patient engagementThis is the month when everyone (anyone, it seems) cranks up their crystal ball and offers their predictions about the New Year. As our regular readers appreciate, healthcare in general—and healthcare marketing in particular—is better suited to posts that track current trends (which we do several times each year) than predictive thinking.

Nevertheless, it is the present-day trends that give us the best periscope view of what’s ahead for in 2013. This is the run-up year to 2014 when most of the Affordable Care Act provisions launch. It assures continuing changes in the system…and no less so for healthcare marketing. For this post, we’ll call them “predictions,” and here are four reality-based concepts that will shape the medical marketing environment for doctors, group practices and hospitals. 

The primary definition of successful healthcare marketing and advertising will be, more than ever, Return-on-Investment (ROI). Today’s reality is that hospital administrators, practitioners and marketing executives are pressed to accomplish more with limited, sometimes shrinking resources. We have passed the time when “feel-good” or “that’s nice” promotion or simple “name recognition” carried the day. Marketing plans and advertising efforts are now measured by specific, tangible and measurable deliverables such as new patients or new revenue dollars.

Competition will continue to increase, further intensifying the need for results-based marketing. Some seasoned providers of 2013 will recall the long-distant years when physicians rarely advertised their services. But fast-forward several decades to the most recent 12 to 24 months. The competitive landscape for doctors, medical groups and hospitals has gone from challenging and difficult to intense. And the only measure of success (sometimes survival) is in the ability to attract and retain new business ahead of the competition.

Some healthcare advertising budgets will grow; others will shrink.  The marketing dollars allocated to name recognition type advertising will be smaller than in the past. Result-producing advertising endeavors—with strong ROI—will be afforded larger slices of the budget.

Internet marketing—including websites, online advertising and various social media—will continue to grow in importance and effectiveness. Computer devices of all sorts and sizes (tablets, smartphones, netbooks, etc.) along with broadband access are now mainstream throughout American society. And with this proliferation, 80 percent of all Internet user (including patients, prospective patients and caregivers) search online for health-related information. Nearly 50 percent look online for doctor information; 38 percent search for hospital information. And, unlike any previous time, 2013 will be the year of digital health.

Changes in our healthcare delivery systems will continue to be driven by significant provisions of the Affordable Care Act that unfold in months ahead. Healthcare marketing will continue to play a vital role in communications between provider and patient.

And, one final note. Business guru Peter Drucker reminds us that, “The only thing we know about the future, is that it will be different.”