The Fight For Leads: Healthcare Marketing

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August 22, 2014 Photos of a stethoscope, laptop, smartphone, and medical professional.

This post is the first in, “The Fight for Leads,” a series focused on lead-generation tactics for four key industry verticals: healthcare, automotive, legal and marketing agencies. Sponsored by CallRail.

The healthcare environment is changing, and only the savviest medical marketers are keeping up. Expansions in health coverage through the Affordable Care Act and an increase in regulations put forth through the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) are just two factors impacting the way hospital systems and medical practices attract new patients.

What’s more, thanks to Google, anyone can research symptoms and come up with their own diagnoses, yet many hospitals and health systems are limited in how they can utilize various marketing channels due to legal reviews and government regulations.

Healthcare marketing is fraught with compliance issues, with regulations that frequently change and impact virtually all communication between medical practices and the patients they serve.

HIPAA compliance is an especially large hurdle for smaller healthcare organizations. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act (HITECH) must be followed to a “T,” or marketers face steep penalties. HIPPA guidelines also require that a Business Associate Agreement (BAA) be in place when providers work with business associates, such as technology providers and marketing agencies, to protect health information from potential data breaches. These regulations involve all forms of health information technology, and they require that calls between patients and medical providers feature secure encryption, along with other compliance procedures.

As the healthcare industry grows, marketers are relying more heavily on a combination of established platforms for call tracking, paid search, and content marketing via social media to educate potential patients. Because of restrictive guidelines and resulting penalties, healthcare providers and the companies they work for tend to be more likely to work with well-established lead generation companies, since those companies are more likely to have a firm grasp on the latest legislation and requirements impacting the healthcare industry.


Three of the most popular marketing technologies used by the healthcare industry today are paid search, call tracking, and content marketing.

Paid Search
Healthcare systems are
spending an average of $300,000 per year on paid search campaigns, making this one of the most popular marketing technologies among health systems and hospitals in the U.S. Smaller healthcare firms are getting in on the action, too, usually with much smaller budgets, however they still have the same goals — to convert more search traffic into phone calls.

The healthcare industry faces unique challenges when it comes to pay-per-click advertising. For example, HIPAA regulations may restrict the language advertisers can use in their campaigns, since words like “drugs” and “prescriptions” may not be allowed with Google AdWords, and Google prevents healthcare advertisers from using re-marketing tactics. Stiff competition is also a challenge for those in the industry, and yet the rewards for winning at paid search are significant. According to the call analytics firm CallRail, organic and paid search account for 60% to 70% of all website traffic.

Call Tracking
The vast majority of patients still prefer to schedule their healthcare appointments and make new patient inquiries by telephone, making call tracking an especially important part of any healthcare provider’s marketing stack. Measuring and
recording phone call conversions, marketers can get a much clearer picture of the health of their search, digital, and offline campaigns. Rather than wondering how new patients are hearing about their practices, medical offices can use dynamic number insertion and call recording to track exactly where their leads are coming from.

Strict HIPAA compliance regulations have made some in the healthcare community wary of call tracking technology, since the mere fact that a call took place could link an individual patient to the medical practice. However, established firms like CallRail offer HIPAA compliant call tracking, with business associate agreements (BAAs) to keep patient information secure and advanced features like automatic log-outs after periods of inactivity to prevent unauthorized access to patient information.  

HIPAA-compliant call tracking has enabled digital agencies like Brolik, which works with providers in the healthcare industry, with a way to securely handle sensitive patient information while monitoring inbound telephone calls. In working with a cosmetic surgeon, Brolik has been able to record inbound calls for patients and prospects, using unique phone numbers assigned to different campaigns. These numbers help the agency track the effectiveness of various marketing efforts, including search and social media advertising, without having to worry about compliance issues.

Content Marketing & Social Media
Healthcare firms are trying to loosen WebMD’s grip on healthcare information by publishing consumer-focused medical content on their own websites and social media channels. They are also relying more heavily on local healthcare-specific directories, such as, Healthgrades, and Vitals to generate new leads. By adding tracking numbers to the paid local listings on these directory websites, providers can accurately track the number of calls their listings are generating, and they can funnel a greater portion of their budgets toward the directories providing the most significant value.

Content marketing, which is defined as the process of creating and distributing information to attract a target audience, is also a relatively inexpensive way for healthcare marketers to bring more people to their websites. Seventy-two percent of Internet users have looked online for health content in the past year. If medical practices and hospital systems can get those local searchers to land on their websites, then they are one step closer to conversion.

Hospitals and medical groups that have been distributing their own newsletters and print magazines for years can use the same content to power their online initiatives. Social media and websites tend to be the most popular places for healthcare marketers to publish content, however online videos and email newsletters are growing, as well.

Marketing professionals in the healthcare industry face a unique set of challenges as they work to capture leads, and as a result they tend to be more likely to work with well-established technology providers than their peers in other industries. Compliance concerns inform every decision a medical marketer makes, but savvy practice managers are now following the lead of larger hospitals and health systems by implementing content marketing strategies and taking full advantage of lead capturing technology, like paid search and call tracking.

CallRail provides call analytics to more than forty thousand companies and marketing agencies. CallRail’s easy-to-use platform helps data-driven marketers optimize the performance of their advertising campaigns with
powerful call tracking and call recording software.