Redefining Healthcare Marketing

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Dave Duplay
Dave Duplay
When you close your eyes and think about “healthcare marketing” what comes to mind? Overproduced commercials? Glossy print collateral? Pens? Cups? Lavish dinners?

None of these offer a flattering picture of the business.  

But what about mobile applications that empower patients to stay with their medications? Online sites for patients to learn more about their specific condition? Or educational tools that allow patients and doctors alike to access new information on their terms – and on their own time?

When you close your eyes, my guess is few to none think about these healthcare marketing positives. It is an unfortunate reality, because these types of marketing vehicles can help solve some of healthcare's largest challenges. Consider that today poor medication adherence can cost the United States health care system upwards of $100 billion dollars each year in preventable hospitalizations, according to a 2010 report in the National Journal of Medicine. And in a survey my company recently commissioned, 81 percent of patients are unaware of online resources to manage their medical conditions. This is a very serious challenge.

People don't tend to think that healthcare marketing could actually benefit society. This is understandable, as our legacy is not exactly spotless. Some marketers did in fact shower physicians with bountiful gifts and perks in exchange for time to talk about a new treatment, medication, or device. Marketing materials – no matter how compelling the writing – could not have the effect that a face to face conversation could have. That latter type of interaction was just that powerful.

Today is different. Today there are digital marketing capabilities that allow for extremely powerful interaction; that let doctors understand the history, composition, trial results and other key data of a medication or device in easy to digest ways. True, nothing may ever take the place of face-to-face marketing. But as doctors continue to grow skeptical of traditional healthcare marketing practices, there is tremendous value in giving them something they can interact with on their time, when they are ready to listen. This speaks to a fundamental shift in marketing today: it's about the audience's wants and needs rather than what marketers want and need.

Mobility, as we know, is central to this shift. It changes the marketing dynamic. Mobile applications in particular let doctors access important information about medications, devices, patients and diseases in real time and when they want and need it. Moreover, mobile devices let patients monitor and track their condition and prescription adherence in real time. In short, mobility does two key things that traditional marketing could never fully execute: it provides real value to the audience and it delivers it on their terms.

However here's the catch: you have to drive patients and doctors to use mobile applications. Even the most helpful healthcare application isn't worth a penny if patients and doctors don't use it. This is where traditional marketing comes in. You have to reach your audience and communicate with them in such a way that they actually hear what you're saying – and that they want to learn more. This is no small task. Part of the solution may come from what we've learned through digital marketing – you have to present something your audience wants to interact with, which means creating compelling and innovative communication approaches. Mobile marketing strategies can help healthcare marketers redefine their value in society today, but it will take some creative efforts to get us there. In the end, it will take the right combination of traditional and digital marketing methods to engage our audience while at the same time empowering them to learn more when and where they want.

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