We recently had the pleasure of hosting Aaron Martin, Executive Vice President and Chief Digital Officer at Providence St. Joseph Health, and Shweta Ponnappa, Senior Director of Digital Marketing at Providence St Joseph Health, for a webinar titled Building & Owning Your Health System’s Brand: Strategies for Acquiring & Retaining Patients Online. Having both previously worked at Amazon, Aaron and Shweta shared how they’ve brought their insights from ecommerce to their work driving digital innovation at Providence St. Joseph Health, one of the largest not-for-profit health systems in the US. They shared strategies for attracting and engaging patients online, as well as their perspectives on balancing investment in an organization’s own digital capabilities versus third-party listing sites.
Here are our top five takeaways from the webinar:
- It all starts with your provider data. Wondering where to begin or focus when it comes to boosting your online presence and making your digital marketing efforts effective? Aaron emphasized that it all starts with ensuring that you have a robust, engaging, and accurate online provider directory in place. This is the equivalent to making sure your catalogue is accurate on your website in ecommerce. Without this foundation, attracting patients directly to your own website will be a challenge.
- Patient-provider matching is multi-dimensional. What kind of information is best to engage patients? Shweta noted that patients take many factors into account when choosing providers. Displaying only limited information, such as specialty / sub-specialty and location, is not enough to convert patients and avoid patient-provider mismatches. Capturing patients’ attention requires comprehensive information, including details about providers’ clinical expertise, locations, languages, insurance accepted, gender and more. Reviews of providers by other patients are also key.
- Own the whole patient journey. Can third-party marketplaces add value? Aaron and Shweta both acknowledged that content publishers and third-party provider listing sites have their discrete places in the patient journey (patient journey representing symptoms > conditions & treatments > physicians > hospitals and clinics > appointments). However, the key to brand differentiation, patient acquisition, and patient retention is investing in your own digital assets to engage patients across the complete continuum of care.
- Vegetables are the key to a healthy diet. How should a health system balance third-party sites with their own digital branding? Aaron compared third-party sites to sugar - adding some short-term excitement but a poor substitute for the vegetables you need as a foundation for a solid and effective online presence. If you rely solely on third-party sites for traffic and don’t invest in your own digital experiences, you miss the opportunity to differentiate your brand, capture traffic directly, and reduce the need to pay intermediaries for patients (including patients you already have!).
- Avoid disintermediation. How can you best ensure loyalty to your health system’s brand? Aaron and Shweta discussed the need to engage your patients between episodes of care so you don't have to re-acquire them repeatedly. Innovative digital engagement solutions keep you top of mind when the need for care arises so patients favor your brand and move from running general internet searches to searching for providers at your organization.
Hear more insights from Aaron and Shweta directly and learn how their strategies drove a 19x increase in direct google traffic for Providence St. Joseph Health. Access the recording here!