The last couple of years have inspired a shift in how healthcare providers communicate with their patients. These changes have also influenced marketing best practices, especially in the digital realm.
As the dust from the recent pandemic has settled, we’ve taken a hard look at how it disrupted the status quo. While the basic tenants of successful marketing remain unchanged, there are new tactics and tools that healthcare marketers should utilize for success in 2022 and beyond.
1. The Consumerization of Healthcare
Healthcare has evolved from a doctor-driven experience to one where the patient is in control. It started with pharmaceutical commercials telling television viewers to “talk to your doctor to see if Medication X is right for you.”
Since then, patients have increasingly placed themselves in the driver’s seat of their healthcare strategies. Savvy healthcare offices have taken notice and strived to give patients a bigger say in how they interact with health providers.
Further, as insurance premiums rise and healthcare costs go up, patients are increasingly having to pay out-of-pocket for a larger portion of their medical bills. This trend has caused them to be more conscious of the treatments they receive. Instead of taking what a healthcare provider says with blind faith, they’re also doing their research, evaluating alternatives, and coming back with insightful questions.
Just like Uber and Lyft disrupted the taxi industry and gave consumers more control in how they got from Point A to Point B, new technologies are emerging to have the same effect on the healthcare industry.
To adapt to this change, healthcare providers should ensure that they have optimized the patient experience. This includes:
- Allowing patients to interact with you via their smartphones to book and cancel appointments, communicate with your staff, and pay bills
- Providing relevant information on your website so that patients can find what they need or contact you easily
- Marketing yourself as convenient, caring, accessible, and affordable (if applicable) to remove any friction involved in becoming a patient
2. The Rise of Telehealth
Telehealth is not new, but its adoption has been steadily on the rise. It first became a thing in the 1960s when NASA¹ wanted to monitor the health of astronauts in space. In subsequent years, telehealth entered the commercial environment, aimed at providing medical care to residents of rural areas who couldn’t readily access hospitals and other health facilities.
As technology became more advanced, telehealth also evolved. By 2017, adoption rates had reached impressive numbers, with 76% of hospitals reporting that they utilized telehealth.²
The last push telehealth needed for mainstream adoption came with the Covid pandemic. During this time, most health facilities were closed, and for months, telehealth was the only option. As patients have gotten used to digital interactions with doctors, it’s become evident that this widespread usage of telehealth is here to stay.
Though there will always be a need for in-person treatment, we can expect telehealth to remain a major touchpoint in patient interactions.
3. Good Online Reviews are More Important than Ever
Having a wealth of positive reviews across the Internet is important in more ways than one. The first, and most obvious reason, is that people tend to read the reviews of healthcare providers before making a decision. In the Internet age, patients increasingly turn to reviews on Yelp, Healthgrades, Vitals, Google My Business, ZocDoc, and more to find out what they can expect from your office.
Though online reviews haven’t completely replaced good old-fashioned word of mouth, they are considered trustworthy and a primary source of information. According to the 2019 Local Consumer Review Survey, 79% of consumers give the same level of trust to online reviews that they do to recommendations from friends and family.
The second reason that online reviews have increased in importance recently has to do with Google’s search algorithm. As you know, ranking on the first page of Google is challenging. There are a lot of factors that influence SEO, and one that’s particularly relevant for local businesses (including healthcare providers) is reviews.
Though Google doesn’t always divulge what goes into their ranking algorithm, they have been transparent with the role that reviews play. The algorithm gives preferential treatment to websites that display expertise, authority, and trust. By having positive reviews on your Google My Business profile, you can get an immediate bump in your rankings.
Google has doubled down on using reviews as a ranking factor. According to a recent Google Local Rankings Survey, 15.44% of how Google decides to rank a local business is based on the review profile. This number is up from 10.8% in 2015.
For an extra rankings boost, make sure you reply to all reviews, including negative ones. As always, maintain a tone of professionalism, and encourage patients to take the conversation offline to discuss specifics and prevent any HIPAA violations.
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4. Increased Social Media Usage
Having a social media presence is no longer optional. If you’re not on social media, potential patients will automatically assume that you have something to hide or your office is not reputable.
The good news is that you don’t have to be in a million places at once. Though it can be good for your SEO and discoverability to create a profile on all of the major platforms, when it comes to “showing up,” we recommend focusing on just one or two.
Think about where your patients are hanging out, and focus your efforts there. Facebook and Instagram are usually safe bets, though you’ll want to survey your patients to see if they gravitate toward another platform like TikTok, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, or YouTube.
