Podcast #6

The State of Healthcare Marketing in 2021

In the past year, the healthcare industry has experienced tremendous uncertainty and economic instability. Many questions remain on what the future of healthcare looks like and how marketers can connect with healthcare consumers. Our hosts dig into the State of Healthcare Marketing in 2021 survey results and discuss the digital marketing strategies that will help healthcare organizations bounce back in 2021.

Episode Highlights:

Lauren Leone

Lauren Leone: “Facebook is going to be most effective from a full-funnel approach. If you don’t have a high awareness of the product and the solution-aware audience already, Facebook is going to be effective because you have to let them know who you are, let them know what you have to offer.”

Related Resources

Announcer: Welcome to the Ignite Podcast. The only healthcare marketing podcast that digs into the digital strategies and tactics that help you accelerate growth each week. Cardinal’s experts explore innovative ways to build your digital presence and attract more patients. Buckle up for another episode of ignite.

Alex Membrillo: What’s up everybody. Welcome, welcome, welcome to Ignite. We’ve got our SVP of healthcare marketing Lauren Leoni, on the line with us. I’m really excited today. I think we produced our best piece of content ever of all time, 12 years in business. I think we put out more healthcare marketing content than anybody else than any other agency or client-side. I think this was the most important piece we put out. We released our 2021 healthcare marketing survey. Yes, a lot of people do surveys here every year. Yes, we do a survey every year.

However, with everything that changed in 2020 and going into this year, and we’ve got a lot of in-between we’re like in the upside-down still. What is it going to look like on the other side? We surveyed healthcare marketers, were pulled on this stuff and we got responses from plenty of them, lots of different sectors are predominantly healthcare markets. We also had CEOs of groups, COOs, we had some owners, some providers, some practice admin, small to big groups. We got the insights on how they feel patient volume is going to change. Lauren, and welcome to the show what’s going on?

Lauren Leone: Hi Alex. We certainly have out a ton of content, haven’t we? I’m excited about this one.

Alex: Yes, we have. All right, so some of the top findings, 37% of the people we pulled for our state of healthcare bargain survey said they were unsure if we would see business as usual this year. 14% said they did not expect a return to business as usual. Does that seem like we’re being pessimistic glowing or optimistic at 50%? Do think we’re getting back to normal?

Lauren: I don’t know, it’s interesting. I almost feel like I was a little bit surprised that the unsure was as low as it was. I mean, just what is the definition of business as usual? I don’t know. I don’t think you ever go back a hundred percent. I think the introduction of Telehealth and the way that companies had to innovate on this spot to keep their doors open and make sure that their patients got care, regardless of the situation.

I don’t know. I would think that’s 100% in terms of, are we going to be where we were in March of 2019? Opening doors, being able to see patients in person again, we’re getting there. I think most of our clients, if not all of them have at least 50% of their capacity back.

Alex: Maybe at least reduce and yes, I would hope our– and you’re right. Business as usual, and that’s probably more so what people were indicating. It won’t be business as usual because of the way I have to market to patients, the way I have to provide care, all of that has changed and it won’t go back and that’s okay. That’s a good thing because we’re able to care for more people in more ways than we ever would, accelerated that transition. Maybe it’s a good thing.

Lauren: Yes, when I say 50% it’s because maybe every other appointment, and also I had this personally going too. I had a baby during the pandemic and unnecessary check-ins were converted to Telehealth appointments and I was still able to get the care that I needed. When I needed to be in person, I was in person, so when I say 50% back to capacity in the office, it means maybe they’re still seeing the patient on a regular schedule, but they have a hybrid model.

Alex: Yes, I love it, and I noticed that too. I think there were a lot of the in-betweens. For me, I’ve got a therapist. Instead of going in every time, I found it really useful to do 30-minute calls. I get to walk around and have to look at a screen. I can think I can walk around my house. I can talk instead of sitting in a confined space, spending an hour, driving back and forth. I think this is good, we’re moving forward.

