As I think about healthcare marketing in 2017, my curiosity leads me to wonder what new challenges or trends we need to anticipate. Whether you are a marketing director in a healthcare organization or a clinic manager with marketing responsibilities in your job description, understanding future trends is important to the success of your marketing and branding strategies. To find out, I went to some of my healthcare marketing colleagues and asked this question:
What do healthcare marketers need to be prepared for going into 2017?
Transparency. Big Data. Population health. Emerging technology. Accessibility. Niche audiences. Keeping these ideas top of mind will help all of us go into 2017 with our eyes open and our minds prepared for the challenges ahead. Here are their responses:
With healthcare reform, the one thing that healthcare marketers need going into 2017 is be prepared more than ever to show the Marketing Department’s value to the organization. These teams are being asked to reach out to specific populations and really move the mark in attracting new patients, retaining patients, as well as nurturing prospects. Historically, healthcare marketers have not used technology for data mining and analytics as much as marketers in other industries. We are seeing a shift across the country in who is recruited into the leadership positions for marketing. It is critical that they understand the value of CRM, marketing automation and ROI calculations.
I think the one thing that healthcare marketers need to be prepared for in 2017 is the quickening pace of the transition of marketing from a MarCom focus to a MarTech focus. Healthcare marketing is morphing into a technology-based marketing science – as some say – we’re moving from MadMen to MathMen. This transition is fundamentally changing the marketing industry and it will require our rethinking of the marketing organization and the business, as a whole. And for many healthcare marketers, it means we can no longer ignore the movement. It is time to embrace it.
Director, Marketing and Strategic Communications
University of Illinois Hospital and Health Sciences System
Price transparency and bundled payments will continue to increase, making it important for everyone to understand the new business of healthcare. As with any business we need to “follow the money” which leads us down a path of understanding the cost to payers, providers, and patients. Price transparency will not only be helpful in educating the consumer, it will impact access and how providers deliver care. As a marketer, what we communicate internally and externally will need to be broken down in an easy to understand format. Because the health insurance landscape is continually changing, internal and external audiences are easily frustrated. The better we can understand “the money” the better we can communicate to all audiences.
Senior Director of Content Marketing + Content Creation at MedTouch
Christoph works with hospitals around the country on sharing and creating better content to reach business success.
Uniqueness is still the No. 1 differentiator. Determine why people should choose you, what makes you different from the rest? Once you know that, share unique, relevant and helpful stories and content around that on all relevant channels. Don’t copy the same old crap that everyone is doing, but go for being you and adding value to your community.
Certainly not #1 in terms of threat, but marketers need to be prepared for increased competition from non-traditional players, such as the big retailers, digital start-ups like Zendy.com (“pick your price” technology) and companies like MDLive for virtual visits.
The changing dynamics of health insurance. Since the enactment of the Affordable Care Act, healthcare marketing leaders have been bombarded by constant change. Insurance companies and providers have shifted their focus to population health management. Hospitals and health systems are challenged to look for ways to better manage value-based payments. And, consumers have become more educated in their choice of both insurance and medical care providers. Recent headlines suggest sweeping changes are coming in 2017, including mergers between major health insurance companies, shifts in coverage from state exchanges, and the emergence of more provider-owned health plans.
A strong brand is essential to success. Healthcare marketers must carefully design their marketing plans and allocate media dollars appropriately. The winners will be those who create a message of value and quality that resonates with both consumers and multiple B2B shareholder audiences.
Fortunately, hospitals and health systems are in a great position to communicate the economic and clinical values of their products and services. And, strong provider brand recognition and community brand loyalty are simultaneously essential to health insurer success in order to influence the attractiveness of their network.
Niche audiences. So often healthcare marketers try to target everyone with the same message, but each patient population has different informational needs. Healthcare marketers need to be prepared to invest learning about their unique audiences and engaging them with precise information.
As 2017 is just around the corner, healthcare marketers need to continue to create integrated marketing campaigns, and clearly understand the role digital needs to play- both for brand and service line promotion. But probably more importantly, marketers need to be prepared for the volume vs. value shift, and know how that will affect both their strategy and daily tactics.
Access should be at the top of every marketing strategist’s priority list going into 2017. Historically, patients’ insurance coverage was synonymous with having access. But today, patient demands mean that access must be viewed far more broadly. Can I see my primary care physician when I need to see her? Can I get to my appointments easily and affordably? Can I easily get understandable information to help me make critical health care decisions from my physician, his staff, my hospital, and/or online? Are providers available to answer my questions and concerns, not just deliver the information they think I need?
Demand for live video will grow in 2017 as consumers want a more immediate and real connection to healthcare brands. Marketing will be less about pre-produced, scripted videos, and more about delivering an authentic experience that people can connect with and feel part of. In 2016 we saw the rise of mobile video consumption on platforms such as Snapchat and Periscope. In addition, the main social media platforms all rolled out new features and products around live streaming. With the launch of Facebook Live, Facebook, in particular, is putting greater attention on live video in its algorithm – a move marketers cannot afford to ignore. The ability to reach and engage consumers will increasingly be driven by video, and this, in turn, will expand to include better marketing and advertising options for healthcare brands in 2017.
In one word: Transparency. Healthcare marketers that work with providers and payers will need to be ready for an unprecedented call for transparency. Patients, governments and even the general public are all demanding a higher degree of openness and truthfulness from their healthcare providers and payers.
Several states have already adopted laws that require organizations to disclose the amount it will actually cost for a procedure BEFORE the patient actually agrees to it. Essentially states are demanding patients be given a clear and understandable estimate of charges so that they can factor that into their decision-making process.
In addition, the wave upon wave of ransomware attacks plus health data breaches has left the public feeling betrayed by healthcare organizations. In 2017 marketers will have to help turn that tide by highlighting the investments being made in data-security policies, procedures and technologies. The public will need to be reassured that their sensitive health data is safe.
Finally, patients are becoming much more healthcare-savvy and are asking for more data on the facilities, physicians and nurses that will be providing their care. They want more than reviews and ratings. Quality metrics, error rates, penalties, outcomes – are all data points that patients will start to demand before deciding which provider to go to.
I believe this confluence of demands will lead to a higher degree of transparency in healthcare and healthcare marketers will be at the vanguard of that effort. They will have to find ways to incorporate a sense of transparency into all outbound communications, advertisements and other marketing channels. Providers that are seen as transparent, open and honest will win the hearts and minds of potential patients – and the communities they are part of.
I’m excited to see how this manifests in 2017.
We have a lot to think about going into 2017. The healthcare climate is in a state of continuous change – some changes are predictable, some are not. With that in mind, I ask you: How will your organization embrace transparency? Will you try Facebook Live as a relationship building tool or sneak peaks of new facilities? Will you get to know your audiences better and learn their preferences? What can your data tell you that hasn’t been found yet? How will you position your services among non-traditional competition, like e-visits or mobile apps?
Download the ebook of this post to keep as a reference. Share it with your colleagues. And tell me – what are you preparing for in 2017?
Be prepared for 2017
What do we need to be prepared for in healthcare marketing in 2017? I asked several colleagues from across the country. Keep a copy of their responses nearby as you plan for the new year.