Tips for Marketing Telehealth and Other Front-Line Health Services

by | Feb 2, 2021 | Consumer Engagement, Healthcare Industry Insights, Service Line Growth | 0 comments

Here’s how you can create horizontally integrated campaigns for marketing telehealth, urgent and primary care and other front-line services.

2020 was the tip­ping point for health­care marketers.

Orga­ni­za­tions not yet embrac­ing a con­sumer-cen­tric strat­e­gy were forced to do so vir­tu­al­ly overnight as ser­vices like telemed­i­cine and chat­bots went from nov­el to normal.

The urgency, time and resources invest­ed in these and oth­er dig­i­tal sys­tems reflect a par­a­digm shift from demand-side (provider) to sup­ply-side (patient) strate­gies that are whol­ly designed around the consumer’s access pref­er­ences, con­ve­nience and COVID-19 prevention.

The arche­type of this shift is the rapid adop­tion of vir­tu­al care across sys­tems of all sizes and types, as illus­trat­ed by these examples:

  • Last spring, Atri­um Health imple­ment­ed a vir­tu­al hos­pi­tal in just 10 days—and by August, they had treat­ed near­ly 16,000 patients through the program.
  • Ban­ner Health launched a tele­health plat­form “out of nowhere” in April, and sud­den­ly the sys­tem was host­ing thou­sands of appoint­ments a week.
  • A sin­gle day in April saw 2,000 vir­tu­al care vis­its for Spec­trum Health.

These sce­nar­ios would have been unimag­in­able a year ago, and experts pre­dict there’s no turn­ing back from a con­sumer-focused, dig­i­tal­ly-enabled patient experience.

Look­ing ahead to 2021: The chal­lenge for health­care busi­ness lead­ers and mar­keters is bal­anc­ing this shift with dri­ving high-val­ue rev­enue that is nec­es­sary to fuel an eco­nom­ic recovery.

Moving from Channel Myopia to Integrated Marketing

For health­care mar­keters, this shift rais­es sig­nif­i­cant ques­tions about how to engage con­sumers in the COVID-19 era. With lim­it­ed resources and account­abil­i­ty for dri­ving rev­enue, patient acqui­si­tion is para­mount. Now, more than ever, the invest­ments mar­keters make need to add value.

How­ev­er, there’s a ves­tige of pre-pan­dem­ic, sup­ply-side tac­tics gain­ing trac­tion in the wake of the pan­dem­ic: mar­ket­ing telemed­i­cine and oth­er front-line ser­vices as dis­crete deliv­ery channels.

Accel­er­at­ed dis­rup­tion makes it tempt­ing for health­care mar­keters to focus the major­i­ty of mar­ket­ing con­tent and cam­paigns on the most imme­di­ate and obvi­ous chal­lenges: COVID-19 vac­cine com­mu­ni­ca­tions, pro­mot­ing telemed­i­cine, build­ing joint replace­ment vol­umes and oth­er siloed cam­paign efforts. How­ev­er, the patient jour­ney is typ­i­cal­ly not a lin­ear path, and for front line ser­vices like emer­gency and urgent care, telemed­i­cine and pri­ma­ry care, the aver­age con­sumer often doesn’t under­stand when and why to choose one over the other.

Con­sumers choose between these access points for dif­fer­ent needs and in dif­fer­ent moments. They look for options in dif­fer­ent ways. Rather than spot­light the deliv­ery chan­nel, what we know about the con­sumer jour­ney should dri­ve how health sys­tems struc­ture their mar­ket­ing plans.

Like coun­ter­parts in oth­er indus­tries, the mod­ern health­care marketer’s charge is cus­tomer acquisition—an out­come best achieved by posi­tion­ing the brand as a trust­ed guide through­out the deci­sion cycle. Health­care mar­ket lead­ers under­stand how to con­nect con­sumers to the care they need, when they need it, and with as lit­tle fric­tion as possible.

Why it Pays to Think Like a Patient

While the con­sumer-cen­tric mind­set is a com­pet­i­tive advan­tage, it can be chal­leng­ing to imple­ment with­out being inten­tion­al about the plan and build­ing the case for leadership.

Here are guide­posts for gen­er­at­ing aware­ness and affin­i­ty for your brand and, by exten­sion, dri­ving vol­ume to the most appro­pri­ate chan­nel for care.

Address the ques­tion, then pro­mote the deliv­ery chan­nel. The first ques­tion in a consumer’s mind when choos­ing where to receive care isn’t “Who has the best tele­health solu­tion?” or sim­i­lar queries.

