Digital Marketing Challenges for Hospitals

Creating a website for your company is no easy feat. Every business has different goals, objectives, KPIs and definitions of success. If you sell a tangible product, success might mean contacting a sales rep for more information or requesting a demo.

But digital marketing for healthcare, especially hospitals, is a different game.

First, let’s chat about patient engagement. Twitter is flooded with #patientengagement and we’re relentlessly hearing “healthcare influencers” preach about the importance of it.

So, is patient engagement important? Of course! Has it become a buzzword, lacking substance? An empty promise to patients? Absolutely!

Patients are increasingly becoming active participants in their health care plan. These “engaged patients” view healthcare as collaboration with their doctor, not a one-sided interaction. Think about it. Have you ever caught nasty flu-like symptoms from your co-worker and turned to them to ask, “did your cold start with a scratchy sore throat and runny nose”? When you’re dealing with something like the common cold, you’re more likely to do everything in your power to determine the right treatment plan yourself. Whether that includes finding the right OTC medicine or the right doctor to advice you on what to do beyond OTC options. Long story short: with all of the online tools at your disposal, you’re empowered to find out the answers yourself.

Eighteen percent of Internet users have gone online to find others who might have health concerns similar to theirs. People living with chronic and rare conditions are significantly more likely to do this. The surge of online searches for health information is true for any type of condition. With the abundance of health information online, patients are searching for information related to symptoms and conditions, asking more questions, and suggesting treatments to their doctor. In the US alone, 6 million Internet users search the web for health-related information – on a daily basis.

Secondly, patient engagement isn’t about encouraging patients to make positive decisions regarding their health, giving yourself a pat on the back, and calling it a day. As healthcare marketers, we should be continuously supplying patients the right tools to aid in making positive health decisions. One of the greatest tools at your disposal is your website.

Today, simply having a website is not enough. It’s important to be present for all stages of the patient journey. Researching a doctor and entrusting them with your health care holds more of an emotional weight than researching which Smart TV to buy.

Improving the Patient Journey

Your website might be the very first impression a potential patient has of your hospital, healthcare practice, or healthcare system. So, it’s critical that your website is indicative of the quality care they will receive if they choose to make an appointment. You only have 10 seconds to leave an impression and tell your visitors what they’ll get out of your website and company. After this time (and oftentimes before), they’ll leave.

Here are some ways your hospital website can support the patient journey, make a positive first impression and leave a lasting impression:

  • Avoid medical jargon. Patients usually don’t speak about conditions with the same clinical terms a physician would use. Remember this, and make it simple for patients to understand your specialties and service lines.
  • Find A Doctor – Create, manage, and update a database of physicians so patients can search for the right one directly on your website. The ‘Find A Doctor’ feature lets site visitors research doctors’ specialties, areas of focus and choose the one that is right for them.
  • Online Appointments – Not everyone is able to call during the day to make an appointment, so having the option to either request an appointment or schedule an appointment online is extremely helpful. Without online appointment features, a potential patient might never get around to calling. Online appointment options help patients move one step closer to better managing their health.
  • Contact Information – Connect patients with the information they’re looking for. If site visitors would prefer calling to make an appointment, the contact information should be readily accessible for them to do so. They might have specific questions that aren’t addressed on your website. Answers to these questions are an important factor in making a decision and if a patient can’t get those answers, they might move on.
  • Appeal to the on-the-go, constantly connected patient. Your mobile experience has to be quick because, chances are, mobile users are looking at your site while waiting for the pasta to cook or during a timeout at their daughter’s soccer game. Hey! We’ve become a society of professional multi-taskers and marketers need to adapt to patient behavior online. Make content relevant and useful, but remember it needs to be quickly consumed.

You’re probably thinking to yourself, “These are no-brainers.” But think about how (or even if) any of these are actually being practiced. With the oversight of emagine’s Technical Director, Christian Nolen, our development team has customized several WordPress plugins to make it easier for our healthcare clients’ websites to support patient engagement.

As always, I love hearing from our readers so please comment below if you have anything to add or if you think I left anything out!