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The rise of the healthcare consumer: what it means for B2B healthcare marketers

We all do it – we experience an ache or a pain, and we turn to Google to help us figure out what’s wrong, and what we should do about it. Health has been one of the most-searched topics since the very beginning of the internet. And it’s just another way that the internet has served as a disruptor – by offering unprecedented access and amounts of information, the internet has in many ways replaced the hard-to-reach G.P. or other healthcare provider.

In fact, thanks to the huge amount of information that’s available today, any internet user can conduct their own meta-analysis into a condition or disease, drawing on clinical studies, research submissions, case reports, and academic papers, all of which can be found easily online, in addition to websites. The problem, of course, is the validity of the data, and the user’s analytical expertise. If you’re not a medical professional, it can be very hard to tell the difference between good information and bad. And it’s just as hard to understand how your findings apply to your own personal circumstances.

But setting aside the problem of non-evidence-based information, this wider access has resulted in people taking greater responsibility for their own health. Armed with in-depth knowledge on their conditions and treatment options, along with crowd-sourced hospital and doctor reviews, people are much more involved in their healthcare decision-making. They also expect a top-quality user experience when it comes to online interactions with care providers and any healthcare apps, having become accustomed to the ease-of-use offered by consumer platforms such as Apple or Amazon.

As the perspective – and expectations – of the healthcare consumer expand, they’re increasingly moving onto the radar of the B2B marketer. Here are some points to consider:   

Recognize that consumers are now a key stakeholder group

Even if you don’t sell anything directly to consumers, it’s important to recognize that they are looking to you for information. For example, twenty years ago, a woman going for a mammogram probably wouldn’t conduct any preliminary research, but today, she is quite likely to do a quick search on “mammography risks” or “mammography discomfort” prior to her appointment. If your company provides mammography equipment and solutions, she may end up on your website, so make sure you offer information that is relevant for consumers, as well as the hospitals and clinics who actually purchase your equipment.

Patients also search online to find the best technology for their exam or treatment, and seek out hospitals and clinics that have that solution in place. You can help your customers (hospitals, clinics, healthcare providers) by supplying them with information on your technology that they can share with their patients. By highlighting your company’s reputation for quality and efficacy, you’re also underscoring the expertise and reputation of the hospital or clinic. 

Be a trusted information source for consumers 

Be the expert source on the condition or disease that your product or drug treats, or that your device diagnoses. Create and share high-quality, user-friendly information online, and make it available where consumers can have access to it – i.e. pharmacies, hospitals, physicians’ offices, etc. Partner with your customers, such as hospitals or clinics, on education and awareness campaigns. (Some examples: general information brochures on how to manage diabetes, the importance of getting mammograms, disinfection protocols at hospitals, how to maintain a healthy heart, etc.)

Or consider developing an educational app for clinicians, featuring interesting content that they can share with patients, on disease and treatment, lifestyle changes, etc. This gives the clinician an easy, attractive tool to educate patients on their condition in a casual, positive manner.

You can also counter the non-evidence-based “information” that’s out there. Don’t be afraid to challenge any disinformation that is in circulation, relating to your field of expertise. If you are a developer of vaccines, for example, consider the consumers who might come to your site for information, and present a point-by-point rebuttal to any claims from anti-vaxxers, as well as information on your vaccines.  

Manage all online reviews with care – and compassion

Make a list of all the websites or Facebook/LinkedIn groups where your organization or people might be reviewed. Follow them closely, and set up alerts to be notified of a post if you can. Don’t let negative reviews of your product, company, hospital or doctors stand without a response. Respond courteously and informatively, thank people for their feedback, and state that you will use all feedback to improve. Follow all privacy laws for your region (even if the person posting has shared personal details, you cannot respond in kind.) Choose the websites and groups that are most important to your organization, and invite customers or patients to post on them. It’s better to have 100 positive contributors and five negative ones, than it is to have five positive contributors and five negative ones, so do what you can to build volume.

Provide high-quality online forms/tools and digital apps

If you’re offering an online tool, service or an app, make sure it provides the best user experience possible. Even if it’s just an online booking form, it needs to be as simple and quick as the “consumer” apps people use, like Uber, YouTube, etc. People are frustrated very quickly by tools or apps that don’t work well, and they don’t stop to think about why a Google app might be so much better than their dentist’s scheduling platform. They simply ascribe the incompetence to the dentist, and move on.

If you’d like to learn more about how you can include the healthcare consumer in your marketing, please contact Anne-Mie at +32 55 591 007 or anne-mie.vansteelant@livingstone.eu.

Anne-Mie Vansteelant
Anne-Mie Vansteelant
COO | Managing Partner at Living Stone

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