Not so very long ago hospital marketing focused on brand management and patient education. So much has changed so quickly, in such a very short period of time, that hospital marketers have to adapt and adjust their marketing plans on a consistent basis. Today’s tech-conscious patients are becoming aware that they have a voice in healthcare selection and are using online search methods to take control of that process. Patient consumers look for hospitals that specialize in certain areas of care, search for ratings, and respond to facilities that are willing to engage them in different ways.
In response, more hospitals are finding that a focus on digital and online marketing strategies can help raise awareness and improve patient acquisition rates. Here are five of the most effective methods hospitals are using to make sure potential patients can easily find them online:
- Search Engine Optimization: The Pew Research Center reported that 72% of internet users say they looked online for health information within the past year. Hospitals must make themselves easily accessible so they can be quickly found whenever a prospective patient is looking for help. This is primarily accomplished through search engine optimization, which involves using keywords in online communications that correlate with various patient needs, but also involves making sure that online content is relevant and dynamic.
- Maximizing Website Experience: When patients arrive at a hospital’s website they must be able to quickly and easily locate information. The website needs to be designed so it is visually appealing but also user-friendly. Toolbars and menu items must be understandable, so that they can assist the patient in further narrowing down the search for information.
- Increased Patient Education: As patients realize they have more options, they also know that they need more information to make those choices and are looking for professionals who are willing to provide education. Hospital websites can include blogs, videos and a host of other information on topics ranging from child care to geriatric lifestyles.
- Social Media Engagement: Hospitals need to develop communications plans for those younger individuals who are now qualifying for healthcare coverage under the ACA. This group can become lifetime consumers if they are engaged early through channels that are appropriate to them. This demographic relies heavily on social media to drive its decision-making. Hospitals that use various online channels to engage and educate the younger audience can drive increased traffic to their website.
- Online Interaction: The internet can be used to build brand loyalty by opening new lines of communication with patients, care givers and prospective patients. Hospital marketing staffs of the future may need to engage social media and online specialists who can help maintain an online presence and respond to consumer inquiries as they arise in the various online outlets.
As the healthcare consumer market continues to evolve, hospital marketing specialists will need to work even harder to integrate online marketing strategies that will help improve patient acquisition.