Who knows what lies down the road for hospital marketing? The convergence of factors such as the Affordable Care Act, the connected society, empowered patients, and many other dynamics could lead to radical changes in the ways that hospitals operate and market themselves. Increased competition for patients may lead to some very difficult choices. The hospitals that come out ahead will be those which have laid a solid foundation for a strategic marketing plan.
The worst time to analyze a marketing plan is when things are not going well. Hospital marketers need to take time when times are good to assess their marketing plans, so they can make changes and improvements before problems hit. Here are some key components your hospital marketing plan could be missing:
- Search Engine Optimization (SEO) strategy: Every segment of the population is now using the Internet to gather information on potential health care options. Hospitals that are not online are missing out on the opportunity to connect with, and engage, these potential patients. The fastest way to initiate patient interest is through high search engine rankings. These are achieved through consistent SEO strategies and dynamic website content.
- E-mail communications plan: An increasing number of physicians are turning to digital tools to increase their productivity. Secure email messaging can be used to reduce patient visit time and answer basic medical questions. Targeted emails can be a remarkably effective way of sending health reminders, providing education on health issues, and maintaining patient contact.
- A well-curated Facebook page: The Mayo Clinic has a Center for Social Media which exists to “improve health globally by accelerating effective application of social media tools throughout Mayo Clinic and spurring broader and deeper engagement in social media by hospitals, medical professionals and patients.” The Mayo Clinic believes so strongly in social media that it has over 60,000 followers on Twitter and 20,000 connections on Facebook.
- Health apps: Apple just generated a lot of publicity at its developers’ conference with the introduction of a health-monitoring app for iOS 8, “Health.” It logs user health statistics and then aggregates information into categories such as Diagnostics, Fitness, Lab Results, Medications, Nutrition, Sleep, and Vitals. Apple also introduced a HealthKit tool for developers, which can be incorporated into health and fitness apps to allow them to access the health data stored within the Health app. Users will be able to choose exactly what information is shared and can, potentially, choose to share data from a health-related app with a doctor.
Marketers might have to think “outside the box” to develop hospital marketing plans that can keep up with the rapid pace of change in the way patients expect to communicate with the medical community. They must research and participate in what works effectively now, but will also need to be aware of what is coming down the road in digital marketing options so they can be prepared to take advantage of them before their competition does.