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February, 2013

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February, 2013

Four Hot Healthcare Trends for 2013

This year’s four hottest healthcare trends focus on the rise in healthcare engagement — whether on a smart phone, in an online chat room, on Facebook or in an exercise class. As a strategic healthcare marketer private practice should embrace these trends to help build more meaningful relationships with their healthcare audiences.

In addition to major changes in the organization and reorganization of medical groups due to impending healthcare reforms, you need to know how recent shifts in demographic and psychographic tendencies and technology impact your patient base and their behaviors. To help you better understand what you’re up against, here are the four hottest trends in healthcare for 2013:

1. The Rise of Mobile Websites

Mobile websites are growing increasingly important, as are special offers that encourage immediate action from prospective patients. According to Nielsen, smartphone owners outnumbered non-smartphone owners for the first time in 2012.

According to Morgan Stanley, over 90 percent of smartphone users keep their phones close at hand 24 hours a day, seven days a week. And Harris Interactive reports that most people check their smartphones for calls, texts and emails at least once every hour. Health information is now the fastest-growing search category on mobile devices. According to Mobile Marketer, 70% of all mobile searches result in action within one hour. And Google reports that 61% of all local searches on a mobile phone result in a phone call.

The most effective mobile websites are specifically designed to be user-friendly and easily viewed on relatively small smartphone screens. That means less pinching, expanding and scrolling for the user. (Note: Practice Builders began providing mobile web versions of client websites in 2012.)

2. The Importance of Trust in Branding

Branding remains important to anyone looking to attract customers in any business. Even more important now, particularly in healthcare practice, is embedding the concept of trust into your internal and external branding. Trust is the new competitive advantage, as consumers reeling from a difficult economy have become more skeptical of brands and brand claims in general. If they trust you, they will tell others.

Trust impacts every aspect of the patient experience. Trust has become a precious commodity – the new “gold standard” in communications.

Recent surveys reveal that consumer trust in brands had dropped 50 percent over the past decade. Because trust is in such limited supply these days, it has stimulated strong consumer demand. To build a higher degree of trust with your healthcare practice brand, you should first examine your tone. Do your marketing and communications messages talk up or down to patients? Do you use words and phrases that a lay audience with an average 5th grade reading level can understand?

And what about your actions? Do you keep patients waiting for hours? Do you give terse, incomplete answers to their questions? Does your staff ignore them or act annoyed when they ask questions?

Are you focused on creating a better overall patient experience? Or are you simply dispensing information and hoping it will lead to engagement? As a healthcare practitioner, you have so many opportunities to build trust among your current patients. Are you using them?

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3. The Importance of Engaging Patient Prospects

Engagement is the hot new buzzword in online marketing. The more your communications encourage patient feedback and greater involvement in their own healthcare, the better. Engagement is being able to relate to your patients on their level, not yours, in whatever medium you choose. Once you earn their trust, you can begin to establish feedback loops that lead to engagement with more patients.

Establishing feedback loops means allowing patient prospects to provide real-time reactions to your online activities. You benefit by building trust and brand loyalty and attracting more patients. Patients benefit because their feedback helps them achieve their health goals.

Look for opportunities to build credibility with online audiences by engaging patients through social networks such as Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and Yelp, as well as through mobile websites and online review sites such as Yelp and vitals.com. 

4. The Shift in Demographics and Psychographics

Shifting demographics and psychographics call for us to address changing population trends. For example, Generation Y (those born from about 1980-1999) is delaying traditional signs of adulthood (e.g. leaving their parents’ homes or purchasing homes of their own), while Baby Boomers are refusing to grow old mentally or physically, as evidenced by:

  • Many Boomers with good health habits can expect to live past 90 years
  • Female gamers over age 55 spend more time online gaming than males age 15 to 24
  • Two out of three adults over 55 describe themselves as “youthful”
  • Nearly three out of four Boomers plan to work beyond age 65

There is a newfound sense among all post “9/11” and economic recession consumers that personal fulfillment is to be enjoyed right here, right now ­– because, as a recent pop song said, “we might not get tomorrow.”

For healthcare practitioners, this means taking a more youthful approach when you communicate with people 60 and older. Instead of showing older adults acting sedentary or picking daisies, show them taking Zumba classes, riding bikes, hiking and other more robust activities normally associated with 20- to 30-somethings.

Ask your patients how they use their smartphones and social media. Ask them what they do for exercise and entertainment, and whether they “feel” their actual age. Use those findings to develop your new communications strategies and messaging.

Seek Professional Help

If you are too busy or overwhelmed to do any of the above, get some professional help. Practice Builders offers today’s most cost-efficient and effective online media products and services for private healthcare practices. To learn more about them, call us at 800.679.1200.

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