Posted by Shawn Gross

I recently sat down with Patrick Bender for the Hospital Marketing National podcast series to discuss how healthcare marketing is changing in response to a more digitally-savvy consumer. You can listen to the full conversation here (click on Episode 5) but below are some highlights from our conversation.

The shift from traditional media into digital

About 5 years ago, traditional hospital marketing was still about brand campaigns. That might be TV or radio, an integrated campaign with landing pages, or search and social ads. But now, the majority of the work we do is what we call hospital marketing 2.0. Newer mobile application development, things that are really digital-centric in nature.

We get excited about this because this is what we believe to be the next frontier in healthcare marketing. That is, weaving digital marketing into the operational fabric of healthcare organizations where patients don't feel like they're being marketed to at all.

The truth is, most healthcare marketers don't wake up in the morning and say, "I'd like spend time on my hospital website today." And, as a consumer yourself, you also know that people tune out more traditional marketing. Digital marketing, and specifically digital health tools, allow us to engage our audience in a new way. An example might be in-building wayfinding or an app that a physician prescribes to a patient at discharge that not only keeps the patient compliant with their followup care, but builds trust and a stronger bond with your brand.

These things don't feel like advertising that we would traditionally tune out. Instead, it feels like a really great content experience that we tell friends and family about. It builds loyalty. There's a lot of folks in the commerce space and in retail (like Starbucks or Target or Amazon) that have really aced this.

The metrics behind a modern hospital marketing strategy

A typical measurement for hospital websites and social media campaigns is the amount of eyeballs and new visitors that we capture. You can also work with outpatient clinics and sync up with operations to track things like appointment requests. An appointment button on a hospital website is the equivalent to the add to cart button on the Amazon website.

We're also increasingly measuring marketing's impact on current patients. One of the things that we do for our clients is to establish a dashboard for reporting metrics that aren't just unique visitors and eyeballs or the doctor's appointment inquiries. We also measure things like satisfaction and health outcomes. And that requires a new toolset for healthcare marketers.

CRM as more than just a tool for existing customers

You hear a lot about using CRM with existing patients, but it's also extremely valuable for engaging prospective patients. With a CRM behind your hospital website, you can go beyond reporting on how many visitors or new appointment requests you had, you can use it to build a database of prospective patients.

In a non-threatening way, you can ask for an email address, ask for a name, or ask for a zip code. You can progressively profile someone as they interact and build a CRM profile. For instance, you can ask patients to enter their zip code in the doctor finder application (or use a web plugin to use their current location). Your website visitors have a better experience because they are able to see the doctors closest to them. But, on the backend, you're also building the first profile for that patient. We don't have your name yet. We don't have your email address, but guess what? We do have your zip code. And as you go through the website experience, we can ask for more information and build that CRM profile.

From there you can nurture these prospects with marketing automation and inbound marketing technology.

Making the shift from traditional to digital

A great example is the website redesign we recently launched for Overlake Medical Center where digital transformation wasn't a nice-to-have, it was a necessity. Located just outside of Seattle, the second-most wired place in America outside of Silicon Valley and home to places like Amazon, Expedia, Nintendo, T-Mobile and Microsoft, Overlake serves an extremely wired and technically savvy health community.

So the hospital knew that its static, brochure-like website was no longer cutting it. There was this aha moment in our research that Overlake's audience expects great experiences from their websites. Folks were not going to give any discounts to their hospital or their medical center just because it was a non-profit organization. They expected the same gold standard experience that they recieve elsewhere in their retail and consumer-driven lives.

So, coming out of the research, we asked ourselves, "what if a hospital website and a Google search engine could get together and have a baby? What would that look like?"


And that's what we did. We reimagined a static, brochureware website into a search application. Because that's what consumers are used to. They get diagnosed by their PCP and then go to Google to run a long-tail keyword search and find a physician and treatment program.

It's also a personalized experience. We get to know your search history and make recommendations just like Amazon might as you spend more time with the site.

You can read up on the full case study here. It's a great example of how healthcare brands can color outside the lines get to true healthcare consumerism.

Topics: Strategy, Experts, Digital Marketing, Healthcare