Marketing in the Healthcare Industry: What You Need to Know
Health marketing "involves creating, communicating, and delivering health information and interventions using customer-centered and science-based strategies to protect and promote the health of diverse populations. Healthcare networks, practitioners, providers, and network executives are finding that health can be improved through marketing strategies that promote and encourage preventative health, and that deliver messages of health protection while expanding the patient base. Additionally, any major hospital, small family practice, medical technology startup, private doctor, or caregiver may also benefit from health marketing as well. Health marketing will embody the successful elements of traditional and digital marketing, however, healthcare professionals will need to stay compliant with HIPAA guidelines and regulations for their marketing campaign.
Why Is Marketing Important in Healthcare?
For any industry, marketing your brand and its services and products will be instrumental in attracting and retaining your customer base. For health professionals, this means marketing your business to let them know that you can provide the best products and services for potential and existing patients demonstrating that you can provide better health solutions than your competitors. Health marketing for healthcare systems is necessary because the healthcare industry is ever-evolving. New businesses, products, and services are being created to provide innovative preventative health measures and to foster the overall general health of patients. Since healthcare is changing constantly, new forms of communication, creativity, and enthusiasm will need to be displayed to continue to reach an evolving patient base. Health marketing will not only attract patients, but healthcare professionals and organizations can also market their brand to interested potential employees who want to work for them. However, before delving into marketing strategies as a typical business would, those in the medical field will need to understand why a strong level of ethical integrity is needed in marketing to remain compliant with privacy regulations and protect their existing patients.
The Ethics of Healthcare Marketing
The major distinction between health marketing and traditional marketing for most other industries is that of an ethical matter. Where other businesses may use customer data to pinpoint customer needs and desire to create a targeted marketing campaign, healthcare professionals will have to be extremely careful and diligent with their data. HIPAA's five main rules are enacted to protect a patient's personal health information (PHI). The Enforcement Rule has increased penalties for a variety of violations concerning a person's personal health information. One of the areas monitored for covered entities and business associates is the creation of new privacy requirements and accounting disclosure requirements and restrictions on sales and marketing. This means that any protected health information will require individual authorization for all uses or disclosures for marketing purposes with limited exceptions. It is not only unethical if you do not have the expressed authorization and consent of a patient to use their information for marketing purposes you will violate HIPPA rules. Any healthcare business will need to provide training courses to staff per HIPAA rules to avoid massive fines and potentially ruin its image eroding the trust of its patients and developing a distrust for future ones. Those in healthcare will need to be trained and certified in a variety of HIPAA compliance fields, including caregivers as well as any professional or business staff. In particular, HIPAA training for business associates on what violates the Enforcement Rule, and any business liabilities related to HIPAA compliance is critical before setting out on a health marketing campaign. Only then can you start deploying health marketing strategies that adhere to HIPPA guidelines.
Essential Healthcare Marketing Strategies
If you have healthcare professionals who are well-versed in HIPAA regulations, successful marketing strategies can begin to be enacted. These strategies will be much the same as other industries, but with the protection of personal health information at the forefront of any detail released about patients. Consider incorporating the following strategies for a strong health marketing campaign.
Unify Your Branding
At its core, successful marketing is being able to communicate what you can do for your target audience that other businesses can't. Finding out what sets you apart from competing businesses excellent customer service, superior products, or affordable and convenient services will need to be expressed in a variety of ways to reach your customers. To many, healthcare services, products, and businesses look the same. Let your patient and/or customer base know why your company is different, and convey this message on a variety of marketing channels to attract and retain business.
Create an Online Presence
Digital marketing is a foundational facet of establishing your brand and showcasing your products and services. Having an online presence via a website and social media can let visitors and potential customers know where your business is located, provide contact information, and will keep them fresh to the goings-on of your company. For instance, a hospital may highlight that they have an effective telehealth program. If this is what sets you apart from your competitors, it will benefit you to make a social media post to your audience and provide information on how to sign up for telehealth services on your website. It is important to note with digital devices comes a new level of personal health information protection. Understanding the HIPAA guidelines of effective protocols concerning mobile devices will help keep your business and patients safe if you are texting or communicating through these channels.
Check in with Current & Former Patients
Lots of people will want to know what to expect from a business before they give them their money. Especially for healthcare, patients want to know the quality of treatment they will be receiving before they give your business a chance. Testimonials from previous and existing patients is a great way to communicate that you can provide excellent care to other patients as well. Ask for reviews, feedback, and testimonials from patients to understand what you are doing well and where you can improve. Be sure to have their expressed consent when sharing online to stay within HIPAA privacy guidelines. Many times, patients will write online reviews for you to share with your audience via social media and your website to help potential customers decide on choosing your business for their healthcare needs.
Don't Forget Traditional Marketing
While digital marketing may have become extremely popular for its ability to reach a large audience, traditional marketing strategies should not be ignored. To maximize your marketing reach, consider including the following traditional marketing methods for a well-rounded campaign:
- Postal mail;
- Informational brochures;
- Newspaper and magazine print ads;
- Events and tradeshow;
- Television advertisements.
Not only will these marketing methods help attract new customers, but they will also keep your brand in front of the eyes of potential employees and business partners as well.
Build a Referral Network
Referrals from customers are a great way to get business, however, you can extend your marketing when banding together with other organizations as part of a referral network. A referral network is when an agreement is made for a group of closely-related organizations that will point their customers to each others' businesses if it is applicable. For example, a car dealership may have an agreement with a certain insurance company that, whenever a person purchases a car, the dealership will refer the customer to said insurer as it is the logical next step. If you are a surgeon, it may be a good idea to hand out your business card and other contact details to a general health clinic in case a patient of that clinic finds that they need an operation in the future. Health marketing is similar to the marketing of any other industry. Just make sure that the protection of personal health information is considered through each marketing strategy for your business. Keeping HIPAA regulations in mind, healthcare professionals can take advantage of many of the same marketing techniques as other, successful campaigns.