By Melanie Graham

Patient engagement is key to hospital marketing

As healthcare marketers, we’re often focused on new and potential patients. Our campaigns push for more volume in clinics and website appointment form fills.

These numbers are important, yes, but we can’t forget about engaging the patients we already have.

Whether it is finding a new primary care physician, a hospital, or a specialist, healthcare decisions are important. If a patients have trusted you with their care, don’t leave them in the dust. Patient engagement can be the key to your marketing success.

Current patients can drive brand evangelism

Generally speaking, it is more financially sensible to focus on current “customers.” As this Content Marketing Institute blog post points out, retention is more profitable than acquiring new customers.

But let’s put the profit numbers aside for a moment. The bottom line is that current patients are your fastest way to brand advocates. If they feel like they are cared for, they are more likely to leave a positive review or share their experience with friends and family. These reviews and referrals are important for your brand and your future patient volume.

And if you are lucky enough to have some of that brand evangelism – don’t just sit and admire it. Reply to reviews, encourage comments, and re-share social media posts. Thank your patients for giving their opinion and support. This may influence other patients to step out and advocate for your brand, too.

Build content from patient feedback

When you’re developing content for your current patient base, look to previous content that has been successful. For example, check what kind of blog posts have had the most readership from patient newsletters. And don’t forget about social media – see what your patients are saying on Facebook, Twitter, and in your blog’s comments sections. What questions do they have? What information are they looking for?

Digital marketing expert Sujan Patel also recommends using short surveys to see what kind of content your blog or website needs. Talking to patients is the best way to find out what content they’re looking for, he says.

Read more: How to tackle content development in 5 stages

The importance of long-term patient engagement

Even when patients leave your building or health care provider’s office, they remain in your circle of care. Engagement and marketing remain just as important after a patient’s discharge, says Marketo’s Jim Kowalski.

Not only does this build patient evangelism, it also has the potential to drive down costs for future medical care. As Kowalski notes, roughly a fifth of patients discharged from hospitals make a repeat visit. But, if they can engage with the hospital and have access to better educational content, they are more likely to understand their after-care instructions and less likely to make a return trip to the hospital or clinic.

“When you’re talking about the health and happiness of patients and billions of dollars in potential savings, any chance at improvement should be seriously considered,” Kowalski writes.

As we noted earlier, ideas for this kind of post-care content can come from the patients themselves. But you can also talk to your providers: What kind of questions do they get from patients? What are the most common reasons for office visits? Involving your care team can help make robust, shareable content that can engage and strengthen patient relationships.

What kind of content do you create for current patients? Share your ideas with us in the comments section below.