Not many sectors are as reliant on the Referral Marketing as the healthcare sector. Doctors and private hospitals, in particular run their practice depending on the referrals of satisfied clients who in turn let others know about their positive experiences.
Despite the highly regulated nature of healthcare and the related privacy issues, the ease of information at patients’ fingertips today has made them more informed while searching the right medical personnel for their needs.
The truth is in the numbers. Some 2013 statistics:
52% of patients use health information sites for research. (Source: Google)
77% of patients used search prior to booking an appointment. (Source: Google)
80 percent of American web users look online for health information
51% say they’d feel more valued as a patient via digital health communications (Source: TeleVox)
So with consumers demonstrating an appetite for receiving and sharing medical information via social and online channels, how can doctors, hospitals and medical practices leverage these channels to engage with patients online? Let’s discuss a few measures that have been successful:
>> Social Media & Content
>> Search Engine Marketing
>> Online Advertising
Social Media & Content
According to research, 41% of people said social media would affect their choice of health care provider. (Source: DC Interactive Group). Social Media is a powerful tool and it’s essential for hospitals and health providers to rethink their healthcare marketing mix to include social media. The benefits of integrating social media are priceless – from improving patient care to gaining media coverage to attracting new patients and staff.
Facebook as a medical marketing tool: Facebook can be an extremely powerful tool for reaching consumers, and for learning what consumers are saying about the businesses they use and the services they buy. With 44% of patients willing to share a positive experience at a doctor’s office or hospital via social media, there is a significant opportunity to collect positive reviews and word-of-mouse ‘endorsements’ through Facebook.
Twitter as a patient engagement and public awareness tool: Henry Ford Hospital became one of the first hospitals to Tweet a live procedure from an operating room. Twitter was abuzz that February day with users both retweeting the messages from Henry Ford and adding their own thoughts on the event. This not only helped attract new patients but also create public awareness about the procedure. Not only that, Twitter’s 140-character limit lends itself to succinct facts, statistics and statements.
YouTube to build relationships: YouTube traffic to hospital sites has increased 119% year-over-year. (Source: Google). What does this mean for you? It’s important to have a strong presence on YouTube to drive home your message. The explosive growth of smart phones has also made it easy to shoot and watch videos on the go.
Blogging: This is a successful way of reaching out to your customers, telling them all about your practice and showcasing your strengths. An on-site blog is also the single best social marketing opportunity to enhance the organic search rankings for your website.
Email is a valued channel across nearly all message types, from patient care (49%) and health tips (68%) to seasonal reminders and payment reminders (56%) (Source: TeleVox). Email marketing is an ideal way to send health and wellness bulletins to patients, and send important health advisories and alerts to health care providers. Email also allows a medical facility to promote new products or services, and even send appointment reminders. Email marketing software can drive web traffic to a provider’s website, reinforcing their business model and practice. In short, nurturing patients with email marketing can help keep your healthcare organization stay top-of-mind. However, this form of marketing only makes sense if the content sent is relevant to the target groups.
An age old method, but still a central component of online marketing. A place to find in-depth information on the company and the services it offers. However, it is important to keep your website absolutely up to date if you want to capture interest. A major part of site optimization today includes being prepared for mobile access. Companies without mobile-optimized sites will soon be behind the times, forcing their customers to struggle with their web content on small mobile screens.
Search Engine Marketing
To make sure your potential patients see and read your website, it must be easy to find you on the internet. Sometimes patients may just search for a particular medic in a particular demographic or age group. For example, a business man might look for the nearest general physician in his area when on a business trip. It’s cost-effective, highly targeted and drives immediate revenue.
Good old online advertising – pop ups, banners, and so on form an important part of the marketing mix and allow you to target potential customers.
No hospital or health organization can afford to treat digital marketing as separate from a traditional business and marketing strategy. In order to draw in more patients, you must connect with them wherever they might live, work or play—and that means seamlessly integrating online media and social networking tools into your marketing arsenal.