9 Prescriptions for Digital Healthcare Marketing

Magazine ads. Bus benches. Talk radio. If these are the only media in your marketing arsenal, you’re missing a whole slew of potential patients.

People actively look for health information every day. But they’re not just flipping through magazines. More than 70 percent of internet users have gone online for health information.1 Most of these people start with a search engine like Google. They’re usually checking symptoms, researching treatments or reading doctor reviews.

This is a huge opportunity for healthcare organizations. If you become the source they trust for information, where do you think they’re going to turn when they need care?

Of course, the world of digital marketing is complex and ever-changing, but here are some tips to get you started.

1.  Be compliant. Obviously, HIPAA is a priority. Don’t share anything in your content that may lead to identifying a patient. So instead of saying, “One patient we saw experienced X,” say, “Some patients may experience X,” or “You may experience X.” To be safe, ask your legal department for some guidelines, and have them review any content you’re not sure of.

2.  Create content, not just ads. Rather than just promoting your practice or health system with banner ads (called “outbound marketing”), offer helpful, educational info they’re looking for (“inbound marketing” or “content marketing”). Content marketing costs 62 percent less than outbound marketing and generates more than 3 times as many leads.2 A blog is a great place to start; companies who blog receive 97 percent more links to their website.3 Video could be just as beneficial; landing pages with videos increase conversions by 86 percent.4

3.  Choose your social platforms carefully. Don’t try to be on every social media site there is; choose two or three where you can make the most impact. Where does your target audience spend the most time? Where do they go for information? To get you started: Facebook is still No. 1 with more than 2 billion users. And YouTube is the world’s No. 2 search engine after Google. Also, get creative with how you use the platform – for instance, give your audience a chance to connect with one of your specialists through a Facebook Live video stream or an “Ask Me Anything” (AMA) thread on the community discussion site Reddit.

4.  Maintain a great bedside manner. Make sure your online voice is as friendly as one you’d use face-to-face with a patient. Use personal pronouns like you’re writing to a real individual. So instead of, “Some patients may experience headaches,” say something like “You might have a headache.”

“More than 70 percent of internet users have gone online for health information.”

5.  Don’t forget content for caregivers. About 39 percent of U.S. adults cared for a loved one in the past year, and these caregivers tend to be heavy technology users,5 which means they are the ones searching for health information online. It can be hard to target them, because most don’t identify themselves as “caregivers” in their profiles. So just make sure to develop content tailored to them with topics like respite care, power of attorney, when to seek assisted living, or even “things not to say to a loved one with cancer.”

6.  Become a part of daily conversation. Try to integrate into their lives instead of interrupting their lives. For instance, follow relevant hashtags and provide your medical expertise when appropriate – for a hashtag about Zika, you could post tips for avoiding mosquito bites or recognizing symptoms. And don’t forget mobile: 52 percent of smartphone owners have used their phone to look up health or medical information,6 so try proximity marketing to serve up mobile ads to people in specific locations: for instance, promote weight loss tips to people at nearby gyms just after New Years, or promote free fans for State Fair visitors who stop by your booth.

7.  Boost your content. If you don’t spend ad dollars to promote at least some of your content, people may never see it. Link to that blog article on Facebook and spend some money to promote the post. Pay for an article to appear on the Yahoo home page as native advertising. If you’re investing money to produce an article, infographic or video, make sure you’re investing in its promotion, too.

8.  Offer free stuff. Targeted discounts are great – for instance, show an ad for an affordable heart scan to someone who has recently searched for symptoms of heart disease. If your billing system makes discounts too difficult, offer related items for free, such as massages, smoothies or pedometers.

9.  Track your results. You wouldn’t keep renewing a prescription without checking to see how it was affecting your patient; why would you continue a content strategy without tracking the results? You can use special landing pages and unique tracking phone numbers on ads and blog content to help determine which content is drawing people in.

This is just the beginning of a digital marketing strategy. The right agency can help you figure out the best ways to reach your audience.


  1. Pew Research Center
  2. Content Marketing Institute
  3. HubSpot
  4. Eyeview Digital
  5. Pew Research Center
  6. Pew Research Center

Tags: Healthcare, Pharmaceutical, Web & Digital, Video, PR & Social Media

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