Healthcare Marketing Trends: The Concepts Tools & Trends Disrupting Healthcare Marketing in 2018 & Beyond

Augmented Reality in Healthcare

Healthcare is a heavily regulated industry, which poses some unique challenges for healthcare marketers. But that’s not to say that healthcare marketing isn’t making leaps and bounds. On the contrary, healthcare marketers are tapping into innovative ways to leverage the latest tools and technologies without risking compliance.

To gain some insight into how the healthcare marketing field is evolving and the strategies that marketers are leveraging in 2018 and beyond, we took a deep-dive into Google Trends data to find out what healthcare marketing technologies and tactics are getting hotter by the day.

We found that the biggest healthcare marketing trends for 2018 fall under four core pillars: healthcare marketing and healthcare delivery technology, an increased focus on the patient experience, leveraging the patient experience to fuel marketing initiatives, and social marketing. Many of the trends discussed below are the hot topics of discussion at healthcare marketing conferences, and they’re also the most heavily searched-for marketing concepts in the industry.

Let’s take a closer look at these four core pillars and the trending healthcare marketing topics within each, including Google Trends graphs illustrating search demand fluctuations from July 2013 to July 2018.

Trends in Healthcare Marketing & Healthcare Delivery Technology

Marketing technology is evolving at a rapid pace, but in the healthcare realm, many of those same technologies are transforming healthcare delivery as well. Marketers tout the perks of their companies’ innovative delivery models and technologies to create compelling unique selling propositions and establish a competitive advantage. So what’s trending in healthcare marketing and healthcare delivery technology? Augmented reality, artificial intelligence, virtual visits, and more.

Augmented Reality in Healthcare

2013 Trend Score: 0
2018 Trend Score: 100
5-Year Increase: 100

Augmented Reality in Healthcare

Source: Google Trends

Augmented reality is gaining ground across many industries, but it’s a hot topic in the world of healthcare marketing. In terms of healthcare delivery, augmented reality has tremendous potential to aid providers in a multitude of capacities, from assisting surgeons during procedures to tools like AccuVein, which illuminate a patient’s veins, allowing for precise needle insertion the first time – meaning less discomfort for the patient.

Healthcare marketers are set to take advantage of the power of augmented reality to enhance patient education. Research shows that a multi-sensory experience more closely mimics real-world scenarios, which are optimal for learning. The result is a new, more effective means of transmitting information to patient populations, such as the potential impacts of a disease or the effects of medication or a procedure on the body.

Augmented reality also can provide real-time, accurate guidance to help patients better comply with aftercare following a procedure or medication adherence and compliance. Compliance contributes to patient health and well-being, which in turn bolsters patient satisfaction.

Artificial Intelligence in Healthcare

2013 Trend Score: 0
2018 Trend Score: 56
5-Year Increase: 56

Artificial Intelligence in Healthcare

Source: Google Trends

Artificial intelligence provides deeper, more accurate insights on diagnostics, patient outcomes, treatment variability, and a multitude of other factors across the entire care continuum. Aside from enhancing the quality, accuracy, and speed of healthcare delivery, AI powers health monitoring activities via wearables and smartphones, which can aid both prevention and disease management.

AI can even be used to analyze images taken with a smartphone, providing a quicker, easier (for both patient and provider), and perhaps more accurate diagnostic tool, an innovation already being adopted by dermatology and ophthalmology.

Marketers can leverage AI to understand target patient populations better than ever, fine-tuning their marketing messages to precisely target the wants and demands of the ideal patient. The benefits of AI on the healthcare delivery side provides ample fuel for patient education and marketing initiatives, as well.

Predictive Analytics in Healthcare

2013 Trend Score: 39
2018 Trend Score: 92
5-Year Increase: 53

Predictive Analytics in Healthcare

Source: Google Trends

Some experts say predictive analytics is the future of personalized healthcare, but it’s also the past: predictive analysis has already been in use by providers for decades, but it’s been powered by the human mind, rather than technology. Physicians have always considered a patient’s symptoms to determine a diagnosis and a treatment in the hopes of achieving a specific outcome. Predictive analytics widens the playing field from the data related to a single individual to the data from a larger population, with the idea that a larger data set can lead to better treatments and outcomes for individuals.

