The Sweet Spot: A Strategy for Hospitals Looking to Drive More Patient Volume

People love to look up information online. Health-related information is no exception. In fact, “80 percent of internet users have looked online for information about any of 15 health topics such as a specific disease or treatment.1” More than ever, people are using search engines and health information websites to find specific answers and insights into symptoms, diseases and treatments. The graph below demonstrates the impact digital research has over personal and offline:

Source: 2012 Google / Compete Hospital Study

And according to the Pew Research Center, “eight out of 10 Internet users look for health information online, making it the third most popular online activity.”

The Opportunity

If you’re a hospital marketer, you have a massive opportunity to engage more prospective patients who are looking for medical answers online, early in the funnel. Why? Because most of the health information that’s online today is produced and dominated by a select few companies, like WebMD and the Mayo Clinic. When a user does a search, it’s their content that comes to the top, shared across social media and optimized for mobile. But this content is not as local, robust or unique as it could be. It can’t be, because it needs to be generic. Hospitals that are able to write content that’s interesting and authored by trusted thought leaders, have an opportunity to reach consumers on a much deeper level. It’s not about trumping WebMD, as much as it is producing content that can be promoted, shared and leveraged to engage prospective patients. Ultimately, hospitals should be creating content that patients are searching for, that’s valuable and easy to act on.

The Sweet Spot

Simply put, hospitals that engage prospective patients early in the funnel, who are researching information online, can begin driving more patient volume. Here are 3 steps to begin the process:

1. Content Creation
Creating relevant content that connects with patients is vital. Content that educates patients on specific health conditions, diseases and treatments from the vantage point of doctors and nurses specific to your healthcare system. To do so, hospitals must make an investment in content creation, whether it’s bringing on writers, outsourcing it to the right agency or partnering with other companies. Developing content that is clear, mobile friendly and distributed across multiple formats — including text, images and video, is vital to the overall user experience and its ability to be found.

2. Optimize and Promote
In order to be found online, content must be optimized for search and mobile. It needs to be promoted across multiple channels, including social media, and easily shared and consumed. And it must engage patients using storytelling, effective calls-to-action and offers. Ultimately, it should drive prospective patients to your website and landing pages to continue their journey and to learn more.

3. Nurture the Patient Journey
According to Google, before making an appointment, “patients put time and consideration into their research, with 48% taking over 2 weeks to research before booking, and 61% visiting 2+ hospital websites before converting.” Steps 1 and 2 are critical to driving patients to your website. From here, hospitals must begin leading prospective patients into an ongoing conversation that ultimately advances them into making an appointment – or at the very least, placing them into a database for future nurturing opportunities.

Hospitals need to continue to market and build trust around their brand, using traditional marketing channels like radio, TV, billboards and print. But for hospitals looking for opportunities to reach new prospective patients online, a robust content marketing strategy, complete with optimization, promotion and lead nurturing is necessary.