Healthcare marketing is in many ways similar to advertising in other industries, but it comes with its own set of special considerations. Not only is the proverbial ‘path to purchase’ different in healthcare than in other fields, there are also legal and ethical considerations that marketers need to be fully aware of.

While many other industries have transitioned to highly targeted and data-heavy advertising models, healthcare marketing largely relies on phone calls as a critical metric. A versatile call tracking system is essential for today’s healthcare marketers, but it also presents a great deal of opportunity for data-savvy marketers to drive new business through underutilized channels.

By taking advantage of technology old and new, healthcare marketers can capitalize on the changing shape of the industry and connect more patients and providers.

Smart, authoritative content wins the day

In a 2017 study by the healthcare digital marketing firm VONT, they found that 80 percent of healthcare purchasing decisions are made before the patient contacts their provider. Patients no longer have to go to a provider or general practitioner for information and are increasingly turning to the internet first when making a healthcare decision.

This means that providers need to be a partner in the patient’s decision-making process, rather than a gatekeeper who dispenses wisdom to prospects. And the best way for marketers to do that is with intelligent, engaging content that positions you as an expert in your field, while also helping prospective patients with their research.

Healthcare Heroes released an excellent example of savvy content marketing with their video on the benefits of orthopedic surgery — they interviewed a rough-and-tumble motorcycle rider whose road trips were put on hold due to chronic pain stemming from a leg injury. They created a video-diary using this source material that followed Philip’s road to recovery, from orthopedic surgery to physical therapy, until he was once again cruising the highways and byways on his chopper.

What’s not to love about a feel-good story that speaks to your audience’s interests, and goes viral to boot?

Personalize your marketing

Hand-in-hand with good content is an effective digital marketing strategy that supports and draws attention to your efforts. By speaking directly to your audience’s needs, you can position yourself as a trusted partner while also keeping your business at the top of their mind.

Retargeting — also known as ‘remarketing’ — is one personalization tool that expert marketers know can yield big dividends. Rather than sending a single ad out to a wide audience (‘one-to-many’), targeted advertising (‘one-to-one’) allows you to identify and segment your audience based on online behavior like browsing history and social media activity.

In healthcare marketing, this approach allows you to target your audience based on their treatment needs, which can be an extremely effective approach for practices that specialize in a specific type of care. These micro-audiences can then be served targeted ads that speak directly to their needs or offer special enticements for them to convert. Google Ads (AdWords) remains the gold standard for this kind of targeted advertising, while other social platforms like Facebook have begun rolling out their own systems for targeted ad buys.

Phones rule the roost, so call tracking is crucial

While digital marketing is becoming increasingly prominent in the healthcare industry, most conversions still come down to a phone call. After a patient has done their research and had a consultation, they then have to pick up the phone and provide their insurance or payment info in order to schedule an appointment.

Even patients who discover a provider through strictly digital channels are still more likely to turn to their phone when it comes time to convert: As B2C reported in 2016, 76 percent of purchase-intent local searches result in a phone call, and 68 percent of local searchers make a phone call after being served a targeted ad.

Healthcare can be complicated, and it’s not surprising that patients and families want the reassurance that comes with speaking to a real person as they begin treatment. So if you aren’t analyzing your calls yet, there’s no time like the present to implement a call tracking system and get the most out of your phone desk.

Implement a form on your site

A recent study by Pew Research revealed some statistics that are highly relevant to today’s healthcare marketer: More than one-third of all U.S. adults have used the internet to diagnose an illness, and 72 percent of internet users say they’ve used the web for healthcare research. And of those who self-diagnose, nearly half (46 percent) say their research led them to seek attention from a medical professional. More generally, some 77 percent of patients use search engines prior to booking an appointment.

Furthermore, Google reported in 2015 that 1 in 20 Google searches are for healthcare-related queries. In short, the internet has become an integral part of the healthcare decision-making process, and marketers are wise to follow suit. While most conversions still take place over the phone as mentioned above, some people prefer the speed and convenience of being able to schedule an appointment online.

One simple way to boost your leads is to meet people where they are and implement a signup form on your website. (This approach works best for consultants and general practitioners, while specialists generally require an initial referral first.) For many practices, an online signup form can be one of the most cost-effective ways to drive more leads and conversions.

HIPAA-compliant marketing & analytics are essential

Healthcare marketers in the U.S. have to deal with a special set of legal considerations: the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, or HIPAA. It requires that healthcare providers (and any professionals who work with those providers) adhere to certain privacy and security standards in order to protect the sensitive personal information of the patients they serve.

This means there are strict rules and regulations around what kinds of personal information can be used in healthcare marketing. Providers and marketers who expose certain types of sensitive data and personal information can be slapped with hefty fines, and even face legal liabilities. (For an example of what kind of exposure qualifies as a HIPAA violation, check out this recent report from Health and Human Services.)

Marketers should be very careful not to reveal PHI (Protected Health Information) when advertising on behalf of a healthcare client. For example, if you’re looking to include a testimonial in your marketing, be sure to obtain a patient authorization first. And beyond your marketing efforts, HIPAA compliance also means making sure that your CRM or analytics platform only exposes PHI to those authorized to view it.

If you’re a healthcare marketer operating in the U.S., it’s absolutely essential that all of your analytics platforms maintain HIPAA compliance.

Healthcare marketing can be tricky, but almost any hurdle in this industry can be overcome by fine-tuning what’s already working while adopting forward-thinking technology. Learn how fully HIPAA-compliant call tracking and advanced analytics can take your healthcare marketing to the next level!

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