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2018 Digital Healthcare Marketing Trends That Are Here to Stay

Oliver Tree, Experience Manager
#Digital Strategy | Posted

After re-designing websites, creating apps, and getting to grips with new channels like social media, 2017 felt like the year healthcare marketers started to look beyond 'the basics' of the digital patient experience.

With the fundamental building blocks in place, the last 12 months have seen providers double down on technologies and strategies that measurably improve the patient journey, remove friction from provider-patient interactions, and move towards a more personalized digital experience for all.

So, where should you place your bets (and budget!) in 2018? 

Voice Technology

There are already 45 million voice-enabled devices in the US, with that number expected to grow to 65 million over the next 12 months.

Needless to say, the proliferation and use of voice-enabled assistants and devices will make 2018 the year voice goes from being a curiosity to something healthcare marketers need to roadmap, budget for, and implement.

But where do you start? Listen to this podcast and learn how the digital marketing team at Northwell Health took their first step into voice assistants, harnessing the power of Amazon’s Alexa platform to better engage their patients and transform the digital patient experience.


Voice Search

With the rise of voice activated assistants, comes the rise of the voice powered search. Starting from virtually 0% of searches a few years ago, Comscore predicts that by 2020 50% of all searches will be voice searches.

The rise of voice search on personal digital assistants like Siri, Alexa, Cortana and Google Home has added a whole new dimension to SEO. The increase in longer phrase, spoken queries, and the ability to process natural language, mean that patients no longer have to search with simple keywords. Instead they can ask search engines questions the same way they would their doctor.

Voice search usage continues to increase as technology accuracy approaches human levels of understanding. Mary Meeker’s 2017 internet trend report highlights that Google’s advances in natural language processing have lead to a 95% voice word accuracy rate.
 

Digital healthcare marketers and content creators must optimize their websites, content, and publishing platforms for voice search. That includes optimizing your SEO, researching users, developing a content strategy, adjusting content language and tone, and continuous testing and iteration.

Here’s a handy guide to help you get started with voice search optimization.

AI & Chatbots

Chatbots, and the AI ‘brains’ that power them, are revolutionizing how brands interact with their customers. Able to answer ever more complex questions and resolve issues in real-time, they are the very embodiment of the Micro-moment and the future of how we find information, buy, book appointments, or interface with any type of customer service.

In 2017 we saw chatbots being deployed at the beginning of the patient journey (see Piedmont Healthcare), and used as an automated way to keep in touch with patients and ensure they remain healthy post appointment or procedure.

Keen to alleviate pressure on call centers and overstretched doctors, 2018 will see a growing number of health systems, hospitals, and clinics start to experiment with chatbots throughout the patient journey.

Chatbots offer hospitals an instant, scalable, and more measurable digital touchpoint with patients than, say, communication through a website or app. Using artificial intelligence, chatbots can assess symptoms, offer patients reliable and trusted resources, determine insurance information, and connect them with the right doctor to address their concerns all in one convenient, empathetic interaction.

Take a look at how chatbots dramatically enhance communications during 3 of the most common patient and health system interactions.

Integration, APIs and the Digital Patient Experience

Can your patients use one set of login credentials (Single Sign On) to access all their billing, booking, patient records, customer service, prescription and other services? Can they get everything they need through one app, without being pushed to a third party medical records,  billing or other patient portal?

If the answer to either of these is no, then it’s time to take a long, hard look at the infrastructure underpinning your digital patient experience. 2018 is the year providers will start to get serious about integrating their disparate systems to provide a unified, frictionless, and increasingly personalized experience for patients.

Find out more in A Marketer's Guide To APIs and API First Design.

Brand

Want to grow market share? Then work on your brand.

Brand is the new bedside manner by which providers are judged and patients are acquired. Health systems have the benefit of being able to establish strong brand equity because they, by the very nature of what they do, help people live better. And in those exchanges, there is an investment and equity that a healthcare provider can build with patients and project outwardly to burnish their standing in the minds of consumers.

Previously the doctors, and not the system, represented healthcare brands. But with patients acting more like consumers, there is an amazing opportunity to create an anticipated healthcare experience.

When it comes to seeing a brand come to life on the internet, your website content is most likely the largest touchpoint with the most reach, and it’s important to guide the way patients will interact with and perceive your content.

Click here to read more about the value of brand in healthcare today.

Wellness and Preventative Care

Millennials are shaping the future of healthcare in important ways, one of which is emphasizing the focus on preventative healthcare and wellness. In addition, they also want to access relevant health information quickly and have access to convenient healthcare options when they need them.

According to Communispace, 27% of millennials research health information online and self-treat at home, never setting foot in a doctor’s office. And with the proliferation of telehealth and quick outpatient and surgery center visits, healthcare is no longer confined to the four walls of a monolithic hospital building. Conversations around health and wellness are happening 24/7 on social media, in online health communities, and increasingly in smaller retail and convenience clinics - and that’s where you need to be as healthcare marketers.

The economic influence of Millennials is growing fast, currently representing over $200 billion in annual buying power. If you ignore the healthcare values of Millenials and market only to Baby Boomers you’re going see patient acquisition and retention plummet.

The most important thing you can do to attract Millennials is to make sure that your information is findable and accessible across devices (see Voice Search above). If it’s difficult to access symptom information or find a doctor on your site, or if your content is not mobile friendly, Millennials will simply move on to your competitors.

Honorable Mentions

Along with the major trends already mentioned, here’s a couple of other areas we also expect to see develop further in 2018:

CRM Adoption

The humble CRM system has been a mainstay of consumer-brand interaction in other industries for years. The ability to track and store customer data is an essential piece of the modern marketer's toolkit and, as such, more health systems will implement CRM systems in 2018.

Personalization

A single word with a multitude of technical, design, and content strategy implications, personalization is the ‘payoff’ for having a CRM system. Using the data collected, you can tailor everything from your social media advertising strategy to your website appearance to fit the individual patient, giving them a digital experience to remember for all the right reasons.

Learn more in What Makes a Great Digital Patient Experience? Personalization.

These are the 2018 healthcare marketing trends you can place your bets on. If you would like to learn more about any of these trends, reach out to our experts here.

Oliver Tree

Experience Manager