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  • Writer's pictureMatthew East

How patient demand forces a digital revolution

Updated: Apr 9

If your medical product could treat a patient’s problem, would they be able to discover it?

Whether you’re a marketing manager, CEO or venture capitalist, you must ensure your healthcare products are easily discoverable by today’s patients seeking new treatment options online through relevant and attention-grabbing digital marketing.


Quote that reads:  Whether you’re a marketing manager, CEO or venture capitalist, you must ensure your healthcare products are easily discoverable by today’s patients seeking new treatment options online through relevant and attention-grabbing digital marketing.

How changing patient demand forces a digital revolution in healthcare marketing techniques


The immediate impact digital ecosystems have had on how patients seek healthcare information, products and treatments means connecting with them has never been easier.

But only if you adopt and constantly adapt your marketing strategies, brand voice and systems and listen to the results of your work.

If your brand fails to keep up in this changing environment, you risk a lack of growth by:

  • Missing out on opportunities to get in front of patients, physicians and providers.

  • Failing to control the flow of information from brand to patients.

  • Losing ground to competitors in the spaces patients occupy.

Resulting in the potential failure of your healthcare products to remain in the market and the loss of trust between historical and current patients, physicians and investors of your brand.

So how do you keep up? By ensuring your products are discoverable, relevant and attention-grabbing online by the people who need them.

 

Why do patients need your brand to be discoverable, relevant and attention-grabbing?

The way patients access healthcare information, treatments and advice is rapidly changing to be more self-directed and online-focussed, requiring less contact time with healthcare professionals.

Patients are choosing to invest in their healthcare due to extensive waiting times across the NHS. The latest figures for July 2022 show the following:

  • A record of over 6.84 million people waiting for treatment

  • 2.67 million patients waiting over 18 weeks for treatment, a further increase from last month

  • 377,689 patients waiting over one year for treatment - over 365 times the 1,032 people waiting over a year pre-pandemic in July 2019

  • A median waiting time for treatment of 13.3 weeks – significantly higher than the pre-COVID duration [1]

Due to a combination of historic staffing issues, the COVID-19 pandemic and a rapidly ageing population, the waiting times for NHS healthcare services continue to soar.

And despite a continual focus on tackling the elective backlog, the higher UK life expectancy means the challenges aren’t going away.

People aged 65 years in the UK in 2020 can expect to live on average a further 19.7 years for males and 22.0 years for females, projected to rise to 21.9 years for males and 24.1 years for females aged 65 years in 2045 [2].

Hence the NHS is in a state of continued overcapacity at a time when due to budget constraints, the service performs 40,000 fewer surgeries annually than in 2017 [3], meaning the threshold to intervention has increased, in turn causing concerns about future re-operation rates.

Therefore, it’s no wonder patients are switching to self-paid healthcare options to ensure they get the necessary treatments.

As of 2020, the UK’s ‘self-pay market’ hit a new high of £1.117 billion, a number that’s grown year on year since 2010 – growth that’s expected to continue [4].

50% of industry figures now predict the market could grow by as much as 15% by 2025 [4].

And these new self-pay patients are turning online to find the treatments they need.

Patient have an online consultation.
Patient having an online consultation

Covid-19 set the foundation for patients being more comfortable using digital technology to manage their healthcare, with systems like the vaccination app and online booking systems.

As of 2022, nearly 14 million patients now use online channels to access NHS services [5].

According to a public health study, patients have become comfortable with turning to the internet to seek solutions to their medical problems, with online searches for digital health products in the UK increasing by 343% during the first lockdown [6].

So your brand needs to be easily discoverable by their search terms, offering them relevant solutions in ways that grab their attention.

Hence investing in digital ecosystems are vital for connecting your brand to the patients who need your products.

 

How do you overcome barriers to making your brand discoverable, relevant and attention-grabbing?


Marketing managers struggle to make their product messaging attention-grabbing and relevant to patients

Historically, information about new medical products flows directly from the brand (through reps, PR kits and physician-targeting marketing materials) to healthcare professionals and then to patients.

Today sees many patients seek this information through online channels, thus removing healthcare professionals from the equation.

