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As a digital leader in your organization, you’re designing the customer experience from the start of the marketing funnel to the post-engagement experience. Your focus and expertise are on your organization – direct care for your patient population, your organizational structure and assets, and your operational plan.

Few vertical groups have maximized traditional marketing strategies better than the health care industry. But as new technologies emerge, keeping up with an ever-changing digital environment can be challenging, even for the most innovative of organizations. Add in regulatory constrains such as HIPPA, and the challenge can be particularly vexing. While healthcare systems are ready and willing to adapt, understanding exactly what technologies to invest in, planning for long-term scale, and onboarding teams to those technologies are another story altogether.

The right investment is the strategy that fits your needs and the needs of your consumers.

A top challenge as you evolve your digital presence in the healthcare environment is selecting the right digital strategy partner. An experienced digital strategy partner should serve as a trusted advisor to track the digital horizon - someone who can separate a passing fad from a real business opportunity. Make sure your partner brings the following to the table:

  • Real-world hospital and healthcare experience, with proven examples demonstrating how digital strategies can support patient engagement to improve outcomes, both in the community and with individuals.
  • Data-informed insights on patients at every stage in the buying journey, including behavior patterns impacted by changing technologies. Ask to see an example of an engagement plan and the data on which it was based.
  • A well-researched understanding of emerging digital technologies – What’s on the horizon? How does it work? Is the technology relevant to you? Will this new app, social platform or innovation sustain or fade away as a one-hit-wonder?

Facebook is a solid healthcare marketing tool, while lesser evolved real-time platforms such as Periscope and Snapchat continue to emerge in this space. 

  • Maintain a healthy respect for your budget and timeline, whether you’re embarking on a comprehensive digital marketing assessment with recommendations or an engagement plan designed specifically for a campaign. The right investment is the strategy that fits your needs and the needs of your consumers. A high-value service agency that plays in the space below big digital agencies might be your best bet.

Staying on Top of Digital Trends

As the digital environment evolves, so do consumers. No matter how connected to your business goals, a traditional marketing plan alone is no longer competitive when it comes to patient engagement. Now more than ever, an integrated marketing strategy that considers the entirety of the patient experience is a must. Engaging patients at the earliest stage in their journey and providing them with relevant content in plain language supports patient activation. In turn, patients who are actively engaged with a provider will ultimately lead to improved outcomes, a better patient care experience and care efficiencies that result in decreased cost.

Smart digital healthcare solutions are focused on outcomes but also designed to be easily managed by marketing teams who have less and less time on their hands.

Smart digital patient engagement solutions are focused on outcomes but also designed to be easily managed by marketing teams who have less and less time on their hands. The best patient engagement strategies are long-term and cumulative, but organizations must see quick ROI with engagement touch points and outcomes measurement at intervals.

Understanding Patients Today

Before the Affordable Care Act, hospitals served sick populations during acute episodes of care. Nowadays, consumers seek to live healthier lifestyles, and are incentivized by their health insurer or employer to do so. As a result, consumer choice extends beyond the emergency room and the birthing center. Empowered with technology, consumers are more selective and engaged in their own healthcare experience. Patients, their families and providers are expected to work together in active partnership to build healthier communities and healthy consumers.

No matter their age, consumers want contextual and relevant information now.

Data shows every generation is becoming more and more technologically savvy. Some 85% of adults use the Internet and 67% use smartphones. No matter their age, consumers want contextual and relevant information now. Whether they receive something as easy as an appointment reminder text or are served up useful content based on their location, digital technology makes it possible to connect consumers with the right content when they need it and where they want it.

The First, and Most Critical, Touch

For many consumers, the first touch with your healthcare organization will be with your digital properties. Data suggest they’ll connect with you through mobile first, as mobile usage has now surpassed that of desktop.

Understanding all of the digital technologies available to you and how to use them is ever more critical. While hospitals have incorporated Facebook and Twitter into social tactics for years, newer apps such as Peach and Hyper are less commonly known in the healthcare marketing space. Whether new platforms have staying power remains to be seen, and some have already faded like the ions on this page. The point is, established platforms that have strong user experience and iterative design will outlast newcomers that are complicated and unclear.

Your job is to make it easy for patients to connect with your organization and to give them credible information at the most critical time. The more you’re able to be there at any given time point at any stage in the patient journey, the more likely patients will choose you first when support is needed.

Three-Step Formula for Success

Segment your health consumers and define what each segment needs at which stage in the buying journey.

Choose the digital health technologies based on your segmentation data that consumers choose, enjoy and find easy to use.

Develop content that provides trusted, accurate and easy-to-find health information – whether it’s Find a Doctor/Location, where to go when they arrive at your facility or a patient testimonial video.

The Best Digital Partner Connects Technology to Your Business Goals

Regardless of channel, providing the right content at the right time is the key to engagement – whether it’s serving up location information through geolocation strategy or a social engagement focused on a certain patient population. A solid digital partner will thoughtfully connect the right technology to your business goals. Return on investment should be measured at intervals. If a strategy isn’t working, tweaking should take place – and your smart digital partner will build those touch points and tweaking opportunities into your initial budget so that there are no surprises.

Smaller tactics can still yield big results if well planned, with an eye toward expansion if it supports a holistic approach.

Bottom line, meaningful patient engagement in healthcare is aligned with business development and marketing strategies for any given provider system. A unified and integrated strategic marketing plan aligns communications with business development and marketing goals. Smaller tactics can still yield big results if well planned, with an eye toward expansion if it supports a holistic approach.