Health care organizations are deeply concerned both with fostering patient engagement and realizing a return on their engagement efforts. So what are some of the best practices for patient engagement? Are there lessons that can be learned from successes to date?
Moreover, what's the best channel for patient engagement efforts? Direct mail? E-mail? Social media? One could make the case that social media marketing beats out direct response, in that it offers both reach and the opportunity to build self-supporting health consumer communities.
However, it is important to base your strategic and tactical choices on health care consumer insights; different patient types prefer different communication vehicles at different frequencies. The 2015 c2b Consumer Diagnostic looked at optimal messaging and vehicle mix – as well as message fatigue – across all demographic, socioeconomic, health condition and psychographic segments.
That said, let's take a look at several excellent examples of health care social media marketing and distill out a few tips you could follow when you develop your own campaigns.
Create a club.
Humans have an innate need to belong to a social group. Playing to that need can be a powerful method for encouraging a desired outcome. And that's just what Nebraska Medicine has done with its Health and Wellness Club, designed to engage health care consumers 50 and over.
Nebraska's Health and Wellness Club is free to join. It offers a variety of programs, including fitness groups (Tai Chi, walking groups and more), health education programs (e.g., seminars and screenings) and ancillary social engagement programs (art appreciation groups, book clubs and other opportunities for older patients to meet each other and share experiences).
Nebraska Medicine supports these face-to-face engagement efforts with a well-managed, cross-platform social media campaign, including Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Pinterest — all the most likely platforms middle-aged to senior adults would use.
It also publishes an informative inbound Wellness blog and supplements its digital efforts with a free, quarterly, printed magazine. Using this multi-vector approach, Nebraska Medicine has been able to increase its top-of-mind presence with Baby Boomer patients.
Partner with non-health organizations.
Indiana University Health partnered with the Indianapolis Colts to create its "Healthy Horseshoe Team" (named for the Colts' helmet emblem). IUH and Colts social media followers were encouraged to sign up and complete weekly health, fitness and nutrition challenges throughout the NFL season.
Although the campaign is no longer active, it represents an interesting model for health care marketers. By piggybacking its engagement efforts on regional interest in an entertainment product, Indiana University Health was able to increase its footprint and extend messaging to segments of the population who might never seek out health care-related information on their own.
Drill (down), baby, drill!
That's what the Mayo Clinic does. Named by Nurse Journal the Most Social Media Friendly Hospital in 2014, Mayo maintains a robust, cross-promoted and mutually-supporting social media presence.
Its Facebook page — which at the time of this writing has over 652,000 followers — features links to subpages for specialty clinics, business lines and research programs. For example, a follower of Mayo's main Facebook page will also find "like" links to subpages dedicated to its Blood Donor Center, its Gynecology clinic, its Cochlear Implant program and various other areas within the organization.
Naturally, maintenance of all these pages might be difficult for a smaller organization to undertake. But the underlying thought is interesting — each subpage offers a chance for Mayo to build a community of patients and consumers who are facing the same health concerns, and to direct highly targeted messaging toward each group.
Patients, in turn, have the opportunity to engage as deeply or broadly with Mayo as they want to.
Use LinkedIn as more than a recruitment tool.
Many hospitals, including renowned players like Mayo and the Cleveland Clinic, are now using LinkedIn as an opportunity to increase their return on engagement. Many health care organizations forego LinkedIn and concentrate instead on platforms with broader appeal, and that may represent a significant loss of opportunity.
According to Becker's Hospital Review contributor Debra Jasper, the average LinkedIn user is 44 or older, has an average income exceeding $83,000 annually and enjoys twice the buying power of the average American.
"LinkedIn says its research has found that followers of company pages are twice as likely to buy that business' products or services. They are just as likely to recommend them to family and friends," Jasper reported.
With those factors in mind, the Cleveland Clinic undertook a LinkedIn engagement campaign, tailored toward executive-level professionals. At first, its messaging yielded a negligible return; the Clinic found that posts like "How to Do Yoga in Your Office" generated far fewer impressions than posts mirroring the standard nutrition and health-related content it was already delivering on Facebook.
In this case, the Cleveland Clinic found, LinkedIn is an important channel from the standpoint of reaching desired demographics, but a less targeted approach to messaging was perfectly effective.
Want better return on engagement efforts? Augment your social media presence.
There's little doubt that social media platforms offer excellent opportunities to disseminate information. Just remember to also incorporate community-building into your strategy, Allow your patients to engage each other, even as they engage with your organization.