For the healthcare industry, the new normal never arrived. The industry has forever been altered, and the last two years have been a race to adapt and accelerate digital transformations. The post-pandemic recovery has been fraught with provider and staffing shortages. Now, an economic downturn seems unavoidable. So, what does this mean for the healthcare industry, and how should you pivot your marketing strategy? Here are the top healthcare marketing trends to keep in mind for 2023:
Table of Contents
- 1. Multi-location Brands Need Scalable Web Platforms for Growth
- 2. Patient-centric Content Is a Must
- 3. Website User Experience Remains Paramount
- 4. Personalization Will Be the Gold Standard
- 5. Economic Uncertainty Impacts Marketing Strategy & Investments
- 6. Recruitment Marketing Captures Greater Budget Share
- 7. Healthcare’s Digital Transformation Continues
- Conclusion: A Better Web for Healthcare Consumers
1. Multi-location Brands Need Scalable Web Platforms for Growth
Healthcare’s demonstrated resilience in the last several quarters has made it an attractive investment, and private equity healthcare deal volume in 2022 was still high, maintaining the momentum from a record 126 deals in 2021 with a disclosed deal value of $38.5 billion. Healthcare returns are expected to remain strong, and investors should continue exploring how best to deploy capital in the space through 2023.
An increasing number of managed services organizations (MSOs) or platforms were launched in 2022, and this trend seems to be continuing into 2023. Much of this momentum stems from the value MSOs bring to how both private equity firms and independent physician groups acquire practices, scale their services, and optimize operational efficiencies.
These platforms will need scalable websites and efficient marketing strategies to support growth targets and revenue goals. Fragmented websites, disjointed marketing tech stacks, and outdated marketing strategies will stunt growth and reduce returns. A centralized digital strategy that connects all brands will produce the most efficiency.
In 2023, expect to see more private equity firms and their healthcare portfolio groups to build centralized digital marketing platforms and strategies to achieve patient acquisition goals.
Read “How to Build A Scalable MSO Marketing Strategy” to get our proven playbook for building a scalable digital marketing foundation for new platforms.
2. Patient-centric Content Is a Must
Google rolled out its latest helpful content update in August 2022. It has had a big impact on several industries, including healthcare. While previous updates have focused on useless, dangerous, or spam content, this recent update placed a far stricter requirement on content quality and authenticity, with the goal being to make digital content more relevant and helpful to humans. This is a sitewide update, meaning if one page is spammy, it can impact your site at large.
In the few months since the rollout, we’ve already seen an impact on healthcare groups as a result of these new priorities from Google. The good news is that healthcare groups could significantly benefit from this update if they follow Google’s recommendations. But what does this mean exactly in practice?
Healthcare service providers need a robust full-funnel content strategy to answer consumers’ questions at the top (TOF) and middle of the funnel (MOF). To optimize their approach, healthcare groups can do the following:
- Develop content that directly answers the core questions that patients are asking at each stage of the patient journey.
- Build a comfortable UI and prioritize the mobile experience so it’s easy for users to scan and find answers quickly.
- Create thorough content that answers as many relevant questions in one piece as possible.
- Focus on evergreen content that follows the fundamentals of SEO. This strategy tends to be algo-proof and provides the best user experience.
Again, while this is a significant change that will continue to impact healthcare entities into 2023, taking the right, patient-centric approach to content should result in gains for the space in the long term.
3. Website User Experience Remains Paramount
We said it last year, and we’ll say it again—website UX should be at the top of your list of priorities for 2023. Why? Google wants good user experiences and so do your patients. Google’s requirements and your patients’ needs are closely aligned, too. Both want to find information quickly, and part and parcel of that is: a) getting your site architecture right and b) making sure that your site includes robust, in-depth content that answers patient questions directly.
Always adhere to the Google mantra for content: E-A-T, or Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness.
That means generating original, up-to-date, and highly relevant content. Remember, too, that your IRL interactions have an impact via third-party rating sites. Always be transparent in your content, as well, making sure to disclose how it’s created and from where you are sourcing it.
How can you optimize your website UX? We recently shared our 7 Essential Principles for Optimizing Your Website for Search, which you can use for a deep dive into the topic. The following are just some of the best practices you’ll want to adhere to with your website UX:
- Keep things organized. Neither Google nor your patient wants to spend a lot of time searching for what they need. Keep the menus and structure of your site clean and in order.
