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Mastering Modern Healthcare Marketing: A Comprehensive Guide for Private Physician Groups in Today's Dynamic Landscape


In the ever-evolving landscape of healthcare, private physician groups face unique challenges in staying competitive.


 A mere decade ago, the idea of healthcare providers diving into the world of marketing was like suggesting a plate of peas to a skeptical 2-year-old – met with wide eyes and uncertainty in the face of a new and unfamiliar adventure. But oh, how the tides have turned. Nowadays, with services like Zocdoc, the rise of concierge medicine, and a wave of retiring physicians either passing the private practice torch or joining colossal hospital groups, healthcare providers are at the forefront of a marketing revolution.  


 

Gaining insights from an external viewpoint is crucial in understanding the patient's perspective of your practice. Consider the initial impression your practice conveys – is the first time a patient sees what their physician looks like is during the first appointment? Is your office tracking the sources of new patients, how did they view their experience? Would they recommend you? How did they find you? All of these questions become essential to optimize marketing efforts effectively.  

 


Social Media Presence:  

In the era of advanced digital connectivity, over 4.48 billion individuals actively engage in social media. That means that millions of patients are seeking out health information online every single day! 


As the pandemic unfolded in 2020, more than 95% of consumers recognized social media as one of the most effective channels for reaching patients. By 2021, 79% of users turned to social media to address specific personal health-related questions, often within private groups or discussions with fellow patients. 


Evaluate the educational significance of your content, as patients appreciate posts that provide valuable information beyond mere self-promotion. A suggested ratio is discussing your practice once for every four educational or informative posts. This not only sustains audience engagement but positions your practice as a valuable source of healthcare insights. From updated screening guidelines to tips on staying healthy, physicians using social media can help bridge the gap between the provider and the patient--which makes for a more connected and unified healthcare experience. With information at patients' fingertips, it's increasingly important to share accurate healthcare information. 


Understanding patient demographics and the different platforms is essential for effective targeting. Instagram attracts a younger audience, predominantly aged 18 to 34. Facebook boasts a diverse user base, particularly popular among individuals aged 25 to 54. LinkedIn caters more to professionals, making it valuable for engaging with healthcare providers, potential partners, and professionals in your field. Tailoring content to resonate with these demographics enhances the impact of your social media strategy. It is also important to note that women in the United States make approximately 80% of health care decisions for their families. Building content on social channels for women is essential.  


Website:  

Ensuring that your website is not only visually appealing but also user-friendly is paramount in today's digital age. First-time patients often seek immediate answers to crucial questions. Are you addressing inquiries about accepted insurances, the latest technologies employed in your practice, and the option to make online appointments? These details can significantly influence a patient's decision to choose your services. 

 

Utilizing tools like Google Analytics allows you to track website traffic, gaining valuable insights into how users interact with your content. Regular updates are not only essential for maintaining Google rankings but also for staying relevant in an ever-evolving healthcare landscape. Understand the keywords people are searching for in your field and integrate them strategically into your content to enhance search engine visibility. 

 

Moreover, prioritize the "above fold" content – the information visible on the screen without scrolling. Within 2-3 seconds, visitors should find answers to common questions. A website serves as one of the most vital tools for your practice, acting as a digital front door for prospective patients. Keep it polished, informative, and seamlessly navigable to make a lasting positive impression. 

 

Online Visibility:  

Approximately 77% of individuals initiate their patient journey through search engines, marking search engines as integral regardless of the chosen path within the healthcare journey. 

Remarkably, health-related searches constitute 7% of daily Google searches, equating to 70,000 healthcare searches every minute. This underscores the substantial influence search engines have on the healthcare landscape, positioning them as major channels for health-related information. 


This trend has prompted Google to prioritize local SEO, a positive development for medical practices investing in SEO to elevate their online presence. Beyond merely having a website, strategic placement in online directories such as Healthgrades, Vitals, and Google Business is crucial. These platforms serve as primary destinations for potential patients seeking information about healthcare providers. 


Ensuring accuracy in online information is paramount. Practices should feature updated physician photos and office details to prevent confusion, such as outdated locations or retired physicians. Consistency in promptly addressing and managing reviews is essential, with positive reviews contributing to a favorable online reputation. This applies not only to the overall practice but extends to each physician and provider, emphasizing the significance of consistent and proactive online visibility management for attracting and retaining patients in the digital age. 


Patient Communication: 

Despite its traditional nature, email remains a robust healthcare marketing channel. With 4.1 billion active email users globally in 2021, email marketing proves to be a lucrative strategy, boasting an average ROI of up to $36 for every $1 invested. 


Approximately 60% of individuals express a preference for receiving promotional messages through email, compared to 20% who prefer contact via social media channels. The healthcare industry sees an average email open rate of 21.48% and a click-through rate of 2.69%, surpassing the 21.33% average email marketing open rates and the 2.62% average click-through rates. 


For healthcare marketers, this is encouraging news. Effective communication with patients extends beyond clinic walls. Evaluate your external communication methods—are you fully utilizing digital tools like newsletters, email campaigns, and patient portals? These channels not only keep patients informed about practice updates but also foster engagement. 


Consider additional strategies, such as internal flyers and leveraging digital technology (TV monitors, exam tablets) to streamline the patient experience. Providing educational content through these mediums is powerful. Imagine a patient watching an informative video about a procedure before an appointment—this not only reduces wait time complaints but also empowers patients with knowledge, leading to more insightful questions during visits. 


