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What Role Does Digital Marketing Play in the Healthcare Industry?

As demonstrated by the popularity of health-centric websites like WebMD, people are hungry for answers and help when making crucial medical decisions. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that nearly 60% of U.S. adults searched for a health-related topic online from July to December 2022. Among those surveyed for an article in the “International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health,” almost half said they booked an appointment with a medical professional after doing research online.

Given the crucial role that online searches and digital media play in forming a potential patient’s impression of a healthcare organization and its staff, rising leaders in the digital and healthcare marketing fields must familiarize themselves with the latest tools and trends to drive new business. Through the East Tennessee State University (ETSU) online Master of Business Administration (MBA) with a Concentration in Health Care Marketing, students learn the benefits and challenges of deploying modern digital marketing tools in the healthcare space, including regulatory restrictions and audience analysis.

The Intersection of Social Media and Healthcare Marketing

At some point in their lives, many people will find themselves searching for medical services and a provider who can meet their or a family member’s unique needs. The key for healthcare marketers is to meet prospective patients at the exact moment they are looking for dependable care.

Marketers are also responsible for ensuring a person’s first point of contact with a provider is as positive as possible. In turn, developing a strong social media strategy becomes crucial to attracting new patients, engaging in community health education initiatives and maintaining relationships with existing patients and their families.

Depending on a provider’s specialization, they could host regular livestreams with physicians and other healthcare professionals to answer patient questions about community health topics, according to WebMD Ignite. This approach could be especially effective in reaching new audiences if the marketing team aligns community health discussions with topics relevant to patients. For instance, during allergy season or a flu outbreak in the community, residents are more likely to turn to trusted healthcare sources for tips on how to move forward.

Paid social media advertising that is catered to people’s backgrounds and interests can also reach existing, lapsed or potential patients who already have a provider’s website. According to LinkedIn, recent case studies found that clinics and hospitals that create engaging social media posts and paid social advertising see increased website traffic, new leads on potential patients and more bookings.

Why Is SEO Important in Healthcare?

While social media can help build a provider’s brand and drive prospective patients back to the provider’s website, search engine optimization (SEO) is also crucial to a successful digital marketing strategy. Effective marketers build websites loaded with keywords related to the provider’s area of expertise, according to Medical Economics. As a result, the website appears higher in search engine rankings and results pages.

If a provider wants to increase bookings for orthopedic surgeries on shoulders or elbows, its marketing team can redesign its website so that each webpage features those words. SEO experts may recommend partnering with other websites, such as clinics in the same network, to link back to the provider’s website so that Google sees the facility as having more credibility online.

As part of the Search Marketing course offered in ETSU’s online MBA – Health Care Marketing program, students explore the basics of SEO and search engine advertising including topics like consumer search, pay-per-click search, sponsored links, site optimization, social media and search engine metrics. By the end of the course, marketers are equipped to navigate this rapidly changing field.

How Will Changes to HIPAA Impact Digital Marketing?

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) protects patient health information from being disclosed without the person’s consent. Recent guidelines issued by the Department of Health and Human Services ban providers from combining personally identifiable information with protected health information. In other words, according to Cardinal Digital Marketing, marketers must be careful not to match someone’s IP address with a particular health condition they searched for on a website and use that information to market to the user.

Marketers must also evaluate analytics platforms and marketing programs to ensure they are either HIPAA-compliant or willing to forgo collecting certain information to make them compliant. ETSU’s Health Care Marketing course helps professionals understand how to operate within this regulatory framework and make marketing decisions in a healthcare context. Through ETSU’s online MBA – Health Care Marketing program, marketers learn the skills they need to forge successful careers in a field that will only become more vital over the next decade.

Learn more about East Tennessee State University’s online MBA with a Concentration in Health Care Marketing program.

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