Content Marketing Strategies for Hospitals and Practices

Healthcare marketing has always been on the tail-end of adopting new marketing strategies (content marketing included), but an old-fashioned mentality is not necessarily the culprit. Unlike other industries, healthcare is very highly regulated. Sure, if mistakes are made in other industries, it could hurt the reputation of the company, but if a healthcare marketer makes a mistake, it could result in huge fines that could cripple the hospital’s or practice’s marketing efforts altogether.

In this post, we’ll take a look at how medical organizations are catching up in content marketing and where they can go next.

Using Content Marketing to Attract Patients Online

If patients are conducting health-related research online, there is clearly a market for content there. But with all of the information available online, how can a healthcare provider get their attention?

Let’s take a look at what successful healthcare organizations are doing.

Build a foundation of well-written, unique, informative content.

Patients are already searching for information online, but they can have trouble finding credible content. Hospitals, small practices, and individual doctors can be that a reliable source online in the same way that they are in face-to-face interactions. The key is creating original content that is well-written and thorough enough to answer patients’ questions.

The Cleveland Clinic has done a great job of providing useful information and creating a powerful content marketing example with its Health Essentials site. On this site, the Clinic provides content that answers common questions on topics ranging from health and wellness to medical innovation. It also offers content that dispels common myths and gives prevention tips. All of the content is reviewed and approved by medical experts before it gets added to the site, assuring readers that the information is indeed credible.

 

One of the clear lessons for health organization wishing to create a content marketing hub is to structure review processes like the ones Health Hub uses to protect the organization from potential regulatory issues.

The Boston Children’s Hospital also offers a plethora of in-depth health content, with information on research and innovations as well as information on how to care for children with illnesses.

The Research + Innovation section of the Boston Children's Hospital website
The Research + Innovation section of the Boston Children’s Hospital website

Create “contagious content.”

“Contagious content” is content that is easily shareable via social media. Content shared via print media like brochures and magazines can be shared with others, but not nearly at the same rate as content online. Print media like brochures can be helpful in informing the patients sitting in your office, but they aren’t likely to reach many patients outside of your office the way that online content can. Many white papers and reports are available online, but most people don’t have the time to sit down and read them.

For this reason, some healthcare organizations are breaking their content down into easily-shareable infographics, Slideshares, and studies. The Mayo Clinic is a clear leader in creating healthcare content for a variety of audiences. Not only is the content easy to share and view on social media, but because the Mayo Clinic has established that it is a trustworthy brand, patients can rest assured that the Clinic is sharing legitimate information.

Cater to the mobile audience.

A 2012 Pew Internet Research study found 52% of smartphone owners have looked up medical information on their phones, and 19% have downloaded an app to help them track and/or manage their health. This type of mobile usage does not appear to be slowing down anytime soon; if anything, those numbers are only increasing over time. This is why it is so important to appeal to the mobile audience with your content.

Having a mobile-friendly website is a critical first step, but some healthcare groups and hospitals are going beyond a mobile site and creating apps to help out their patients. For example, the Johns Hopkins Hospital offers several different apps to help patients and caregivers manage different conditions, including epilepsy, heart attacks, liver diseases, depression, and brain injuries. These apps can be very helpful in adhering to treatment plans, and also in recording information to discuss with the doctor upon the next office visit.

Get active on social media.

Contagious content is important, but to really connect with patients, you need to have an active presence on social media. Social media is a great place to share your contagious content, but beyond that, it gives you a chance to offer support to patients and allow other patients to connect with each other for support.

The MD Anderson Cancer Center has done very well in this regard. They use their Facebook page to share patient success stories, and are very responsive to patient comments, providing encouragement and information to help.

