The last time you needed to find a new doctor, where did you look? If you're like 75% of respondents to a PatientPop survey, you probably turned to the web first.
We live in an increasingly connected, consumer-focused world, and our healthcare is evolving to keep up. People who are seeking healthcare information have more resources at their disposal — and more options for care — than ever before. That's probably why 70% of respondents to the same survey said that a positive online reputation is a vital consideration when choosing a healthcare provider.
In our current healthcare landscape, companies and care providers in the healthcare industry can't rely solely on word-of-mouth marketing and referrals. A referral might get people to look in a certain direction, but in this consumer-dominated era, an organization's reputation online is often the deciding factor. In fact, three out of five respondents to a Doctor.com survey said that they would choose one healthcare provider over another depending on which one had a strong online presence.
So whether you're with a healthcare provider that offers care directly to patients, an organization that supplies medical equipment to hospitals, a company that develops healthcare technology, or anything in between, you need to focus on enhancing your online presence to reach your target audience.
But how? With content marketing.
"Patients depend on online sources of information more so than ever and are using all of the digital tools available to inform themselves and make healthcare decisions," said Andrei Zimiles, CEO of Doctor.com. "While it is paramount for healthcare organizations to provide quality care, they must also focus on building a strong online presence and a seamless customer journey. It's what today's patients expect."
And before you say that your core demographic is largely offline and relies on recommendations from family and friends, consider this: The Doctor.com survey found that more than 75% of respondents who were 60 and older had made a healthcare-related search online within the previous year.
To effectively reach your target audience in a way that resonates, you need to invest time and energy into a content marketing strategy.
Healthcare organizations of all types tend to be filled with subject matter experts, including physicians and other healthcare providers, so this is an industry that naturally lends itself to content marketing.
Just take a look at Mayo Clinic and Cleveland Clinic. They're often credited for jump-starting a revolution in healthcare content marketing. Mayo Clinic curates a massive library of resources to help potential patients navigate possible diagnoses and treatment plans, and it launched a patient and employee blog in 2009. A few years after that, Cleveland Clinic launched Health Essentials (formerly Health Hub).
To provide an engaging online experience for potential and current customers or patients, follow these tips for content marketing in the healthcare space:
To come across as a reliable expert in the healthcare world, you have to, well, be an expert in what you're writing about and sharing online. I mean, you wouldn't go see a podiatrist if you had a broken arm. People have that same mentality when they're searching for content online. They expect to read insights from people who have firsthand experience and deep knowledge. So when you're writing articles, creating blog posts, or sharing videos and posts on social media, make sure they're relevant to your specialty in the healthcare space.
Like the first tip, it's important to stay in your lane when it comes to the audience you're targeting. For example, if you're an organization that produces medical equipment for dental offices, you're probably not going to be speaking to patients. It's more likely that you'll be speaking to dental professionals and their staff. Take a good, hard look at whom you're hoping to speak to through your content, and make sure the subject matter you focus on and the tone you adopt align with that defined target audience. And make sure you go easy on the jargon and use language your audience will understand and resonate with.
Few things are more inspiring than reading stories of people overcoming obstacles and beating the odds. Sharing the stories of your customers or patients is a great way to provide this motivation and inspiration for your target audience — and it's a great way to showcase how your organization went above and beyond to provide exceptional care for real people. New York Presbyterian Hospital Patient Stories offers a great example of a healthcare organization shining a spotlight on patients' successes. Just be sure to get explicit written consent from the people whose stories you're sharing (more on that later), and fact-check all the details to make sure what you publish is accurate.
While blog posts, guest-contributed articles, videos, and social media posts are effective ways to reach your audience with valuable content, it can be difficult (even impossible) to know who is viewing those types of content and actually get them to work with you. That's where the content funnel comes in. Create gated content for your site, like a whitepaper, and ask people to provide information in order to download it. Mercy's "Baby-on-the-Way Guide" is a great example of gated content that exchanges valuable, helpful content for readers' contact information. Once you have this gated content available on your site, you can start directing your audience to it by linking to the landing page within the other content you create.
Interactivity is at the core of engagement. While sharing articles, blog posts, and videos is a great way to inform and engage with your audience, you can take it to the next level through interactive media. UnitedHealthcare uses this healthcare marketing tactic by creating quizzes to encourage its audience members to lead healthier lives and further engage with the services UnitedHealthcare offers.
A great way for healthcare organizations to connect with customers and patients is through human interactions online. In fact, people are more than twice as likely to stay loyal to a particular hospital when they feel connected to the doctors and nurses on staff. Post regularly on social media. Share videos of physicians. Interact with your audience in the comments section. But make sure you have a policy in place that sets clear expectations around responses. For example, whoever is moderating comments should let people know that they should contact 911 in case of a medical emergency. Also, have documented policies in place that cover how to handle complaints with compassion, how to properly escalate issues to administration or other team members, and how to make sure all content complies with HIPAA.
While engagement with your audience is important, keeping people's information secure is even more so. If you're highlighting customers' or patients' stories, get their consent in advance. When you're creating other types of content, remove all identifiers (including name, address, record numbers, photos, physical and mental health details, and payment details). Also, to stay compliant with HIPAA guidelines, avoid offering medical advice or engaging in dialogues about diagnosis or treatment on social media, and make sure the subject matter you're sharing about doesn't violate the law's restrictions. Some subjects that lend themselves well to HIPAA compliance are general health advice, wellness tips, how-to guides, customer or patient stories (I'll say it again: with explicit consent), and the latest achievements in healthcare.
Interested in creating a content marketing strategy for your business? Set up a call with us!
I'm a content-obsessed word person with a passion for finding the coziest coffee shop in town. By day, I'm the content marketing manager at Intero Digital's Content & PR Division. In my downtime, you can find me hanging out with my husband and son, reading a book, sipping a latte, drawing, hand lettering, or watching "The Office" for the zillionth time.