- Keep key content discoverable. Clicking 4 or 5 times to get to what you want is almost a perfect formula for encouraging a visitor to drop off. Make sure that all of your recent and relevant content is discoverable and within easy reach.
- Keep your site unique. You want your site visitors to have a differentiated experience when visiting your site. Consider what distinguishes you from competitors and weave this into messaging, voice, tone, etc.
- Keep a site linkable. If you are generating top-grade content, you’ve completed step one. You will also want to evaluate links on your pages and undertake link-building campaigns if you haven’t already.
As we pointed out last year, healthcare organizations need to view a website as the digital face of their organization. As 2023 approaches, organizations should recommit to retooling their sites to focus on patient needs:
Remember that your homepage is your first impression. All messaging and design elements should align with the impression you want to make on patients. Clearly communicate your unique value proposition and provide UX components that funnel your visitors towards conversion.
Create buyer personas and use these to map patient journeys. Unfortunately, there is no way to create a completely customized digital experience for every visitor. What you can do is use data to identify high-volume journeys and optimize your site to ensure they meet patients’ complete needs.
Leverage SEO metrics on your landing pages. Google offers great resources for identifying which pages and keywords are driving the most organic traffic to your site. Use this data to optimize the target URL to cater to the people using that search language, zero in on the intent behind a search, and answer that need with your landing page.
4. Personalization Will Be the Gold Standard
This is another trend with staying power in 2023. Personalization continues to be the gold standard. As Salesforce highlighted in a recent report, 92 percent of marketers believe their customers and prospects expect personalized experiences. With expectations that high, it’s not hard to imagine that patients will go elsewhere if they don’t get that bespoke experience.
What steps can you take to leverage personalization in 2023? While healthcare privacy laws always create some constrictions, there are still two approaches you can take to make this happen:
Geo-personalization is an easy way to personalize landing pages so that all the information a user sees is relevant to the location closest to them. People who are on the lookout for a new doctor are typically motivated by one thing— convenience. When you provide a page that is personalized to a patient’s location, they get immediate access to everything they need to convert, including:
- What providers are nearby
- Which providers are accepting new patients
- Services offered at that location
- Specifics on insurance, etc.
The added benefit is that geo-personalization does not violate HIPAA or patient privacy— always a key issue (and delicate balancing act) in healthcare marketing. It also reduces the number of steps to conversion, giving users all the information they need early on in their customer journey. With geo-personalization in the mix, you should see an increase in new patient acquisition. After all, with geo-personalization, you are removing some serious roadblocks to conversion.
Launch and Refine Your Patient Portals and/or Mobile Apps.
It’s one thing to build an email list based on protected personal health information. Once a person logs into a portal or mobile app, however, your options broaden considerably. Within those interfaces, you can display condition- or treatment-specific content or recommend certain services or appointments. You can also give patients direct access to their medical information and physicians. That must be part of the reason that more patients use patient portals than ever before. Personalize the patient experience by building patient portals that give direct access to their medical information and customized content resources.
Let Patients Choose Their Journey.
You don’t need personal health information to adapt content journeys to what specific patients want. For example, if you know that one of your web pages is getting a lot of organic search traffic for the keyword “breast augmentation in san diego,” you can tailor it to that particular journey. What kind of information would a person who used that search term and clicked through to your website need? How can you adapt the page to be a bit more personalized to this particular journey?
5. Economic Uncertainty Impacts Marketing Strategy & Investments
As the end of 2022 approaches, the tumultuous economic climate is beginning to impact some healthcare providers. We’re not economists, but all signs point to this continuing through the first half of 2023.
What will this mean for healthcare organizations navigating the tumult? High deductibles will continue to impact patient decision-making when it comes to receiving care, reducing some of the protections organizations typically have when consumer spending decreases. If and when we enter a recession, decreasing employment numbers will naturally lead to more uninsured patients. All of this means that consumer sensitivity to costs may increase, with many patients even deferring care.
As a result, some healthcare groups are reining in their marketing budgets. In our conversations with clients and contacts across the industry, we see a good deal of caution when it comes to 2023 planning. While many are still investing in growth, caution demands that they keep a close eye on budget and marketing performance over the next several months.
If you’re looking to maximize your advertising budget, read our article 6 Easy Google Ads Optimizations to Maximize Your Healthcare Budget.
6. Recruitment Marketing Captures Greater Budget Share
National staffing shortages continue to have a significant impact on the healthcare industry. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor, 1.5 million healthcare jobs were lost in the first months of the pandemic. Although those numbers have recovered somewhat, they still remain low, with the total number of healthcare workers down by 176,000 compared to the first quarter of 2020.
