Healthcare marketing has its own unique challenges, and opportunities.

On the one hand, patients have more options than ever before in selecting how and where they receive their healthcare, and are taking a more active role in their own healthcare, and selecting their provider than ever before.

On the other hand, the unique realities of the doctor-patient relationship, geographical restrictions, insurance coverage and cost all play an outsized role in how patients receive care.

At the same time, digital tools are transforming how patients select healthcare providers, and how marketers can reach those patients. But those digital tools are subject to stricter privacy regulations and limitations than ever before.

With those challenges and opportunities in mind, we’ve collected 8 marketing strategies that will work for medical facilities, hospitals, medical groups and providers looking to attract patients in 2023.

1. Treat Patients as Consumers

Patients have more options, and more power than ever before when it comes to making choices about where, how and from whom they get their healthcare.

Many patients are willing to research facilities and medical providers, and make informed decisions about who they see, and where they see them. Patients with specific needs are often willing to travel long distances to see a physician they feel will give them the best care.

There are many ways to reach these patients, but the foundation of any successful healthcare marketing strategy in 2023 should be recognizing that patients are consumers with options, and treating them that way.

Healthcare marketing executives need to teach their teams and agency partners that patients don’t just come to a facility or provider by default, they need to be courted.

2. Take Digital Patient Privacy Seriously

Anyone who’s ever dealt with HIPAA compliance knows that it’s a complex set of regulations that can be difficult to follow. For many years, it wasn’t fully clear how HIPAA regulations affected digital advertising tracking technologies like Google Analytics, or Facebook’s Pixel-Based Tracking.

Then, Facebook’s parent Meta got named in a class-action lawsuit filed by a John Doe on behalf of “millions of other Americans whose medical privacy has been violated by Facebook’s Pixel.” Other lawsuits followed, and finally the HHS issued guidance on the use of trackers like Google Analytics and Facebook’s pixel.

However, even this guidance is complex.

Can healthcare providers use tools like Facebook’s Pixel and Google Analytics in a HIPAA-compliant way? Probably, with careful configuration and judicious use. But many providers are choosing to remove these technologies from their sites altogether in favor of analytics and tracking tools that definitely are compliant, like self-hosted analytics solutions or tools like Freshpaint that de-identify user data before sharing it with analytics tracking tools.

3. Highlight Your Providers as People

Your patients don’t need to know or care that Dr. Smith attends stamp-collecting conferences on the weekends and prefers rye toast. However, they do value the opportunity to create a personal connection with their providers.

A recent Healthgrades study found that even in the age of Dr. Google, 82% of men say they trust their primary care doctor, 89% feel confident communicating with them and 87% of them feel that their doctor takes their opinions seriously.

In short, patients tend to like their providers, and marketers can use that to their advantage.

Think campaigns that don’t just say, “We have great heart surgeons,” but instead say, “This is Dr. Smith, and he’s just one of our great heart surgeons!”

4. Pay Attention to Reviews

What percentage, would you guess, of patients read reviews of providers and facilities before making an appointment?

A third? Half?

The data says as many as many as 81% of patients in some demographics read reviews before choosing a healthcare provider, and 70% say that reviews are between “somewhat” and” very” important in choosing the provider they choose.

If you’re not paying attention to, responding to and encouraging patient reviews online, you’re missing out on a tremendous opportunity.

5. Speak to Patient Needs, not Facility Accomplishments

What are the two most common “fallbacks” for healthcare campaigns?

Trumpeting awards and ratings
Bragging about fancy new equipment.

Hospital boards and administrators love these two topics, and think they’re the golden ticket to successful marketing campaigns.

Here’s a spoiler your board and C-Suite needs to hear: patients don’t care about how many Magnet Awards, or “U.S. News Top X” ratings you’ve received. They also probably don’t care about your new surgery robot, or advanced imaging center.

But if these things aren’t important to patients, what are?

There are a range of surveys that look into this question, and the answers include:

  • Compassion (85%)
  • Being Knowledgeable (85%)
  • Trust (64%)
  • Reviews from Other Patients (71-81%)
  • Being a Good Listener (67%)

Once you know what patients are actually looking for, you can create campaigns and messaging that speaks to those needs.

6. Tell Patient Stories

The human aspect of healthcare is important not just in providers, but in fellow patients as well. Diseases and health conditions can be frightening, and stories from other patients experiencing the same things can go a long way towards making connections.

Campaigns like NewYork Presbyterian’s “Patient Stories” or Mayo Clinic’s “Sharing Mayo Clinic” platform showcase how patients sharing their experience can be one of the most powerful tools for forging connections with a community and driving engagement.

7. Encourage

Healthcare providers should be positioning themselves not just as someplace you go to when things go wrong, but a source of lifelong health habits that prevent things from going wrong.

This is essentially the old “ounce of prevention” adage.

Kaiser Permanente’s “Thrive” campaign has been doing this for more than a decade.

In doing so, they’ve presented themselves as a partner for health through their patient’s lives.

8. Simplify Digital Integration

This one goes beyond pure marketing into overall patient experience, but successful marketers already know how important “going beyond” can be.

How difficult or easy is the process of making an appointment at your facility? Can it be done online? Does it require a phone call? Multiple phone calls?

Consumers are used to being able to do things simply, quickly and easily. They don’t expect to have to make a phone call, wait for a call back and interact with several different (and often complex) systems to just get an appointment on their calendars.

Work closely with your internal teams across departments to make sure the process of converting potential patients into “people with an appointment” is as easy, and painless as possible.

Marketing to healthcare consumers in 2023 is complex, but also full of opportunity. By approaching your campaigns from the perspective of patients, and taking their needs seriously, you can absolutely be successful. If you’re looking for an agency partner with healthcare marketing experience, we’d be happy to talk. Just reach out.

Ready to Talk Shop?