By Stewart Gandolf
Chief Executive Officer
With a brand-new decade on the horizon, it’s time many healthcare practices, hospitals, health plans, and other organizations make serious shifts in the way they approach marketing.
Are you positioning your healthcare institution for growth in the new year? My healthcare marketing predictions for 2020 can guide you towards a more comprehensive strategy for the start of the decade, with insights from 2019 and a clear vision for 2020 based on research, decades of experience, and expert guidance.
Welcome to the Business of Healthcare
Just a decade ago, doctors were extremely hesitant to call any healthcare organization a “business.” Today, many practitioners still go on the defensive when asked about the business side of healthcare.
But whether we like it or not, there’s no denying that healthcare is a business—and a highly competitive one at that. Aggressive advertising techniques and speedy acquisitions, combined with the changing behavior of “consumers” in the healthcare space, means you have to run your business wisely to keep up.
After decades in the healthcare industry (and previous years spent marketing a wide range of organizations) I can truly say I’ve never seen anything like it. Healthcare is a rapidly evolving market, and if you don’t consider these 2020 healthcare marketing trends, you’re likely to miss out on the business you need to thrive.
#1: Private equity is changing the nature of practice marketing
Healthcare practices are a hot commodity for private equity in 2020. With each year, private equity deals continue to set records in the healthcare space. As a result, these groups are making a huge impact on practice marketing.
As one of the fastest-growing investments, private equity groups are now consolidating groups in nearly every specialty. However, the primary focus tends to be with the following:
- Orthopedic surgery
- Long term care
When we spoke at the McGuireWoods Healthcare Private Equity & Finance conference earlier this year, we heard many speakers note that private equity roll-ups focus their attention on consumer-direct marketing. All in all, I predict that this consumer-direct approach will add immense value to practices positioning themselves for sale—and for those that need to maximize value post-acquisition.
#2: Successful healthcare institutions will tackle consumerism
“Healthcare consumerism” may be a well-worn term in the industry today. But even the most conservative institutions are beginning to understand how a consumer mindset effectively shapes the way a healthcare business can (or should) be run.
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Consider the success of retail medical clinics. It’s tough to keep up when one major corporation merges with another to provide both convenience and affordability. But this type of competition across the medical industry will only continue to increase, as even smaller companies offer patients more of what they truly want.
Keep up with what other healthcare organizations are offering, or patients will go to someone else who does.
- Treat patients right. Of course, most medical organizations truly believe they already do, but your patients may not agree. Go above and beyond in considering patients’ time, schedules, anxieties, and comfort levels.
- Offer the right services. Are you truly offering—and marketing—what patients need the most?
- Find ways to lower cost or effort. If lowering costs is not an option for you, find ways to make it easier for patients to receive services, such as telemedicine or online scheduling.
- Keep them coming back. Patients have many options today, so find ways to remind existing patients of the great care they can expect when they’re loyal to your organization.
#3: Hospitals will continue with major acquisitions
The number of private practice acquisitions by hospital systems has increased by 128% since 2012. The last decade has also seen changes in hospital-acquired or hospital-created insurance plans. While private equity has seen huge growth in healthcare mergers and acquisitions, they’re not alone.
Hospital networks and healthcare systems will continue to merge, acquire, and grow their offerings with hospital-based insurance plans and doctor networks in 2020 and beyond. Expect hospital systems to continue to push for an umbrella model of care to keep patients loyal to (or locked into) their services.
#4: Consumers will seek out integrated systems above all else
Yes, more private equity or hospital system roll-ups mean more integrated healthcare systems. But the fact of the matter is—this is what many patients want. As we and others have written about time and time again, consumers want convenience, period.
Consumers look more and more for integrated systems where they have access to urgent care, primary care, and hospitals when needed. As hospital systems and large group practices face mounting pressure from consumers, as well as competition from retail-based medical clinics, they will look to expand their service line offerings in 2020.
#5: Retail will continue to change the healthcare landscape
Led by CVS, retail chains continue to change the entire landscape of the healthcare business. There are a few clear advantages to this model of healthcare. First and most obvious is that the hours and location of these retail clinics is convenient. With 1,500 new CVS clinics opening by 2021, hospitals and many types of practices—particularly urgent care and primary care—can expect even more competition.
Additionally, CVS and other retail clinics offer transparent prices available upfront. Moreover, CVS offers widespread availability of telehealth. And its new multipurpose wellness locations offer space for everything from yoga to vitamins to health classes.
These conveniences put pressure on private practice primary care and urgent care, which often fails by comparison. This also offers further proof that the consumer mindset values convenience first and foremost.
#6: Telehealth will become a strategic arms race
Larger health systems will learn to harness the power of telehealth for all of their patients. Teladoc Health, a leading telemedicine provider, increased visits by 80% last year, bringing it up to 2.6 million visits in 2018—and this only continues to grow.
In 2020, telehealth will become a strategic arms race among savvier larger systems. Entrepreneurial doctors will find new niche openings in which to offer telehealth and telemedicine services. Keep in mind that telehealth has its place in nearly every specialty, whether it’s for prescription refills, check-ins, or entire appointments.