Rather, their deci­sion is typ­i­cal­ly dri­ven first by an imme­di­ate need for a child with an ear infec­tion, onset of COVID-19 symp­toms, a teenag­er strug­gling with depres­sion, severe spring time aller­gies and oth­er “top of fun­nel” health concerns.

From there, con­sumers are dri­ven by trust in the provider who has most effec­tive­ly demon­strat­ed their exper­tise in that area and pro­vid­ed a seam­less path to help. A fric­tion­less jour­ney and clear direc­tion around where and how to access care will be increas­ing­ly crit­i­cal as new entrants—with a more dig­i­tal-first busi­ness mod­el—dis­rupt pri­ma­ry care and oth­er tra­di­tion­al deliv­ery systems.

At the core of address­ing ques­tions and prob­lems that keep your audi­ences up at night is deliv­er­ing clear and thought­ful con­tent that answers ques­tions, instills trust in your brand, por­trays com­pas­sion and dri­ves action. For con­di­tions requir­ing imme­di­ate care like COVID-19 symp­toms and ado­les­cent depres­sion, web­site con­tent can address con­cerns and offer the appro­pri­ate con­nec­tion points. For top­ics that are more peren­ni­al like ear infec­tions and spring­time aller­gies, your blog strat­e­gy will like­ly be the source of that content.

Here are a few exam­ples of health sys­tems address­ing com­mon health top­ics, shar­ing patient sto­ries and fea­tur­ing oth­er con­sumer-cen­tric con­tent with a strate­gic CTA to take the best next step.

When you con­sid­er your push mar­ket­ing strate­gies, the key is deliv­er­ing high­ly rel­e­vant and action­able con­tent that builds brand author­i­ty and encour­ages a con­sumer to con­sid­er their poten­tial health­care needs.

Ensure paid media strate­gies aren’t an after­thought. While con­tent is king, paid media strate­gies are equal­ly roy­al. This is par­tic­u­lar­ly true in mar­kets rich with com­pe­ti­tion and for your most valu­able ser­vices lines. Build­ing your brand through social media and dis­play cam­paigns, and cap­tur­ing demand via paid search is crit­i­cal to stay­ing ahead in an era of rapid dig­i­tal evo­lu­tion and rel­a­tive­ly low con­sumer loyalty.

For ideas to efficiently plan your paid media budget, check out our white paper on Outsmarting vs Outspending the Competition.

Notably, health­care mar­keters are chal­lenged with which access point to pro­mote for var­i­ous search­es. It’s easy when we con­sid­er search­es like “urgent care near me,” but what about search­es for “COVID-19 test­ing near me”? For these and oth­er con­di­tion-spe­cif­ic queries, dri­ving to a web­site page or blog that clear­ly out­lines the symp­toms and appro­pri­ate next steps for the con­sumer is crit­i­cal, rather than dri­ving con­sumers to a page pro­mot­ing sole­ly the access point like you would for the “urgent care near me” search. This can be a tricky strat­e­gy to sort through but is exact­ly why con­tent strat­e­gy and paid media strat­e­gy need to be well inte­grat­ed to cre­ate suc­cess­ful out­comes and to max­i­mize your mar­ket­ing efficiency.

When you con­sid­er your push mar­ket­ing strategies—connecting with pas­sive audi­ences through social media, email mar­ket­ing and display—the key is deliv­er­ing high­ly rel­e­vant and action­able con­tent that builds brand author­i­ty and encour­ages a con­sumer to con­sid­er their poten­tial health­care needs. A blog strat­e­gy that’s dri­ven by both search trends and orga­ni­za­tion­al pri­or­i­ties is crit­i­cal to find­ing suc­cess in this space, and approach­ing it with an agile and nim­ble mind­set is key in this flu­id environment.

Be flex­i­ble to evolve with con­sumer needs. Anoth­er advan­tage of a patient-first approach to mar­ket­ing is the sus­tained rel­e­vance of your mes­sage. Con­sid­er the suc­cess of brands like Ama­zon that pri­or­i­tize the consumer’s trust and long-term val­ue over pro­mot­ing the chan­nels (akin to mar­ket­ing tele­health) where indi­vid­ual trans­ac­tions  take place. By focus­ing on the patient and her needs, you’ll be well-posi­tioned for long-term suc­cess rather than hav­ing to rein­vent the wheel with every new deliv­ery chan­nel (or emerg­ing crisis).

We’re Here to Help You Market Telehealth and Other Front-Line Services

With these insights as a guide, your mar­ket­ing strat­e­gy can guide con­sumers through the health­care journey.

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