With social media, you can have a two-way conversation with your patients and show up in their newsfeeds daily. With social media, you can also partner with local influencers who can share what it’s like to be a patient at your office. This is particularly helpful for cosmetic surgeons, dermatologists, and dentists, where influencers can share posts that show before and after results.
5. More Content Marketing
Since the advent of the Internet, digital content has been a pillar of any successful marketing strategy, but now, it’s more important than ever.
During the Covid pandemic, Internet usage spiked 50%.³ Stuck at home, people turned to their smartphones and other digital devices for information, education, and entertainment. In the aftermath of the pandemic, content consumption has maintained record levels. Your current and potential patients are online, and you should be, too.
Content marketing doesn’t mean churning out endless blog posts, though quality blog content will always be in demand.
We also encourage healthcare offices to think outside the box and consider these other forms of content marketing:
- User-generated content
- Email newsletters
- Case studies
- Patient resources
- Research findings
6. Video is More Common than Ever
Attention spans are shorter than ever, and many of your potential patients don’t want to have to sift through a bunch of text or swipe through multiple screens to get the information they’re looking for. This generalization is particularly true for Millennials and Gen Z.
Instead, many of these folks prefer to consume content via video. In addition to being an easily consumable medium, video allows you to engage with patients in a way that text will never be able to match. For example, patients can see your face and hear your voice before they ever step into your office.
Potential videos you could film include:
- A virtual office tour
- A typical “day in the life”
- Answers to frequently asked questions about a condition or procedure
- Educational topics, including health tips
- How-to videos
- Insights from office staff
- Patient testimonials (with permission, of course)
Video can also be an efficient way to produce a lot of content in a relatively short amount of time. While it may take several hours to write a blog post, a doctor can sit down in front of a camera and speak intelligently on the given topic in mere minutes.
Further, video can be syndicated across multiple channels, including your website, YouTube, and social media.
7. SEO Is Still Growing
Have you ever thought about SEO (search engine optimization) from Google’s perspective? Do you want to know why they change the algorithm a staggering 500-600 times per year? 4
By understanding what Google does and why they do it, you’ll be 10 steps ahead of your competition when it comes to ranking at the top of the search engines.
In Google’s words, 5 its mission is to “organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” To do that, they’re constantly gathering information and applying advanced AI (artificial intelligence) to continue to improve the user experience.
What Google has uncovered through all this data collection is that close to half (46%, to be exact) of its search inquiries are done by users looking for local information and businesses.
The implication for healthcare marketing is that showing up on page one of Google, and specifically, in the Google Map 3-Pack is more important than ever.
To increase your chances of being in the top spots, we recommend the following:
- Include your important keywords on your home page and in blog posts. Each page of your website should have a “focus keyword” that you want to rank for.
Resist the urge to create a bunch of blog posts around the same focus keyword, however. Having multiple pages on your website with the same focus keyword can confuse Google because they won’t know which page they should rank.
- Add your business to all relevant directories. This includes the ones mentioned earlier in the article that contain reviews for healthcare practitioners.
As you list your business information in the various directories, take extra precautions to ensure that your information is consistent. For example, if your address is 500 Main St., use the same “St.” abbreviation in all of your submissions. Don’t list your business with “Street” in some directories and “St.” in others.
- Make your site mobile-friendly. Many local searchers are on their mobile phones. If your site doesn’t load well on mobile devices, users are going to “bounce” right away. This behavior signals Google that your website doesn’t have the information visitors need, or it provides a less than ideal experience.
8. Consumers Want a Personalized Experience
No one likes to be thought of as just a number, especially when it comes to one’s health. In this field, treating everyone the same is simply not an option. After all, each patient will have a unique diagnosis and treatment plan. That same personalization should also extend to patient interactions.
Technology has given us a multitude of ways to create a personalized experience. For example, imagine how delighted a patient will feel when they’re greeted by name when they call you on the phone. Instead of having to state their name (and maybe even go through the arduous process of spelling it out), they can potentially be greeted like this:
“Hello, Stephanie! Thank you for calling Dr. Green’s office. It’s great to hear from you!”
Now imagine if Stephanie’s patient records were automatically shown on the receptionist’s computer screen. Instead of having to put Stephanie on hold to find out when her last appointment was or look up her insurance information, anyone in your office who answers the phone can have a seamless conversation with her, making her feel important and looked after.
Many of the trends we covered in this article focus on utilizing new tools and technology. However, technology should never replace human interaction. Instead, we believe that you can use it to enhance patient communication and improve health outcomes.
To learn more about how to put 2022’s healthcare marketing trends to work in your practice, we invite you to take a look at our communication platform for medical practices by scheduling your free demo.