The healthcare sector is evolving and marketers who can analyze the trends and prepare for the future, have the best chances of setting their companies up for success.

However, before we begin to predict this year’s trends, let’s take a quick look at what trends dominated healthcare marketing in 2017.

One of the main trends was the rise in patient awareness and engagement. The fact that patients are now more likely to research and browse health information online, before making any decisions, has created an opportunity for healthcare organizations to focus their marketing efforts digitally. Consequently, more have focused on creating engaging content, enhancing search engine optimization and increasing their social media presence; this has been prominent throughout 2017.

But, will it be the same this year?

Here are five marketing trends that you’ll want to watch out for.

  1. Improvement and investment in patient portals

Patients’ portals have been around for many years, and it is predicted that there will be a revamp of portals, as healthcare organizations are looking for ways to increase care outside of the traditional setting. This is likely to result in more sophisticated and user-friendly portals, particularly as more consumer-oriented tech companies enter the market.

Currently, most portals allow patients to view test results, immunizations, and their medical history. However, a recent review of patient attitudes toward patient portals found a number of negative experiences. According to the CDW Healthcare survey, less than 30% of patients would give their healthcare providers an “A” for technology use, and 89% want easier access to their portal. Patients are demanding a more user-friendly experience.

It pays to keep patients happy, and this year we hope to see more organizations take on a patient-centered approach to improve features, usability, and design.

Who is doing this well?

Geisinger Health System is a great example. In 2001, they launched “MyGeisinger,” an online portal, which has since then evolved into an essential tool between the organization and their patients.

MyGeisinger has many beneficial features that are helpful to patients. Apart from patients’ medical record and health summary, patients are also able to renew prescriptions, request appointments and ask for medical advice for non-urgent questions or concerns.

Today, around 40% of Geisinger’s active patient population are on MyGeisinger, with 20,000 logins per day. This has also resulted in fewer calls to the office.

** Tip: To create a user-friendly portal, start by building a survey to ask your patients about their preferences and requirements. The responses collected should then give you specific patient needs. Use this to start mapping out a design that will directly address those particular user requirements.

Over time, a portal should give patients more control over their care and well-being and become the foundation for electronic communications between the patient and provider.

2. Voice-driven SEO

Digital assistants such as Siri, Alexa, and Google Assistant are invading our lives through mobile devices, smartphones, and home devices.

According to Md Connect, a staggering 200 billion searches per month will be done with voice! This is shown in the graph below. Voice search is already accounting for 20% of all searches and will make their way into the healthcare industry, with many projects underway.

With the rise of popularity of voice search continues to rise, medical marketers need to adapt their SEO strategies to stay ahead of the curve, with consideration to the following:

  • Focus on users’ language

When marketers are planning out their voice search strategy, often they forget that people search differently; unlike search keyword phrases that you type into your computer, voice search is more conversational and natural in tone. The graph below demonstrates how many words are used in text vs. speech

When users use text search, these are shorter than voice search. For example, in Google, a user may type “knee specialist, Lincoln.” However, the same query conducted via voice search might be “Who is the best knee specialist in Lincoln.”

Natural language is becoming more and more integrated into Google’s search algorithms. Because of this, marketers should focus their content on generalized topics rather than specific keywords as before.