Is the Healthcare MarTech Revolution Finally Upon Us?

May 23, 2016Marketing Strategy

I’ve been in healthcare marketing and technology now for almost 3 years. I think I see some big changes coming. As brands in other verticals realize the importance and potential of digital channels, they’re capitalizing on opportunities now. MarTech provides huge opportunity for healthcare as well. But can we take advantage?


I am a digital marketing leader in a $2B system, and yet, I was admittedly a bit taken aback when I first started in this role (and industry) a few years ago. Healthcare is known for being a laggard in certain aspects, one of which is marketing technology. I didn’t realize how much until I became embedded in the industry, though.

However, I believe that a digital healthcare MarTech revolution is (finally) upon us. It’s happening right now. The market is joining forces with regulation to force healthcare to become more efficient. “The customer is always right” is starting to apply to us now, too. Market demands will likely only accelerate as there’s continued pressure to reduce the cost of healthcare.

I recently read a post on that dug into an analysis of Gartner’s CMO spend survey numbers from 2015-2016. The essence of the post was that marketing technology spend had surpassed that of advertising in the sampled companies. These companies were now reporting that they are spending more on tech than on traditional advertising. The catch? The surveyed companies didn’t include anyone in healthcare.

Daniel Ruyter - Sitecore Marketing & Technology Pro

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A Healthcare MarTech Revolution Is Upon Us

Despite the lack of healthcare specific data in Gartner’s report, I still sense a revolution is upon us–a digital retail revolution in healthcare, actually. Healthcare is primed to catapult forward in digital marketing and make strides not seen in years past. Like many changes in this industry, there are some key drivers, and it’s those drivers behind the “why” I’d like to dig into just a little bit in this post.

Healthcare providers and systems can’t afford to sit on the sideline; they have to be proactive, and yet, history tells us many organizations in healthcare don’t change until they must. Adapting to the market isn’t something that can wait until they’re forced to change, but many companies take that approach anyway. Determining strategies for how systems will adapt to the ways their services are marketed and delivered is something leadership should have been thinking about 5 or 10 years ago. Some were, but many more weren’t and the time for change is now upon us.

I put together a list of reasons why I think the revolution has finally arrived in earnest. There’s no stopping some of these trends from taking hold because customers and regulators now demand them. Here are the top drivers to the healthcare digital revolution, as I see it:

1) Pressure is being placed on pricing transparency.

Florida recently passed a law requiring new levels of pricing transparency. The days of “wouldn’t it be nice to run my procedure through an online cost calculator?” are coming, and not just for some providers, but for all. The fact that healthcare has been able to get away with lack of pricing transparency for this long is somewhat amazing. Very few other industries operate like this.

I strongly believe that many health organizations provide significant value – at or above that which they receive in payment. But it’s quickly going to become a requirement to prove that value in order to help ensure consumers (and insurance providers) aren’t over-paying for services rendered. Pricing transparency is one of the best and quickest ways to gain the trust of consumers and is a must for the industry.

2) Technology developments mean there’s some competition coming.

Delivery of healthcare services is still largely a local thing. Your primary care physician is typically either near your home or your office. But with insurance plans now accepting your competitor, telemedicine opportunities (see below) and urgent care proliferating cities, these factors are putting a great deal of pressure on competition in some markets that healthcare providers aren’t accustomed to. Choice means the consumer is now more empowered and trust must be built for them to choose you.

3) Digital retail healthcare experiences are now more possible.

One of healthcare’s age old challenges is reaching the target market at the “time of need”. With digital, health organizations can laser target audiences just like their treatments often do and in ways that couldn’t be done in the past. Brand awareness campaigns still have their place, especially in highly competitive markets, but digital is becoming a must for many organizations. Finding the needle in the stack of needles is now possible and necessary to market specialty healthcare services to a very specific audience.

Consumers, patients and their families simply won’t tolerate sub-standard digital experiences any longer. Not everyone has to “be Google or Amazon”, but self-service (online booking, online bill pay & e-commerce experiences, customized content & experiences, tailored patient journeys, etc) are no longer the exception, they’re required. Sources place health and personal care e-commerce at a measly 5.8% as of 2015. There’s no where to go but up for this industry when it comes to delivering a more retail experience to patients online.

4) Providers must start taking the lead in online education.

Content marketing has a slightly different set of purposes in healthcare marketing. Sure, we want to use content to generate leads, just like any other industry. However, healthcare also has a responsibility to produce content (online) that is authoritative, correct and reliable. It’s a responsibility of health provers to replace untrustworthy speculation and medical myths with true and correct content, and, in so doing, market our physicians, services and facilities.

Healthcare marketing’s utilization of content for inbound is so uniquely positioned that it’s almost impossible to deny the value. Add to that the responsibility of the industry to take the lead in providing consumers with correct information and I think we will begin to see a huge up-swell in content being produced by even small health providers in the very near future.

5) Telemedicine is already revolutionizing care delivery.

Telemed is one of the “next big things” in healthcare and is already revolutionizing the way patients and providers interact. But telemedicine is still in its infancy. Healthcare providers know this to be a huge opportunity and are right now starting to figure out where this fits into the overall care model.

Not only is telemedicine good for the patient in many cases, it’s also a great way for systems to reduce costs and could be a rare win-win-win (consumers, providers, payors).

The Story Behind the Photo

UF Health Cancer Center – Orlando Health

The featured image on this post was outside of the UF Health Cancer Center – Orlando Health. It was a lovely day outside that day. I had just witnessed the marriage between a patient at the cancer center and her fiancé of just a few days. She was terminal and didn’t have much longer with us. That event moved me like few others have. I thank the heavens for clarity like that day provided me.

UF Health Cancer Center – Orlando Health

Do you think healthcare marketing is about to undergo a major change?

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this article and your experience in healthcare marketing. Do you think healthcare marketing is about to undergo a major shift around marketing technology? What changes do you see on the horizon? Please leave a comment below or feel free to contact me with your thoughts.

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