Embracing diverse forms of digital communication not only facilitates patient education but also contributes to a more streamlined and patient-centric healthcare experience. 


As emphasized earlier, your website serves as a central hub for patient interaction. Let's map out the journey for both new and existing patients. For new patients, ensure a seamless process for accessing and completing paperwork online, finding your location, and scheduling appointments through user-friendly features. For existing patients, make the patient portal easily accessible for tasks like payments and accessing essential information, such as pre and post-op instructions and informative procedure videos. A smooth and intuitive website experience for both new and existing patients is crucial for fostering engagement and overall patient satisfaction. 


Community Engagement: 

Engaging with your local community can be a powerful strategy to strengthen your practice's roots and foster meaningful connections. Have you actively participated in community events or health fairs? These engagements offer a unique opportunity to meet and support your local community, establishing your practice as a trusted healthcare partner. 

Beyond community support, participation in such events provides a valuable networking platform. Building connections with other healthcare providers, especially those who refer patients to your practice, can create a collaborative network. Strengthening these relationships not only benefits your practice but also contributes to a more integrated and patient-focused healthcare ecosystem. Consider community engagement as an investment in both the well-being of your community and the growth of your practice. 


The effectiveness of your referral program can significantly impact the flow of patients to your practice. Ask yourself, do you have a referral program in place that ensures an easy and streamlined process for paperwork and referrals from other offices? Evaluating this should be straightforward, as you understand the necessities of your office staff when sending referrals to another practice. 


Referral Programs: 

Whether providers appreciate it or not, patients have the ability to articulate their experiences with healthcare providers and share this information online for public viewing. Information spreads rapidly, and reputations can be influenced. 

 

Research indicates that 74% of patients deem online reviews as extremely or very important. Among patients aged 30-44, the most active age group in provider searches (85.8%), review checking (65%), and review writing (40.3%), 65% state that online reviews play a pivotal role in forming opinions about healthcare service providers. 

 

According to Software Advice, 90% of patients seeking healthcare services utilize online reviews to evaluate their potential providers. The majority (71%) of these individuals use online reviews to discover new healthcare practitioners. 

 

For patients, online doctor reviews stand out as the most critical factor when deciding whether to schedule healthcare appointments. Insights from the Customer Experience Trends in Healthcare 2020 by Press Ganey indicate that even after receiving referrals, 88% of patients continue to read reviews about a provider. 

 

Ensuring a seamless referral process is crucial, especially for busy offices juggling multiple tasks. Demonstrating a commitment to simplicity in the referral process can distinguish your practice. Consider the perspective of offices dealing with the complexities of tracking down patient records for referrals – a streamlined process can significantly impact collaboration and patient care. 

 

Equally important is nurturing relationships with referring physicians. Have you established a practice of expressing gratitude for referrals, recognizing the collaborative effort in patient care? Explore collaboration opportunities where patient care seamlessly transitions between primary and specialty care. Strengthening these partnerships not only fosters a supportive healthcare network but also contributes to the overall success and reputation of your practice. 

 

Recruiting: 

Building a strong brand is increasingly vital for healthcare practices seeking to attract and retain top talent. In the competitive landscape of healthcare recruitment, many practices miss this crucial element to the importance of marketing and branding. For instance, a significant percentage of nurses (76%) and physicians (86%) are currently not actively seeking new employment opportunities. 


Crafting an outward-facing positive brand image serves as a powerful tool in illustrating why a facility should be the preferred choice for job seekers in the healthcare sector. This proactive approach not only draws attention to the organization's commitment to employee satisfaction but also sets it apart in the eyes of prospective candidates. 


By incorporating stories and testimonials from current staff, practices can provide firsthand accounts of positive experiences, offering prospective team members insight into what working for their practice entails. Emphasizing the awards and accolades received by the healthcare facility further underscores its commitment to delivering an exceptional experience for both patients and providers. It's important for practices to articulate the mission and values, showcasing how they prioritize and deliver patient care. Top-tier professionals are drawn to top-tier organizations, and considering that employees are an extension of the brand, it becomes crucial for practices to establish a strong organizational identity. Without a well-defined brand, attracting the right talent becomes a challenging endeavor, not to mention costly!  


What’s next? 

The encouraging news is that the process of building a brand for your practice isn't as challenging as it might seem. Bringing in the right marketer or marketing team can effectively steer your practice in the right direction, aligning with its core values. 


January 2022, the average salary for a marketing professional in the United States can vary based on factors such as experience, education, industry, and location. According to data available at that time, the median annual salary for marketing managers was around $142,170, while marketing specialists and market research analysts had a median annual salary of approximately $65,810. 

 

If you find yourself not having the time and skills  to hire and manage a marketing professional, considering the addition of a contract marketer might be beneficial. These individuals often bring established systems to the table and can assist in crafting both your marketing strategies and operational systems. They contribute to creating organizational structures with long-term effectiveness, as opposed to hiring an agency that may not fully grasp the intricacies of how healthcare organizations operate. Given the unique considerations of HIPAA compliance and the distinctive nature of clinical practices, building a brand strategy for healthcare requires a specialized approach. 


If you're unsure about where to start, I'd be delighted to schedule a call with you to explore how we can support your practice. One thing I'm particularly passionate about is healthcare marketing! 

 


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