Digital is now the first stop for healthcare consumers to book an appointment with a physician. Healthcare decision-makers, i.e. patients, now have endless online options at their fingertips 24/7 to research before making their decisions. Digital innovations and social media have helped facilitate more cost-effective and reliable options for patients. Internet and social media are strong link points in connecting developed and emerging markets — and adding participants along the healthcare value chain.
Your healthcare online marketing strategy should be designed to reflect your brand image and successfully leverage the changing preferences in today’s consumer-centric healthcare marketplace. Providers need to shift roles and think as marketers for building brand equity while strategizing their online marketing plans. Read below for more reasons as to why you should have a concrete strategy for online marketing.
The need for differentiation from the competition
This is one of the most fundamental principles of marketing that applies to healthcare, as well. The healthcare industry is witnessing a paradigm change, and more and more players are entering the market and targeting potential patients through online channels. Healthcare providers should tailor their online marketing campaigns to the need of consumers. Any digital marketing plan can be successful only when it touches these three parameters: content marketing, social media and the patient (user) experience. Healthcare providers, physicians and hospitals need to constantly engage patients through a multichannel approach. Creative engagement is the key. Content can be presented to the audience by creative infographics, videos, FAQs or blogs.
Transformed consumer decision-making patterns
Patients now refer to social media and other digital platforms extensively to manage their health and make health decisions. As they have become empowered by the Internet, they no longer accept blindly what a physician tells them. Now, the digital experience is prior to the physical experience. Per Pew Research, about 72% of patients use the Internet to research health information and to find a new physician. According to a survey by Google Think, about 26% of patients used consumer-generated reviews and 77% of patients used search prior to booking an appointment.
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As patients have taken responsibility for their health and the decisions that affect it, providers need to be proactive about their online presence. Healthcare providers are left with no option but to embrace the change and maintain a positive online presence. Having an active presence on various social media channels such as Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn and an active profile on the major physician-review websites is a must. These provide an excellent opportunity to physicians for engaging, interacting, collaborating and learning from patients. After a thorough analysis, the lessons can be inculcated to deliver better healthcare services.
Innovate and evolve with the changing mind-set of patients
They say, “The only thing that is constant is change.” The same is true for patient behavior and decision-making patterns. Consider taking some time away from your practice to study the digital “body language” of your target patients/potential patients. This practice will help you analyze and understand their changing expectations, needs and the kind of healthcare experiences they are looking for. A thorough R&D will also give you insights about what your competitors are offering to cater to patients’ needs, how you can channel your strengths to win them over and what the major threats can be while targeting them through online marketing.
The nexus of all your digital marketing plans will be your practice. A well-designed online strategy will provide wide brand exposure of your practice to a huge set of online information readers and digital health consumers. Not only this, it will also create opportunities for your online visibility and help develop a positive online reputation. Undoubtedly, digital conversations are the new levers for healthy reputations in healthcare.