Healthcare Trends to Watch in 2021

The entire healthcare industry was disrupted last year due to the global pandemic. And healthcare workers still have their work cut out for them in 2021. Many medical practices, nationally and internationally. find themselves faced with uncertainty, financial burdens, and instability. 

Healthcare trends continue to evolve and show practices where to invest their resources, where to shift their focus, and how to build their brand and grow their business. 

Top 5 Healthcare Trends to Watch in 2021

1. Telehealth and Virtual Care

If anything positive came out of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s the adaptability medical practices faced when  transitioning to telehealth and virtual health options. The pandemic helped  focus on the importance and usefulness of telehealth platforms. Not only do virtual healthcare appointments decrease practice costs and overhead fees, but they also allow physicians to  better utilize their time and potentially treat more patients each  day. 

Virtual care is accessible and allows many patients to receive the care they may not otherwise be able to get – whether it’s due to lack of mobility, location, or being at high-risk to contract diseases such as COVID-19. 

While some appointments require in-person visits, telehealth “visits” limit exposure and minimize the spread of germs and diseases. Telehealth won’t completely replace traditional healthcare, but many practices are keeping it as an option due to its popularity.

One factor healthcare practices will have to consider is how telehealth fits into their long-term strategy for growth. Here are a few things to ask yourselves: 

  • Do my current patients and target audience want telehealth?
  • Does telehealth help me serve my patients better?
  • How can I use telehealth to grow my practice? 

2. Data and Artificial Intelligence

Patients are demanding more transparency from their providers, and the volume of personal data available continues to increase. The amount of data collected about our health and  from interactions between providers and patients is growing at exponential rates. This is partly due to patients taking matters into their own hands and being more willing to provide medical information online and the willingness to share personal data via digital platforms. 

This data allows physicians to utilize artificial intelligence. AI provides a number of advantages over traditional methods of data collection and entry – such as improved analytics and more accurate decision-making techniques. AI algorithms learn and modify for precision as they interact with data. Physicians are granted access to diagnostics, treatment variability, and patient outcomes. 

Providers are increasingly aware of their patients’ needs as well as where and when medical intervention is necessary. 

If the coronavirus pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that patients are willing to share medical and personal information when it benefits their health. Data and AI have been used to keep infections levels steady in certain regions (although not nationwide). 

3. Investment in SEO and Content Marketing

How to budget your marketing spend is always important in healthcare. During the pandemic, there was a lot of pause in spending – specifically in advertising, content, and SEO budgets. 

However, as practices reopen and have adapted to the changing ways of treating patients virtually, marketing budgets are a conversation again. The way practices market to patients, however, has changed. It’s not just about how much should be set aside for advertising and marketing, but how to best direct that spending given the circumstances and the “new normal.” 

For example, organic internet searches are still as prevalent as always, but now people are searching for different things. Topics are changing, and the demand for education is increasing. There are two things that are shifting the way people search for healthcare providers and  changing the priorities in healthcare marketing: 

  1. Valuable, Relevant Content. Many patients are still entering search terms related to their symptoms and their specific problems. That type of “evergreen” content is still important, but information that is timely and pertinent to 2021 is in even higher demand. Topics on staying safe when going back to work, how to keep your children healthy as they go back to school, or even how the stress of virtual learning and working from home can affect chronic conditions are particularly helpful. 
  2. Local SEO. Searches with the phrase “near me” have increased nearly 900% in the last few years, according to a Google Consumer Insights report. Optimizing your local listings for local demographics and local search terms will help your practice appear in more searches locally – ultimately growing your practice. Adding rich content to your listings such as updated and detailed practice information, high quality images, and a clear list of services will attract more traffic to your listing and website. 

4. The Lasting COVID-19 Pandemic

The coronavirus did not disappear just because 2020 is over. In fact, now that the vaccines are being rolled out, there is even more information to share. Practices and physicians are often finding themselves “competing” with inaccurate information being spread about the virus and vaccines. So when it comes to their marketing tactics, they’re finding they need to pivot. Since COVID-19 is not going away any time soon, there is a lot to leverage when planning a strategy for 2021. 

Here are a few areas where a strategy that is mindful of COVID-19 is beneficial: 

  1. Growth and attribution strategies
  2. Demand generation
  3. Brand awareness
  4. Communication and education
  5. Brand and physician online reputation

5. Patient Experience

The patient experience will continue to be a top priority. Every touchpoint a healthcare provider has with a patient needs to be evaluated and “fine tuned” to enhance the patient’s journey. Especially since the COVID-19 pandemic began, patients need to feel cared for, valued, understood, and confident in their providers and the safety of their care

As circumstances have changed the way regular visits are scheduled and carried out, physicians need to be proactive in their communication with patients. The ability for providers to meet the rising demands of their patients will determine how and if they grow in 2021. 

The patient experience is a monumental opportunity to build the brand of a practice. It opens the doors to optimize and humanize their communication, in-office strategies, and digital marketing efforts to be a trustworthy, reliable, and useful healthcare provider. 

A few areas where the patient experience is crucial are: 

  1. Appointment scheduling
  2. Instructions for in-person and telehealth appointments
  3. Safety procedures and requirements
  4. General information about COVID-19

However, it’s not just the “off line” experiences that lead to satisfied patients. Their digital experiences are just as important. Consider these things when auditing your strategies and touchpoints:

  1. Updated website. Keeping your website up to date with the latest news, safety regulations, and telehealth information is important. Have a dedicated page for FAQs.  clear call-to-action buttons, and links for appointment booking and contact information.
  2. Email Communications. Personalize your follow up email messages  after appointments. Provide value to your patients by  including links to leave a review, providing updated information about your practice’s COVID-19 policies, and including any information about scheduling a follow up appointment. 
  3. Optimize your local listings. There has been an increase in how people use Google Maps to search for healthcare providers, specifically urgent care centers. Make sure your practice’s listing is updated with information regarding COVID-19 policies, any change in hours, phone numbers, and appointment links. 

When it comes to healthcare marketing trends for 2021 and beyond, the team at Valet Health can advise and help build strategies to grow your practice. Our LaunchPad service focuses on your online reputation, review management, and local listing optimization. Our LiftOff service is designed to create relevant, practice-specific news and content for your website to boost your organic search result rankings. Our team works collaboratively with you and your practice to ensure growth and optimization.