Healthcare Marketing: Four Big Trends for 2012

As the director of product strategy, part of my job is to keep a watchful eye on industry trends and ensure our VitalSite content management system stays a step ahead of market needs. That doesn’t mean I have a crystal ball, but it does mean I am in a unique position to evaluate what’s a trend – and what’s just a temporary buzz. Here are four areas I think will get a lot of attention this year.

Beyond Mobile
There was enormous buzz about mobile in 2011, and not without good reason. Geonetric clients saw steady growth in mobile visits throughout the year. Headed into 2012, I think we’ll be seeing less hype, and more substantive focus on the value that can be delivered by a variety of devices – not just phones – to create integrated experiences for health consumers.

Continued Smart Phone Growth
While growth in the use of mobile devices for Internet consumption was tremendous in 2011, we won’t see any slow-down in 2012. Expect a big jump in January as consumers take to the new smart phones and tablets they received as gifts, then a return to consistent month-over-month growth throughout the remainder of the year.

Forecasts indicate that overall internet consumption on mobile devices will exceed that on traditional computers by 2015.

Integrated Experiences
“In-store mobile” picked up speed during the 2011 holiday season as several retailers, including Target and Best Buy, introduced apps with features designed for use while shopping in the stores. I predict we’ll be seeing this trend take off inside healthcare facilities as well.

Consumers are increasingly leaning on mobile technologies to provide information and help with decision making wherever they go. Savvy healthcare systems will focus on using customer journey mapping techniques to create seamless patient experiences.

Starting early with the iPad2 and winding up the year with the Kindle Fire, 2011 brought a wide range of devices uniquely geared toward reading. Now what will we do with them? With consumers snatching up Kindles at the rate of one million per week at the end of 2011, we’re likely to see an increased interest in delivering content to eReader platforms via publishing, newsstand, and in-book advertising platforms.

Internet TV
From set-top devices like Roku and Boxee to features built into HDTVs, DVD players, and DVRs, a rapidly increasing number of consumers are accessing Internet-based content through their televisions. Over-the-top-TV (OTT), as it’s known in the industry, is taking another bite out of commercial television.

This trend underscores the importance of putting video – especially YouTube – in your marketing mix. Several sources have pegged YouTube as the third most popular search service, behind Google and Facebook, and a large number of Internet TV devices include YouTube functionality.

Getting Found
Along with the new diversity of communication channels comes an intensification of the findability problem – how do you connect with the right audience at the right time?

Content Strategy
Everyone has been doing more with less in the last few years. Combine this with the broadening array of digital media and it seems obvious that a solid content strategy is essential to ensure content investments are paying off.

As a discipline, content strategy really gained footing in 2011. We’ve seen this manifested as a shift away from a heavy focus on the visual design, toward ensuring the right content is in place across multiple channels. Organizations thinking about a site refresh are more likely to be talking about enhanced content rather than only a new look for the home page. I expect 2012 will continue to see a growing understanding of the importance of content as the foundation of an effective online strategy.

Social Search
Perhaps the biggest trend in SEO is the increasing importance of social and local search. It’s not just about keywords, it’s about “who you know” and “location, location, location.”

Google’s search results factor in Twitter, Google+ and the searcher’s location. Meanwhile, in addition to Facebook, consumers are increasingly using location-based and deal-based social networks to find information on businesses and their communities.

This year we will see marketers cultivating relationships with content curators, community leaders, partner organizations, and employees to get linked, increase their clout, and lead their tribes.

Digital Care
Changes to healthcare business models, technological demands, and new standards of patient care are continuing to challenge care providers. While solutions are still evolving to meet these needs, the next year should see interesting developments in digital caregiving.

Meaningful Use: Stage 2
The next stage of meaningful use is scheduled to be finalized mid-year. This set of criteria includes benchmarks for patient usage of portals, ability to secure message with providers, and generally increased availability of information specified in Stage 1. Other criteria, if adopted, will broaden the electronic information available, including lists of care team members and longitudinal care plans, enabling additional patient portal features.

This means increased pressure to not only put patient portal technology in place, but ensure patients are actually using the portal.

Accountable Care
The Accountable Care Organization (ACO) guidelines recently released by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) accentuate the trend toward accountable care. Meanwhile, more health systems are working in cooperation with large employers to provide care under pay-for-performance models.

The patient-centric requirements of this model offer an opportunity for online experiences that not only enable better communication, but help make a difference in clinical outcomes. While much of the technology implementation of the past few years has been internally focused on care providers and support, expect a shift toward technologies that really engage the patient. From social health support networks involving patients, families, and care providers, to new connected medical devices and wellness tools that provide support for changing behaviors.

Big Data
Big data describes the enormous, unwieldy datasets that are becoming an increasingly important source of information for businesses. For healthcare marketers specifically, big data offers opportunities to harness the power of customer relationship management (CRM), interpret billing and claims data, or to improve patient outcomes and satisfaction. We expect to see a growth in the use of big data over the coming year.

Interpreting Claims Data
As an example, last month a new CMS rule enabled increased access to claims data. This opens the door for more visibility into the performance of care providers and organizations. This change in transparency will undoubtedly have repercussions as ratings sites, care plans, and employers attempt to mine this profusion of data.

Keep Your Eyes Open!

From creating their first mobile sites to building a YouTube library, most healthcare marketers began to concentrate on many of these developments throughout 2011. In the coming months, it will be time to take the foundation to the next level. Some trends will be easier to keep up with – like investments in content strategy and location-based SEO – others, like ACOs and pay-for-performance models, will require the entire organization to refocus its efforts. Regardless, these are all areas cutting-edge healthcare marketers should be watching.

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This entry was posted in Industry Trends, Meaningful Use, Mobile, Social Media, User Experience, VitalSite by David Sturtz. Bookmark the permalink.
David Sturtz

About David Sturtz

David uses his deep background in design, content strategy and product development to bring vision and innovation to Geonetric’s digital marketing and content practices. He has tackled healthcare digital marketing challenges from all sides, from designing user-friendly information architectures to building content management software that runs websites for hundreds of healthcare brands. He holds a master’s degree in library and information science from Drexel University and a bachelor’s degree in design from the University of Northern Iowa.

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