live chat and chatbots enhance the patient experience by answering queries in real time, and they are easily integrated into websites. They can help boost your hospital’s brand image by providing existing and new patients with a sense of receptiveness and accessibility. It’s certainly a refreshing change from patients being placed on hold for long periods when calling the switchboard or a hospital ward. 

IoT, AI, Blockchain, VR, and AR

Internet of Things (IoT) networks and devices, AI, blockchain, virtual reality (VR), and augmented reality (AR) are helping hospitals improve patient outcomes, streamline operations, and enhance the overall patient experience.

Blockchain, for example, is used primarily to enhance data security for medical records. AR and VR can be used to assist medical diagnoses and train medical professionals. And IoT devices tagged with sensors can be used to track many types of medical equipment from wheelchairs to oxygen pumps.

AI has many uses in the healthcare field, including for research and diagnoses. It’s also a helper for processes like appointment scheduling. And with Invoca’s call conversation intelligence software, hospitals can use AI to capture insights from phone conversations with patients at scale. This allows marketing teams to see exactly which appointments are attributable to hospital marketing campaigns. 

5. Outreach Physician Referrals

Satisfied patients are more likely to refer friends and family members to a doctor or hospital, so it is worth cultivating and strengthening relationships with physicians to encourage this process. Making physicians available to answer patient questions in Q&As or webinars is one way to help with that effort.

Hospitals and health systems should encourage open communication and shared decision-making between patients and providers, too. And they should support physicians’ efforts to provide care to the modern patient base such as offering services like home visits. While this can be a logistical nightmare for schedulers, home health scheduling and routing software that integrates with your CRM can help smooth this process.

Hospital marketing teams should also encourage individual physicians affiliated with the health system to use Google Business Profiles to raise awareness of their availability and specializations. Marketing can play a vital role in monitoring consistency between physician GBPs and the hospital’s marketing messages.

6. Strengthen Content Marketing

As they say, content is king. Even so, you must still convince your target audiences to read, view, or otherwise engage with the content you use as part of your hospital marketing strategy. Serving up interesting, informative, and diverse content is a must. Strong content marketing builds trust, credibility, and patient loyalty. Here are some strategies to consider:

Community Insights

Invite your audiences into the content development process by canvassing them about what content they’d like to see the hospital offer online or elsewhere. Take the time to learn what questions they have so you can address them with information in newsletters, webinars, educational videos, ads, email campaigns, and more. 

Health Webinars

Webinars offer an effective way to deliver original and compelling content to patients without making them consume tons of text. Organize health webinars and in-person informational sessions to engage current and new patients and educate them on the latest healthcare topics. Webinars can be an ideal forum for introducing the hospital’s medical professionals to your target audiences as well.

Patient Education and Engagement

Most patients want to be educated, especially when it comes to their specific health issues. So, offer educational resources and opportunities for patients to learn more about their condition, treatment options, and self-care through videos, livestreams, health fairs, and virtual and in-person Q&As.

7. Online Reputation Management

The downside of operating in a digital environment is that bad news travels fast. It’s not surprising that the global online reputation management industry is expected to grow significantly over the next few years.

Bad patient reviews or online innuendo can hit hospitals hard, and a poor reputation means poor revenue. Proactive management of a hospital’s online reputation can help attract and retain patients. The following actions can aid in that effort:

Promote Word-of-Mouth (WOM) Recommendations

Word-of-mouth recommendations are among the most powerful reviews a hospital can receive. Encourage patients to share their positive experiences with others online or offline, and to recommend their friends and family to the hospital when there’s a need for services. 

Ask for Reviews

Don’t be shy: Ask for positive reviews from patients. If they have had a good experience at your hospital, with a healthcare provider in your network, or with your health system, generally, it’s likely they will be happy to say a few words in favor of your brand.

How do you ask for a review? A logical time to pose the question is when patients complete treatment or are discharged. You can also make it easy for patients to provide reviews anytime by including links on your website to top review sites like Google and Healthgrades. You can also follow up with patients with an automated email or text, or an old-fashioned postcard-by-mail reminder.

When you get a good review, be sure to maximize its reach by sharing it on other social media channels and posting it on your website. Be sure to have a process for thanking patients promptly for their reviews as well.   

Monitor Online Presence

Managing your online reputation requires monitoring your brand’s online presence. You can do this in-house by having designated staff review social feeds or using Google Alerts and other free services. You can also hire outside reputation management specialists. And you can employ paid clip services like Muckrack or Meltwater or invest in social listening tools such as Sprout Social, Hootsuite, or Brand24 to stay on top of online mentions. Be sure to react quickly to both positive and negative comments made on social feeds.

