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Getting from Point A to Point B always requires a journey. In storytelling, there’s the Hero’s Journey in which the “hero” goes on an adventure, faces conflict and emerges transformed. In selling, there’s the Buyer’s Journey in which the buyer becomes aware of their problem, considers and evaluates a solution, and then makes the decision to purchase a new product or service. Following a similar trajectory in healthcare, the Patient Journey sees the patient through stages of awareness, diagnosis and treatment management. Today we’re taking an inside look at the Patient Journey and discussing the many ways to tailor marketing for healthcare, medical devices and beyond during each unique touchpoint.

Awareness

In the initial awareness stage, the individual first becomes in tune with the symptoms that they’re facing. It is during these stages of self-assessment that they begin conducting personal research, often turning to their trusty friends WebMD or Google, which account for 88.61% of the global search market. Considering that 80% of internet users have relied on the internet for health care-related information, it’s critical to have search engine optimization (SEO) that will help healthcare organizations stand out in relevant searches. Three ways to optimize searches include:

  1. Mobile-Friendly Website

Statista’s forecast that 211 million people will be conducting searches from their mobile phones in 2020 provides an indicator of just how important mobile-friendly sites are. Factors that distinguish a site as mobile-friendly include the site structure, design, image sizes, content and page speed to decrease the bounce rate and easily present information.

  1. On-Page Optimization

Directly related, the on-page optimization, or on-page SEO, refers to actions and measures that can be taken within the website to improve search ranking position. This includes:

  • The meta description, which is a snippet of up to about 155 characters summarizing a page’s content.
  • Long-tail keywords, or conversational phrases, that have lower traffic and lower competition.
  • Head keywords, which are popular keywords that drive high search volume and are better for long-term, traffic-centric strategies.
  1. Local SEO

As HubSpot mentions, the key to optimizing local SEO tactics is to optimize your Google My Business listing. In order to do this, organizations will need to create and verify a Google My Business page, use Google Posts within their account and encourage customers to share reviews. Adding a location page or “About Us” webpage that houses the company name, address and phone number (NAP) can also help raise your local search position.

Aside from optimizing for mobile and SEO-related inquiries, it’s important to ensure that your organic content is capturing patients’ interests. This type of organic social proof can be established through word-of-mouth marketing and social media.

Word-of-Mouth Marketing

Did you know that 60% of adults get information or support from friends and family members during serious health episodes? This is where timeless word-of-mouth marketing comes into play. If individuals are having excellent experiences with a healthcare organization, they’re more likely to recommend the service or product and become brand champions, as well as patients. Encouraging reviews is also a common way to help spread positive word of mouth.

Social Media

At a time in which over 40% of Americans, ages 18-65+ use at least one social media site, maintaining an online presence is an essential way to connect with patients at different stages of their journey. Of the various platform options, the two most-widely used include YouTube and Facebook. YouTube presents a unique opportunity to share informative videos, physician spotlights and patient testimonial videos, all of which will ease patient woes when researching a healthcare solution. Facebook allows organizations to organically reach consumers, answer questions in a timely manner and remain engaged with the healthcare community. LinkedIn also presents a fitting opportunity to connect with physicians and healthcare organizations that may be interested in offering your medical procedure/device or pharmaceutical product.

While organic content is an essential aspect of marketing during the Patient Journey and ensuring a positive patient experience, another way to reach patients is through advertising.

Advertising

Part of reaching healthcare consumers is speaking to them when they’re not actively searching for care. This can include the times that they’re commuting in their car and listening to the radio, as more than 90% of Americans do every week. When a commercial is played on radio, it creates “theatre of the mind,” allowing consumers to visualize and therefore personalize the message they are hearing. Billboards are another way to reach potential consumers who are driving during the near-hour that they spend behind the wheel per day. This reach extends through the end of the day, when individuals, ages 35-49 flip on their TV, which they watch for an estimated 3 hours and 34 minutes per day, while sporadically dipping into the kitchen to clear up the dishes as they listen to commercials and wait for their show to return. Depending on your target demographic, investing in digital ads for over-the-top (OTT) platforms, like Hulu and Roku, are an important option as well, considering that 52% of all US adults use at least one OTT service.

Another way to meet healthcare consumers exactly where they’re at is through paid distribution ads. While social media platforms can be used to organically push content, target demographics can also be set to connect prospective patients with your healthcare organization and drive traffic back to your website. Additionally, native advertising, or ads that “blend in” with content, can help identify prospective patients who click the informational article, blog, clinical study or testimonial that lives on the website they were frequenting.

All of the mediums mentioned, in addition to those we’ve left out—such as direct mail, email and print media—play an integral role in patients’ day-to-day lives. As they continue to move through the continuum of care, patients will dive into the next stage of the journey: seeking professional help.

Diagnosis

If SEO, social proof and advertising has effectively driven patients to the healthcare organization’s website, adding the option to schedule appointments online, in applicable instances, is key. This is because 64% of patients are anticipated to book appointments using digital tools by the end of 2019. For procedures, services or pharmaceutical products that cannot be scheduled online, an inquiry form is an efficient way for interested patients to learn more.

Once inside the doctor’s office, one way to reach patients who may be feeling apprehensive, nervous, in pain and possibly selective/frugal, is through in-office resources, such as infographic posters, and take-home materials. Similar to storytelling and selling, these in-office resources should clearly illustrate the “Five W’s and the H” of who, what, when, where, why and how. Messaging that is unclear is more likely to be overlooked by healthcare consumers, versus direct messaging that patients can understand and identify with.

When marketing medical procedures, devices or pharmaceutical products, it’s essential that physicians and healthcare programs are well-informed on the offering and share it with patients as a viable option. Following a physician recommendation with in-office resources, a polished website and strong reviews will leave patients feeling relieved and confident in the suggested solution to their problem.

Treatment Management

Viewing the Patient Journey as ongoing rather than a destination, the opportunity to connect with patients through emotionally evocative marketing continues. Once patient health issues have been professionally evaluated and diagnosed, and a treatment option is awaiting approval, follow-up packets on “what to expect” are one way to engage with patients who might be feeling anxious, nervous or eager. This packet can include a mix of facts about the procedure or product, patient testimonials and frequently asked questions. These materials can also be included on the company website, for online healthcare seekers to reference, as well.

Once the procedure, medication or device is approved, it’s time for the staff to amaze the patient with care, compassion and customer service. After treatment is given, having various options for follow-up, including phone calls and available video chat options, will ensure patients feel cared for. Additionally, this helps build the bridge from brand patient to brand champion and allows companies to streamline any parts of the patient experience that illustrate room for improvement. Patients who are ecstatic about treatment results and the overall experience, may be willing to give a patient testimonial and add to the continuous Patient Journey!

As brand leaders in the healthcare marketing space, we know how to bring creative, effective and HIPAA-compliant marketing materials to life throughout all stages of the Patient Journey. To find out more about how you can better reach potential patients exactly where they’re at, contact Orange Label today.

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Founded in 1972

As Orange County’s longest-standing, privately held response marketing agency, we have witnessed dynamic shifts in the world of marketing. Through it all, we have ensured our clients stay at the forefront of communication and technology, driving response and value with every new endeavor.