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Why Healthcare Marketing Requires an Experienced Healthcare Marketing Agency

by | May 23, 2019

Healthcare marketing is a niche that demands an agency with specific experience and expertise. And with healthcare approaching 20% of GDP, the need for expert healthcare marketing agencies isn’t going away anytime soon. But many hospitals, health systems and device manufacturers attempt to manage their marketing, social media and PR internally, without the use of a professional healthcare marketing team. Most quickly learn that healthcare marketing is its own complicated beast, and is best handled by outside professionals with years of experience.

Here are a few of the many reasons why businesses, hospitals and organizations in the healthcare industry should utilize an experienced healthcare marketing agency.

Healthcare Is Unique in the Marketing World

There are numerous unique factors that affect a team’s ability to effectively craft marketing materials in the healthcare space. When done right, healthcare marketing can be extremely effective. However, from Privacy to politics, healthcare marketing faces many of its own unique challenges.

HIPAA Helps Patients and Complicates Marketing

Unlike most marketing niches and initiatives, healthcare marketing is unusually restrictive. Any post, picture or piece of content related to a patient or their health information is extremely limited in regards to what can be said and shown in marketing materials and on social media. These factors, known as Protected Health Information (PHI), include any information that can be used to identify a patient as described by HIPAA. PHI includes names, birthdays, insurance ID numbers, and photography or video of a patient’s face. Also known as The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, HIPAA is a set of regulations designed to protect patients’ personal information and medical record data. While HIPAA is a fantastic law that protects all Americans, it can be extremely tedious to navigate when creating marketing materials.

For instance, Healthcare teams must acquire signed permission forms from patients before being featured in any way in ANY marketing materials. Even if the person is just in the background of a picture taken for social media. That patient has a legal right to not be identified.

Additionally, nurses, doctors, administrators and other healthcare employees should never be permitted to post images from a hospital or any facility with patients or Protected Health Information. All posts, no matter the content, should be filtered through a professional healthcare marketing team that knows what red flags to look for.

Healthcare Is Actively Legislated

Healthcare marketing is further complicated by never ending political campaigns. Legislation that would affect nationwide healthcare laws is being introduced and debated on a regular basis. And people are paying attention to it. Healthcare topped the economy as the biggest issue for voters in 2018. And an astounding (but not surprising) 80% of voters say healthcare is extremely or very important to their vote. And in the lead up to 2020, healthcare is, by far, voters’ top concern.

Because of the attention people are paying to healthcare legislation, there is too much at stake for Hospitals or Health sector businesses to post a poorly worded Tweet or accidentally mislead social media followers about the reality of healthcare legislation.

An experienced healthcare marketing agency understands the changing landscape of healthcare. Most importantly, they understand what a health sector business or organization should comment on, and what they shouldn’t.

Healthcare Has Numerous Stakeholders

In healthcare marketing, you don’t have the luxury of focusing entirely on a customer (or patient in this case). Hospitals and health systems are extremely important to local communities and have significant effects on local economies.

When engaging in healthcare marketing, experts understand the complicated dynamics between hospitals, patients, doctors, nurses, administrators and the cities and towns they operate in. Local communities’ opinions about local hospitals is critical to its success. The health sector makes up 14% of total employment in rural communities, and an average Critical Access Hospital employs 141 people. These rural hospitals have an average payroll of $6.8 million, making them absolutely critical to the health of local economies.

Small towns can not afford for hospitals or health sector businesses to lose money or have their reputation tarnished. They are simply too important to their local communities. That is why all marketing, PR and social media should be handled by experienced healthcare marketing professionals. Because communities suffer when health systems, businesses and local hospitals fail, find themselves in legal jeopardy, or lose the trust of their community members.

Additionally, marketing for each service line or department in a health system should be prioritized strategically. Maintaining a strategic focus in the midst of unending internal marketing requests can be a challenge. This is where hiring healthcare marketing experts carries additional value. An outside agency is able to maintain an unbiased perspective and can assist internal teams to prioritize messages that remain focused, consistent, goal-oriented, and results driven.

Healthcare Marketing Agencies Have Diverse Talent, Which Means Getting More Done

It is an HR nightmare to find and hire a single marketing person who is capable of doing everything a professional, expert-level healthcare marketing company can do. That’s because a fully functioning healthcare marketing team utilizes a wide range of skills:

  • Copywriting
  • Copy editing
  • Graphic design
  • Print production
  • Content strategy
  • Search engine optimization (SEO)
  • Blog management and scheduling
  • Web design
  • Videography
  • Video editing
  • Social media planning and posting
  • Pay-per-click ads (PPC)
  • Traditional and modern media buying
  • Reputation Management

And that’s not including the people needed to create budgets and manage projects. Both of which take time and money. But most importantly, managing an internal healthcare marketing team of one or one-hundred pulls much needed resources away from what should matter most to health systems, hospital administrators and medical device manufacturers: The patients and their outcomes.

Hiring a Healthcare Marketing Agency Is Actually Cheaper than Hiring a Marketing Team

As shown above, there are simply too many responsibilities for a single marketing professional to handle everything a healthcare marketing agency can provide. And where will you find a candidate that can do it all? Yet, hospitals, health systems and medical device suppliers continue to believe they will save money by hiring a full-time in-house marketing employee.

But it is a myth that hiring an in-house marketing person actually saves money.

That single person needs a lot of stuff to do what an external healthcare marketing team can do. A potential marketing employee would need a high-end computer ($2,000+) at the very least. They’ll need the Adobe Creative Cloud All Apps Suite ($635/year). To create and capture original content, they’ll need cameras and lenses and microphones, which are not cheap ($3,000+ at least). And where will all your projects and files be stored? It is critical to pay for cloud storage and physical hard drives or a server to prevent data loss. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Other needs include email automation tools like MailChimp or Active Campaign and customer relationship management tools like Hubspot or SalesForce. More, healthcare marketing requires social media scheduling software like HootSuite or SproutSocial, which comes with significant additional costs.

Hire an Experienced Healthcare Marketing Team

When searching for a healthcare marketing team, look for an agency with proven experience. At Nichols, we’ve worked in healthcare marketing for over 20 years. We are keenly aware of the HIPAA protocols required to protect health systems and businesses on social media and in marketing materials. If your hospital, medical device manufacturer, or specialty office is in need of marketing, PR or social media services, look no further than Nichols.

To start a conversation now, send me an email at mklein@wetellyourstory.com

Matt Klein - VP Account Services
Matt Klein believes that healthcare marketing is personal – because healthcare is personal. It’s a subject he’s very passionate about, in fact, he’s developing a podcast about it that will be available soon. Throughout his career, he’s worked with a wide variety of clients across the spectrum of healthcare, including large national companies such as Advocate Health Care and Pfizer, regional powerhouses including St. Vincent’s Health System and IU Health, and smaller, specialized facilities such Fort Wayne Medical Oncology and Hematology and Cameron Memorial Community Hospital.

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