Capture Voice of the Customer Insights from Phone Conversations

Another way to easily detect how patients feel about your hospital is to listen to what they say in phone conversations when they reach out for information or other assistance. Customers will freely voice concerns when talking to schedulers, hospital administrators, or medical staff.

If you use conversation intelligence software like Invoca, you can capture 100% of conversations and use Invoca’s built-in AI tools to analyze conversations for important keywords. That information can help you develop campaigns that are closely aligned with patients’ interests or concerns.

When Spectrum Retirement Communities began using Invoca just prior to the recent pandemic, it quickly learned from analyzing call transcripts that many of its residents and their families were concerned about the potential for infection. Using that insight, Spectrum’s marketing team developed a communication campaign to minimize infections and ease residents’ fears, earning rave reviews.

8. Leverage Social Media

Social media can, and should, be used for proactive engagement, outreach, and brand awareness as well as to respond promptly to reviews and comments. Some of the social tactics you can use to build your brand and strengthen your hospital marketing efforts, include:

Influencer Marketing

Influencer marketing is a paid strategy, with influencers charging from $25 to $2,500 per post depending on the size of their following and the social channels you want to take advantage of to reach audiences.

Collaborations with healthcare professionals and patient advocates are another form of influencer marketing. They are typically no-cost arrangements, but they may have reduced reach. Nevertheless, the fact that you are collaborating with these individuals can enhance your brand’s visibility and credibility.

Professional Online Presence

If you are a doctor, make sure your profile is accessible on professional sites like the American Medical Association’s database. Online profiles can help elevate your reputation and image and help your business to appear in organic searches. Your profile will also likely end up on “Find a doctor” pages of review sites like Healthgrades and WebMD, so be sure to monitor those sites and quickly correct any inaccurate information.

Cross-Channel Consistency

Your hospital marketing program uses multiple channels, so it is vital to make sure messaging about your hospital is consistent across channels. You don’t want content on social media suggesting that your hospital handles patients with critical injuries when your website makes clear that you don’t have a trauma center.

9. Implement Video Marketing

One of the most compelling creative strategies you’ll find in our post on healthcare marketing ideas [LINK WHEN PUBLISHED] is to use video in your campaigns. Video offers hospitals the opportunity to share compelling stories about the hospital’s values and expertise across multiple channels. Here are some ways you can use video as a marketing tool for your hospital:  

Live Video and Streaming

Live event video streaming offers the immediacy of real-time interaction from the comfort of a patient’s living room (or hospital bed). These events can be designed to engage the audience, showcase hospital expertise and initiatives, and profile medical teams.

Storytelling Format

Video lends itself to storytelling. If your team can craft compelling narratives that resonate with the audience, evoke emotions, and effectively communicate the hospital’s mission, values, and commitment to patient care through visual storytelling, then video is for you.

Facility Tours

You can hire a video team to produce an actual walkthrough of your medical facility that you can post to your website, YouTube, and elsewhere online or in social feeds. You can also use technologies such as VR to create a virtual walkthrough, allowing new patients (or potential ones) to familiarize themselves with the hospital environment before their first visit.

Real-Life Stories

Patients who have benefited from your hospital’s healthcare services or treatments can share their real-life stories via video. Their stories can humanize your brand and demonstrate the positive impact your healthcare organization has on people’s lives. You can feature these videos on your website or social channels.

10. Use Patient Data for Personalization

Personalization is the new frontier in healthcare, and analysis of patient data can help healthcare organizations understand how best to customize outreach. Here are some ways healthcare providers might use patient data for personalization:

Individualized Care

Using data to create individualized care plans can help give patients more control of their treatment. For example, say that a patient diagnosed with a serious illness needs to make lifestyle changes to improve their outcome. Based on data from previous cases and insight about the current patient’s condition, a clinician presents two options to this individual: face-to-face meetings in person or telehealth meetings via video to track progress. The patient, who has mobility issues, chooses telehealth meetings. 

Call Tracking and Conversation Intelligence

AI-powered software such as Invoca can sprint through mountains of data gathered through tracking and recording thousands of phone conversations with patients. Using keywords, data in these calls can be sorted, grouped and analyzed to provide a keener understanding of patient needs, helping you to improve communication, enable personalization, and enhance the overall patient experience.