In this climate, healthcare groups won’t be able to expand their capacity or grow without a strong recruitment pipeline.
Patient experience and quality of care will suffer if you don’t build a culture of collaborative care. Healthcare brands must manage their brand reputation and develop a supportive employee culture if they want recruitment campaigns to work. Remember, providers and affiliated brands are as important as your patients.
Marketing is increasingly being tasked with supporting recruitment efforts and with good causes. Marketing initiatives can make some real headway in support of shaping your brand and communicating your company’s culture and employment perks.
One way in which marketing can impact recruiting is via digital PR. Well-positioned public relations in the digital space is one of the easiest ways to share the best aspects of your employee culture, spreading the word about just how much you value employee achievements, new hires, and programs that support your employees. Promoting your charitable giving and philanthropic activities, too, will add another layer of depth to your organization’s culture and make it that much more appealing to potential recruits.
Healthcare organizations in 2023 can also optimize the digital experience to support recruitment efforts. Here are a few ways marketing can help:
- Developing employee-centric recruitment pages on the website
- Conducting running conversion rate optimization testing to improve application rates
- Creating recruitment-specific media campaigns
- Managing reputation on platforms like LinkedIn, Glassdoor, and Indeed
- Sharing your culture on social platforms like LinkedIn and Facebook
7. Healthcare’s Digital Transformation Continues
It seems like ‘digital transformation’ has been the main topic of conversation for a while now in multiple industries— except for healthcare, that is. Let’s be honest, healthcare is an industry that has lagged behind in terms of digital advancements. Whether this stems from concerns around patient privacy or entrenched, analog workflows within organizations, technological adoption in healthcare has historically been low when compared to other sectors.
Consider this takeaway on the status of marketing technology from our recent healthcare marketing survey:
“… 47% still do not use a customer relationship management (CRM) solution. The same was true last year (46% did not use a CRM then). The complexities of integrating CRMs with EHRs and across multiple locations can be daunting, and it looks like many organizations still aren’t ready for the challenge.”
A one percent increase year-over-year could be described as a snail’s pace, but momentum is increasing, and it isn’t a moment too soon. Digital is not only the key to improving operational efficiency and producing outsized returns for investors but also the key to improving the quality of patient care and access.
Private equity investment and consolidation are fueling technology adoption. To improve efficiency and reduce redundancy, healthcare groups are investing in marketing and patient experience/access technologies, including:
- Centralized call centers
- Online appointment booking
- Centralized CRMs
- Live chat and chatbots
- Call tracking
- Review generation technology
These technologies can have a real impact on operations. Online booking via a website, for one, is one of the biggest ways that you can streamline operations. Administrative staff will be free from the phones for the first time, allowing them to focus on more critical goals and tasks.
For multi-location brands, centralized call centers provide an easier way to answer routine patient questions about insurance, hours of operation, etc. And, yes, the CRM referenced above can do a lot for operations, making it easier for stakeholders to access patient information, share information between patients and send reminder information as needed. An added bonus? The right CRM not only improves efficiency but also allows a marketing team to personalize patient experiences and improve patient retention.
Speaking of patients, healthcare consumers expect a digital experience, and that will continue in 2023. They are looking for transparent, proactive communication that helps them do what they need to do and do it quickly. According to a 2019 Patient Access Journey Report from Kyruus, 40 percent of people switched providers just to get an appointment sooner, while 46 percent of patients at urgent care cited “speed of access” as a trigger in their choice of care. With these numbers, it’s clear that digital transformation will continue to be essential in 2023.
Fortunately, the unbundling of EPIC is also making it easier for organizations to implement transformative technologies. Historically, EPIC implementation has meant a commitment of years, making it a lengthy and cost-prohibitive endeavor. With the increasing number of vendors targeting the EHR market and unbundling EPIC, healthcare groups can now more readily adopt technology that improves patient experience, access, and clinical workflow.
Conclusion: A Better Web for Healthcare Consumers
With healthcare slowly but surely engaging in digital transformation, 2023 will be all about creating an enhanced patient experience online and on mobile. With more information available to make more informed choices, patients will feel empowered, increasing loyalty and reducing instances of care aversion.
Inherent in all of the 2023 healthcare marketing trends listed above is a commitment to prioritize patients. Healthcare marketers who pursue patient-centric marketing strategies and build empathetic patient experiences will outperform their competitors.