At a Glance
- The future of the healthcare industry is more unstable than ever
- Marketing must focus on the digital patient journey and the digital patient experience
- Reviews are critical — and privacy is even more so
Out of the frying pan, into the fire. As the healthcare industry adjusts to a new normal, independent practices face new headwinds: historic inflation, rising interest rates, and a possible global recession.
What does this uncertainty mean for the healthcare industry and independent practices? It means you need to work harder than ever to protect your bottom line.
That doesn’t mean there’s no hope. Individual health doesn’t wax and wane with the economy. Yet we know from previous recessions that people are worried about money, they do what they can to avoid expenses — even when necessary.
This can translate into missed appointments, unfilled prescriptions, and outstanding patient balances.
You don’t want to wait for the economy to pick up before renewing your marketing efforts. As an independent practice, you should double down on your patient acquisition and retention strategies.
In this article, you’ll learn:
- Why marketing is more important now than ever before
- Healthcare marketing trends we’re predicting for 2024
- How to acquire new customers — and retain your existing ones
Continue reading for a quick look at the current landscape and the marketing trends to make your practice stand out.
Healthcare marketing trend #1: The online patient journey
Here’s a hard truth: It’s time to leave the mailers and paper marketing efforts behind — the patient journey starts online. Most patients use the web to discover and research their healthcare providers. In fact, 3 in 4 patients have done so at least once, according to a study by Tebra.
That means your practice lives or dies by its online presence. Many patients use a combination of digital methods to find information, including:
- Using their insurance directory
- Looking up reviews on third-party sites
- Visiting the practice’s website
Attracting and accepting new patients should be a priority for your practice — and will likely become the new normal. The AAMC predicts a rising shortage of doctors in the near future. According to its data, the US could see an estimated shortage of 37,800 and 124,000 physicians by 2034. This includes up to 48,000 primary care physicians, among other specialties.
And while getting new patients is always an important business factor, 2023 showed us that keeping patients isn’t as simple as providing quality healthcare. Meeting patient demands should also be a top priority for thriving healthcare businesses.
“77% of patients find and evaluate healthcare providers online. ”
Healthcare marketing trend #2: The digital patient experience
Long gone are the days of doctors serving generations of families. Patients have high expectations for in-person visits and want easy digital access to schedule appointments, fill out forms, make payments, and follow up with their care provider.
Last year, patient attrition rates were high. More than one-third of patients said they left a health provider in the last 2 years, and most cited a lack of access and communication with their healthcare team and a poor in-person experience.
Patients want a compassionate and attentive healthcare provider, along with digital access and convenience. According to a Tebra survey, patients reported that (besides quality care) what patients want most from their physicians are available appointments when they need them, prompt response to questions, and a good listener.
Even after the pandemic’s focus on telehealth, many patients focus on the in-person experience. Yet, following those, they focus on access to their healthcare professionals and digital health records.
Consistently, patients want 5 key digital interactions:
- Appointment scheduling
- Form filling
- Asking questions
- Paying a bill
- Accessing health records
Here are some ways your practice can meet these healthcare needs to reduce attrition and improve patient satisfaction.
Enhance your web presence
It all starts with your practice website. Making your website the hub of your practice will help to both attract new patients and retain your current ones. Having a static page with outdated information isn’t helpful.
Focus on these 3 things to improve your practice’s website:
- Being searchable, which we’ll talk about more in-depth later.
- Having up-to-date information that’s easy to locate on your homepage. This should include the physicians in your practice, your specialties, your office hours, your contact information, and how to schedule appointments. Bonus points for reviews.
- Being helpful with photos of the inside and outside of your practice, directions to the office, and access to other pertinent health information.
Simplify appointment scheduling
Patients don’t want to wait until business hours to call your office and schedule an appointment. Instead, modernize appointment scheduling by making it digital. Patients won’t have to wait on hold, answer personal health questions over the phone, or remember to catch your office during business hours.
Plus, it’ll streamline the process for your team and potentially reduce the number of scheduling mistakes you’ll have to make up to your patients.
Offer a patient portal
Build a thorough digital patient experience by giving them a portal to access their healthcare information. Provide them with a single place to schedule appointments, fill out forms (also reducing in-office wait times), communicate with physicians or nurses, and access their healthcare records.