Top goals for this year, 81% increasing patient volume, 61% in building brand awareness. We polled a lot of hospital marketers. They are typically much higher on brand awareness than we saw this year. I guess it’s to get back to previous patient volumes. Is that what you’re thinking? Is that why the main priority out there is going to be to build patient volume back up?

Lauren: Yes. I mean, there’s been a fear of doing any unnecessary medical procedures for a long time. There’s a portion of the public that’s still unsure as to whether it’s safe to go back. I would expect from a hospital perspective, usually, you’re looking at, “I need to make sure my community knows that my kids are center, my women’s center is just as good as this accredited hospital down the road or in the area.” One thing that I was surprised to see here, I guess not surprised, but going into the pandemic, usually what we were striving towards with our clients is efficiency. Yes, the goal is always more patients but it’s more patients within the same dollar amount. It’s interesting now, it was how do I get a lower cost per acquisition and not so much just volume. Now I’m seeing a lot of clients are willing to push the boundary of what it means to get a patient in the door initially, because they need the volume to be able to keep the doors open to be in the green in terms of profitability, and then the efficiency will come probably into next year.

Alex: Sure hope so. I wonder if so inefficiency and all that stuff, these we pulled them on top marketing challenges, 41% said the inability to demonstrate ROI, 33% brand awareness, 25% visibility in local markets. The top thing everybody said, almost 50% inability to demonstrate ROI. We have some clients outside of healthcare, is this a health care issue because we’ve got HIPAA, it’s harder to connect the CRM and the BMS to marketing platforms. Is this what we see across all clients? What is the big driver here that’s making it tough to demonstrate ROI?

Lauren: I would say it’s amplified in healthcare because of things like HIPAA, and because of some of the systems. It is not a healthcare-only issue. Every industry, if you’re in the restaurant industry, if you’re in a service industry, you have some sort of vertical-specific system that you’re using. In healthcare, we’re talking about patient management systems or electronic health records.

Those systems and the companies that develop them are very black box and very closed off to integrations, sometimes for good reason and sometimes because they simply don’t have the bandwidth or aren’t investing the money in allowing integrations with CRMs and analytics tools. When you have no ability to input or output from those systems into a third party, you can’t close the loop.

Alex: Maybe that’s something hopefully. All of us marketers around the country, we’re pushing for that every day. Maybe we will get the HRs and stuff to realize that’s the next evolution for them as they’ve got to be able to play nice with the marketing platforms and CRMs. I think only one of the practices themselves, and hospitals themselves demand that ability from the HR and say that we won’t do business with you unless we’re able to track back our marketing performance. Maybe that will get some momentum. It stinks right now, though. It hasn’t been a priority.

Lauren: Those are bigger clients. Obviously requires funding there. They’re almost taking on the burden of developing the tech themselves. They are building their own booking engines, building their own ways to intake patients and interact with them, because everyone’s fed up with the fact that you have you’re beholden to a third party who is not going to allow you to have any flexibility.

Alex: Not fun. What digital marketing channel has proven most effective at attracting new patients. What do you think the survey said? Number one?

Lauren: A survey is gonna say Paid Search because it’s the most measurable?

Alex: Yes. What do you think it should say? What do you think is the most effective marketing channel for acquiring new patients?

Lauren: For immediate instant gratification, I need to know what is driving, Paid Search is always going to win. If you are not looking at more organic visibility, and looking at how you can owe these terms long term. A lot of changes in the paid world, the Google ad campaigns and Facebook campaigns as we know that today are changing because of, third-party cookies and iOS updates. As those evolve, the one thing that isn’t changing as drastically is SEO. Do the right things for a long period of time, and you will reap the reward for that.

Alex: All right. Number one, PPC, number two is Facebook ads, number three, SEO, number four, social media organic, which is over email and video advertising. We’re at the bottom. Everyone’s thinking organic, social, more valuable at attracting new patients than email. Do you agree with that?