Another great example of this is at Cook Children’s Hospital. Not only do they have a great library of informative content for parents, but they are also active in sharing information on social media. For practices that deal with millennial patients (or in this case, millennial parents of patients), it is important to keep up with those expectations to have a more active online presence. Younger generations gather so much of their information online via search engines, websites, and social media, and this is a great way to ensure your patients are getting information they can trust. Dr. Justin Smith, who has lead the content marketing and social media efforts at Cook Children’s joined our Paradigm Shift of Healthcare podcast to talk about the hospital’s content and social media efforts. To engage with patients online and encourage questions, the hospital takes on a more conversational tone on social media.

Look beyond articles for your content.

Sometimes if the market is saturated, the message can get lost in more traditional forms of content marketing like blogging and social media. In those cases, it might be helpful to take a less-traditional route to distribute their content.

Video is a good place to start. YouTube makes it very easy to create a channel and upload videos. YouTube videos can easily be shared on social media, creating another opportunity for “contagious” content. According to Pew Research Center, video can be a very effective medium–a 2013 study found that 47% of internet users shared photos and videos they found online. A number of healthcare organizations, including the Cleveland Clinic, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, and Spectrum Health have all found great success from video-based marketing.

In a similar strategy, NYU Langone Medical Center created a broadcast station on Sirius Satellite Radio called Doctor Radio. Show topics focus on a number of health-related issues, and patients can call in, email, or tweet their questions so that the doctors can answer during one of the shows. Doctor Radio is also active on Facebook and Twitter, allowing patients other ways of getting their questions answered. Obviously, it might not be feasible for every medical organization to go this route, but it might be possible to get a regular segment on a local radio or news station.

Looking Ahead to Future Strategies

Content marketing is constantly evolving, and so should your marketing strategy. You need to stay up to date on the most current methods of content marketing in healthcare, but if you want to stay ahead of the curve, you should also be looking ahead to the future.

These are some of the content strategies that experts say will dominate in the not-so-distant future.

Greater Focus on Images and Videos

The market for written content is already quite saturated, so a shift to more visual mediums like images and video could help you stand out. Internet speeds and wireless connections continue to improve, increasing the demand for more “instant,” visual content. Infographics in particular can work very well in healthcare, and they can be produced fairly quickly on a regular basis. Visual content also makes more of an impact on social media–videos and infographics stand out more than text-only posts, making patients more likely to engage instead of scrolling by.

Online Reviews Are Growing in Importance

Online reviews are standing out more and more in search results. As such, it is important for practices of all sizes to start paying attention if you aren’t doing so already. If patients look up your practice or one of your physicians and see negative reviews, that could be the deciding factor between your practice and a competitor.

While you can’t post reviews about your own practice (that would violate terms of services on pretty much every online review platform in existence), you can do more to collect reviews from patients. Once you start collecting more reviews from patients, you’ll often find that the vast majority are positive and help decrease the impact of the few negative reviews you may get. Reputation marketing services make this easy by helping you collect reviews from patients during an office visit. Those reviews can then be published online (with the patient’s consent), helping you build up more positive reviews and make a great first impression online with potential patients.

Quality Over Quantity

Because the content market is so saturated, large quantities of content won’t get you very far if the quality isn’t there. The trend is shifting toward high-quality content. In other words, it’s better to take more time to produce high-quality, in-depth, original content than it is to put out tons of low-quality content just for the sake of publishing.

More Focus on Wellness

As a healthcare practice, it makes sense to focus a lot of your content on treatment and recovery. That type of content is certainly valuable to a number of people, but if you really want to widen your reach, you will need to focus more on wellness and prevention.

If a person doesn’t have a particular condition, they won’t be as interested in hearing about treatment for said condition. However, that same person would probably be interested in learning about how he or she could avoid it. While wellness information might not result in more appointments right away, it does help to further establish you as an authority on that particular topic, which adds more value to your practice in the eyes of patients.

 

Content marketing in healthcare is constantly evolving, and medical organizations of all sizes have a chance to stand out in their community with useful information for patients. The key to creating a message that resonates is finding the medium that works best for each audience.