Like many industries, healthcare is undergoing rapid upheaval as a result of digital innovation. From the proliferation of mobile devices and wearables such as Fitbit, to the spread of online health information sites and telemedicine, to the growth of electronic health records and plethora of data available to companies, the digital revolution in healthcare is reframing consumer expectations and how healthcare organizations are delivering care. In this new norm, healthcare marketers need to engage consumers in new and meaningful ways to ensure patient satisfaction.


Catching up to today’s digital consumer

Compared to industries like retail and travel, healthcare providers have lagged in adapting to today’s digital realities. In a recent survey of global healthcare organizations, nearly 60 percent said they were behind in implementing a digital health strategy or had none in place. Healthcare providers have been slow to turn to technology to improve patient communications, but things have changed over the last several years, and the healthcare industry is now rapidly playing catch up. There are several reasons for this:

First, providers have realized that patients have become empowered consumers, armed with access to an abundance of information and growing expectations for personalized engagement in all aspects of their lives. Second, consolidation among providers and the emergence of new healthcare options, such as urgent care and telemedicine, are increasing competition. Third, the shift to value-based care—in which providers are compensated on quality of care rather than volume—means marketers are key to meeting patient and population wellness objectives. Healthcare marketers, who traditionally invested heavily in mass advertising and local community events, are forced to now meet digitally savvy consumers where they are and demonstrate ROI. In fact, digital ad spending by the healthcare and pharma industries totaled $2.23 billion in 2017, up nearly 60 percent from three years earlier.


Driving personalized patient engagement

Consumers are demanding experiences from healthcare providers that are on par with those they’ve come to expect from other industries and brands. They expect personalized, cohesive engagement that makes their lives easier across email, mobile, social media and other channels. Healthcare is no exception--it is incumbent upon marketers to deliver exceptional experiences before, during and after care. Yet, nearly half of all providers acknowledge they lack the tools to effectively manage patient journeys. Knowing this, how can healthcare marketers get up to speed?

Understanding the patient starts with data. In order to deliver relevant content and information to consumers, marketers need to understand as much as they can about the people they’re trying to engage. For healthcare providers, that means collecting and analyzing as much data as possible about each patient interaction—whether they’re clicking on an ad, completing an online form, or opening an email on their mobile device. Now more than ever, healthcare providers have an opportunity to tap into new technologies like wearable devices to better understand patients. With the shipments of wearable devices expected to double between 2017 and 2021, patients’ opting to share information from their devices provides another invaluable stream of data for marketers.

Get personal with meaningful marketing. Healthcare providers must leverage their knowledge about patients to deliver the right message, at the right time, and on the right channel. Gone are the days when mobile, digital advertising, social media and email were operating in silos. Whether it’s sending mobile reminders for appointments or delivering a targeted newsletter with tips for relevant preventative care, successful marketers need to adopt a single engagement strategy to reach consumers and meet value-based care objectives.

Reaching a large amount of people with personalized content can be achieved only with technology that learns from past patient behavior and automatically knows how best to engage them. For example, a leading regional network of hospitals and clinics in the U.S. Midwest was able to boost its online portal membership by 25 percent by using a technology platform to send targeted email communications and mobile messaging to encourage its patients to sign up for the portal, which provides patients with healthcare updates and wellness information.

Wake up to the power of mobile. Mobile devices continue to transform every part of healthcare, including communicating with providers, filing insurance claims, filling prescriptions, getting medication reminders and recording information during patient visits. It’s no shock that earlier this year, Apple announced that its Health app would allow users to store and view medical records along with patient-generated data, another sign of the increasingly empowered consumer. As more and more mobile innovations surface, healthcare marketers have an opportunity to leverage these tools as a means to get closer to patients and deliver better care. For example, while more than half of patients would like to communicate with providers on mobile devices, the 100 largest U.S. hospitals are only reaching two percent of their patients on mobile apps.

Analyze your campaigns and pivot fast. Smart healthcare marketers set concrete goals, constantly assess which strategies are working and course correct as necessary. Marketing technology platforms that do the heavy lifting are a must here. Why? Because they equip marketers with detailed, real-time insights into how, when and where prospective and existing patients are engaging with content and information. Instantaneously, they can know what’s resonating and what isn’t, and can focus on solutions that work. Marketers need to make sure their campaigns are paying off in terms of attracting new patients, but are also succeeding when it comes to patient outcomes, such as their health and wellness.

The digital transformation of healthcare is a win-win. Patients become more informed, active participants with greater access to tools that help them lead healthier lives. Meanwhile, providers gain access to unparalleled data inventories to provide more personalized experiences and align with today’s value-based care paradigm.