Employing the best digital healthcare marketing strategies will get your medical practice or hospital service lines back on track in 2021.
It’s been a long year. Upheaval from the global pandemic has impacted mental and physical health, the economy, politics, the way we interact with each other, and so much more. The good news is that with a vaccine being distributed, starting with our frontline healthcare providers, we can see a light at the end of the tunnel.
Looking to the future, the first few months of 2021 are a critical time to focus on the health of your medical practice or hospital service line. With the best digital healthcare marketing strategies in place, you’ll be positioned well for a full recovery.
The Patient Journey
It all starts with the patient journey.
When people need medical care, they generally turn to the internet first. Our plugged-in society has become used to snapping our fingers and having information readily available. So patients go online—usually via Google’s search engine—to learn whether or not they need to see a doctor, to self-diagnose their issues, and of course, to find a doctor.
If anything, that tendency has become more pronounced with the year we’ve had. According to the CDC, telehealth visits increased by 50% in the first quarter of 2020, with a 154% increase in week 13 alone from the previous year. Incidence of outpatient visits have largely rebounded since a huge dropoff in April, but numbers vary widely by provider specialty, patient age, and even type of health insurance. Some specialties remain below the prepandemic baseline.
Healthcare consumers have become more involved in their own health from one end of the patient journey to the other, and that trend seems likely to remain. The Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated the process, with more consumers experiencing virtual visits and becoming comfortable with available technology.
As a medical provider, you can take steps to become more visible to healthcare consumers in their patient journey as they search online for care. Those steps involve embracing cutting-edge digital healthcare marketing strategies so you will be seen and can attract the patients you need to grow your practice.
The Future of Digital Healthcare Marketing
It’s not difficult to see where the future is headed with digital healthcare marketing. Patient behavior trends point a clear path toward increased reliance on the internet and technology. With those trends in mind and proven results to back it up, I’ve outlined four strategies that will help your practice thrive in 2021.
Reputation—Make Sure Yours Is in Shape
Managing your reputation will continue to be key as we move into 2021. Patients want a doctor they can trust, and they do their due diligence by reading what past patients have to say about the care they receive. These recent stats paint a clear picture:
- 90% of patients use online reviews to evaluate doctors
- 94% of healthcare consumers use reviews as a step in finding a new doctor
- 71% of healthcare consumers use reviews as the first step in finding a new doctor
- 76% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations
- #3 top industry for online reviews is the medical industry
- 97% of those who read reviews also read the responses to those reviews
- 10 reviews must be read by the average consumer before they trust a business
- 84% of consumers believe reviews older than 3 months aren’t relevant
- 93% of local searches feature Google My Business listings
That’s a lot of very high numbers. But what do they tell us? Reviews are important, especially in the healthcare industry. And your patients are most likely reading all those reviews on your GMB listing. (IF your listing shows up in local search results and IF you have a decent number of recent reviews on your listing.)
The best way to nurture your reputation is by asking your patients to leave a review with a friendly text or email request. A text or email makes it easy for them to click and leave a review in a few seconds. Our customers have found that when asked in this way, about 10% of their patients will leave a review. They are able to build up those reviews pretty quickly. Our customers also find that their star rating improves by 1.2 stars on average when they start pulling in those reviews.
If you’re going to bring in some reviews, it’s also a good idea to optimize your GMB listing so you can show up in search results. And when patients click on the listing, the information should be accurate, so getting your listing updated is essential. You can read more about owning and optimizing your GMB listings here.
One more important piece of information that’s worth mentioning: Since 97% of patients who read reviews also read your responses to the reviews, it’s important to respond. It shows that you care about your patients. And in the case of the inevitable negative review, responding shows that you want to resolve any issues and that your patients are your top priority. For tips on how to respond to negative reviews, read How to Respond to Negative Reviews.
With a good number of reviews coming in and your listing optimized, you should start showing up in the top search results. That’s a great first step in attracting new patients. But with technology where it is with machine learning and data collection, you can do A LOT more; managing your reputation is only the first step. Don’t fall into the trap of settling for good enough when excellence is in your sights.
Machine Learning—Put All That Collected Data to Use
It’s no secret that our information is captured every time we use the internet. The collected info informs our online experience as marketers present us with the very things we’ve been looking for. Sometimes they’re so good at what they do that it seems like they can read our minds and anticipate what we want next.
Machine learning can be applied to these large banks of data to find patients perfect for you. It’s actually pretty amazing. The data can be filtered to find medical consumers at high risk for the specific medical conditions you want to treat. You can also identify patients based on financial information like their history of on-time payments and even the insurance that gives you maximum reimbursement.
With your ideal patients identified, you can send ads targeted to these potential patients who live in zip code areas nearby. Then when consumers search for care in your area, they will see your targeted ad. A Google ad will show up at the top of organic 3-pack listings. You can also send targeted ads through Facebook and Instagram.
Our customers who use our patient analytics feature to send targeted ads are seeing great results. Bluegrass Orthopaedics is a good example.
Bluegrass sends targeted ads to attract the patients they want, and as you can see from this data, they’ve doubled the number of patients making an appointment as the culmination of an online search. The Reputation column refers to patients attracted from their GMB listing (41 patients), and the Boost column is for those attracted through targeted ads (42 additional patients).
If you are not making use of the technology at hand to identify and target your patients with your marketing, you’re about to fall behind the curve. It’s available. Other doctors are using it. You need to be using it as well. Read more about predictive analytics and how you can use it to attract the patients you want.
Measurable Results—Don’t Throw $ into the Wind
Don’t let anyone tell you it’s impossible to track where your new patients are coming from and measure the impact of your marketing spend. The technology exists not only to measure your results but to do it easily.
Let’s talk about the numbers you need to measure the effectiveness of your marketing efforts. You need to know the following:
Patient Acquisition Cost (PAC)
- How much you spend on marketing
- How many patients you attracted through those efforts
Return on Investment (ROI)
- How much you spend on marketing
- How many patients you attract through those efforts
- Your average or actual patient value
The hard part for most doctors is knowing which patients were attracted from their marketing efforts. With reputation management and targeted ads, this is not a problem. At least it shouldn’t be, though you do need to have a few pieces in place:
Integration with Google
Integrating with Google and other social platforms allows you to track the calls and website clicks that come in from your GMB listings or other efforts. You can set up your listings to pay attention to who calls your office directly from the listing. These phone calls are a direct result of the patient seeing your GMB listing. In addition, you can set up reporting for those who call in through your sponsored Google ad.
As Google collects the information, integration with the right platform allows that information from all your listings to flow to a single location. A robust platform will then allow you to create reports with the information you need.
A platform that integrates with your practice management system in HIPAA-compliant ways shows you who made appointments from the calls and even track those patients through their patient journey. A good platform will also allow you to set up the reports you need to manage your reputation effectively, monitor your progress, and see the financial impact of your efforts.
The tools are in place for you to know exactly how many patients you attract through your marketing campaigns and see the financial benefit they bring. It’s definitely possible.
New Technology—Be Agile as New Tech Comes into Play
Sometimes it seems like technology changes at light speed. The minute you buy a smartphone, a newer, better model comes out. You buy a top-of-the-line car, and a self-driving car comes out. You think you know what to expect from developing vaccines, but then a new technology allows companies to streamline the process in ways that didn’t seem possible before. Technology is ever changing, and riding the wave allows you to achieve the impossible.
Continual evolutions are in play with digital healthcare marketing as well. You need to make best use of emerging tech in order to stay on top of the market.
Or you can partner with an innovative company that thrives on all the new cool stuff.
Set up a demo today and let us show you what digital marketing looks like in 2021.