Providing this level of convenience will go a long way in meeting patient expectations. And giving them an easy and organized way to communicate with the doctors will improve patient satisfaction.
Healthcare marketing trend #3: Tried-and-true online search
One of the healthcare marketing trends that isn’t going away anytime soon is the need to be found online. More than being searchable, you want to appear in the top search results or risk being ignored altogether.
For instance, only the top 3 Google search results get 75% of all clicks, according to backlinko. And if you’re on the second page? Forget about it.
Before you get overwhelmed with SEO ins and outs, narrow down your focus to these 3 factors.
1. Optimize your site
If you’ve heard of SEO, you know the emphasis is often on content. While content is absolutely a key factor, the mechanics of your website also play a part. Start with these action items:
- Ensure your website is mobile-first or mobile friendly. It’s an increasingly important factor in the Google algorithm — and for your web visitors. In fact, 59% of all Google search traffic comes from mobile devices.
- Increase your site’s loading speed. Another concern of Google’s (and your site visitors) is how long it takes your website to load. Google recommends a load speed of under 2 seconds.
2. Focus on local SEO
Marketing online for your local practice isn’t like marketing a product. Your business is entirely dependent on your local community. This, however, gives you a local SEO edge. Instead of relying on your website for SEO results, you can take advantage of other local online directories, too.
Local search focuses on a specific geographic area. Think “dentists near me” or “orthopedists in [city] area.”
Users who type this into Google search get location-specific information from directories like Google Business Profile, Yelp, and more. Ensure to claim your practice and update your information in each. We’ll talk more about how to do so in the next section.
3. Use photo SEO
Photos are often left out of the SEO thought process, but they provide a great opportunity to capture more web traffic — when done right. Photos for your site shouldn’t be an exercise in stock photography selection. Instead, hire a professional to take photos that showcase your practice, your location, and your people, all while driving traffic to your site.
Healthcare marketing trend #4: Online business directories
Patients use the web to find and research potential healthcare physicians, and your website isn’t their only resource. Just over a third use information found on search directories like WebMD, Facebook, and Yelp. That doesn’t even include your Google Business Profile.
This is a top trend in healthcare marketing that will continue. In order to make the most of these search directories, you need to claim your practice and ensure all your information is accurate across directories. Here’s where you should start:
Google Business Profile
Easily the most-used search engine, Google offers a free business profile that your practice can claim. People searching for your practice, or one of your top-ranking keywords, on Search or Maps can quickly view your profile. Adding information, photos, logos, links, and reviews will make you easier to find and add to your legitimacy and appeal.
It’s also important to not ignore reviews on your Google Business Profile. They’re highly visible and deserve a quick response — especially the bad ones. It’s vital that your reviews are positive, recent, and many in order for a person to book an appointment.
Other practice listing websites
When looking for a healthcare provider, patients rarely consult just one source. It’s important to search the web for alternative directories (and even Facebook) to manage your practice’s reputation, no matter which sites your patients use to find you.
Having your practice’s name and information across sites will not only make it easier for patients to find you, but also improve your search rankings in Google. Just make sure your information is consistent and up-to-date across all platforms.
Healthcare marketing trend #5: Patient reviews
Reviews are critical. Nearly half of people said they trust online reviews from other patients when choosing a doctor, dentist, or healthcare professional, according to Tebra’s 4th annual Patient Perspectives report.
And there isn’t just one important review factor that influences patient decisions, but several:
- Overall rating. Whether out of 5 stars, 10 points, or 2 thumbs up, your overall rating matters the most. 67% of patients admit that they won’t book with a new physician if they have less than 4 out of 5 stars.
- The review content plays a role, too. It’s not just about stars — 75% of patients will read between 3 to 10 reviews before deciding on a provider.
- The number of reviews determines whether patients think your reviews are credible. This means you need to work hard to incentivize patients to leave a review — 88% of patients want to see up to 50 reviews posted to determine the trustworthiness of a practice.
