Every business has its idiosyncracies and the healthcare business has more than its fair share. Today, we share tips for success in this industry.
Idiosyncracies of the healthcare industry
The healthcare industry is unique, especially in the US, which is one of the only developed nations without universal healthcare. Thus, receiving healthcare involves a complex interplay of public, private, and governmental programs that leaves many Americans in the lurch when they face an illness or injury. In fact, healthcare costs represent the single more significant factor (66.5%) impacting bankruptcy filings in the US.
Healthcare costs in the US are paid through either private insurance, mostly subsidized, or fully paid by the insured’s employer, or through a government program such as Medicare (for those 65+) or Medicaid (for very low-income individuals). As a result, in the US, there are currently 31.6 million uninsured Americans, down from a few years ago due to the government program initiated under President Barach Obama (colloquial Obamacare) to allow uninsured Americans to buy healthcare using government subsidies. Healthcare costs for these Americans transfer to the public hospitals, which are the first choice for the uninsured when they need immediate healthcare. Many of these bills go unpaid, which forces hospitals to shift expenses to those who are insured. HSA (healthcare savings accounts) are also available to workers. These HSAs allow an employee to contribute pre-tax dollars into a fund that reimburses them for healthcare-related expenses. A few free or low-cost clinics are also run through charitable giving to help the neediest receive healthcare.
Because insurance companies negotiate prices with service providers and drug companies (or pharmacies), patients often have no clue regarding the cost of a specific healthcare service or device. Even those responsible for filing insurance claims at a medical facility often don’t know specifically how much a particular procedure will cost an individual patient. Thus, patients aren’t in a position to negotiate prices or make decisions about healthcare by weighting prices across providers as they would any other purchase decision. These payer factors, at least in part, account for healthcare costs in the US that far exceed those in most of the rest of the world.
Insurance companies also exert influence over patient choice. Instead of opting for the lowest cost medical provider, patients are restricted to choosing one that accepts their particular insurance company’s products or one forming a network approved by the insurance company. These factors further restrict the purchase choices made and complicate the purchase of medical care beyond that which the average patient can effectively manage.
The US also has an outmoded tort (civil law) system that often results in huge payouts for medical malpractice, often with flimsy evidence of wrongdoing. To indemnify medical providers, they purchase malpractice insurance with rates that result in some physicians leaving high-risk practices such as obstetrics rather than paying high insurance rates for these specialties. Obviously, these costs transfer as overhead to patients. In addition, medical facilities often order additional tests that result in charges to patients and insurance companies to indemnify them against charges of malpractice. Many argue that tort reform by itself would lower healthcare costs significantly.
Tips for success in the healthcare industry
Advertising, one of the most basic tips for success, is problematic in the healthcare industry. Up until a few years ago, you never saw medical providers advertising. Of course, like most things, that’s changed, although advertising still tends to be fairly professional to avoid malpractice issues.
Beyond this, how do the idiosyncracies of the healthcare industry impact your ability to market to patients and achieve success?
1. Understand the decision-making process is different
The first is that you must recognize the unique decision-making process faced by patients that is vastly different than the one used in nearly every other purchase decision based on the complexities outlined above. You must also recognize that purchasing healthcare falls into the category of unsought products, which also greatly impacts the decision-making process. The exception to this is medical procedures that aren’t reimbursed by health insurance, such as cosmetic procedures where patient decision-making is closer to that expressed for other product types.
One of the most basic tips for success in the healthcare industry is to understand the factors that influence patient decisions about this product category. Create your marketing strategy around this process. That said, you can still use popular marketing channels as a tool to create awareness of your healthcare business and drive patient choice.
2. Use social media to your advantage
If you’re not using social media to promote your business, you’re missing out on a huge opportunity. Social media is a great way to reach new customers and connect with your target audience. Make sure you have a strong presence on all the major platforms used by your patients, such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Post engaging content regularly and make sure to respond to comments and messages promptly.
Here are a few more tips for success when using social media to your advantage:
- Use hashtags to get found in searches.
- Collaborate with influencers in your industry.
- Run social media ads.
- Host giveaways and competitions. For instance, my daughter’s orthodontist hosts a monthly contest where a prize is awarded to the best image posted on social media of a patient wearing his t-shirt.
- Go live on Facebook or Instagram to connect with your audience in real-time to answer healthcare questions or show successful treatments.
3. Create compelling content
Content is still king when it comes to marketing your business online. That’s because potential customers are always looking for helpful, informative, and entertaining content. If you can provide that, they’re more likely to remember your brand and come back for more.
Also, your content is a way to demonstrate your values and build trust with potential patients. By showing images of your office staff helping with a healthcare screening in your community or offering free seminars, you help your community connect with you.
Not sure where to start? Here are a few ideas:
- Write blog posts about topics related to your industry.
- Create helpful how-to videos.
- Share infographics and other types of visuals.
- Offer free eBooks or white papers.
Remember, the key is to create content that’s actually useful and interesting to your target audience. Don’t just produce something for the sake of it – make sure it has value.
4. Optimize your website for search engines
If you want people to find your business online, you need to make sure your website is optimized for search engines. That means using the right keywords and phrases in your content so you attract the right users to your site, as well as making sure your site is easy to navigate.
Not sure where to start? Here are a few tips:
- Do some keyword research to find the right keywords to target.
- Use those keywords throughout your website, including in your titles, metatags, and headings.
- Make sure your website is mobile-friendly.
- Improve your page load speed.
- Add new content regularly.
By following these tips, you’ll be well on your way to achieving better search engine rankings. And that means more people will be able to find your business when they’re searching for related terms.
5. Invest in paid advertising
Paid advertising is a great way to get your brand in front of more people. And when done correctly, it can be extremely effective. There are a number of different paid advertising platforms you can use, such as Google AdWords, Facebook Ads, and LinkedIn Ads. The key is to create ads that are relevant and targeted to your audience. You should also test different ad formats and strategies to see what works best for your business.
Here are a few tips:
- Use relevant keywords in your ad copy.
- Target your ads to the right audience.
- Test different ad formats and strategies.
- Set a budget and stick to it.
Paid advertising are a great way to quickly boost your visibility online. Just make sure you’re investing wisely and not overspending.
6. Direct mail marketing
Direct mail marketing is a tried and true method for promoting your business. And it can be extremely effective if done correctly. The key is to create a strong offer and target your mailing list carefully. You can either buy a mailing list or build your own by collecting the contact information of potential customers. Once you have your list, you need to create an enticing offer and design eye-catching materials. Then you’ll just need to drop everything in the mail and wait for the responses to come rolling in!
Here are a few tips:
- Build a targeted mailing list.
- Create a strong offer.
- Design eye-catching materials.
- Test different versions of your direct mail campaign.
Direct mail is a great way to reach potential customers who might not be reached through other marketing channels. Just make sure you’re doing it correctly by following these tips.
These are just a few tips for success you can use to boost your health business and swim with the big fish! Implement these tips today and start seeing results. Soon, you’ll be wondering why you ever thought being a small fish was an option!
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