Healthcare marketers leverage predictive analytics to gain better insights into their ideal patient population, creating targeted messaging to reach those patient populations with relevant, compelling information, at the right time, and on the right channel. Predictive analytics makes it possible to better control marketing costs, spending valuable marketing dollars only on the channels where your target patients spend their time and only targeting those who are likely to engage and respond.

Chatbots

2013 Trend Score: 3
2018 Trend Score: 46
5-Year Increase: 43

Chatbots

Source: Google Trends

Chatbots provide a more efficient means of engaging with patients through digital channels. With chatbots driven by AI, you can respond more readily to patient queries and provide information prospective patients need immediately; in fact, some experts predict that chatbots may become the logical entry point to AI for healthcare organizations. From booking appointments to providing answers to health-related questions, chatbots can support both internal and external communications in the healthcare environment. Plus, the transcripts from these conversations are valuable tools for marketers, providing insights that can drive search engine optimization (SEO) and improvements to the overall patient experience.

However, chatbots aren’t considered a mature technology just yet – at least not in healthcare. There are a few early players getting into the game, representing a mix of patient-focused and patient-clinician applications, but most business models are in the early stages. Concerns such as errors in communication, coupled with the higher priority many healthcare organizations are currently placing on cybersecurity and precision medicine, indicate that the healthcare industry may be slower to adopt this technology on a widespread basis compared to other sectors.

Natural Language Processing

2013 Trend Score: 14
2018 Trend Score: 51
5-Year Increase: 37

Natural Language Processing

Source: Google Trends

Natural language processing goes hand-in-hand with chatbots on some level; that is, some NLP applications aim to decipher human speech through voice recognition technology, which is the science behind non-human-manned chatbot applications.

Other applications for NLP, however, are focused on deriving insights from unstructured data, such as summarizing clinical notes or mapping relevant portions of unstructured text to structured fields in an electronic health record (EHR). NLP isn’t new to the healthcare industry, but it is a technology that you can expect to see used to support a broader set of applications as other technologies, such as chatbots and machine learning/AI, become more prominent in the field.

Virtual Reality in Healthcare

2013 Trend Score: 0
2018 Trend Score: 32
5-Year Increase: 32

Virtual Reality in Healthcare

Source: Google Trends

According to Grand View Research, the global virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) in healthcare market is expected to reach $5.1 billion by the year 2025. The primary applications for VR and AR in healthcare include surgical simulations, diagnostic imaging, patient care management, rehabilitation, and health management, according to the report, and these technologies show promise for training medical professionals, assisting in complex surgical procedures, reducing phobias and fears via exposure therapy, and more.

A hospital’s or clinic’s use of innovative technologies to enhance the accuracy of diagnosis and treatment, as well as to support other proven therapies, is an invaluable selling point that marketers will readily embrace. VR and AR also prove to be useful tools for marketers for educating patients and clinicians on new procedures and drugs. “As marketing and branding in general shift toward straightforward, authentic, and honest storytelling, technologies that assist in creating well-informed and trusting healthcare patients will be a huge asset to marketing in the healthcare field,” says Robin Zvonek in an article for Paragraphs. “Pharma companies can now market their drugs to physicians, nurses and administrators along with technology that will help them better explain the effects and benefits of their products.”

Communication as a Service (CaaS)

2013 Trend Score: 34
2018 Trend Score: 49
5-Year Increase: 15

Communication as a Service (CaaS)

Source: Google Trends

One of the longest-running challenges for healthcare providers is patient communication, or more specifically, scaling communication efforts to accommodate the growing demand. From handling inbound calls for appointment scheduling to outbound communications for reminding patients of upcoming appointments, the telephone lines at any provider’s office are almost sure to be constantly buzzing. But it’s not just about the phone lines these days; today’s healthcare organizations are interacting with patients through email, instant messaging, social media, and much more.

Communication as a Service (CaaS) is an enterprise communications solution that includes multiple services, such as voice over IP (VoIP), instant messaging, video conferencing, and other solutions, all of which are leased from a single vendor that provides hardware and software management along with a guaranteed quality of service. Because you’re working with a single vendor, rather than different vendors for each service, contract management is simplified, plus you get the benefit of an outsourced, unified communications platform to ensure that patients, partners, and others can reach the organization anytime, across multiple communication channels. And, when CaaS powered by AI, the potential to unify and optimize all those messages across various apps and systems into a single, user-friendly service is on the horizon.