Predictive Analytics

With the right tools, your analysis of patient data can provide predictive insight that allows you to anticipate patient needs, tailor marketing messages, and create more patient-centric healthcare services.

Preventive Care

Supporting patients with personalized care plans and tools like smart devices for tracking wellness can encourage patients to actively participate in maintaining their health and prevent or minimize potential future issues, including hospital readmission.

11. Build Strong Community Engagement

Having strong community ties shows commitment to local patients and a caring attitude. Some of the best ways to build strong community engagement include:

  • Health and wellness events: Plan and host events that promote healthy lifestyles, mental health awareness, cancer screening, and more.
  • Educational workshops and seminars: Provide the community with valuable health information through workshops and seminars.
  • Patient support groups: Establish and sponsor patient support groups to create a supportive community for individuals facing similar health challenges or diagnoses.
  • Community online forums: Create digital spaces for information sharing and advice, chat, and direct connection to your hospital staff. 

12. Incentive-Based Loyalty Programs

It’s not just in airline or hospitality marketing that you’ll find incentive-based loyalty programs. (The average American has 16.7 loyalty card memberships!) Everyone is jumping into the club card culture, and that includes hospitals and health systems. So, don’t miss out on this trend, which can help boost patient retention, engagement, satisfaction and more. Here are some ideas:

Referral Marketing

We’ve discussed physician referrals, but you can incentivize patients to recommend the hospital, too. Incentives generally take the form of discounts for certain hospital services, so that could be meals from the cafe or shop, and even discounts on treatments or wellness programs.

Wellness Benefits and Rewards

Programs promoting healthy behaviors, preventive care, and overall well-being can contribute to a positive patient experience and long-term loyalty. Gamification can be introduced to wellness programs to engage patients, encouraging them to stay committed.

Challenges in Hospital Marketing

We’ve covered some tactics for how to market a hospital, but here’s a closer look at some challenges you might face when trying to implement hospital marketing strategies.

Measuring ROI

Marketing is often faced with having to defend their spend. But it is often tough to attribute outcomes to specific marketing actions or even campaigns. Return on investment (ROI) can be elusive.

However, with Invoca’s call tracking and conversation intelligence software, you can better measure your ROI by tracking appointment calls spurred by your marketing campaigns in addition to the volume of online appointments that you’re already tracking.

Tight Marketing Budgets

Marketing budgets often get tighter during times of economic uncertainty, which is why it’s imperative for attribution to be clear, not hazy. Tight marketing budgets may restrict the implementation of innovative strategies for hospital marketing, especially if they are ambitious and include a broad array of channels. 

Traditional and Digital Marketing

In this post, we’ve underscored the value of using digital marketing for hospitals. But many healthcare marketing teams face the challenge of striking the right balance between traditional methods, such as print advertising and community events, and digital, including online advertising and social media. Having a clear view of ROI for individual strategies can help guide decision-making.

HIPAA Compliance

Compliance is the elephant in the room with hospital marketing. The regulations imposed by HIPAA mean strict guidelines on safeguarding the privacy and security of patient information or risk facing stiff fines and reputation damage, among other potential repercussions. Using technology that is HIPAA-compliant, such as Invoca, can help offset at least some of this risk.

Adapting to Technologies

It’s not easy to undergo digital transformation, as many businesses have discovered. (And a McKinsey study suggests 70% of digital transformations fail,) The rapid evolution of technology in healthcare and marketing presents a challenge for hospitals to stay current and adapt to emerging trends. Taking the time to ensure new technology integrates seamlessly into your existing tech stack will help you safely adopt new data-driven and AI-powered tools that can take your hospital marketing to the next level.

Tailor Hospital Marketing Messaging with Invoca

In many ways, it’s a brave new world for hospital marketing professionals. The emergence of a patient-first mindset throughout healthcare marketing strategies and changing attitudes among patients is both a challenge and an opportunity for hospital marketing.

Technology can help you overcome many of the challenges and take advantage of the opportunities. Software like Invoca conversation intelligence is HIPAA compliant so you can rest assured that your patients’ protected health information (PHI) is secure. 

Data analysis with Invoca is fast, efficient, and accurate so you can have actionable data in your hand almost immediately to fuel creativity in hospital marketing, pinpoint attribution for budgets, and connect patients’ digital journeys to phone conversations.

Additional Reading

Want to learn more about how Invoca can help you develop hospital marketing strategies that can meet the needs of modern patients? Check out these resources:

Reach out to us today to schedule a customized demo so you can see for yourself how Invoca can help you take your hospital marketing efforts to the next level.

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