The Changing Role of Marketing in Patient Engagement

December 17, 2020 | Stericycle Communication Solutions

It's no secret that the patient journey has changed and that patients expect more than ever before from their healthcare providers. This precedent is being set by the access and convenience that patients are receiving from e-commerce and online retailers. Round-the-clock access to live support and digital tools that offer advice, referrals, appointment scheduling, and reminders are fast becoming the expected norm, not the exception. With greater patient expectations, healthcare marketers are finding that their list of responsibilities and tasks are also growing.

Learn how we can help attract, educate, and retain patients.

Changing Roles

For years, healthcare marketers' primary tasks centered on raising awareness of a health system and its services, but now, they are increasingly responsible for the full continuum of patient engagement. Previously, healthcare marketers focused on awareness building--including public relations, advertising, events and outreach, newsletters, and websites. However, their responsibilities have evolved to include a wide array of strategic activities that drive growth—such as paid search, social media ads and retargeting, online reviews, call center, text messaging and mobile, patient portals, point of service, and more.

As a result, there's an increased demand for marketers to understand the needs of patients and to optimize the entire patient journey, making it a seamless, frictionless, and satisfying end-to-end experience.

Changing Job Requirements and Title Changes

If you're a healthcare marketer, it's likely that your responsibilities, and those of your peers, have expanded quite a bit in the last several years. Marketers are now more accountable for revenue and growth than ever before, and the ability to drive patient engagement is critical.

A 2018 discussion with five marketers for healthcare organizations spoke to the evolution of the marketing function and its core capabilities to one of "cross-functional connection—all in support of advancing the discipline from order-taking creative to data-driven champion of revenue growth and innovation." 1

Participants had more than 130 years of collective experience leading strategy and healthcare teams and combined knowledge and insights gleaned from consumer brands such as Motorola, Nike, McDonald's, Apple, Starbucks, and Procter and Gamble. Together, they identified and responded to five required traits for the modern healthcare strategist: Bridge Builder, Champion of the Customer Experience, Strategic Storyteller, Lifelong Learner, and Change Agent.2 With these shifts, it's no wonder that job titles and hiring needs are shifting to titles such as Chief Growth Officer and Chief Experience Officer.

And Then, COVID-19 Happened

Well ahead of 2020, the trends were pushing healthcare marketers to pursue a comprehensive and personalized approach to patient engagement—one that reflected an understanding of the many factors that drive patient acquisition, patient retention, and organizational growth.

But earlier this year, in what could be classified as a massive understatement, healthcare delivery and healthcare marketing were further complicated by new realities brought on by COVID-19. Office closures, delays of elective services, reopenings, and new rules and processes—all of these added distinct pressures to patient engagement.

In a matter of months, years' worth of technology and digital evolution occurred. A recent report on digital health technology from Accenture indicated: "We've seen a 15-20x increase in virtual visit volume for telehealth providers during the pandemic, and our estimates show that in the future, 1 in 3 healthcare visits will be conducted virtually." 3

The need for effective, personalized live and digital communication solutions—and for markers adept at managing them—is increasing. In-person health visits are now marked by virtual waiting rooms, contactless check-in and touchless transactions—activities aimed at increasing safety and boosting patients' confidence in returning to their providers' office. And for patients accustomed to convenience, many may be tempted to visit retail locations for quick health services that offer an easy in and out.

The Need for a Comprehensive Patient Engagement Platform

Between emerging technology, changing protocols, endless options, and an onslaught of messaging, there's greater competition for patients than ever before. As vice president of marketing and communications for Stericycle Communication Solutions, Kelly Hilton understands marketers work hard to attract, educate, and retain patients—and their jobs are not getting any easier.

She states, "Today's consumer receives 4,000 - 10,000 messages a day, and the average person can only process 100 of them. Against that stark reality, healthcare marketers must capture patients' attention and get them to take recommended actions. To drive patient action, messaging must be relevant, motivate an emotional response, and be prescriptive enough to enable the patient to understand the next step in their care."

Fortunately, Stericycle offers the most comprehensive patient engagement platform in the industry. We are the only provider that seamlessly combines both voice and digital channels to provide the modern experience healthcare consumers want while solving complex challenges to patient access, action, and adherence.

To learn more about our solutions and to how we can help healthcare marketers, download our new eBook entitled "The Modern Patient Journey: Marketing's Expanding Role in Patient Engagement."

Optimize the entire patient journey to make it a frictionless end-to-end patient experience.  The Modern Patient Journey: Marketing's Expanding Role in Patient Engagement. Download The Ebook.

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