- The recency of the review. Even positive reviews aren’t enough to turn a web visitor into a new patient if they’re all outdated — 43% of patients say how recently reviews are posted is the most important factor they look at when looking at a provider’s online review. You can’t just get to a certain number of reviews and stop asking. You must consistently solicit reviews from patients to keep the marketing engine running.
- Where the review is posted matters, too. Some sites are more credible than others. For example, your rating on Facebook might not be as credible as your rating on Google. According to Tebra research, 58% of patients look at Google for reviews, 34% look at the practice’s website, and 31% look at WebMD. Only 16% of patients look at Facebook for reviews.
- The number of negative reviews. Over half of patients (51%) will move on to another doctor if they see 1 to 3 negative reviews posted online.
With reviews such a key factor in new bookings, here’s how you can manage them.
Ask for patient reviews
A surprising number of practices still don’t ask for regular patient reviews. Asking for reviews immediately after a patient visit is the best way to get accurate information quickly. Create a simple review form and schedule it to go out automatically after each patient’s visit.
Respond to good and bad reviews
Whether publicly or privately, it’s important to respond to all reviews from your patients. Doing so shows existing patients that you’re actively reading and taking in their complaints and/or praises. They’ll be more engaged in your practice, and you’ll have a wider view of the patient experience.
Healthcare marketing trend #6: Content marketing
If you’ve heard about SEO before, it was probably in the context of content marketing. You may have a beautiful, personalized website, but to drive traffic and compete in Google Search, you need to update it continuously. The best way to do that? Content marketing.
Content marketing is a way to drive interest to a product or service by creating valuable content. Blog posts, for example, are a type of content marketing that search engines love. Podcasts are another example.
But content isn’t just for robots. It can also drive new bookings by capturing web visitors’ interest and showcasing your practice’s knowledge and authority.
Here are a few topics you can pull from to create new and interesting content on your website.
Your services are a great place to start. Talk about each service you provide and go into detail about how it’s done, who needs it, why patients should do it, and why your practice is the best place to get it done.
This benefits your business two-fold. You can either drive interest in that service or people who are already looking for it will see that you offer it.
Your physicians and staff
While this may not target keywords, it is a way to introduce your team to prospective patients while showing Google that your content is recent. Introduce yourself, your other physicians, and your staff with personal profiles. The more information you can share about your doctors, the more comfortable new patients will feel — and the more likely they will be to book.
Healthcare marketing trend #7: Doctor-led social media content
Nearly 48% of people reported social media as their main source of health advice, according to a survey by Sortlist.
And it makes sense.
People spend hours a day on social media platforms and sometimes as little as 30 minutes a year with their healthcare professional. Creating social media content makes you more visible to patients and prospects and helps you combat all the bad health advice floating in the ether.
Even though it may seem difficult to navigate social media and healthcare restrictions, there are plenty of doctors who already do it — and do it well. Every practice should do social media in a way that works for them, but there are a few things good content has in common.
While it’s good to post fun, personal content occasionally, the majority of your content should focus on your practice and specialty. You can also increase your relevance by talking about things currently in the news or trending on social media — just as long as they fall within the realm of your practice.
Easy to understand
Your top goal on social media should be to engage your patients. Even if you aim to build your authority, don’t write or speak as if you’re talking to other medical professionals. Make your content easy to understand so that your patients and prospects see you as friendly, thoughtful, and approachable.
What are some things you find yourself repeating to patients all day long? Social media allows you to share more in-depth information with a wider audience and help fight misinformation. Make content that is accurate and helps your patients make better choices overall.
For now, don’t stress too much about being everywhere all at once. When you’re just starting, pick a social media platform that suits the demographic of your target patients and that someone on your team is comfortable using.
Healthcare marketing trend #8: Privacy as priority
Privacy is and will continue to be one of the biggest marketing trends in healthcare. Despite the rise in digital communications and content, privacy is still an important concern for patients. With recent data breaches, it may be on their minds now more than ever before. According to a recent survey, 75% of patients are concerned about protecting their personal health data (PHI).
In order to maintain HIPAA compliance, practices must protect the privacy, security, and integrity of protected health information. This includes any digital communications or marketing materials. Ensure you never reveal a patient’s PHI without prior written consent.
If you’re not marketing your healthcare practice, now is the time to start.
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