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How to create a digital marketing strategy in healthcare with iHealthSpot/Medical Advantage

How to create a digital marketing strategy in healthcare with iHealthSpot/Medical Advantage

Miguel Amado

In more complex and traditional industries, having a digital marketing agency that is specialized in your niche is very important. That way you can reach your clients in a more effective way, use the right terminology, follow compliance rules and more.

iHealthSpot is a great example. We talked with Mary Hall, founder and former CEO of iHealthSpot and vice-president of Practice Marketing Growth for Medical Advantage, that acquired iHealthSpot in 2021, to know more about the specifics and how you can create a strategy in such a complex environment.

Please present iHealthSpot to our audience

iHealthSpot is a digital marketing agency that specializes in healthcare. The vast majority of our clients are medical practices, hospital systems, and large clinics. We also do some billing companies, some medical device companies, but the majority of our clients are healthcare providers.

We provide end-to-end, data driven marketing services for our clients, including website design, search engine optimization, social media management and advertising, online review and reputation management, online directory management, and paid advertising on Google and social channels such as Facebook and Instagram. We are also a Google certified partner.

We are really all about helping our clients attract and generate new patients to grow their business. The internet has become a main source of information for patients. It is where they go to look for health information online and it is where they go to look for and learn about a potential provider. Even if a patient gets referred to a practice by another doctor or a friend, they still go to Google and look up their website and read their reviews. So, it’s very important in today’s market that physicians market themselves specifically on the internet, and that’s where we come in.

We have an established foothold in the healthcare industry and have been a leading provider of healthcare marketing services for over 15 years. About a year ago we were acquired by a company called Medical Advantage, which is a division of the TDC group – The Doctors Company –, which is the leading medical malpractice insurer in the US. Medical Advantage provides EHR consulting, healthcare practice consulting services to medical practices and they really saw a need to be able to offer marketing services to their clients as well. It was a perfect fit for us. As far as myself, I am the founder and was the CEO of iHealthSpot, and now serve as vice-president of Practice Marketing Growth for Medical Advantage.

How did the acquisition process work for iHealthSpot and for you? What benefits did it bring to both sides?

Medical Advantage brings a wealth of experience and operational efficiencies helping clients integrate EHRs and get the most out of them. They also provide data analytics, and, in some cases, we provide clients help to manage their practices, working with large equity-backed practices.

It was a good fit for us to join forces with Medical Advantage and be able to offer marketing services to their clients, and also allow us to expand our offering to our client base. Obviously, there’s a lot of financial backing with a company like Medical Advantage and TDC really giving us the opportunity to grow our product, adding more technology to the service lines and the product we are providing to our client. For the Medical Advantage side, it’s allowing them to grow their client base and their service offering too.

What are the main differences when creating a strategy and managing a digital marketing plan in the healthcare market in comparison to other industries?

The healthcare industry is a little different to other industries. If you own a restaurant, it is apparent that to let people know about it and ensure they visit you, you have to advertise. For healthcare providers, the need to advertise has not always been there. For years in healthcare, people just picked a doctor out of an insurance listing or went to a doctor that they were referred to by another doctor or friend. Physicians didn’t really have to market. This changed dramatically with the internet.

Patients are making more informed choices online, so healthcare providers must be front and center, coming up in search, presenting a good image on a website, and they must ensure they have good reviews. Good visibility online ensures patients will find them. We know that more than 70% of patients now use the internet to look for and choose a provider, so it has become essential that healthcare providers market themselves online.

There are also some very specific things that must come into play when advertising in healthcare. First of all, in the healthcare industry it’s really important to use lay-friendly information when talking about conditions they treat and treatments they provide. HIPAA privacy must be accounted for as well when providing a website that may capture PHI (protected health information)). Local marketing is usually very important too, as most providers offer care within a localized market or area.

Also, it’s important to provide conveniences for patients and streamlining operations: links to patient portal; telehealth applications within the website so they can easily provide online visits, which became a big deal during the pandemic. Also important are interactive features for appointment requests online, prescription refill request; online bill pay, and completing paperwork through HIPAA compliant electronic forms ahead of a visit.

Do you believe a medical practice can have good results with social media without exploring their personality as in influencer marketing?

We do a really good job of taking our clients and putting them on social media, specifically Facebook, which is by far the medium that works best for practices. You can set up a Business Page with all information regarding your practice: address, phone number, office hours, description of the business, category, pictures etc.

We’re able to post information that does let the patient interact with the practice and make comments without violating any privacy laws or HIPAA. We can post interesting information about that particular provider or practice; about their services and specific conditions they are treating and really help educate and communicate with the patient base in a controlled environment.

We help clients gain new followers on social media and get more patients. We can put an appointment request form right on the social media page. We may do a spotlight on the different providers in the office; we may do a Facebook Live with questions and answers in an interview-style post; we may post videos of the client sharing their philosophy of care and give insight to the personality of the practice.

Everything we do is fact-based but at the same time gives patients a comfortable place to interact with the practice.

Are the results used in the healthcare marketing sector different from other industries?

We are all about generating new patients for our clients, whereas other industries might be looking to sell a product or to provide branding. From that perspective, it’s about growing business through marketing via the internet. Patient acquisition and practice growth are always a big part of the goals for our clients. Of course, we pay attention to traffic analytics and measure things like in other industries such as number of visits and page views, bounce rate, time on site, number of pages viewed per visitor and then we also monitor conversions to appointments which is specific to healthcare.

What are iHealthSpot’s plans for the next 5 years?

Now that we are part of Medical Advantage, we’re looking to continue to grow, putting out new products, expanding our offering and staff. We currently service about 4,000 providers around the country and we are looking to grow that exponentially in the next couple of years.

We are talking about adding a scheduler to allow people to schedule appointments online by themselves. We are looking at more detailed dashboards for results for our clients. We currently provide very detailed results in report format. We want to make this reporting interactive and available via an online dashboard.

Also, we want to expand market analysis opportunities via our data analytics. We have access to industry information that allows us to work with practices to identify for them where they need to go with their marketing. We can show them availability of markets, the competition in those markets and help them understand what the best opportunities to grow are.

All in all, we see a bright future ahead. As providers face more competition and the internet continues to be the population’s main source for information, we see a great opportunity to help these practices grow online.

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