These days, healthcare patients are more empowered than ever. Increased marketplace competition, new industry standards centered on patient satisfaction, and a wealth of online resources mean that the modern day patient is in the driver seat like never before. All of these factors make patient engagement more important than ever. And the key to improving patient engagement is effective healthcare marketing.

patient engagement journey ignyte branding agency

What role does healthcare marketing play in improving patient engagement? To answer this question, we take a look at the 5 stages of the patient engagement journey–Awareness, Consideration, Selection, Treatment, and Loyalty–and highlight the ways in which healthcare marketing can empower patients to make smarter, healthier decisions, leading to better outcomes for patients and healthcare brands alike.

Awareness: Reaching Patients through Healthcare Marketing

healthcare marketing awareness stage ignyte branding agency

Patient engagement begins with making patients aware of the existence of your brand and the quality of the services you offer. How do you increase awareness among potential patients? The most effective way is to meet them where they’re at – online. Not only are today’s patients online, they are actively looking for healthcare services and healthcare-related information there. According to a Pew Research report, more than 70 percent of internet users searched for health information in the past year. Healthcare, in fact, is the second most-searched-for service online. A study by Google revealed that:

  • 1 in 5 patients is now booking their appointments online,
  • 77 percent of patients used search prior to booking an appointment,
  • 48 percent of patients took over 2 weeks to research before booking, and
  • 61 percent of patients visited 2 or more hospital sites before converting.

One of the best ways for healthcare brands to take advantage of the proliferation of digital media is to leverage modern healthcare marketing in the form of paid search, social media, and display advertising.

The relationship a patient has with his or her chosen healthcare brand is a personal one. Because of this, social media advertising offers a uniquely powerful forum for patient engagement. Social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter allow a healthcare brand to reach highly targeted audiences with singularly engaging content.

Beyond social media, paid search advertising like Google AdWords and Bing Ads is the foundation of modern day healthcare marketing. If more than 70 percent of individuals are actively searching for healthcare information online, it only makes sense for healthcare brands to get their message in front of these eyes. It’s difficult to overstate the power of paid search advertising. It allows your brand to directly engage a specific patient with a specific concern, offering a personalized solution to their unique healthcare needs.

Consideration: Influencing Patient Decision-Making with Engaging Content

healthcare marketing consideration stage ignyte branding agency

The consideration stage of the patient engagement journey is where potential patients are consciously choosing between healthcare brands. Of paramount importance to patients in this stage is practical and useful information. They are often searching for information on how to manage an illness or care for a loved one.

Because they’re in the business of healing patients and saving lives, healthcare brands have access to the type of heartwarming and educational content that makes social media initiatives so effective. The Mayo Clinic is one brand that has long leveraged the power of social media to empower their patients with practical and useful information.

Healthcare brands are in the unique position of being guardians to information that can dramatically improve their patients’ lives. Making that information available via healthcare marketing in the form of blog articles and social media posts is one of the best ways to meet the needs of patients in the consideration phase. The content you make available for prospective patients in the consideration stage can take any number of forms, depending on the platform and objective:

  • Blog posts
  • Health articles
  • Videos
  • Patient stories
  • Infographics
  • Brochures
  • Podcasts
  • Webinars
  • Newsletters
  • Digital Magazines
  • Microsites
  • Events

Actionable content leads to improved patient behaviors, which lead to better clinical and financial outcomes. Beyond outcomes, quality content positions your brand as an industry leader. It can boost search engine rankings and establish your brand’s website as a credible source of information. Legitimacy, credibility, authority—as your brand’s content helps to ratchet up its standings in these critical areas of social proof, it in turn reinforces patient engagement, bolstering confidence and solidifying brand loyalty.

Selection: Increasing Patient Acquisition with a Powerful Website

healthcare marketing selection stage ignyte branding agency

The modern healthcare marketing tactics used to raise awareness of your brand all lead back to your website, the centerpiece of the selection stage of patient engagement. Every healthcare company should have a well-designed, contemporary website that authentically embodies its brand. This might seem obvious, but you’d be surprised how many major healthcare brands continue to be held back by dated, overly-complex websites that are difficult to navigate and even harder to understand.

Key to capitalizing on traffic from your healthcare marketing efforts is the creation of landing pages that are optimized to convert visitors into new patients. Custom landing pages are an effective way to highlight your unique offerings and key value propositions.

Another type of traffic that your brand will receive as a result of healthcare marketing campaigns is phone calls. Converting phone calls into new patients requires personable operators who can function as effective brand ambassadors. Along with all frontline staff, call center personnel should be intimately familiar with your brand’s purpose, vision, mission, and values so they can address the needs of patients in a way that is aligned with the fundamental tenets of your brand.

Treatment: Ensuring Excellent Service Before, During and After Appointments

healthcare marketing treatment stage ignyte branding agency

When it comes to patient engagement, treatment is where the rubber meets the road. It is where your brand makes good on its promise by providing patients the treatment they need with the dignity they deserve. How do you do this? By employing highly experienced and eminently qualified providers who understand your brand promise and know how to translate that understanding into first-rate service.

The treatment stage of patient engagement includes efforts both before and after a patient’s visit. Text reminders for appointments can go a long way toward ingratiating patients with busy schedules. Efforts like this are a small but effective way to seamlessly cater to patients’ dynamic lifestyles rather than compelling them to cater to the needs of your organization.

Similarly, ensuring that patients have access to information on the go is indispensible for a modern healthcare brand. Your website experience should be intuitive and engaging, regardless of which device patients are using. Mobile traffic has now outpaced that from desktop computers, so it’s safe to assume that the majority of your patients are experiencing your website on their mobile devices. Even seemingly small details like mobile-first design can help to differentiate your brand as one who puts its patients’ needs first.

Loyalty: Fostering Ongoing Trust with Healthcare Marketing

healthcare marketing loyalty stage ignyte branding agency

Patient engagement doesn’t end when a patient walks out of the clinic, of course. Or even when their illness or injury has healed. Among the most important stages in the patient engagement journey is loyalty. There are many ways for a healthcare brand to continue to serve a patient after his or her treatment is complete.

Patient portals that enable patients to access important data and insights about their medical history online are a great way to ensure brand loyalty. Patients appreciate the convenience and usefulness of patient portals, even when they are not actively being treated by your organization.

Email marketing initiatives and periodic newsletters are another way to make certain your patients choose your healthcare brand for future needs. For healthcare brands there will never be a lack of compelling and pragmatic content to leverage for newsletters and email marketing campaigns. Poignant stories of patients whose lives have been touched by a brand are a powerful way for brands to engage their audiences on a deep and human level.

While brands must keep abreast of the complex and ever-changing regulatory restrictions regarding healthcare marketing, there is a wealth of practical medical information that healthcare brands can share with their patients, as well. If usefulness is the benchmark for quality content in digital marketing, healthcare brands have no shortage of exceptionally high quality content.

The Takeaway

These days, because of the industry focus on patient engagement, patients are more empowered than ever. From awareness to treatment to loyalty, patient engagement must be an ongoing effort for healthcare brands that hope to compete in a crowded marketplace. The evolving relationship between brand and patient throughout the patient engagement journey determines whether a patient feels important and valued or insignificant and neglected. As competition increases, healthcare brands have a choice: actively engage with patients throughout the patient engagement journey, or be left by the wayside for another brand that does.

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A prolific blogger, speaker, and columnist, Brian has more than a decade of experience in design and branding. He’s written for publications including Forbes, Huffington Post, and Brand Quarterly.