Healthcare marketing executives are implementing more web and mobile strategies to reach consumers and build their brands. Those same executives also are investing more in customer relationship management and marketing automation tools, says a new survey by Greystone.net and Klein & Partners.

In fact, a survey of 230 healthcare marketers found that half of a typical hospital’s marketing budget is related to digital initiatives. The median hospital marketing department annual operating budget is $3.1 million, with $950,000 earmarked for interactive marketing and $640,000 for website development.

The survey, which was discussed at a recent session at the HIMSS 2017 conference in Orlando, found that 65% of marketing departments also now utilize a customer relationship management system compared with 50% in 2015.

Customer relationship management systems, which are used to track, manage and analyze customer interactions and data, also are more frequently being integrated with a healthcare organization’s website. In 2015 just 11% of healthcare marketing programs had a CRM system that could exchange data with the organization’s website compared with 36% of programs in 2016. Another 26% plan to deploy that functionality in the next six to nine months.

As hospitals and health systems use more web advertising and social media to reach consumers, a website that’s connected to a CRM system can enable healthcare marketers to capture more data and develop more effective campaigns, says Kathy Divis, president of Greystone.net, a digital healthcare consulting firm.

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Healthcare marketers also are paying more attention to mobile marketing. And that is leading many organizations to develop their websites using the technique known as responsive design, which adapts a website to any screen size. That way a hospital, for example, can develop a single website that will display properly whether the consumer is using a computer, tablet or smartphone. 68% of marketer say their website is built with responsive design, compared with 57% in 2015, the survey says.

Those organizations can cater to mobile shoppers without building a separate mobile website. On average 41% of web traffic to a healthcare site now comes from a mobile device, up from 39% in 2015, the survey says. Mobile apps are also becoming a higher priority as they make it easy for frequent users to get information and accomplish tasks like scheduling appointments. 51% of hospitals now have at least one patient app where the main use by patients is looking up physicians (55%), accessing general hospital information (47%), finding a doctor (46%), finding a facility 43% and scheduling an appointment (41%).

“Almost one-half of the respondents report their organization have mapped the mobile customer’s journey to design a better user experience,” says Rob Klein, CEO of Klein & Partners, a healthcare marketing research firm.

Other survey findings include:

  • Facebook is the main social media marketing channel, used by 80% of hospitals, followed by Twitter at 77% and YouTube at 74%.
  • 81% of hospitals list Google AdWords as their most frequently used online advertising program. That’s the Google program that allows advertisers to post ads on search results pages.
  • 57% of hospitals are planning a website redesign for this year.
  • 86% of healthcare marketers use Google Analytics as their main tool to measure campaign and marketing spend return on investment.
  • 84% of healthcare marketers say they have a mobile-first strategy.
  • On a sliding scale of 1-5 the average grade for website experience marketers gave themselves was 3.4.
  • 46% and 29% of marketers, respectively, say they organization is “mostly” or “completely” embracing a digital transformation.
  • 41% of healthcare marketers say their most pressing issue is developing more personalization and one-on-one marketing.

Interactive marketing will become even more of a priority as the U.S. healthcare system becomes more consumer-focused, according to the survey.

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“If a healthcare organization hasn’t yet mapped both its digital and mobile journey, it is important to do so in the near term,” Divis says. “This is particularly necessary as consumers expect a seamless experience when moving between and among a health system’s mobile and desktop environments.”

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