While everyone in digital marketing experienced changes in 2020, the healthcare industry undoubtedly evolved the most. The COVID-19 pandemic has forced the healthcare industry into the limelight, and healthcare digital marketing trends in 2021 will be very different from pre-pandemic trends.
Even after the pandemic, the new patient-centric technologies and processes that are evolving during COVID-19 will continue to play a significant role in the future of healthcare.
Therefore, it’s more important than ever to stay at the forefront of current digital marketing trends.
Here are a few of the major healthcare digital marketing trends you need to pay attention to in 2021 and beyond.
Strengthen Brand/Content Credibility
The sheer volume of attention COVID-19 has received makes it an easy target for fake news and misinformation.
Therefore, patients are becoming increasingly concerned about the credibility of the medical information they read, and it’s more important than ever to prove your brand’s credibility.
In addition to winning patient trust, improving your brand’s credibility and its content can also help increase your search visibility in Google.
Even before COVID-19 hit, Google had E-A-T guidelines (Expertise, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness) in place. Essentially, this is how Google weeds out fake news and shows only quality, research-based information.
Often referred to as the “medic update,” websites following E-A-T guidelines would receive preferential treatment for medical-related search queries.
Now, it’s more important than ever before to follow these guidelines and use credible data to support claims.
So how can you improve the credibility of your brand?
Interview Medical Professionals or Fact Check Content
The first step to ensuring content credibility is to have all of your messaging (particularly blog post content) fact-checked or created by licensed medical professionals.
Here’s an example of what that looks like:
In fact, Medical News Today even includes a pop-up stating that it fact checks all content.
If possible, have your health professionals write it themselves. This is how Levels Health approached their content strategy. Not only did it improve the credibility of their brand, but it also dramatically increased their traffic from zero to 10,000 plus unique visitors as it discussed relevant patient pain points and met E-A-T guidelines.
Include Data From Credible Sources
Whenever you make a statement or claim, be sure to support it with proof from a credible study.
However, check that the study you reference is indeed credible as some fake news websites will create fake studies as well.
More Personalized Media
Another trend that will continue to grow in the healthcare industry is more personalized media content.
For example, while blog posts will continue to be a large aspect of search content, healthcare professionals are realizing that their patients enjoy connecting on a more personalized level through podcasting, live streaming, and webinars.
In fact, the podcast industry is growing exponentially, with about 68 million people listening to podcasts weekly.
Mount Sinai has a great example of a thriving podcast with a loyal and dedicated audience and hundreds of reviews.
Another personalized form of media that has seen great success in the healthcare industry is live streaming.
Live streaming connects you with your patients on a more personalized level as they can speak directly with doctors through the comments section from the safety of their home. Hartford Health is a great example of healthcare institutions that are doing live streaming effectively.
If you record your live streams, you can also relaunch them as webinars. This is the strategy that University Hospitals’ health system has taken, and it’s worked out very well.
Their CMO, Ted Keegan, says, “The interest and participation have been remarkable. We’ve learned how to reach more people faster with targeted information and interactions while showcasing the depth of clinical expertise within our health system.”
Even if you don’t have the budget for a fancy recording studio, you can start a podcast for under $100. Just purchase a quality microphone and have your doctors address a pressing topic.
From there, you can repurpose it on social media.
Leverage Live Streaming
Live streaming is a little bit more involved as it requires a quality camera as well, but it’s useful as your team can repurpose it into webinars, social media content, and more.
Start by purchasing some quality equipment and then have your medical professionals record a session. Have someone on your team monitor the comments to delete aggressive comments and relay fan questions to the doctors.
You can choose to simulcast (going live on multiple platforms like Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, etc.) to get the most reach. A tool like Castr can do this for you.
You can also use a service like Repurpose House to chop up the live stream into bite-size pieces for social media.
Improving a Remote Patient Experience
The next digital marketing trend you’ll see in 2021 is an elevated patient experience. Previously, if a patient had a question or wanted to know more about your services and procedures, they would schedule an appointment and come into the clinic.
However, with COVID-19 restrictions, most people prefer to find answers to their questions online. In addition, any payment or patient portal issues that were easily resolved at the front desk must now be resolved by the patients themselves.
This can be frustrating for patients who are less than tech-savvy and may be a dealbreaker for healthcare facilities with poor experiences.
Therefore, not only is it important to have an easy-to-use portal, but it’s also essential to have representatives available online to chat or pick up the phone.
Ask them for feedback on your current patient portals. Were they able to easily find what they were looking for? If they can’t find what they are looking for, what is it that they can’t find?
You can do this with a pop-up survey within the portal or in an email.
