A recent Pew Research study found that 72% of users turn to the internet when it comes to finding health information. This presents a huge opportunity for healthcare marketers to produce quality data about disease and prevention, but how should we go about it?
Unfortunately, there’s an abundance of inaccurate health information out there; a casual perusal of my Facebook feed in the morning is enough for me to bury my head in my hands and wonder why I went into public health in the first place.
My passion is studying health behavior: why people make the health decisions they do and how we can alter their behavior to improve health outcomes. A huge part of this requires tailoring and disseminating information. The digital age provides unprecedented access to our target audiences, and we rely heavily on the tenets of healthcare marketing to reach these people.
In January, people are more willing to make changes to their health than any other time of the year. We can seize this opportunity using the latest marketing trends to keep our population fit through 2016 and beyond.
Trend #1: Our Patients Are More Connected
Over the holidays, I picked up a copy of a book called “The Digital Doctor: Hope, Hype, and Harm at the Dawn of Medicine’s Computer Age.” Written by Robert Wachter, Professor and Chair of Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, it’s both a celebration of the effect of the digital age on healthcare delivery and a scathing reprimand for the physician Luddite.
In the book, Wachter describes what he refers to as the “connected patient.” Today’s healthcare consumers, he argues, are more in charge of their health than ever before. Since the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act passed into law in 1996, patients have retained control of their own health information. And since the dawn of the EMR (electronic medical record), we have unfettered access to our charts.
For example, when I became a new patient at a local medical practice, I checked a box on my paperwork signifying that I wanted online access to my health information. Now I get an email every time I get a new test result, and I can view my labs right from my computer. Hyperlinked results send me to normal lab values, so I can compare mine against a normal range of scores.
What I don’t see (and probably should), however, are links to additional resources to help me with my problems when I have them. If someone gets an email indicating he or she has high blood pressure, why aren’t we providing additional information for lifestyle modifications to improve outcomes?
A consistent complaint with primary care physicians is that they have too many patients and not enough time to meet with each of them to discuss health needs holistically. Healthcare content marketing is primed to fill in this gap in the continuum of care. It just needs to catch up to the digital age, and we need to come up with ways to provide patients with health-enhancing information via their EMR.
Dave Walker, who’s been named one of the “Top 10 Healthcare Influencers to Follow on Twitter,” is in the process of seeking a solution to this problem. A pharmacist by trade, he’s motivated by the misinformation surrounding vaccines and associated measles outbreaks. That’s why he’s been working on MedWhys, a site dedicated to medications and the importance of compliance. With an option to live-chat with a certified pharmacist, it’s an important step in improving health care delivery.
Trend #2: Healthcare Content Marketing Is Going Multi-Modal
Most medical content experts agree that content isn’t being delivered effectively. Wachter points to the rapid spread of misinformation on the internet as a key player. “For consumers to try to plow through that and figure out which is which is absolutely daunting. We’re seeing that play out with the vaccine controversy. You can believe whatever you want to read depending on which sites you’re going to,” he told Newscred.
To improve healthcare content delivery, hospital administrator Christina Thielst recommends a more comprehensive strategy. “[We] need to listen to what people are saying in online channels and use that information to help drive their strategy… if we’re not using social surveillance and seeing what people are saying to drive our strategy, then we are missing the boat,” she said.
So how does this play out? Thielst suggests using texting and videos to get healthcare information across. For example, a patient could watch an animation of a surgery before signing a consent form instead of a physician explaining it in technical terms.
Trend #3: Promoted Content Will Be the Driving Factor
Unfortunately, it’s not enough to simply produce quality content on social media anymore. In 2015, Facebook announced it was reducing the amount of “organic promotional content” that people see on their newsfeeds. So what does that mean to healthcare content marketers? If you want it promoted, you’re going to have to invest some advertising dollars. Just be sure to diversify your offerings; if you’re going to spend money promoting content, make sure it’s engaging enough to encourage action.
Healthcare content marketing is at a crucial turning point. People are more engaged and in charge of their own health than ever before. Practitioners, public health educators, and marketers will have to work together to create easy-to-digest, helpful digital content that improves health outcomes.