It’s a reality that as consumers we expect instant gratification across the businesses and brands we interact with, support or buy from. We want a seamless experience that is often as simple as a click or two, a swipe, or a few taps on your iPhone or Android. We desire, and in fact demand, convenience, simplicity and easy-to-find information. From instantaneous delivery of groceries and other goods, to online shopping where we can see what items are in stock at the nearest store, to looking through Yelp and other sites for reviews on literally everything, the way we consume and seek information as well as the way we buy, engage and make decisions is vastly different than 25 years ago.
What’s interesting, however, is that one of the most consumed things in America, healthcare, is in its infancy in this regard. Perhaps it’s more fair to say that it’s more like a toddler or elementary school student – a long way to go, but rapidly learning. The result is that patients have transformed into consumers, creating significant implications for healthcare organizations. And, to be clear, consumerism in this space is much more complicated than modern-day expectations, which are only growing as patients shoulder greater and greater financial responsibility in healthcare.
The healthcare industry has been trying to quickly evolve and implement technologies that, for example, enable online bill pay and appointment scheduling, treatment calculations, cost comparisons and myriad other things.
But it’s bigger than technology, the move to consumerism will be unsuccessful if organizations don’t also take a healthcare marketing transformation head on. No longer a nice to have, patient recruitment and retention is at risk if the right strategies, especially digital ones, aren’t at the core. For example, take some of these stats from recent studies:
- A whopping 7% of ALL daily Google searches are health-related. In other words, that’s 70,000 searches EVERY MINUTE.
- 77% of people from one survey indicated that they conduct online research prior to booking an appointment, and 57% are strongly influenced by a facility’s social media presence, specifically the provider’s social media connections.
- 90% of folks from one study wouldn’t hesitate leaving a provider who didn’t have a strong digital or online experience.
- 27% of respondents in another survey would prefer to interact and ask healthcare-related questions via AI chatbots or virtual assistants, and this was in 2017, meaning the percentage is likely much higher now.
In fact, 69% of hospital execs indicated that the consumer experience is their number one or two strategic priority this year. This isn’t surprising as leading hospitals are recruiting chief marketing officers from consumer brands and changing the title in some cases to chief consumer officer or the like.
All-in-all, solving the mounting consumerism opportunity is vast, complex and requires myriad touchpoints for healthcare marketers and PR professionals as well as their executive counterparts, but when we take a step back some of it is simple:
- Take note of what consumers are searching for in healthcare, where they are seeking information and how they are consuming it. Make certain your organization becomes that go-to source in your community by positioning yourself in all the right places.
- Think about non-traditional healthcare platforms like Yelp and how they may be more trusted than healthcare-specific rating systems.
- Consider strategies for deep digital personalization around consumers that are based on data insights.
- Imbue personality, appropriately of course, into your brand to humanize it and create an authentic, relatable persona.
Healthcare consumerism is a pretty interesting phenomenon that is challenging the industry to mature, change and catch up to the rest of the world. It’s no longer about sick to better, but instead, healthcare marketers and healthcare organizations are having to think about the consumer journey in a whole new light.