Healthcare marketing is difficult enough for many clinicians, but digital healthcare marketing has become an elusive holy grail. One of the most heavily trafficked keywords on Google, “healthcare marketing,” has left many providers to fall prey to online directory services that can charge from $49 per month to $2500 per year for a digital profile or $10,000 for a simple website. Clinicians are in a bind, needing to develop digital healthcare marketing services to be attractive to healthcare referrals on the one hand while needing to meet consumer demand for patient engagement solutions on the other. In both circumstances, they are often at a loss to find an affordable and reliable vendor to engage for services. Often, such vendors can oversell naive providers on unnecessary bells and whistles. This article is focused on helping the busy clinician understand the demand for digital patient engagement tools to recruit and retain potential healthcare referrals or to retain existing clients and patients.
What Are The Best Digital Patient Engagement Tools To Used for Digital Healthcare Marketing?
Patients typically make healthcare access decisions after comparing provider profiles, according to data from Kyruus in partnership with Wakefield Research. The annual survey of 1,000 healthcare consumers, now in its sixth iteration, revealed key insights into patient preferences for digital and online presence. Patients want their healthcare providers and payers to be online, to offer online appointment scheduling, and to offer both virtual and in-person care access. Providers who deliver services based on surveys of patient preferences can expect to improve results of healthcare marketing efforts.
Their key Kyruus and Wakefield Research findings for 2022 include the following:
The Internet continues to be the most frequently used resource for consumer research year after year in this survey (61%). There’s no escaping the importance of being digitally available for potential new and existing patients.
Almost 80% of consumers used more than one online resource in their research process. This finding suggests that providers should allocate regular time to checking their profiles for appropriateness and accuracy or appoint someone from their office to attend to this critical need.
More than 40% of consumer respondents prefer to automatically book appointments online. Almost 1/3 indicated that the ability to schedule online is a factor when considering how they will choose care.
Many consumers prefer to use digital channels for pre-visit tasks. Such tasks include checking in, uploading their insurance cards, completing surveys, and engaging with healthcare providers. Packages of these digital services are also known as digital front doors. Almost 93% of survey respondents were extremely or very interested in using digital self-service for pre-visit tasks.
The previous Kyruus and Wakefield Research year’s findings (2021) had a slightly different yet potentially relevant focus that may be of interest to telehealth as well as brick-and-mortar practitioners who wish to grow their practices. Those findings included the following:
Online research plays a substantial role in searching for practitioners, services, and care sites. In response to a question about how responders find services and care sites, 58% said they researched online; 60% conducted general searches, 58% visited healthcare delivery organization websites, and 41% consulted health plan websites.
Provider selection considerations include cost, convenience, and clinical expertise: Through the five-year history of the Kyruus and Wakefield Research project, consumers have consistently been focused on price, convenience, and clinical expertise when choosing new providers. In this last survey report, insurance coverage (94% classifying extremely/very important), clinical expertise (87%), hospital or health system reputation (84%), and appointment availability (83%) again appeared in the top four search criteria selected.
More than half of insured consumers evaluate expected out-of-pocket costs: the 2021 Kyruus and Wakefield Research survey asked new questions to examine cost factors. The result was more information, including that among those with insurance, 94% consider cost-related data when choosing a provider or service; 75% look for confirmation that the provider/service is in-network, and over 50% look at estimating out-of-pocket costs based on their specific insurance plan, deductibles, etc.
Consumer preference for online scheduling has steadily increased over the past five years: Over 40% of consumers prefer to book appointments online – an increase of 15% compared to the 2017 survey. Although the telephone is still the top scheduling method, it has declined by 12% since 2017.
Finding the Right Patient Engagement Tools to Increase Digital Healthcare Referrals
Successfully leveraging patient engagement tools to enhance healthcare marketing for new healthcare referrals as well as retention of existing clients and patients requires new attitudes and skill sets. Unfortunately, eager providers can be easily oversold by freelancers who not only fail to deliver, but charge fees up front for services that are often minimally realized.
If increasing healthcare referrals and retention of patients is the issue, the above list can be used to start a shopping list.
The next step for the digitally competent healthcare professional seeking to market a telehealth or in-person practice would be to take professional practice development training focusing on what to do, how to do it, and hiring qualified digital marketing services.
As for where to find such vendors, see Telehealth.org’s no-cost Vendor Directory for well-known patient engagement service vendors. TIP: refrain from buying services that you don’t need right now. It is common for technology vendors to oversell their products. Stick to a shopping list.
Marketing consultation is also available from experienced healthcare professionals to compare and contrast vendors offering similar services.
Website Development for Providers
Readers interested in which website features to incorporate on simple provider websites are encouraged to start with HIPAA-compliant website requirements and expand from there. Focusing on HIPAA compliance as a patient engagement tool is also a good idea.
Marketing Your Telehealth Services: Successful, Legal & Ethical Online Strategies
This high-energy, HYBRID training workshop will give you step-by-step instructions for legally and ethically marketing your telehealth services. Taking a deep dive into five of the most successful digital marketing strategies available today, this program provides the nuts and bolts of developing your marketing plan to maximize opportunities for success with your online service delivery.