Marketing and Communications in Health Care

Hospitals and health care systems occupy a distinct place within a community. Not only do they provide health services, but they are also a primary provider of health education and an information and care source when a public or community health crisis occurs. For this reason, marketing and communications functions in a health care setting are multi-dimensional and often blend elements of community relations, crisis communications, and business development. Discover how marketing and communications function in today’s health care systems.

A Focus On Engagement

Image via Flickr by A&M-Commerce

According to a survey published by Jarrard Phillips Cate and Hancock, a leading health care communications consulting firm, 21st-century marketing and communications departments combine traditional activities with a focus on patient engagement and satisfaction, plus employee satisfaction and physician retention. The firm identifies key functions of the chief communications officer, a health care administration role. These functions include advertising; digital media management; issues, crisis, and leadership communications; physician and community relations; fundraising; patient experience; and business development.

The marketing and communications department in health care is also often tasked with managing the patient portal, a key part promoted in the health care reform law. According to Julian Lopez of Healthcare Business and Technology, hospital executives consider patient engagement a major issue. Lopez notes today’s health care communications teams will expand the role of the patient portal to include health evaluation tools, lifestyle coaching, and health education to traditional portal services.

Marketing for Mobile

According to MDG Advertising, a health care marketing firm, 2015 will see an increased focus on mobile marketing, as more health care consumers use apps and wearable technology to monitor their weight, fitness, and other health indicators. As a result, the firm surmises, marketers who engage these consumers on their mobile devices with branded, relevant content will have an advantage over competitors. Julie Davis, writing for the American Marketing Association, notes that, “Mobile tools will become the primary driver of communication” within the health care system.

MDG also sees an increased role for social media and content marketing in overall digital marketing strategies. As patients turn to social media to share their stories and get support, health care marketers will use those platforms to connect with consumers and post content to build trust with their brands.

On the Health Care Communications Horizon

Paul Holmes, a leading PR expert, identifies several trends in the way health systems approach communications. Specifically, he notices patients taking more control of their health and health care decisions. Holmes says a re-evaluation is impacting the balance between writing for a health care professional audience, or “information gatekeeper,” and writing for the health care consumer audience. The latter audience demands more transparency to help them make informed health care decisions.

Holmes notes several other issues affecting health care communications. Corporate health care is becoming the norm. Large health systems are replacing small independent practices and community hospitals. Communications teams are increasingly focusing on branding and positioning. Digital communications strategies will include a broad mix of paid, owned, and earned media.

Marketing and communications professionals in a health care setting face a different set of challenges than professionals in other industries. But as the Jarrard Phillips Cate and Hancock report concludes, there has rarely been a more rewarding time for these professionals to bring about change.