Posted by Shawn Gross

If you’re a hospital digital marketer, you need to be creating online treatment programs. Here are 5 reasons why.

Car websites have cars. Zappos has shoes and product videos. Apple has shiny gadgets beautifully photographed. Amazon has photos of products, the ability to look inside the pages of books and user feedback. Lots and lots of user feedback.

Retail websites know how to drive traffic and sales. Nonprofits – especially healthcare websites – usually have softer calls to action and aren’t designed with transactions in mind. How, then, does a hospital promote and “sell” prospective patients on its services? The answer is to create a new online content type.


The formula for success

Hospitals treat patients. Your content’s strategic focus must be on the clinical programs that deliver the best care to patients. 

When patient prospects are looking for information on a particular clinical program, they want to know what makes the hospital’s care special and innovative. They want to know who the doctors are and the awards and recognition they've received. They want to understand what it will be like as a patient, and browse testimonials, news about research advancements and video clips explaining treatment. (When possible it’s nice to have an even balance of video and text content.) The most successful formula is when all of this online content comes together to position the clinical program over competitors (because, yes, your patients are comparing your program’s web page to your competitors’ program pages.)

And that’s how an online “treatment program” is born. 

Prospective patients head to Google post-Dx.  Create online treatment programs for each one of your hospital’s clinical programs so that valuable inbound Google traffic has a place to land.

Treatment program as marketing funnel platform

The marketing funnel is nothing new for retail websites, but I’m always surprised when I see nonprofit marketers downplaying its importance on their websites.

Don’t shy away. Here are 5 reasons your hospital digital marketing strategy needs to incorporate online treatment programs:

1. It’s part of the inbound sales funnel.

Your audience’s online journey starts with Google. When people search and click through to your online treatment landing pages, make sure those pages have rich, detailed content (both text and visuals) that explain what your program offers and why a prospective patient should consider receiving care there. Second, make sure you have placed well-designed and easy to locate call to action (CTA) buttons on the page. The most important call to action is an invitation to schedule a screening, request a consultation or book an appointment.

2. It produces SEO riches.

Your visibility in Google and other search engines is how people find you. Apply SEO principles of using popular terms, keywords and having relevant titles and descriptions for your clinical programs. (And be sure to focus on nomenclature your patients would use while also weaving in clinical terminology.)  Plus, I find myself using Google more and more to answer questions.  Extend that approach beyond conventional SEO with content that answers the questions people will ask. Do you tell people where your treatment facilities are located and how to get there? Whether treatment is affordable? Does the hospital share its philosophy of care and explain clinical quality and patient safety?

3. It formally documents a clinical program’s existence and helps your organization shift to a “digital first” mindset.

In my past experiences, I was always surprised at how some of this “describe what you do” clinical content never existed. In order to generate demand for clinical programs, you have to make people aware of them. Many of your patient prospects are already digital consumers: They are on Facebook and Instagram; they use Amazon and Yelp to find products and services. Documenting what your hospital offers keeps up with your audiences’ expectations. Use your CMS to associate video, audio, articles, photographs, rankings and interactive maps to your treatment programs to raise awareness about your clinical care, then re-use the digital content across other platforms (brochures, annual reports, TV, radio, social media, etc.)

4. It improves the relationship between marketing and the clinical areas.

A digital content overhaul is your opportunity to shine a light on issues that concern your clinical areas and their patients. Share web analytics on how many people are landing on your pages and what they do when they are there. What is (or isn’t) generating appointments? What content resonates with site visitors? Help your clinical program leaders to better understand their target market and how online marketing can drive volume.

5. It allows you to stand out from the competition.

Meaningful strategic online content that focuses on clinical programs, the patient experience, and explains what your organization offers its most valuable audiences may not look and feel like marketing – but it is!. It will be a true service to people and used to help make critical “buying” decisions.  And remember, treatment programs are unique differentiators – they describe your organization’s services in a way no one else can. They are not the generic online condition and disease definitions that Mayo Clinic and WebMD are known for.

If your organization is already using treatment programs I’d love to hear how they’re working.  If not, White Rhino can help.  Download this helpful toolkit to jumpstart one of the most important inbound marketing areas of your digital content strategy.  The toolkit introduces your physicians to your marketing copywriter and supplies helpful interview questions and annotated example treatment programs.

As a former hospital patient, I can attest to treatment programs being some of the web’s most important content I’ve ever read.  It can literally be lifesaving!  Now that’s something even Zappos, Apple and Amazon can learn from.

Dowload the Free Toolkit: How to Create Hospital Treatment Programs


shawn-profile-img Shawn Gross is the Chief Digital Strategist, Healthcare Practice Lead for White Rhino in Burlington, Massachusetts where he helps health care organizations build content rich, patient-centric websites and inbound marketing programs. Shawn was previously the head of digital marketing at Tufts Medical Center, Floating Hospital for Children and Massachusetts General Hospital and can be reached at



Topics: Strategy, Copywriting, Creative, Healthcare