The Role of Digital Marketing in Today’s Healthcare Environment

Digital marketing channels have started to play a significant role in the healthcare industry across the spectrum of stakeholders, from healthcare professionals to individual patients. Increasingly, digital channels are supporting and even replacing conventional marketing channels, such as face-to-face interaction with healthcare professionals. In today’s world, patients are well informed and often refer to Google as their first point of reference and are increasingly coming to physicians with huge amounts of information. These power patients are interacting with the healthcare system as well as physicians in person and digitally, thereby managing their own therapy path and wellness far more proactively.

Healthcare companies cannot be reactive to change and must embrace digital marketing so that it is an integral part of their future strategy.

Key Elements Healthcare Companies Should Consider for Their Digital Marketing Strategy

Successful digital marketing involves a combination of elements that need to be considered as part of a healthcare company’s digital strategy. The core elements include the people, platforms, and processes within an organisation. With regards to people, the digital strategy design process should not stop at the organisational structure, but should continue to encompass people’s practices and individual skills. There should be effective mechanisms for making decisions and reducing bureaucracy. In addition, talent management and leadership development strategies must support the business vision and strategy. The performance measurement should drive behaviours that are aligned to the business vision and strategy. Culture and behaviours must be aligned to organisational core values and be consistent throughout the organisation.

Exhibit 1: Key Digital Marketing Elements Healthcare Companies Should Consider for their Global Strategy, 2016

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Digital strategy design processes should include effective decision making and lateral capability structures. There should be well defined high-level operational processes and strong linkages and communications between functions. The platforms/infrastructure (systems and property) should support the requirements of the future design.

The use of social media and data should be effectively employed. Using social media as a marketing platform for healthcare products and services can support organisations with additional data analytics, where companies can track the progress, success, and engagement of their campaigns. A social impression for example is a measure of the number of times a message is seen, whether someone has clicked on it or not. Therefore, each time a message is displayed it is counted as one impression. Another method of monitoring what is said about a company, a product, or brand on the Internet is social media listening/monitoring, which is the process of identifying and assessing what is being said about a company, individual, product, or brand on the Internet. In terms of a targeted approach, geotargeting involves conveying different content to a Website user based on his or her geographic location. Combination of all these elements means that there is increasing use of large-scale and location-aware social media and mobile applications which are enabling real-time platforms that can handle streaming analysis and processing of massive amounts of data.

Examples of Best Practices in Healthcare

In order to be successful, various best practices should be employed for a digital strategy. There must be sufficient investment in digital marketing depending on the companies’ requirements, for example for social media promotion, marketing campaigns, and analytical tools. These also help track budgets and return of investment. Collaboration is also essential as marketing teams are often spread across different departments and geographies. Ensuring integration enables creativity and innovation across the company and across different channels.

To be relevant, the content must align with the needs of customers. Therefore, the relevant message must be conveyed to the targeted customers, at the right time within the decision-making process, by using the right channels. As mentioned earlier, social media should be leveraged effectively as it has transformed marketing dramatically. Social media marketing is a powerful tool that can be used strategically within a company’s digital marketing strategy.

The company culture within an organization should be proactive and embrace change. Establishing trust with end users is also critical because as digital becomes a core part of a company’s business model, customers are increasingly using online platforms. Whilst they do support a brand and can build a reputation, the use of all channels and data must be monitored to avoid any cybersecurity breaches for example. Leveraging competitor intelligence is a great way to generate new ideas for campaigns and messages. It is also a learning process to see what is working for the competitors.

Exhibit 2: Digital Marketing Strategy: Examples of Best Practices in Healthcare, 2016

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Healthcare companies must look toward the future to succeed. We have seen increasing number of healthcare professionals and patients turning to digital channels or resources for answers or examples, therefore pharma & biotech, medical device, and healthcare IT companies need to adapt and develop a strategy sooner rather than later in order to stay ahead of the competition.

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