We do a lot of work in the healthcare industry. It’s a fun and exciting space that’s changing very fast. Whether you’re a large regional hospital system or a local dental practice, marketing is quickly becoming the key player. In fact, I’d venture to say that it will be THE defining factor for the future of healthcare. Here’s why:


1. Mass managed care vs. privatized fee-for-service

Here’s what the Affordable Care Act did: it created a gap between mass managed care and privatized, fee-for-service healthcare. That gap will only continue to widen in the decades to come. We already see this in other countries where this type of system has played out. Look at Europe. At one end of the spectrum, you have affordable, government regulated healthcare for the masses and at the other end, you have high-end, specialized, concierge-style, private practices.

Which is better you ask? Neither. It completely depends on your model and philosophy of care.

Can money be made in both? Absolutely. Are the rules the same for both? No way.

As this gap widens and large portions of Americans look to specialized, fee-for service practices to get the very best treatment possible, the key difference will be marketing. How will they know you exist? How will they know that you’re the best?


2. Create compelling stories that connect with consumers

Look, healthcare is a complex system. It’s going to take time and simplicity (and money) to tell a story that connects with patients. Long-term loyalty starts with an emotional bond. No way around it.

In case you hadn’t noticed, the days of one local hospital in your part of town are gone. Today there are five, six, seven healthcare options. You have large, regional hospital systems, specialized university medical centers and local clinics that are all competing for your loyalty. A few years ago, Walgreens opened their local “Take Care” clinics all over the country. What began as a primary care approach (flu shots and antibiotics) is evolving into managing chronic conditions like hypertension, diabetes and high cholesterol.

The ones who will rise to the top are those who can connect with consumers on an emotional level. But honestly, what better place to tell a story than healthcare? Saving and bettering lives should be the easiest story to tell… right?

The Ohio State University’s James Cancer Hospital in Columbus, Ohio has been developing great stories for years. “There’s no such thing as a routine mammogram,” and “Don’t just get a mammogram, get a James mammogram” have been memorable campaigns establishing them as a clear leader in central Ohio.


3. Use service lines to expand the brand

Service lines are a valuable tool to expand the brand into complimentary markets. Medical service lines include things like a cardiac care wing at a large, regional hospital system or emergency rooms offering shorter wait times. Dental service lines would be dental implants, same-day crowns or orthodontic options for patients.

Service lines validate and extend the brand, but let’s be clear, they are not THE brand. Let me back up and say it like this; be the trusted brand first. Then be the ER with the shortest wait time or the low-cost, orthodontic expert.

The best marketing tip here is to use landing pages to spotlight your service lines and widen your digital presence. Landing page are optimized for online search and will help convert pre-educated patients. Once those are in place, you can coordinate campaigns involving direct mail, AdWords, email and text to increase your exposure.


4. Mobile First

The chances are, the majority of the population in your area are accessing websites on mobile devices. That statistic flipped sometime in 2012. Mobile users now out number desktop users. We see it all the time in the analytics we measure. I’d guess the percentage of patients looking at sites on mobile devices is somewhere between 58% — 64%. So we can no longer talk about designing websites for a desktop (or laptop). Those days are over. We have to think in terms of mobile.

The biggest factor between desktop and mobile is how we navigate a site. On a desktop, we click a mouse. On a tablet, we scroll. That creates huge differences in the way sites are designed. “Responsive” design allows us to adjust sites for each device and rearrange content to optimize the experience. Make sure to have this conversation with your website company.

77% of Americans say they use search engines when looking for healthcare information and 40% say that social media effects their decisions. Yet we see less than 25% of practices on social media and even less use it to actively engage patients.

The statistics will only get more and more compelling. Make sure your online presence is designed around mobile.

The ones who will rise to the top are those who can connect with consumers on an emotional level. But honestly, what better place to tell a story than healthcare? Saving and bettering lives should be the easiest story to tell… right?


5. Consumers are looking for leadership

Thanks to the internet, healthcare diagnosis is flattening. I’ll have a conversation with my mother by phone one evening and the next day I’ll have online articles in my email from her. She’s diagnosing me and it’s not just her. Consumers are self-educating. They’re researching and most are walking into appointments with a list of items to discuss.

We’re witnessing the landscape change before our very eyes. Patients are no longer looking for a quick diagnosis and script. They want to be included in the conversation. They’re looking for a trusted advisor. They’re looking for a lighthouse.

As dissatisfaction in healthcare continues to increase and is debated politically all over cable television, it will become more important to establish leadership. Practices must realize that they are no longer selling preventative services and care. The ones that succeed will be the one who sell trust and confidence.

What does healthcare look like in the next ten years? With the recent rapid changes, it’s hard to tell, but I’d bet that these trends continue to shape and create the market for years to come.