The wide range of digital channels such as websites, apps, social media, podcasts and AI means brands must now focus marketing efforts on communicating directly with patients, making themselves easily discoverable, relevant to patient problems and attention-grabbing, so patients act on your calls to action.

However, healthcare brands are used to communicating with physicians only, so much of their marketing materials are not set up with the correct patient-facing language, thus fail to engage patients and drive them to use the product.

For example, we worked with an index 500 global blue chip company on campaigns for a product that had previously only been marketed to healthcare professionals. Hence its messaging failed to drive patient engagement.

We segmented their patients and designed messaging that resonated with the different groups, then spread it across the channels those groups occupied online.

This ensured the patients discovered the messaging, found it relevant and grabbed their attention by speaking directly to them so they’d follow the funnel through to purchase.


Marketing managers struggle to control the flow of information from their brand to patients

You need to remain an authority voice for information about your product on the wide range of channels your target patients occupy, to ensure false claims about your brand or products aren’t widely spread.


Quote that reads: You need to remain an authority voice for information about your product on the wide range of channels your target patients occupy, to ensure false claims about your brand or products aren’t widely spread

With deep fake technology and further improvements in AI, patients may find themselves taking ownership of their care via misleading messages or apps that can adversely affect your product’s reputation.

Therefore, marketing managers must stay on top of security issues across all digital platforms and provide sources to back up every claim they make online.

We’ve helped an international brand within the health and care sector to create a campaign to target audiences across web, social and digital advertising, outlining rigorously checked references so physicians and patients could trace back every claim and trust our campaign messaging.

Making your brand an authoritative voice on the channels your audience occupy ensures your products are easy to discover through relevant messaging that grabs attention through its evidence-based approach.


Healthcare companies might not have accurate historical data on the right patients to target

If your healthcare brand hasn’t historically run direct-to-patient marketing campaigns about your products, you won’t have generated the data about your target patients you can gain from running one.

Data such as gender, age, location, interests, typical sources of information, which social channels they prefer, and what types of things they search for.

This data is critical because it helps you know what kinds of messaging, assets and channels are most likely to grab the attention of your exact patient audience, making them discover your products and see how relevant they are to their current healthcare challenges.

For example, we helped a blue chip company to gain deep insights into their typical patient base, using data to split the base into five target personas we could then use to design messaging.

This improved messaging immediately impacted the suitable patients, helping them discover how the product was relevant to them and increased the number of patients booking consultations with providers by around 2.4%.


Marketing managers struggle to keep up with the changing demands from physicians for patient information on their products

Due to the sizeable elective backlog within the NHS, many patients no longer wish to wait for treatments and are now switching to self-pay options.

However, this means they want information on possible treatment options for their conditions to be discoverable in the relevant online spaces where they can trust the information.

This allows brands to join forces with providers and signpost the availability of treatments in the relevant online spaces where patients choose to source their information.

For example, we helped the blue-chip company to create a co-marketing campaign with the providers using their products to treat patients.

The campaign used patient-focused messaging and co-branded assets across several online channels to help relevant patients discover how the product could treat their condition, gain their attention and trust, and then drive them to book a consultation with the provider.

These campaigns help spread awareness of treatment solutions to those who might benefit most and offer them an option to access it in their local area. Through shared expertise and co-funding, providers can initiate campaigns to signpost awareness of treatments they have carefully selected for the people that need them the most.


Marketing managers struggle to get their products in front of the people who benefit from them the most

There are several instances across healthcare where a product is available as a treatment but:

  1. The patients are unaware as they expect to hear about their treatment options from their healthcare providers.

  2. Healthcare providers are unaware of the treatment, so they don’t offer it to the patients.

Thus creating a gap between what the patient believes they must put up with as part of their condition vs what is available to treat their condition, which can erode trust between the patient and the healthcare service.

In these instances, healthcare brands of products that can help the condition have two approaches: direct-to-patient marketing and healthcare professional marketing.

As mentioned previously, historically, healthcare products have been marketed to healthcare professionals. However, now patients occupy online spaces, direct-to-patient marketing is just as critical.

Quote that reads: Historically, healthcare products have been marketed to healthcare professionals. However, now patients occupy online spaces, direct-to-patient marketing is just as critical.