Virtual Visits

2013 Trend Score: 15
2018 Trend Score: 94
5-Year Increase: 79

Virtual Visits

Source: Google Trends

One of the biggest trends in healthcare delivery in the U.S. is increased access in the form of virtual visits. Now, patients requiring treatment for minor conditions, such as sinus infections,  allergies, or skin rashes don’t even need to drive to the doctor’s office or the urgent care clinic and spend an afternoon in the waiting room. Services like Teladoc allow patients to connect with licensed providers via phone or video for prompt treatment.

Access to virtual services is a major selling point for healthcare providers and insurance companies, and partnerships between traditional providers and insurers and virtual providers like Teladoc are becoming increasingly common. Marketers emphasize virtual visits and other conveniences that increase access to care as a competitive advantage.

Increased Focus on the Patient Experience

The patient experience has been a main focus of healthcare marketers and clinicians alike over the past several years, and it’s a trend that’s not slowing down anytime soon. As you’ll see, the concepts below are closely interwoven, making a holistic approach to improving the patient experience a smart path for healthcare marketers.

Patient Engagement

2013 Trend Score: 16
2018 Trend Score: 100
5-Year Increase: 84

Patient Engagement

Source: Google Trends

Patient engagement is a broad term that encompasses a host of strategies that aim to get patients more actively involved in their care and promote greater control over personal health and well-being. According to HiMSS, engaged patients – those who are engaged as decision-makers in their care – tend to have better health outcomes. Patient engagement strategies include many of the concepts discussed in this guide and related strategies such as online patient communities, social media, wearables, and more.

Marketers play an important role in patient engagement. In fact, many strategies engage patients before healthcare is even sought. When that happens, patients are more likely to choose providers they’re familiar with, because trust has already been established.

Patient Portals

2013 Trend Score: 10
2018 Trend Score: 92
5-Year Increase: 82

Patient Portals

Source: Google Trends

Patient portals are closely linked to the patient experience, providing a patient-friendly, accessible, and centralized information platform where patients can book appointments, track their personal health information, and interact with providers via secure messaging. These portals provide easy and instant access to important health history and other information, such as lab results and medication lists. Patients can also request medication refills, download and complete forms to save time in the office, check benefits and coverage, and access patient education materials related to their diagnoses.

Obviously, these information-rich, user-friendly portals are a powerful resource for empowering patients to take a more active role in their health, making them an important tool for patient engagement initiatives, as well. Plus, the ability to message providers securely can strengthen the bond between patient and provider, boosting patient retention.

Patient-First

2013 Trend Score: 56
2018 Trend Score: 81
5-Year Increase: 25

Patient-First

Source: Google Trends

An offshoot of patient-centered care, patient-first is a concept focused on providing meaningful care and empowering patients, while meeting patients where they are in terms of communication and resources. It’s not a concept that can only be put to use by direct care providers. On the contrary, a patient-first approach is increasingly being utilized by all types of healthcare organizations, including those that employ DTC (direct-to-consumer) marketing, such as pharmaceutical companies.

According to World of DTC Marketing, for these organizations, a patient-first mindset entails considering the patient when planning all marketing activities, recognizing that today’s healthcare consumers are often informed and skeptical, meaning they’re likely to fact-check your claims, and leveraging data from brand-related social media conversations to inform your marketing activities and overcome barriers. Marketers can benefit from bringing in patient advocates to gain insight into what it’s like to live with the conditions your products or services treat. Additionally, educating payers on the better outcomes achieved with your products or services can help to increase accessibility and affordability for your target patient population.

Patient Education

2013 Trend Score: 59
2018 Trend Score: 83
5-Year Increase: 24

Patient Education

Source: Google Trends

Educating patients on their health risks, diagnoses, and treatments has always been a mainstay for providers in boosting patient compliance, but today, patient education plays an increasingly prominent role prior to the delivery of care – and for keeping patients engaged in their care. Thanks to the proliferation of mobile and Wi-Fi, it’s easier than ever for healthcare consumers to access information about health conditions online, before ever consulting with a provider for an official diagnosis.