Add Chat Options
Make it easy for people to ask questions with a chat option in the patient portal. While you can use a bot for simple questions, try to have a few support people available online to help if the bot is unable to help them.
For example, Snap Engage offers a HIPAA compliant chat solution for healthcare companies.
One of the best ways to see how patients become stuck is by installing heatmaps to see their movements.
Here’s an example of the Hotjar heatmap.
Many of these heatmaps also include question boxes. You can ask customers if they found what they are looking for or how you can better assist them.
Promoting Contactless Care Options
Contactless care is becoming an increasingly popular solution that many patients now find convenient.
Telemedicine grew by 50% in the first quarter of 2020. In addition, there was a 154% increase in visits noted in week 13 in 2020, compared with the same period in 2019. Experts predict that telemedicine will continue to grow even after the pandemic as it’s a much more efficient method.
Wearable technology is also becoming increasingly popular, particularly among nursing homes. For example, nurses can monitor their patient’s glucose levels, blood pressure, body position, and physical activity remotely to reduce hospital checkups and improve the patient’s experience.
However, these options are still relatively new, and many patients won’t know that you offer them.
In addition, these devices give you access to an entirely new audience.
As Paul King, the CEO of Stanford Children’s Health, puts it, “We’re here in Silicon Valley, we have some competitors regionally, but we’ve never thought of Boston or Philadelphia or Chicago or Miami being our competitors. Now, those providers are all just a click away. And alternatively, we’re just a click away from their market too.”
Therefore, you need to make your new solutions easy to find for both your current patients and new potential patients.
Create New Pages For Services
It’s important that you now show up for a host of keywords like “Cardiologist Telehealth” and “OBGYN online.”
Therefore, create a separate page for each of your new services to target these keywords.
Here’s an example of a telehealth page for OB/GYN.
Run Ads For These Services
Once you have these pages up and running, run ads to them to gain some initial traction and links. This will allow your page to earn rankings early before other clinics jump on the trend.
Monitor Program Success
Once you have a program up and running, there will definitely be some bumps along the way, and you’ll have to perfect it. Therefore, continue to collaborate with doctors and survey patients as they use the service.
This will give you a better idea of the main pain points with the service to improve it and better position your messaging on the service page.
Content Will Shift to Address New Searches
Traditionally, healthcare companies created content to target core keywords like “physical therapy exercises for the gym.”
However, now that content may have to shift to address topics like “home exercises for after knee replacement.”
Therefore, while you may see that some keywords have decreased in volume, there are other opportunities that you can find with plenty of search volume.
Analyze What is Currently Working
The first step to shifting your content is to look at what is currently popular. Note that this means you’ll probably have to step away from keyword research as most keyword tools won’t have popular topics in their databases yet, given that many of these topics are very recent.
Therefore, while most people turn to their competitor’s blogs for this, I would instead urge you to use a tool like SparkToro and analyze podcasts, industry publications, and YouTube channels that are currently popular in your niche.
This is because most of your competitors probably do keyword research only content and generally don’t have the same level of quality (or audience size) as industry publications and channels.
In particular, I would encourage you to look at YouTube channels in your niche as you can see which topics are popular based on the number of likes and comments a video has.
For example, here’s a fairly popular video that could be a great blog topic idea:
Consider browsing through to see which ones are most popular and use the search bar to include words like “home.”
Find New Searches
You can also use Google Trends (a free tool) to see what search queries are becoming popular. The only problem with that is you have to come up with the keywords yourself.
Therefore, an exciting new tool that will serve you better is the Google Question Hub. This tool allows you to see questions people are typing into Google that haven’t been answered by the content currently available.
While not all of them will be relevant, some of them will be gold.
Create a New List of FAQs
Finally, (and perhaps the best idea) is to do fresh customer research and create a new FAQ list. Specifically, look at common questions in chat and see how they have changed. For example, are they asking about home screening test options?
You can also ask doctors how they treat patients differently now with the pandemic (for example, recommending certain high-risk patients to stay home and the online/home treatment regimes they recommend).
Readjusting Messaging For Existing Patients
Another marketing trend that will continue into 2021 is shifting the message that healthcare facilities send their patients.
For example, before the pandemic, patients would go to a hospital or clinic if they felt something was wrong.
However, in the early days of the pandemic, patients were encouraged to stay home unless they were suffering from a serious ailment. Unfortunately, this has led to many patients putting off treatment for serious illnesses that require immediate attention.
Kelly Jo Golson, the CMO of Advocate Aurora Health, says, “There are countless stories of people delaying urgent or necessary follow-up care, and it’s having a negative impact on their health and well-being. We really want to offer some reassurance and get that message to folks that it’s safe to come back to our campuses when they’re in need.”