Healthcare providers should start today with aggressively advertising these telehealth services. It truly is a differentiator—it’s something patients are looking for but may have trouble finding from a local provider, particularly when it comes to specialty services.
#7: Large group practices will take advantage of marketing opportunities
Led by professional management, large groups will see marketing as a big opportunity to build market share while competitors nap. This is particularly true where smaller organizations have become comfortable with their existing market share, neglecting to construct a failsafe to keep patient volumes steady as competitors threaten their business.
Private practice and group practices alike should use 2020 planning as a time to conduct thorough market research and grow their patient databases. Large group practices are likely to reassess things like brand awareness and brand equity while safeguarding against a continued competitive presence.
#8: Multicultural marketing will differentiate some practices
Multicultural marketing will evolve as healthcare organizations find new opportunities to differentiate themselves and grow market share. To truly reach the right demographics in the right places, savvy marketers will rely on research to determine where people are and what type of messaging they are most likely to respond to.
In other words, gone are the days of simply guessing at messaging, pulling in stock images of diverse families, or buying spots on Spanish radio stations in hopes of reaching people without a clear plan in place. Advertising will be smart, targeted, and sensitive to the needs of multiple generations.
#9: New players will take part in health plan marketing
Health plan marketing continues to grow, and many new players are racing to participate in Medicare Advantage programs. Many healthcare practitioners are finding ways to point seniors in the direction of the right Medicare Advantage plan to keep more people over the age of 65 within the organization.
On the other hand, high deductible insurance plans remain a factor of life. That’s why many healthcare providers will find ways to make payments easier for struggling families. Shifting billing structures and providing clear payment options is a sure way to differentiate any healthcare organization from those that seem not to consider a patient’s financial burden.
As new players continue to take part in health plan marketing—and as hospital systems develop their own insurance plans—independent providers, hospitals, and group practices will need to find new ways to enter into the health plan conversation.
#10: Your reputation will matter more than ever
According to a variety of sources and studies, around 80-90% of patients now check out their doctors online before calling for an appointment. This includes specialty practices—even patients have received referrals from other doctors.
Today’s patients are curious and concerned about who their doctor will be. A doctor’s referral means a lot, but it can pale in comparison to a fellow patient’s horror story about an appointment gone wrong. Even seemingly small details about things like billing, wait times, or the cleanliness of the facility can leave a prospective patient searching for options and asking for secondary referrals, “just in case.”
The importance of reputation management continues to grow in 2020. It’s a good idea to find a team to handle reputation management so you can boost positive reviews while destabilizing the presence of negative reviews for your practice or hospital. As a starting point for reputation management, just remember: it never hurts to ask for a review from a satisfied patient.
#11: Google will prioritize faster, more mobile sites
Google makes thousands of changes to its algorithms each and every year. In other words, the way it prioritizes some search results over others is shifting all the time. However, most of these changes are minor and go largely unnoticed.
In July 2018, one of the more major changes began to penalize slow and mobile-unresponsive sites. Your site must be able to easily adapt to a new screen size (without shifting to a secondary “mobile-friendly” site, an outdated mode of website development). This mobile-responsiveness should also not come at the expense of page speed.
Slow and non-responsive sites will continue to be penalized in 2020. There are a number of factors you need to ensure your website stays high on Google’s search engine result rankings (as well as Bing’s and other search engines’), which is why we recommend working with professional healthcare marketers to tackle any SEO (search engine optimization) concerns.
#12: TV advertising will spread out into OTT (streaming)
Over-the-top (OTT) media services include things like Netflix, Hulu, Sling TV, and others. While many of these do not have options for advertising (like Netflix), others (including Hulu and Sling) allow TV advertisers to spread out and supplement fragmented TV market buys.
In 2019, Hulu Ad Sales Chief Peter Naylor pointed out a “massive surge” in advertising interest on OTT networks. The availability of local ad buys on these streaming platforms has made this market even more promising, although measuring and tracking results can be difficult with people consuming content on so many devices at so many points in the day.
Still, healthcare marketers will find ways to prioritize a growing segment of OTT streamers in their advertising with unique messaging and new types of content.
Navigating Healthcare Marketing in 2020
These healthcare marketing predictions may seem daunting, but all in all, the future is bright for healthcare. There are constantly new avenues by which you can reach patients—if you only decide to use them wisely.
Above all else, it’s important to treat patients right, providing them with plenty of options for seeking care and striving for a positive experience, as always. But as other organizations strive to go above and beyond to create an experience unlike any other, it’s time for you to do the same. As the new decade draws nearer, consider what you can do for patients not only as a differentiator, but in order to provide the experience busy patients deserve in the age of consumerism.
An experienced healthcare marketing agency can help you navigate through the start of a new decade—with more changes in marketing trends to come. Call Healthcare Success today at 800-656-0907 to talk about your 2020 healthcare marketing goals.