The changing face of connecting with today’s modern patient
Most of us at GA Creative remember getting the chicken pox. We had family doctors, some of whom made house calls, all of whom knew each of our family members by name. Now, we can monitor our heart rates, sleep patterns and activity levels on smartwatches. We download apps to tell us when it’s time for a mammogram. We access our medical records online. And when our kids are sick in the middle of the night, we help them video chat with a remote doctor over the phone.
An industry evolved
It’s an understatement to say that the health care industry has changed. As the World Health Organization says, “At every level and in every country the business of health relies on information and communication and, increasingly, on the technologies that enable it. Technological advances, economic investment, and social and cultural changes are also contributing to the expectation that the health sector must inevitably integrate technology into its way of doing business.”
The trend toward innovation in health care is not surprising given our younger, more techy population. The Millennial generation recently overtook Baby Boomers in size and by 2028, it’s expected that there will be about 10 million more Millennials than the two previous generations, Generation X and Baby Boomers (Pew Research).
Marketing must follow
And as the health care industry evolves, so must its marketing. Print advertising and rack cards are no longer the go-to for truly connecting with audiences in an effort to earn their trust and make them advocates for life. Instead, health care organizations must meet potential patients where they are.
But where are they?
They’re buying groceries:
Patients are concerned with wellness
Health care starts with health, and a huge component of staying healthy is food. According to Nielsen’s Health and Wellness Report, 63 percent of Americans say they’re trying to eat healthier and 49 percent say they consciously eat more fruits and vegetables. And apparently, packaged salad is the new apple a day. Packaged salad brought in $886.6 million last year and was the number one food among top organic fresh categories.
What this means for health care marketers is an opportunity to seize the salad bowl and reach audiences in fresh new ways such as:
- Digital ads on popular healthy eating blogs
- Ad targeting by grocery shopping behaviors
- Live video health talks with nutritionists
- Partnerships with food-delivery services
- Apps that sync to your calendar with healthy eating tips or recipes
They’re Googling ailments:
Patients are seeking home health care solutions
You may report to your stakeholders about business units like orthopedics and bariatrics, but your patients of all ages are talking about their ailments in different ways. Nielsen’s report says that almost 4 in 10 households in the U.S. has an ailment sufferer, but the way they search for remedies for those ailments is often misaligned with the keyword search terms you’d expect.
Marketers need to remember that, per Nielsen, “in many ways, consumers are taking their everyday health care needs into their own hands.” So, they should evaluate keywords and align them with more commonplace terms and terms that might be an interim/home solution to the problem. For example, if the end goal of a marketer is to increase bariatric surgeries, instead of limiting keywords to those like “weight loss surgery,” think earlier in the cycle and test for keywords like “diuretic remedies.”
|Instead of...||Test for...|
|Knee pain||Pain remedies|
|Weight loss surgery||Diet aides|
|Sleep apnea||Sleeping aids|
|Gastroenterology||Acid reflux relief|
|Urgent care||Throat lozenges|
|Heart disease||Low-salt diet|
They’re on social media:
Patients are open to health information online
For any health care practice – and especially for those who are already embracing tools like online scheduling, web-based health trackers, virtual facility tours or web sign-ups for health talks – failure to incorporate social media advertising into the marketing mix is a missed opportunity. According to Pew Research, 69 percent of the public uses some type of social media. When you look at people under 49, that’s 80+ percent. For people ages 50-64, it drops slightly to 64 percent. And while only a third (34 percent) of Americans 65+ use social media, if you factor in the younger people who are helping them make many of their major health decisions, it’s clear why social media advertising matters. What’s more, it is flexible, fast, economical and efficient.
But many health care marketers aren’t aware of its exceptional targeting capabilities. Using the largest social site, Facebook, as an example, here’s a look at a few ways to target your spot-on audience.
Want to increase patient volumes at your birth center in Chicago?
Beginning by targeting women ages 20 to 40 to account for the rising age of mothers (according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) in the Chicago DMA, and layering on the following detailed targeting yields a potential reach of over 1 million people:
- Demographics > Life Events > Newlywed
- Demographics > Parents > Expectant parents
- Demographics > Relationship > Relationship Status > Married
- Interests > Family and Relationships > Motherhood
Hoping to attract people to a primary care clinic in Austin?
After narrowing by Austin DMA and including people who are 20 to 64 (since teens often don’t make their own health decisions), refining by “recently moved” could connect you to a small but precision-targeted 7,900 who may just be looking for a new PCP close to home.
Aiming at new patients for a spine surgery clinic in Seattle?
Starting with all adults in the Seattle-Tacoma DMA, you can layer on “additional interests” like “back pain,” the “Relax the Back” store, and “Chiropractor” to end up with a potential reach of 81K people.
In the future, it’s possible that printed organs could make donor shortages a thing of the past. That patients will be rushed to emergency rooms in self-driving vehicles, helped by top-of-field experts who are located far away. That we’ll have routine checkups inside a virtual reality world. It’s definitely an exciting time for the future of the health care industry – and for health care marketers, too.