To market to patients, you must get them to trust your marketing materials.

So one problem you may come up against is them asking, ‘why am I hearing about this solution from a brand and not my healthcare professional?’

In working with the blue-chip medical device company, we’ve managed successful direct-to-patient marketing campaigns by:

  1. Explaining why patients may not have heard of the treatment before

  2. Outlining how the treatment can help their life by treating their condition

  3. Directing them to providers offering the treatment

Using this approach alongside co-marketing ensures messaging flows from the brand through to the provider and surgeons in a way patients discover and trust.


Marketing managers struggle to get internal buy-in from stakeholders to run the campaigns they need to / invest in the technology systems they need to

The rapid uptake of digital systems from patients within healthcare means some brand stakeholders can doubt the necessity of direct-to-patient digital marketing.

This means brands may not invest in the best marketing systems or even begin digital campaigns.

Data is the winner here, and by showcasing the kind of data marketing campaigns can generate about potential patients in easy-to-read dashboards is how you can move from doubts to buy-in from internal stakeholders.


Healthcare marketing managers who cannot utilise direct-to-patient digital marketing techniques may struggle to bring growth to their brand

The truth is patients now expect to find information about their conditions and treatments online [6], so any brand that fails to meet their patients where their patients are online risks missing the massive potential for growth.

Quote that reads: patients now expect to find information about their conditions and treatments online [6], so any brand that fails to meet their patients where their patients are online risks missing the massive potential for growth.

If it’s not your brand utilising the wealth of channels for direct-to-patient digital marketing, odds are your competitors will and your products may well be edged out of the market.

 

How can you make your brand discoverable online?

Partnering with a healthcare marketing agency like Agency helps your brand to overcome your discoverability challenges and create relevant marketing that helps your products stand out.

Agency is a creative healthcare marketing agency that understands your marketing challenges and has a wealth of experience in the sector.

Working with a healthcare-specialist agency means we know how to communicate with your audience, create campaigns that conform to medical standards and support you throughout your marketing journey.


 

Let’s help people find your healthcare products

Working with Agency helps healthcare tech marketing managers to:

  • Get more data on the people who need their products

  • So they can ensure their products are discoverable by the people who need them

  • To bring broader growth to their company

We unite patients, physicians and providers with your brand, helping them to discover and trust your healthcare products to improve their lives.

Now trust that we can help you with your campaigns to do the same.




FAQs


What is the impact of patient demand on the digital revolution in healthcare marketing?

The increasing demand from patients has propelled a digital revolution in healthcare marketing. Patients now seek treatment information online, reshaping how brands connect with their audience.

How can healthcare brands adapt to changing patient behaviour in the digital era?

Why is it crucial for healthcare products to be easily discoverable online?

What strategies can marketing managers use to make healthcare products more discoverable through digital marketing?

How has patient behaviour shifted towards online-focused healthcare information?

What role does online accessibility play in patients' decisions regarding healthcare treatments?

How has the COVID-19 pandemic contributed to the digital revolution in managing healthcare?

How can healthcare brands overcome barriers to making their products discoverable, relevant, and attention-grabbing online?

Why is direct-to-patient marketing becoming increasingly critical for healthcare brands?



References

  1. https://www.bma.org.uk/advice-and-support/nhs-delivery-and-workforce/pressures/nhs-backlog-data-analysis

  2. https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/birthsdeathsandmarriages/lifeexpectancies/bulletins/pastandprojecteddatafromtheperiodandcohortlifetables/2020baseduk1981to2070

  3. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-43300995

  4. https://linqhc.co.uk/uncategorized/more-patients-turning-to-private-healthcare-in-the-uk-report-finds

  5. https://www.england.nhs.uk/2018/03/dramatic-annual-surge-in-online-gp-services-as-patients-sign-up-for-convenience/%23:~:text%3DNearly%252014%2520million%2520patients%2520across,themselves%2520and%2520busy%2520GP%2520practices&sa=D&source=docs&ust=1665150730877134&usg=AOvVaw00GwOML9eMdFWrHkqNS6hP

  6. https://bmjopen.bmj.com/content/11/10/e053891

  7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6502619/


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