How the Growth of Telehealth Has Become a Catalyst for Patient-Centric Demand Marketing

While both patient demand and legislative change have increased provider focus on patient experience over the last few years, COVID-19 has dramatically accelerated the expansion of the patient-centric care model. Never before has it been so critical to provide patients healthcare when and where they want it through methods like patient-centric demand marketing. As a result, providers have been scrambling to meet new patient needs through the rapid introduction of telehealth services in recent months. And patients are here for it. A recent survey cited a 65% jump in U.S. consumers reporting ‘moderate’ or ‘high’ likelihood of using telehealth in the future.

We’ve stepped into a new age of healthcare and we’re not going back, which is why it’s important for healthcare marketers to understand why patient-centricity applies to them too, and should be a priority even before the appointment. Scaling telehealth programs up alongside targeted, strategic demand marketing efforts can help bridge the revenue gap created by COVID-19. More than this, tuning demand marketing to support telehealth can create a catalyst for demand marketing transformation that truly puts patient-centric demand marketing at the forefront and sets you apart from competitors. 

Patient-Centric Demand Marketing

What are the three pillars of patient-centric demand marketing?

  1. Tailored: A patient-centric approach to generating demand for telehealth will speak to your patients’ challenges and the value drivers that are meaningful to them. Create a connection through authentic, meaningful, humanizing messaging.
  2. Responsive: Evolving customer engagement in healthcare via strategic demand marketing puts the buyer in control of their buying journey by creating an experience that responds to their engagement with both content type and cadence.
  3. Accessible: Patients’ desire to receive healthcare services where they are led to the rise in telehealth adoption. Likewise, patients are primarily doing the research to find their telehealth provider online. Focusing on digital channels will help healthcare marketers meet patients where they are.

Patient-Centric Demand Marketing Pillar #1: Tailoring Your Message

Creating patient-centric messaging for demand marketing requires connecting with your patient through the lens of their challenges. Some of these challenges will obviously be health-related, but some may be telehealth-related. Attitudinal considerations will come into play here. For example, if you have technology-averse prospects who need reassurance about the level of care they’ll receive, the quality of the experience they’ll have, and their rights to privacy and security, that’s important to understand. Or, if you have a segment of your population that is ready to embrace a digital model of care, and they just need to be educated about which health issues it can address for them, or convinced that your offering is the best one, that’s equally as important to recognize. Conducting first-person research and validating it with third-party data will help you segment your audience into the appropriate groups that you can then use to build out conversation tracks. We offer more information about how to do that in the blog post, “8 Deeper Questions to Ask to Understand Your Buyer.

You may also consider demographics in your segmentation. The most significant growth in telehealth use as a result of COVID-19 came from the 50-64 population. This audience is likely to be more technologically inclined than the 65+, but have more health issues than the younger segments and higher concerns about possible in-office COVID exposures. Taking demand marketing into consideration, you’d use this information to help guide the build of target personas/patients and the conversations they want to be having with healthcare providers. 

telehealth statistics

Patient-Centric Demand Marketing Pillar #2: Making it Responsive: 

Once you’ve identified your key segments and built out corresponding conversation tracks, you’ll want to evaluate the buying journey of each prospect within those segments. This allows you to strategically map the buyer experience and set your demand marketing efforts against that, becoming truly patient-centric as you meet them where they are at in their journey.  A journey to a telehealth service may involve some or all of these steps:

  1. Passive: The prospect passively hears about the growing acceptance and usage of telehealth as an alternative to physically entering their doctor’s office.
  2. Trigger: They experience a health issue and recall what they learned about telehealth as an option. They enter a proactive ‘buying’ state.
  3. Search: If they’re already your patient, they may call or visit your website to see if you offer telehealth as an option. If they don’t have a provider in mind, this is where the research process begins. Patients will typically start their search online and commonly compare providers to one another via third party reviews.

You want to consider how to engage patients at each of these stages through both your content and channel strategies in order to use demand marketing to be patent-centric. To accommodate the passive stage, create content that orients patients to the concept of telehealth and addresses common concerns across your audience segments. Build trust by providing valuable information about privacy, patient experience, efficacy, etc. Once your patient has a trigger that catapults them into research mode, you then want to be ready to catch them with the right content (if you’re not sure how to do that, read Four Steps to Take Before Creating New Content.) Keep in mind you’re solving for an active trigger, so you want to address topics like: Can you treat X via telehealth? How do I find a telehealth provider? Finally, moving down the funnel as patients begin their search: what separates your organization and/or telehealth offering from your competition? 

Establishing this structure will enable you to create a responsive marketing dynamic. Using behavior cues, you can progress patients forward by serving them content down the buyer journey or slow your outreach to align with a drop in engagement.

Patient-Centric Demand Marketing Pillar #3: Make it Accessible

Now that you’ve created your patient profiles and outlined the steps they might take to find you, it’s time to create a strategy for engagement. You have a digital offering in a world that’s operating more digitally than ever before — so think digital. For example, since you likely have current patient contact info, emailing them your new content on telehealth and nurturing them through the buying stages is a no-brainer (as long as you also have opt-in permissions). 

Your website is your biggest digital footprint and it’s going to live at the center of all your demand marketing efforts, both on the current patient and prospective patient side. Current patients may go directly to your site to find out if you’re offering telehealth services, or click in from one of your emails seeking more detailed information, so make your telehealth content easy to find!

Search is an integral part of many patients’ buying journey. A survey commissioned by Doctors.com revealed that 63% of respondents will choose one provider over another because of a strong online presence –exemplified by availability of relevant, accurate, and compelling information. (source) These factors not only affect patient perception, but they also affect your patients’ ability to find you in the first place. Learn more about optimizing your digital engagement in the article Now Is the Time to Plan Your 2021 Demand Marketing Transformation.

Conclusion

For providers to thrive in this new era, a patient-centric demand strategy is key. Align your services to your patient needs, and market those services when, where, and how your patients want to find you. For more resources to kickstart your strategic demand marketing approach, we recommend: 

Evolving Customer Engagement in Healthcare

Making the Critical Shift from Tactical to Strategic Demand Marketing 

Harnessing the Digital Customer Journey to Drive Growth

More Great Content
MAP Comparison
2021 ANNUITAS Enterprise Marketing Automation Platform Analysis

Selecting the Right Marketing Automation Platform for Your Enterprise Demand Technology Stack Marke...


Read More

demand process
A Framework for Sustainable Growth: ANNUITAS Demand Process™

In April 2012 our CEO, Adam Needles, published a blog post that introduced the concept of Demand Pro...


Read More

conversations
The Key to Operationalizing Go-to-Market Around Customer Journey: Conversation Track Architecture

Making the shift to a strategic demand approach and going to market outside-in is a key step towards...


Read More