As evidenced by the familiar catch phrase, “Dr. Google,” the trend of health consumers turning to the internet for information can be both a good and a bad thing. The challenge for healthcare marketers is to set their patient education efforts apart by establishing reliability and credibility in a sea of non-evidence-backed “advice.”

Patient Experience

2013 Trend Score: 33
2018 Trend Score: 56
5-Year Increase: 23

Patient Experience

Source: Google Trends

As mentioned, the patient experience is a pillar of modern healthcare delivery. But what’s the difference between patient experience and patient engagement? According to Adrienne Boissy, MD, MA, practicing neurologist and Chief Experience Officer at Cleveland Clinic, in an article for NEJM Catalyst, both have the goal of driving better health and outcomes. Patient engagement further aims to empower patients and their loved ones to take a more active role in their care, as well as to reduce costs. On the other hand, other goals of patient experience include exceeding expectations, reducing suffering, and brand differentiation.

By driving better health and outcomes, both patient engagement and patient experience play an important role in healthcare marketing by fostering patient retention and even supporting patient acquisition efforts. An exceptional patient experience is a key brand differentiator for leading healthcare organizations, and patient engagement contributes to the overall experience.

Wellness Initiatives

2013 Trend Score: 25
2018 Trend Score: 37
5-Year Increase: 12

Wellness Initiatives

Source: Google Trends

Wellness initiatives are a form of patient education and can also function as a patient engagement strategy. While not a new concept, wellness initiatives continue to be in-demand. They’re typically offered by companies (even hospitals) to promote better utilization of preventative health measures among employees, thus reducing health insurance utilization and reducing associated costs to the company (such as employer-sponsored premium costs and paid sick leave).

Wellness initiatives are often used in conjunction with employer-sponsored group health insurance plans, but they’re also a patient engagement tactic used by healthcare organizations. Two primary types of health and wellness campaigns are often used by marketers:

  • Awareness campaigns – Designed to educate the audience about a brand, product, service, or even a specific health condition. These campaigns often include soft calls-to-action such as whitepaper downloads.
  • Direct response campaigns – These campaigns are typically tied directly to revenue-generating activities, focusing on eliciting a specific action from the audience, such as scheduling an appointment.

Both types of wellness campaigns can produce desirable outcomes for marketers when carefully catered to the needs of the target audience.

Leveraging the Patient Experience to Fuel Healthcare Marketing

The patient experience encompasses more than just patient-clinician interactions, encompassing the entire relationship between patient and provider from the information-seeking phase to post-care. As such, clinicians and marketers must be equally invested in creating an exceptional patient experience. Marketers leverage the patient experience to fuel several trending healthcare marketing tactics.

Patient Stories

2013 Trend Score: 38
2018 Trend Score: 100
5-Year Increase: 62

Patient Stories

Source: Google Trends

Patient stories are effective tools for distinguishing a healthcare brand from its competitors. And what better way to communicate the quality of the patient experience than in the patients’ own words? eHealthcare Strategy says Northwell Health used this tactic to raise awareness about its Cohen Children’s Medical Center in Queens, New York by following the story of a teenage boy as he navigated the transplant process. The teen’s journey was documented over four months and published on Medium.com, complete with a variety of photos to add a powerful visual touch.

In today’s social media-driven culture, people often crave a personal connection. Patient stories can create that sense of human-t0-human connection even in the digital world.

Patient Reviews

2013 Trend Score: 54
2018 Trend Score: 97
5-Year Increase: 43

Patient Reviews

Source: Google Trends

Patient reviews can help to establish trust between consumers and businesses from all industries. But when it comes to healthcare, patients are often putting their lives in your hands, and having trust and confidence in a provider can often make the difference between an average experience and an exceptional one. While patient stories are typically longer, such as the Northwell Health article described above, patient reviews are short and to the point, often including ratings to provide at-a-glance opinions on a healthcare organization’s quality of care, a provider’s bedside manner or proficiency, and more.

The fact is that today’s consumers – healthcare and otherwise – increasingly evaluate online reviews before making any type of purchasing decision. According to Healthcare Success, nearly half of patients in one survey said that they “use, and are influenced by, online reviews.” Many are even willing to go out-of-network for a provider with particularly favorable reviews. Patient reviews can help to sway healthcare decision-making, but the key is that providers must live up to the expectations set by these reviews.

