Healthcare Marketing: Key Influencers are Physicians

Guest Blog Post By Ian Orekondy, Director of Digital Media – UBM Medica

Patients Value Healthcare Professionals for Health Information More Than Any Other Source

After hospitals across the country ramped up their marketing efforts and increased their advertising targeted to patients, research shows that patients continue to cite their physicians as the most valued influence on their healthcare decisions.

So many forward-thinking hospitals are increasingly focusing on cultivating stronger relationships with physicians in their market areas in order to:

  • Ensure awareness of key hospital services
  • Grow referrals
  • Support physicians
  • Improve care and quality outcomes.

More Than Physician Relations

Some hospitals are hiring physician liaisons to meet with certain physicians, but many hospitals are going further and partnering with trusted medical journals and online publications to strengthen hospital-physician relationships.  They do this by delivering valuable content to physicians to help them manage and grow their medical practice. Additionally, as shown in several recent hospital marketing surveys, many hospital marketers are increasing their focus on digital marketing, and are now figuring out how to scale their physician-targeted digital marketing programs.

Wait, Are Physicians Really Online? Absolutely:

  • 81% of physicians now own a smartphone (mostly the iPhone) (Manhattan Research)
  • 62% of physicians own a tablet (mostly the iPad) (Manhattan Research)

They are using these devices throughout the day:

  • 78% of surveyed physicians access health-websites via mobile devices
  • And physician-targeted mobile apps help with diagnosis at the point of care.
  • Some hospital marketers are still surprised to learn physicians are now opening their emails more than ever, exchanging emails with patients, and perhaps most importantly for hospitals, they are opening emails from sources they trust to deliver them valuable clinical and practice management content.  Physician-targeted email open rates are now routinely in line with consumer/patient-targeted email campaigns.

So how can your hospital engage physicians online?

Valuable Content + Precise Targeting = Engaged Physicians

Focus on providing value:

  • Tools: Diagnostic or prediction tools can provide significant value for physicians. For example, Memorial Sloan Kettering in New York hosts “Prediction Tools” on the healthcare professional section of their website.  Oncologists and other physicians anywhere can use these tools to predict cancer outcomes or assess risk based on specific characteristics of a patient and of his or her disease.
  • Content:  Help them save time and money.  Physicians are struggling with the business side of medicine, so providing content that helps them manage their practice is a great way to build a stronger relationship with physicians.
  • Resources: Many hospitals provide physician directories, directions to give to patients, and CME opportunities – all online.

Demonstrate that you value physicians’ input:

  • Creating an online poll and distributing it online to all physicians in your market area is an easy way to engage physicians with your hospital, and gather valuable feedback at the same time.  Ask them about a potential policy change, what changes they’d like to see, or simply ask about their overall satisfaction with the referral process.  Doing this on a regular basis can pay large dividends.

Ensure that your physician-focused content gains the right physician audience.

  • Relying on search engines, YouTube and Facebook works very well when targeting patients, but these tactics lose their effectiveness when it comes to targeting physicians.
  • Find a partner (usually a company that already has built trusted relationships with physicians) that can reach and deploy your content to physicians in your market area.  Often, even if your hospital has its own physician email list, a good partner can de-duplicate your physician emails from their own list of engaged physicians, and deploy your content only to the physicians you don’t already reach.
  • These partners can syndicate your physician-focused videos, PDFs, polls and other resources, and they can often supplement your content or even help you with production.

To recap, physicians are still the most influential sources of information for patients, and they are now fully engaged online.  There are now many ways for hospitals to strengthen their relationships with physicians in ways that reflect their needs, save them time and money, and ultimately wins your hospital more business and improves outcomes for your patient population.

Is your hospital already focused on marketing to physicians? Or is your competitor?

Ian Orekondy is Director of Digital Media at UBM Medica, building custom marketing programs for hospitals and pharmaceutical brands. He also blogs at http://searchandsocialmedia.com, and you can connect with him on Twitter @iano1000. Use hashtag #hospitalmarketing.

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