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Healthcare marketing

Hospitals must invest seriously in ongoing professional education for their marketing and communications teams.



Healthcare has changed. While healthcare institutions have been rather reluctant to adopt promotional activities in the past, attitudes are changing. Even in recent times, some Medical Specialty Boards and Societies did not allow doctors to advertise themselves or their services. Today, competition among hospitals is fiercer than ever.

As the healthcare landscape continues its dramatic shift to focus more on consumers and patients become more involved with their own health, providers must adjust how they target and engage their audience to remain relevant and successful.

The industry used to be built on volume-based care and now it is more focused on value-based care, which prioritizes patient engagement, involvement and outstanding clinical outcomes. But there are still barriers to healthcare marketing success — departmental silos that may obstruct the delivery of communication to patients, outdated tactics and insufficient budgets.

Oftentimes, healthcare marketing departments find themselves between the proverbial rock and a hard place when it comes to developing a strategic marketing plan and bringing it to fruition.

Certain hospital “brands” stand out, in part because of the excellent quality and expertise provided, but also because of these hospitals’ ability to promote their achievements, differentiate their brand and engage with customers.

Hospitals view marketing as having multidimensional goals, such as supporting mission and values, increasing awareness, educating the public on disease, enhancing image and reputation and — last but certainly not least — generating new revenue. However, in order to meet these multiple goals, hospitals must commit adequate levels of funding to the marketing effort.

Hospitals must invest seriously in ongoing professional education for their marketing and communications teams. Many hospital communications staff have public affairs and journalism backgrounds, with experience in retail or other industries. The accuracy of delivering complex medical content to a lay audience may be foreign to them.

Savvy hospitals also focus on providing excellent patient experience which, if communicated effectively to internal and external audiences, may yet be the best marketing tool that a hospital can have.
While improving patient experience is not typically led by the marketing department, marketers must be trained to put not just revenue and process flow, but more importantly — put the patient front and center in the planning and implementation of marketing initiatives.

A study by researchers at the University of Southern California Center for Health Policy & Economics published in the New England Journal of Medicine found “patients themselves said that the non-clinical experience is twice as important as the clinical reputation in making hospital choices.”

Marketing is more than just maintaining a website. Top hospital marketers have strategic public and media relations plans, proactively seek out media coverage and continually offer their physicians and employees as expert resources for media and other appearances. Many hospitals have fallen short in this area, requiring too much red tape for media interview requests on matters related to health and medicine. Media will naturally go to hospitals which give easy access to their medical experts to meet editorial deadlines.

Top marketing departments pay attention to measuring results and expecting marketing to contribute to the bottom line. They are very strategic, putting financial resource toward the most effective marketing programs and shying away from those that cannot be tracked in terms of contribution to the bottom line.

Marketing and IT must “talk” to one another. According to a recent survey, healthcare marketers consider themselves behind the curve in terms of digital marketing proficiency in comparison to other industries such as banking and e-commerce retailers. Nonetheless, analyzing large amounts of patient data is key to diversifying traditional and digital marketing techniques, that lead to revenue growth.

Top healthcare marketing and public affairs executives have a seat at the leadership table. Marketing and communications people are unique because they see broadly across the entire organization. Healthcare marketing experts are able to understand the entire organization and discern the possible impact of certain hospital decisions on its brand and reputation.
With tighter marketing budgets overall, traditional and digital channels compete for hospital marketing monies at every turn. Yet in reality, marketing is a major driver of hospital revenue. To remain competitive, healthcare marketers must evolve alongside today’s fast-paced digital world. Hospital marketing teams must modernize their strategy to integrate a broad range of tactics and channels to more effectively reach today’s busy, distracted consumers.

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With over 30 years of experience in patient care, healthcare marketing, business development and hospital operations, Marilen Tronqued-Lagniton is a Certified Lead Auditor for ISO 9001:2015. She earned a Bachelor of Science in Psychology from St. Theresa’s College in QC, Philippines; completed the MBA for Healthcare Administrators at the Anderson Graduate School of Management at UCLA; Completed the Patient Safety Officer Course, Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI) & Harvard School of Public Health (T.H. Chan) in Cambridge, MA; Completed the Advanced Leadership Program for C-Suite Leaders, Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University (Evanston, IL). Email: [email protected]