Lauren: In healthcare I do. Email is going to be a patient retention tool, right? Not new. you can’t buy consumer lists of people that need surgery on their shoulder. That’s just not something that exists. I understand why that was the feedback that we got. Organic socialist is surprising. I think that is a brand-building effort, which ultimately does lead to new patient acquisition you need to have a brand. The top three I wasn’t surprised by. I think those are right. Maybe slightly off in order, but definitely the top three pillars.

Alex: Google, Facebook, SEO, but SEO number one, nobody believes me. Okay. What projects or initiatives are you planning for 2021? The top initiative increasing digital advertising. Number two, website development, three telehealth awareness. I was surprised to see telehealth so high. I know everybody says we’re in telehealth. This is the biggest thing is a big, but still, Lord, what percentage of total patient bookings or total patient appointments are you seeing happen on telehealth for our clients?

Lauren: I think it’s partially driven by what you have to offer. If you have 75% of your capacity available at a telehealth appointment and your provider is only an office one or two days a week, then that’s what you’re going to get out of it. I think what was interesting, the website development at telehealth, I think go very closely together. I think it’s revising your digital experience to showcase all that you have to offer to the patient, the new innovative ways that you’re interacting with them. I’m not surprised at the website piece, because I think the companies that hadn’t already realized how important it was to have a simple, easy, personalized user experience that also showcases telehealth are now realizing desperately that they need to make that happen.

Alex: Yes, absolutely. I guess so and that’s where it comes in. As so many people are looking to work on the website. Your website is always evolving. I don’t want you guys to ever stopping working on a website. I am on my website every day, tweaking pages, moving icons, adding imagery, adding video. That is that’s everything, right? If we were brick and mortar, that would be the house. You know, what was interesting to me CRM 23%, only less than one out of four are planning on implementing or investing more into the CRM. I thought that was too low marketing automation 19 was I thought that was too low. I think that’s showing me healthcare’s a little still we’re too slow. I want everybody with CRM or do you see it differently Lauren?

Lauren: No. I mean, for anyone who listened to our webinar a couple of weeks ago on marketing tech, we interviewed Hernando. I don’t think that I think CRM is this massive daunting effort. Hernando’s telling us how his organization is a year into implementing a CRM and still working towards an ROI. It’s probably one of those things that just sits on the back burner.

As I know I need to do it, but I also know it’s not going to be this thing that like a website, right? You’re not going to just implement it. All of a sudden it miraculously works. Not surprised to see that happen. If healthcare like patient management systems, for example, don’t allow for additional visibility, the CRM is the only logical step to go because it can sit between marketing and patient management.

Alex: Hernando is the CMO of where for context?

Lauren: He’s the CMO of New York-Presbyterian, right?

Alex: Yes. They’re huge and he’s been at it for a year, but guys, if you’re running a multi-specialty derm, dentalortho, whatever it may be you can implement CRM fairly easily. You’re going to have a marketing party of two. You’re going to have, not even that CIO, probably like you can get it done in six months and have it not integrate with EHR and things like that. Just like slowly start working towards it. I want to see more progress there. I hope that changes next year. I hope we see more progress.

That’s really the key to unlocking the most efficient patients and helping us get more care to the right people. I really hope people move out a little faster. Digital advertising channels that you currently use, the highest digital marketing channel that three out of four people said they use Facebook adsGoogle ads, only 60% display ads, less than half Instagram, even less, any surprise to you that more people reported Facebook ads and Google ads. I thought that was interesting. Do you think that’ll continue with the iOS 14 updates, Lauren?

Lauren: Yes. I mean, this is a survey that’s anonymous. The exact makeup in terms of health system versus low acuity patient acquisition, I don’t know. That certainly influenced it, but Facebook is going to be most effective from a full-funnel approach. If you don’t have a high awareness of the product and the solution-aware audience already Facebook is going to be effective because you have to let them know who you are, let them know what you have to offer.

Paid search is going to capture everyone at the bottom of the funnel. If you’re in an industry that doesn’t have a massive bottom of the funnel already then I’m not surprised that Facebook was at the top there, Instagram and Facebook go hand in hand. Oftentimes we don’t look at them as two separate entities, as much as they are just two placements within an overall strategy. If more people could think about it that way going forward, I think you would start to see the gap closed between those two.

