What Is Healthcare Marketing?

A healthcare marketing professional meets with a medical team.

Working in healthcare is more than just a job; it’s a calling to help people guide themselves to a better life. This is where medical businesses differ from others: They crave more than profit. Healthcare professionals care about the patient, dedicating their professional careers to helping others.

Health professionals may have little business training, so it’s rare to find a practitioner who is knowledgeable about how to market their services. Their main concern is helping others and making an impression on the medical community.

Healthcare is a more competitive field than most people realize. However, with proper marketing conducted by a skilled healthcare marketing professional, practitioners can gain patients and attention for their practice. For individuals primarily tasked with developing healthcare marketing strategies for a hospital, clinic or physician, earning a Healthcare MBA can help them navigate the difficult task of balancing healthcare and business management.

Healthcare Marketing Strategies

Successful marketing strategies don’t just happen. They require careful planning, deft decision-making and knowing that different strategic initiatives are needed to achieve different goals. Understanding what healthcare marketing is and its features may spell the difference between a marketing strategy that works and one that falls flat.

Knowing the Demographic Is Not Enough

Marketing in business requires a lot of research. Marketers need to know the demographic they’re trying to reach and study its behaviors so they can target them appropriately. In the health field, the demographic is almost too broad. With so many health niches, it’s hard to pinpoint which group of people a healthcare marketer’s message is going to reach, especially if they work with a general practitioner. Demographics could include any age, not to mention the range of gender, sex and location-based metrics.

Healthcare businesses can measure their success through new patients, written subscription tallies and profits. Healthcare marketing is different from business marketing in that it is a specific niche with specific marketing needs, not always based on demographics.

The Need for SEO in a Whole New Light

Every business needs differentiation to succeed, but healthcare marketing varies since there are so many providers offering the same service. Medical marketing uses search engine optimization (SEO) in a brand-new way to target customers by practice rankings on Google and educational content with informative links to landing pages on websites.

While this is similar to business marketing, healthcare marketing targets a wider audience. Since everyone is in the market for a healthcare provider, it is much harder to differentiate a particular doctor or hospital. For this reason, practitioners are encouraged to tell compelling success stories and showcase remarkable results in their patients.

Healthcare Marketers Are Not Used Car Salespeople

Marketing in the health field is often seen as distasteful or unfavorable, making it more important to build friendships and bonds with other people in the industry. These relationships increase referrals from those doctors and health professionals without muddying the water with tacky marketing techniques.

Public relations is a plus in the healthcare field because networking opportunities are huge, allowing practitioners to showcase their accomplishments in less forcefully. The industry relies heavily on positive press, so healthcare marketing includes many press releases, newsletters and public events to gain brand awareness.

Discounts Aren’t the Answer for Drumming Up Business

Healthcare specialists are not likely to offer discounts to improve their business since this is often illegal. Occasionally, health professionals push free trial offers to get more clients, but many consider this a bit unethical. Medicare and other insurance policy guidelines are often the culprits here, since offering discounts would hinder subjectivity.

Even as healthcare providers focus on helping others, attention needs to be paid to improving business prospects. Marketing professionals working in the industry need to consider the tenets of healthcare marketing and how they are far different from those in other areas of business.

Marketing Implications

In the past several years, social issues have gathered more attention, with people voicing their concerns about subjects including LGBT rights, abortion and stem cell research. These and other controversial topics, including the Affordable Care Act (ACA), all have a bearing on the healthcare industry. They also can have a substantial impact on healthcare marketing strategies.

When healthcare decision-makers design marketing campaigns, it’s imperative that they demonstrate an awareness of these issues. At the same time, they need to be mindful of their target demographic. The marketing implications of sending the wrong message to a group via a poorly considered ad campaign could be severe. According to the 2020 Consumer Culture Report generated by 5W Public Relations, 71% of people prefer buying from companies that align with their personal values, whether these values connect with political or social beliefs. That same article reports that the percentage of millennials who feel this way is substantially higher than for baby boomers. This mindset could be considered by a healthcare marketer building a campaign, particularly if it’s targeted toward a specific type of patient such as older adults with chronic issues.

Marketing Regulations

Some state licensing boards have guidelines on marketing practices for medical professionals, and marketers must pay close attention to these regulations. Usually, this means that ads must be very clear about the services or practitioners they promote. The language should clearly and honestly represent the advertised product or service and may not make any sensational promises. It should also be straightforward and refrain from using overly technical language to avoid confusion or ambiguity.

The marketing regulations differ based on the product or service being marketed. This is partially due to the various governing boards that oversee different products associated with health. For instance, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates pharmaceutical marketing, while physician marketing must remain compliant with regulations established through the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). Falling outside of these regulations could carry serious issues.

Some healthcare providers may be so afraid of being penalized by their state’s licensing board that they do not make any effort to market. If those responsible for marketing carefully review the board’s regulations, however, marketing is usually beneficial for a healthcare business.

It is also important for marketers to pay attention to insurance regulations. Since these regulations may affect the prices of medical services, ads generally shouldn’t make promises about the prices of certain medications or treatments.

Healthcare Marketing as a Teaching Tool

The passage of the ACA has led to a large influx of people with medical insurance. As a result, there are many consumers who may be confused about how insurance or healthcare works, and they may look for healthcare providers who are willing to take the time to educate them. Further, customers with high deductibles on their policies often search for healthcare providers who offer the best quality services for the lowest prices, so marketers may place more focus on the value of services rather than on the services themselves.

Healthcare Marketing: A Concept That Connects

Healthcare marketing is a challenge that requires marketers to adapt to changing times and regulations. It also requires a different approach to connecting with consumers than other marketing because a person’s health and a facility’s opportunity to provide care delivery is involved. However, by being alert to social issues and paying attention to consumers’ needs, marketers can rise to the occasion. When this occurs, the results do more than just attract new customers. They allow a healthcare facility or care-related entity to make a positive impact on patient lives.

George Washington University’s Healthcare Master of Business Administration program can provide you with the expertise needed to apply strong business knowledge and skills to a healthcare setting. The program curriculum is designed to immerse you in the crucial business concepts that allow a health facility to thrive and deliver optimal care, such as business administration, finance and ethics. Ultimately, the degree prepares you to be a leader in one of the world’s most critical industries.

Learn how the Healthcare MBA program can help prepare you to pursue your career goals in the business of healthcare.

Recommended Readings

Hot Topics in Health Tech

How Hospital Management Affects Patient Care

How to Become a Hospital CFO


5W Public Relations, Consumer Culture Report

Forbes, “The Unique Challenges of Health Care Marketing”

Healthcare Success, “Health Care Marketing: How Are Things Different for Health Care Organizations?”

HealthWorksCollective, “How Is Marketing a Healthcare Practice Different?”

Houston Chronicle, “Healthcare Marketing Laws”

PatientEngagementHIT, “How to Market Patient Education to Support Patient Experience”

Small Business Trends, “71% of Consumers Prefer Buying from companies Aligned with Their Values”

Square2, Our Story