The health care advertising landscape has changed dramatically in the last few years. While the pandemic accelerated trends, technology and care models, there were already changes in motion. Many of those are consumer driven, as health care has become less transactional. Patients often have choices, which telehealth may have amplified. Health care providers should therefore rethink how they advertise. In this post, we’ll get you up to date on health care advertising trends, so you can prospect and pitch more effectively.

The Patient Consumer Trends

There has been a significant shift in how providers view their patient population. Years ago, most people didn’t have the luxury of choice. Now, most people do, whether that be where they fill their prescriptions, the doctors they choose for general and specialty care, or the hospitals they use for acute care. That means there’s a broader competitive landscape. Organizations look to marketing and advertising tactics to win over these patient consumers. Welcome to the consumerization of health care, the most significant health care advertising trend.

The model for patient acquisition is different. Even with referrals, patients often have more than one option. That drives practices and health care systems to invest more in advertising. This typically involves both linear and digital ad tactics. For the former, they get broad reach and can demonstrate their community ties and great reputation. Digital helps them target more specifically based on demographics and locations.

With better targeting, they can also personalize advertising more. For example, dermatologists may want to increase their patient base by adding more females under 40 who have cystic acne or other skin issues. You can then suggest targeted display ads or OTT/CTV to reach that specific audience. To create an integrated campaign, you can also complement this with SEM (search engine marketing).

But what about areas where choice is limited?

Access Isn’t Equal

In some parts of the country, there are medical deserts, which are regions that have inadequate access to clinicians and sometimes medications. In fact, a study revealed that 80% of the country lacks accessibility.

That’s especially true for specialists and mental health services. By understanding what’s lacking in your area, you can use that as an advantage when prospecting. First, the adoption of telehealth accelerated during the pandemic, and insurance companies, as well as Medicare and Medicaid, cover these services. If there’s a telehealth practice licensed in your state, they’ll want to reach audiences that you can connect them to with digital and linear opportunities.

Second is the focus on specialists and their acquisition of new patients in surrounding areas. For example, Cancer Treatment Centers of America focus only on treating these diseases. They are considered high-quality, premium care facilities. They only have three locations in the U.S. but consider their patient base potential nationwide. For example, people in California, Nevada, Utah and New Mexico could be targets for the location in Phoenix.

These two examples demonstrate that local health care advertising doesn’t just happen within a city, state or ZIP code.

Another important consideration in health care consumerization is ad content.

Ad Content to Support Patient Consumers

Consumers look at health care decision-making as they do with any product or service. They want to research options. During this time, some elements will resonate and build trust. These are the types of things ads should include:

  • Social proof: Ratings, reviews, testimonials, awards and community involvement
  • Storytelling: Patients want to understand what to expect and what the organization offers in ways that engage their senses — not just a bullet list of services.
  • Getting personal: Health care, for too long, was overly complex and hidden behind a curtain. Now, it’s front and center. Advertisers should lean in to showcasing the people behind the care.
  • Accessibility: Focusing on ad content that includes how easy it is to become a patient can smooth out friction. For example, the ability to make online appointments would be attractive to many.
  • Revealing pricing: Talking about costs isn’t relevant to all health care advertisers, but it can be a deciding factor for many procedures. For example, LASIK eye surgery is elective, and insurance often doesn’t cover it. Being up front about costs will either drive a person to make an appointment or make them move on, which is a good thing, so the clinic doesn’t waste time with unqualified leads.
  • Addressing the fear factor: Even before the pandemic, fear was an issue in health care. It’s a common occurrence, and if your advertisers can make patients more comfortable, that’s great ad content. Fear of the dentist is one of the leading concerns, and many dentist offices offer sedation. Some even have emotional support dogs.

The Patient Journey Is Fragmented

Like every other customer journey, health care’s is fragmented. That means the process of researching options, considering them and making a decision isn’t linear. People enter the journey at different stages, from being well informed to having little awareness. They also exit it and circle back in different ways. Because information is much more accessible and health decisions so complex, organizations must consider this.

First, you should share the fragmented customer journey perspective. Then, present ideas to meet patient consumers in numerous channels that keep them moving toward a decision. That includes a diverse mix of linear and digital within a campaign. Linear ads will be broader and based on brand awareness. Hearing or seeing these ads makes a difference in what people do next as far as researching and consuming content.

Digital tactics can be more specific based on targeting. That’s especially true for retargeting. These ads display in various channels that a user would see after visiting a website but not converting.

Patient Re-Engagement

Health care organizations need to hone engagement just like any other brand. There are some unique opportunities when it comes to re-engagement. Some health care clients may come to you with concerns about patient churn, which can occur for many reasons. People move and recover. They also may abandon a practice after an experience they believe was negative. The pandemic itself is another issue, as many forewent regular screenings and visits.

Talk to your health care advertisers about a re-engagement campaign that uses email marketing and mobile messaging. These communications can include reminders about screenings or checkups, promotion of new services, introduction of new staff, or anything else that gets people back into clinician offices.

Understanding Health Care Advertising Trends: Prospecting and Pitching Improved

Health care is a complex industry. It’s also one that typically has budget dollars for new patient acquisition and retention. By researching these trends and delivering ways to capitalize on them, you can demonstrate your value immediately. That will be refreshing to decision-makers who likely get the same spiel that doesn’t account for the opportunities and challenges in health care advertising.

Get more ideas by reading these case studies!