As the healthcare environment becomes increasingly digitized, medical marketers must level-up their strategies if they want to remain in-step with patient expectations. The pace of digital innovation today is staggering — it often feels like new, transformative technologies are emerging on a near-daily basis, making the status quo from the previous year (or even the previous week) seem woefully outdated. Improved internet connectivity, along with the massive proliferation and advancement of mobile technologies, has dramatically altered consumer expectations within just about every market on the planet. Today, consumers expect seamless, cross-platform accessibility and functionality in all of their purchasing endeavors. Period. But while the healthcare industry is far from exempt from this rule, it has for some reason been particularly slow to adapt — this is especially troubling considering that patients are light years ahead in terms of their expectations. Given this wide gap between expectation and reality, medical marketers may find themselves asking: “how did this need for omnichannel experiences crop up so quickly?”
Why Is Omnichannel so Important Now?
From a consumer standpoint, one of the biggest problems with the healthcare sector is its deep and extensive fragmentation. Patients trying to complete one action or procedure are forced to interact with multiple entities to do so, including hospitals, insurers, providers, and health systems. Often, this requires redundant or otherwise frustrating actions for customers who rightfully feel that scheduling, receiving, and paying for care should be a simple experience. As Mayur Gupta writes in an op-ed for Adexchanger, “the need for convergence exists at the macro level, within these independent entities that from a consumer standpoint should be connected under a single umbrella because everything contributes to an individual’s care.” But convergence will also depend on the ability of individual entities to break silos within their customer-facing operations, especially marketing. Ad campaigns are now frequently the initial point of contact for many consumers, which means that “convergence across data, technology, and communication, along with skills and operating models” will be crucial. When this convergence is achieved within medical marketing departments, the result is the effective delivery of omnichannel experiences to patients. Instead of the traditional and temporary strategy of push campaigns, omnichannel strategy is platform-agnostic and visible to consumers 24/7, dependent on a steady stream of content across many different channels that still delivers a consistent, informative, and perhaps most importantly, simple user experience.
How Do I Start to Implement Omnichannel?
Medical brands won’t be able to achieve this kind of sophisticated strategy, however, without completely streamlining the way they create, publish, and measure the impact of their content. Marketers must shift their focus from channel-specific, siloed campaigns to one, all-encompassing strategy that strives to place the right content at each inflection point across the patient path to treatment — but that can’t happen without a rethinking of their technology and data procedures. Much of the implementation process will involve reorienting your marketing infrastructure so as to break silos between platforms and unite the insights into patient behavior pulled by each of them. But the need for technological change should not distract marketers from what Gupta says is a necessary transition from “technology and channel obsession to consumer obsession.” Tech in and of itself cannot draw in new patients, but a strategy based on insights surfaced by your tech can. Perhaps the most challenging obstacle to the adoption of omnichannel in the medical field is the persistent notion that healthcare is not centered around consumer satisfaction like other verticals are. As Gupta points out, when industries are disrupted, “it’s not the technology but the consumer experience and the subsequent mass adoption that ultimately disrupts and redefines the category.” Even if medical marketers don’t see the need for a patient-centric, channel-agnostic strategy now, they certainly will when competitors begin to beat them to it.
How Medical Marketers Can Implement This Approach
The omnichannel approach is easier for medical marketers to adopt than you might think. That being said, it’s important to ease into this strategy, one channel of engagement at a time. MMM-Online recommends a crawl-walk-run strategy — after all, “it just isn’t possible to flip a switch that says ‘multichannel’ and have it work.” With this in mind, it’s best to begin by evaluating the ROI of each channel individually, then finding creative ways to bring them together. If your practice has a website, make sure it’s functional on both laptop and mobile platforms. Ultimately, it’s all about patient engagement — what is it that the healthcare consumer needs, and what’s the simplest way of reaching them? By considering the target patient first and foremost, marketers will be much better able to hone in on the most cost-effective omnichannel approach.