Alex: Okay, good. Oh my gosh. I was supposed to tell you this guys and I forgot listeners. The show notes are in the blog article. The show notes are there, links to everything links the survey asked me why me to tell you she’s our marketing director. Extraordinary. I got to tell you guys that. Everything’s going to be in their full survey, everything you got to give us all your information to get the survey. We want to be good at marketing, but I didn’t make it do it. Okay. Something interesting, I found in here and everybody wants to know budgets.

How has your 2021 marketing budget changed? No change to the marketing budget. Almost half, slight reduction, 33%, slight increased 14%, extreme increased 7%. I don’t know. Lauren, I expected a slight or extreme, increased to be higher. All of our clients are increasing like it’s bananas. What are you seeing? You’re closer to the clients.

Lauren: Yes. I think the size of the client and their overall goal. We work with clients that are for lack of a better term consolidators of their space. They see the opportunity to bring care to more patients. They went out and had a Denovo strategy. They acquired smaller groups that potentially were at risk of going under during the pandemic. That’s where I think the investments increased. I think the average small specialty clinic, were weighing between cutting marketing and cutting staff. The staff has a requirement to see the patients, the marketing is thought. I’m not surprised to see that big. I think again, it’s partially because of the makeup of the participants in the survey itself.

Alex: Yes. Good point there, it depends on the makeup. We have a lot of the bigger groups and I’m thankful to have the spread. I love working with my smaller practices. You actually get to see the patients to who you’re giving care to. I love that. You’re saying the bigger groups, they’re going in, and acquiring this consolidation thing is big. I think it’s hitting dental next. All right. I’m going to give you one more thing and then we’re going to depart.

What are the common top barriers, impeding the marketing program? Survey says, number one, lack of staffing. Number one B, same percentage, insufficient funds, and lack of staffing. We just need to get marketers more money. We just need to give them more money. I guess, is that what might take them. Stop holding your CMO back. Give them more money. Is that what you’re seeing with our clients or it’s other things like some people mentioned an in-house team, lacks skills, difficulty implementing marketing tech.

Lauren: Yes. Unfortunately, like I said, for the groups that did have to cut budget marketing is sometimes the first thing to look at. A lot of our clients ended up scaling back their actual in-house team. As they emerge from the COVID world and are looking at growth strategies again, they’re weighing the option between hiring in-house, which is as everyone listening to this knows hiring is an investment from interviewing to onboarding to overhead advantage. They’re considering, do I use an agency to get up to speed quicker and with a diversified skill set and a more specialized skill set. I think that’s where that sentiment comes from. Just the fact that unfortunately, a lot of marketing in-house professionals were laid off last year.

Alex: Well come to Cardinal. If you were laid off, we are safe. That’s right. We’re a safe place for marketers. We’d love to have you. Thank you, Lauren, for joining me. Once again, the links to the survey and everything else in the show notes, you guys need to hit Cardinals, other content. We got great webinars, round tables, case studies, where you can see how we did it for some of our clients, swamp pig. We’ve got this podcast and we’ve got more blog articles than anybody ever posts. Please hit Cardinal’s resources section. We’ll get you up to speed on healthcare marketing real quick. Lauren, thanks for joining me.

Lauren: Thanks, Alex.

Announcer: Thanks for listening to this episode of Ignite. Interested in keeping up with the latest trends in healthcare marketing? Subscribe to our podcast and leave a rating and review. For more healthcare marketing tips visit our [email protected].

[00:19:16] [END OF AUDIO]

Healthcare Marketing Insights At Your Fingertips

Listen and subscribe to Ignite wherever you get your podcasts.

Get Started

Ready to Grow?

Great partnerships start with great discoveries. We start with your business goals and budget, and then help you find the right digital marketing strategy to fuel growth.

Fill out the form to get started!

"*" indicates required fields

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.