In addition, this is also hurting the bottom line of healthcare institutions. While some people may believe that healthcare institutions are currently swamped with patients, you might have noticed a decline in patient volume.
Therefore, healthcare marketers must change their messaging to make people feel safe going to healthcare facilities.
Tell Pateints About Safety Measures
Use content marketing to inform patients about maximum capacity limits, sanitation routines, and other current operating procedures. You may also offer face masks to patients.
By informing them about current safety measures on your website, they will feel more at ease coming into your clinic.
Define Essential Treatments
Another key to increasing patient volume is communicating what issues/surgeries can be delayed and what ailments must receive medical attention immediately.
Talk to your doctors and create a quiz, checklist, or blog post, depending on the range of conditions you treat.
Emergence of Free Tools
As healthcare professionals adapt to a new normal, another digital marketing trend that will continue to rise in 2021 is the emergence of free tools.
A number of marketing experts have claimed free tools and product lead growth is the way of the future, and Neil Patel is a great example. He acquired Ubersuggest in 2017 (a free SEO tool) for six figures and later gave it away for free. However, it dramatically increased the traffic to his website.
While you don’t need to spend six figures to purchase a robust tool, you can create a free tool for people to use online.
For example, it could be as simple as a free quiz for self-diagnosis.
Anne Robertson, the assistant VP of marketing at Intermountain Healthcare, says, “We pivoted much of our digital advertising to direct the public to a free COVID-19 symptom checker that has provided guidance to more than 200,000 unique users.”
This helped them increase telehealth visits from 7,000 in March to 63,000 in April of 2020.
GE Healthcare also recently launched an AI suite to detect COVID abnormalities remotely. It has also generated a lot of positive feedback.
Create a free tool or quiz
Even if you don’t have a large budget, you can create a free tool or quiz.
Improving Digital Security
The FBI, HHS, and other oganizations have warned hospitals and other healthcare institutions that the buzz around COVID-19 has made them a prime target for cyberattacks.
Cyberattacks detrimental to your patients, as they can steal records, payment information and other sensitive data. However, cyberattacks can also destroy your brand image and other marketing efforts like SEO.
Universal Health Systems is a perfect example of this. With nearly 400 different locations, they suffered perhaps the largest cyberattack in United States history and their rankings have suffered from it.
As you can see, they previously lost a significant number of keywords.
Therefore, it’s more important than ever before to ensure that you have safety precautions in place.
Revisit Your Hosting Plan
The hosting provider you work with has a huge impact on the security of your website. They control the security of your website’s server and often handle backups. If your website does go down, they are also responsible for site restoration.
Therefore, if you have a good, responsive host, it will be restored quickly, though if your hosting provider is unresponsive or slow, your patients may not be able to access their portal.
Regularly Update Your Operating System
Another key to ensuring quality security is continuously updating your operating system. Most cyberattacks are made through dated operating systems that can easily be prevented with an update.
Operate With Compliant Vendors
Another essential aspect of cybersecurity is to partner with insurance companies and other providers with a spotless security history. If your partner’s data is breached, your patient’s information will be compromised and the blame will ultimately fall on your brand.
Finally and perhaps most importantly is to educate your employees on the importance of cybersecurity. Working in a remote environment, it’s tempting to just email a password, though this puts the entire organization at risk. Specifically, be sure that employees:
- Use strong passwords
- Never open suspicious emails
- Never send emails/passwords via email
- Always password protect devices in the event it is stolen
Align Your Team
While sales, marketing, and doctors previously knew the generic approach that each team took, the rapid changes of 2021 make it more important than ever before to align goals.
For example, the sales team might notice that patients are hesitant to sign up for telemedicine because of security concerns. Therefore, the marketing team should create a blog post detailing your organization’s security measures to protect patient privacy.
Doctors may also discover common patient challenges during consultations that could be addressed with the marketing department.
In addition, if the marketing department works remotely, it’s more essential than ever to establish clear communication with the rest of your team to stay aligned.
Meet Weekly to Discuss Common Patient Pain Poins
Set a time once per week for team leaders to discuss patient pain points. This will help align messaging and resolve any current patient pain points.
Therefore, ask team leads to keep a list of any issues that arise during the week, and mention these matters on the call.
Use a Faster Communication Channel
If all of your communication is conducted over email, your organization will not be aligned in a remote-first world. Instead, consider investing in a communication channel like Slack for faster responses and less confusion.
While healthcare digital marketing will continue to use many of the same tactics and strategies, the real change will be the shift in messaging. It’s more important than ever before to put the needs of the patient first and healthcare companies must learn to adopt new communication channels to do so.
Start implementing these strategies today to establish your healthcare organization as an industry leader and trustworthy source.