December 28, 2021

Five Things Healthcare Marketers Must Know to Map Their Patients’ Journey and Create an Effective Marketing Strategy

Lisa Bowen

Healthcare marketing is extremely complex, and getting more challenging by the day with all the new options out there for patients. The key to long-term success is to keep your current patients engaged, and make sure your funnel is filled along the way with new, prospective patients that you can nurture. To do this successfully, you need to deliver the right message, at the right time, in the right place. Which means, you have to understand their journey. 

Depending on the size of your healthcare organization, you could have one journey to map, or multiple journeys to map. If you’re a large healthcare system or a hospital with multiple service lines, your patients might get to you through different paths or journeys. That’s why it’s really important to look at each of those differently, so you can be as effective as possible in your communications and marketing efforts. You want to make sure all messages to patients and prospects are timely, relevant, and effective. And to do that, you have to understand their journey.

Here are five things you have to know to successfully map your patient’s journey.

1. How are your patients becoming aware of healthcare problems?

Are they going to their trusted primary care physician? Are they visiting their local grocery store or pharmacy clinic? Are they doing a virtual visit as the way to enter into your system? Or are they self-diagnosing? A lot of people do that. They think they know what’s wrong with them, so they do a Google search online and find a diagnosis that fits. Then, they want to go to a physician to verify. That’s why understanding the patient journey is really important. Many of the possibilities to locate a physician today didn’t exist years ago. But with so many new ways to enter the healthcare system, things are more complicated than ever.

2. Where, when, and how are patients searching for solutions?

Are your patients being proactive or reactive? Are they searching online? And if so, what are they searching for? Knowing this allows you to make sure you’re placing relevant data in front of them. Are they researching during the day or after hours? And last but not least (and this is gaining in popularity), how many times a day do you see someone asking for recommendations from Facebook friends for providers if they need a new one?

3. How do patients evaluate and select their providers?

While patients may know they have a problem, how do they decide where they’re going to go for that care? Are they relying on input from family and friends? Are they looking to another physician or healthcare provider to make a recommendation? Most people who have a trusted provider will go where they are referred with no questions asked. Are they visiting your website to do research? And if so, what kinds of information are they looking for? Are they going to physicians’ bio pages? Are they looking for more education? Are they looking for ratings or outcomes data? It’s important to know what information patients need to make a decision.

4. What goes into the final decision to make an appointment?

When a prospective patient has found the doctor they want, what really pushes them over the edge to make an appointment? Many times, it’s insurance considerations. Are you in their network? Is it access or hours of operation that makes a difference?  People want to be able to see the doctor when it’s convenient for them. Some like to go to the doctor in the early morning before work or after work. They may want to know if you have weekend hours. Is it about convenience and location? Do they want a provider close to home or work? Are you a stand-alone hospital or clinic or are you part of a larger system? Some people really like to get their care from a system of providers where they have that continuum and have all of their healthcare in one place. And finally, do they need a free get-to-know-you visit? Sometimes people really need that extra something special to get them over the edge and make that decision to see you over somebody else.

5. What do patients need to see at each stage of their journey?

This is the hardest part about the patient journey. You need to look at all the information you’ve found and figure out what kind of content, data, and messaging they need to see at each stage of their journey. What’s the best tactic to reach them where they are? Once you understand that journey and how they’re getting to you, you need to develop a strategy to help fill your marketing funnel. And you don’t want to fill it with just any prospects, but with prospects that have a high propensity to turn into patients. It’s important to take the time to master that journey and put in that extra effort. Doing so will decrease your cost per acquisition for those patients. It really is worth the work.

Next Month: What the Healthcare Funnel Looks Like

In next month’s blog post, I’ll talk about what the healthcare funnel looks like, and how to create an effective marketing strategy to support it. We’ll discuss which tactics you should use at what part of the journey, to turn those prospects into patients. I hope that by sharing these five simple things you need to learn about your patients, you’ll take a pause and really think about those things before you develop your next marketing strategy so it can be as deliberate and effective as possible.

Want to know more? Visit our healthcare business hub to find a variety of case studies, helpful blog posts and Agency for Change podcast episodes featuring healthcare business leaders.

KidGlov is a content marketing agency and certified B Corp with offices in Omaha and Lincoln, Nebraska, specializing in nonprofit marketing, healthcare marketing, financial marketing, social marketing and purpose-driven businesses.