I recently attended the Digital Marketing in Healthcare Summit in Philadelphia, which included a strong lineup of speakers and panelists. Here are my top takeaways.

Marketing is becoming part of the entire healthcare experience.

Patients now have many digital touchpoints in their journeys, and marketing is being integrated into more of those touchpoints. My question about the role of marketing posed to an elite panel brought a surprising reply: “Marketing is moving into the clinical space,” said Mahek Shah, MD, senior project leader at Harvard Business School.

He went on to explain that the marketing principle of “putting the customized messaging up front every step of the way” to add value and understanding is a key goal in improving the patient and healthcare provider experience.

Technology will increasingly disrupt existing methods, and help contain costs in healthcare.

Change is accelerating, said Robin Farmanfarmaian vice president, Invicta Medical. Disruptive healthcare technologies include:

  • Advanced, connected medical monitoring owned or rented by the patient.
  • Virtual patient visits.
  • Consumer-managed IV.
  • Primary care in-home.
  • Inexpensive genetic sequencing driving precision medicine.
  • Artificial intelligence software as part of the medical team.
  • Predictive analytics powered by patient and insurance data.
  • Power of the informed crowd, including sites such as Patientslikeme

Consumer (patient) expectations for digital contacts with their healthcare providers have increased significantly.

“Expectations for what they want, and where they want it, and the quality of the interface are not limited by sector,” said Emily Kagan, associate vice president of digital strategy for Northwell Health.

In other words, patients who have good experiences with sites such as Amazon or Facebook expect the same level of utility and ease of use from their healthcare sites and apps. But healthcare has seldom been able to deliver, partly because of the siloed and locked-down nature of patient information.

Kagan rightfully cited Northwell Health’s “find a doctor” feature  as an example of meeting high expectations for service.

Brian Cohen, Digital Platform Lead, Pfizer, said marketing is most effective when it’s useful to today’s well-informed patient.

That’s why Pfizer now puts a lot of emphasis on its digital Careflow strategy. Careflow helps patients:

  • Understand
  • Evaluate
  • Choose a facility
  • Manage health

Careflow fuels an omni-channel marketing strategy with four patient themes:

  1. See me and support me as a patient.
  2. Help me be an informed partner in care.
  3. Be a meaningful source of information.
  4. Be responsive.

As an example, Cohen related that among the 100+ smartphone apps Pfizer offers, 10 are the most heavily used. These popular apps have one thing in common: They are very lightly branded and full of useful information and tools for the patient.

Overall, conference attendees were optimistic about the prospects of digitization dramatically improving care and treatment, as well as transforming marketing into something more useful and meaningful to patients and healthcare providers.