Patient Testimonials

2013 Trend Score: 18
2018 Trend Score: 39
5-Year Increase: 21

Patient Testimonials

Source: Google Trends

Patient testimonials are similar to patient reviews in that they tend to be shorter and more concise than longer patient stories. But unlike reviews, which are collected in larger volumes, providers may choose to feature a few select patient testimonials prominently on a website or other digital property or in advertising materials. Testimonials generally don’t have star ratings like patient reviews. Instead, they’re a brief, first-person account of a patient’s experience with a healthcare organization, provider, or clinician.

Patient testimonials are traditionally written, but more healthcare marketers are tapping into the power of visual media with video testimonials that can fuel digital marketing efforts on social media (discussed below), television advertisements, and beyond. In addition to video, testimonials can take the form of a quote accompanied by before and after photos (particularly useful for dermatology or plastic surgery practices), heartfelt written feedback, or even organic patient sentiments mined from social media by monitoring conversations surrounding your brand.

Healthcare Marketing Gets Social

Healthcare marketers are increasingly embracing the power of social media to engage with their target patient populations. In today’s visually driven, digital world, marketers can leverage other healthcare marketing trends, such as the patient video testimonials mentioned above, to reach a broader audience, establish trust, and engage potential patients throughout the healthcare journey.

Healthcare Social Marketing

2013 Trend Score: 26
2018 Trend Score: 69
5-Year Increase: 43

Healthcare Social Marketing

Source: Google Trends

Healthcare social marketing refers to the application of marketing strategies and tactics to influence the behavior of your target audience, in this case, your ideal patient population. The desired behaviors have a positive impact not only on the health of the target audience, but society as a whole. It’s not strictly limited to social media, although public health initiatives and community-directed patient education often take place on these platforms today. That said, healthcare social marketing may also come in the form of a community health fair, seminars and workshops,

While this decades-old concept isn’t a new one for healthcare marketers, many today use the term to refer to social media marketing, discussed below.

Healthcare Social Media

2013 Trend Score: 35
2018 Trend Score: 70
5-Year Increase: 35

Healthcare Social Media

Source: Google Trends

Social media marketing holds tremendous promise for healthcare marketers, offering a wide range of platforms to deliver informative content and create interactive experiences in various formats. Social media enables healthcare marketers to reach ideal patient populations beyond an organization’s or provider’s website, providing relevant information at the right time, and in the right format.

From #TwitterChats answering questions about specific health conditions to interactive quizzes and contests focused on promoting healthy behaviors, sharing powerful patient stories on platforms like Medium.com, posting health information videos and patient testimonial videos to YouTube, and more, there are endless ways healthcare marketers can leverage social media to educate and engage audiences.

Health Information Video

2013 Trend Score: 22
2018 Trend Score: 51
5-Year Increase: 29

Health Information Video

Source: Google Trends

Health information videos, like patient video testimonials, can provide the fuel that powers social media marketing. Rather than an individual patient’s experience, health information videos feature providers who discuss health conditions or treatment options, answering commonly asked questions in easy-to-understand language (which goes back to putting the patient first).

What’s the point? It’s multi-fold: health information videos provide valuable patient education and can help to empower patients to take action on various health needs, while establishing a provider’s expertise and credibility. What’s more, health information videos that feature providers can create a sense of familiarity among patients, creating the first connection that contributes to the all-important patient-provider bond.

 

So how can healthcare marketers tie all of these initiatives together, creating a cohesive marketing strategy across a variety of marketing channels? With an increased focus on digital assets such as photos, videos, and other content that fuels marketing activities in the digital world, healthcare marketers need a central repository to store and manage those assets. The answer lies in a HIPAA-compliant digital asset management (DAM) solution, which not only provides a single source of truth for your digital assets, but also streamlines approval workflows and rights management while offering the necessary security and privacy safeguards to protect sensitive health information.

Healthcare organizations are revolutionizing creative operations with the help of MerlinOne’s robust DAM solution. Schedule a demo today to learn how your healthcare marketing team can save time and increase marketing ROI with MerlinOne.

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