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How hospitals can benefit from digital marketing

There is an undeniable shift happening in how patients enter and engage with hospital systems. I’m not talking about the Affordable Care Act (Obama Care), I’m talking about consumer choice and how it has finally caught up to hospital systems.

There was a day in the recent past when hospitals didn’t have to market themselves at all. They simply had to maintain a symbiotic relationship with insurance carriers so that they would get a steady flow of new patients with an open checkbook.

Not so anymore.

Hospitals are trying to differentiate themselves by developing a particular niche. It could be bariatric care, cardiovascular health, cancer treatment or even maternity care. Look no further than roadside billboards to see evidence of this trend. While branding is important, it’s the true one-on-one patient experience that is the holy grail of hospital marketers. Salesforce.com, the leader in patient marketing, calls this a “system of engagement” for all potential patients who respond to marketing messages.

Marketing pioneers like American Express and Amazon have paved the way with a retail-style relationship with their customers. Techniques like suggestive selling, predicting behavior and social listening are now all available for hospitals striving to move past 1980s-era marketing. The first to do so will enjoy a tremendous advantage, as hospitals have traditionally been slow to adopt new marketing technology.

A shift from volume to value

The goal is to reach the right person, at the right time, with the right message, in the right place. Successfully done, the patient feels like they are being treated as an individual. This has a positive effect on loyalty, quality of care, and of course, patient satisfaction–all metrics important to the hospital C-suite.

So how can this work, exactly?

When your marketing efforts earn interest from a potential patient, they may call you on the phone, respond to an email, fill out a lead capture form or interact with your team at a health fair.
Modern marketing platforms like Salesforce will automatically create a contact record for that person. It may only contain a first name and email address at first, but as you develop a one-on-one virtual relationship with them, you can learn other information necessary to deliver the most relevant messages possible to that individual patient. Examples of this information might be demographic in nature, like age and address, but also be more personal like weight, family health history, and prior medical procedures. With every additional bit of information, you learn about the potential patient and we gain even more data to make intelligent decisions about the popularity of programs and marketing efforts.

This manifests by interacting with patients via email, SMS text messaging and social listening, to name a few. Based on that patient’s actions (clicks) or inactions, they are sent down different paths designed to get them to take action. We call this the “decision tree.” No longer do have to rely on a one-size fits all marketing message. Technology allows you to deliver personalized messages, so you can treat a mom and family much differently than an ailing senior.

A revolution is here.

Patients are consumers and they are constantly looking for products and services that can be delivered better, faster and cheaper than yesterday. Hospital systems can no longer hide. Patients have come to expect that retail-style relationship. Their experiences are being documented every day through online review sites and on the web. Now that patients have a louder voice than ever, they can make informed decisions and vote for the best hospitals with their dollars. With so much at stake, improved communication is a necessity for long-term hospital survival.

 

About the author:

David League is an expert in marketing solutions for some of the largest providers and life science companies in the United States. His specialties include delivering personalized patient experiences at all digital touchpoints. As a Vice President of Salesforce for Marketing, he helps clients get the most from every customer interaction, creating personalized, cross-channel customer journeys that deliver exceptional brand experience. David can be reached at dleague@salesforce.com


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