March 21, 2017

When you think "digital patient," which generation comes to mind? Millennials? Their parents? An increasing number of Baby Boomers?

The answer is yes to all of them, but older generations are increasingly getting online with healthcare. In fact, a 2014 survey by McKinsey found that more than 70% of older patients — the consumers who use healthcare services the most — want to use digital technologies for healthcare services.

But with innovative online communication platforms popping up almost daily, figuring out the digital channel in which to invest your healthcare system's resources can be tricky. Multiple factors need to be considered, starting with knowing your healthcare consumer base.

The digital tools your consumers want to use varies widely by age. While younger consumers express a willingness to engage with healthcare systems over social media, older consumers tend to prefer traditional digital channels such as email or websites. Demand for mobile healthcare — websites and digital tools optimized to work on smartphones and mobile devices — is highest among younger consumers, too. The content you share on these platforms should be tailored to the type of patient who uses it most.

Consider these tips when discussing which digital marketing strategy is best for your healthcare organization.

Don't overthink the basics

A hospital's home page is still one of the single most important digital touch points for consumers looking to search before they call or schedule. According to Google Think surveys, more than 75% of patients said they used hospital websites for research. Only 32% said they used TV, 20% said they used magazines, and just 18% said they used newspapers.

Online should help, not hinder

Online reviews seriously impact how consumers select doctors and hospitals these days. But too often, healthcare systems and hospitals get rated like a dining experience — was it quick, convenient, and was the service you received pleasant?

While that may be a good way to evaluate a fast food restaurant, healthcare and hospital experience officers want to know more about the patient's full experience, especially if it was negative. Soliciting the kind of meaningful, quality reviews your organization needs requires help. And keeping up with review volume and knowing how to respond appropriately can become an unmanageable task. A software solution and services that help solicit positive reviews and monitor negative ones is a great way to relieve some of the burden for your organization. Plus, you get help maximizing the impact of the good reviews with services to pushing those raves back out to ratings sites.


Whether it is a informational video on how to recognize symptoms of a disease or state-of-the-art drone footage of your hospital or healthcare system's campus, studies show that consumers who view videos of hospitals are more likely to engage with that hospital for services. According to a survey done by Google and Compete, Inc., nearly 40% of patients who watched an online video about a hospital later talked to friends, family, and others about that hospital. The same study found that 34% contacted that hospital, and 21% shared the online video. Videos created and posted to a YouTube channel can also be easily cross-promoted. Because YouTube's website is flexible, healthcare systems can embed YouTube videos on their home page, share them over social media, or just include links to them in email newsletters.

Beware of investing in age-inappropriate digital content

If your data research shows social media is used mainly by patients under age 35, would you share articles about how to manage arthritis? Probably not. Save that content for other digital channels where you know you are engaging an older clientele, such as email newsletters or the website's home page. Articles on health promotion and prevention services would be more appropriate for your healthcare system's social media channels, where it will resonate with the typically younger audience. Learning how different age brackets of your patient base engage with you digitally will help you determine how to invest in digital.

Be visible in Google Local Search

We've told you about this before, but having your hospital or practice show up in the local results when a prospective patient searches for “hospital" is a crucial way to build brand awareness. Your practice may be very successful at appearing in search results when searched for specifically, but it may be almost invisible when prospects search for generic terms. Patients who are looking for a hospital online are looking to go to that hospital, and accurate and visible information will help drive that patient to you.

Resources aren't unlimited, and choosing which social channels your healthcare system invests its time and money in requires taking a good hard look at your patient base. Who are they, and where do they research your hospital or healthcare system most? Customizing your marketing approach to the type of consumer who seeks you out on that channel, as well as nailing the basics will help you add views across multiple digital platforms.

Want to learn more about how your organization's marketing efforts stack up? 

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