Jan 21 2021
Basis Technologies

How Has COVID-19 Changed Healthcare Advertising?


When COVID-19 hit early last year, the world of healthcare marketing seemed to come to a halt. Media budgets and the people who controlled them paused, leaving marketers to reflect on how to move forward and the changes that would likely come due to the global pandemic.

While messaging and targeting may have changed, the one thing about healthcare marketing that hasn’t changed is that caring for and improving the lives of patients remains at the center of the industry.

Whether it’s advertising healthcare facilities, hospital service lines, new drugs, updated medical devices or simply continuing education for healthcare providers (HCPs), healthcare marketing still revolves around patients. What has changed is the way HCPs reach and engage with their patients and other people in their fields, and how healthcare marketers help them accomplish that.

Healthcare marketing is still focused on simplifying care for patients and keeping the relationship between HCPs and patients strong. However, things are now shifting to a digital-first approach.

How COVID-19 Changed Telemedicine 

A good example of these changes relates to telemedicine. It’s true that telemedicine isn’t exactly a new advancement in medical technology—in fact, it’s been around for decades—but its usage numbers saw a significant spike in 2020.

With the pandemic leaving people in quarantine and unable to visit their HCP, telemedicine offered a way to keep patients and HCPs connected and ensure that patients still received the care and attention they needed. The challenge that healthcare marketers faced was that telemedicine wasn’t the most popular or well-known service, to either HCPs or their patients.

While healthcare marketers couldn’t entirely control HCP usage and adoption of telehealth services, they could help get patients on board for doctors who already signed on to the “new” platforms. Shifting patient-centered campaign messaging away from showcasing service lines, clinic locations, and offerings, and towards making it clear that a patient’s HCP was still available, just in a different way, was integral to keeping relationships between patient and HCP strong.

Despite a gradual and hesitant adoption of a new technology, as it turned out, telemedicine’s shining moment in the midst of a pandemic impacted the healthcare industry more than anticipated. FAIR Health reports that the United States saw a 5,680% increase in telehealth claims, from privately insured patients, from May 2019 to May 2020. According to a survey from Doctor.com, 83% of patients expect to use virtual appointments even after COVID-19 dies down.

While there will always be a number of issues or conditions that do require an in-person visit, for the remaining conditions, the number of patients likely to choose a virtual appointment over going in-office are strong and keep rising.

NPP vs Personal Promotion

Another big change in Healthcare marketing is the balance between non-personal promotion (NPP) and personal promotion budgeting and strategy. Previously, NPP budgets had taken a back seat to personal promotion, like drug sales-rep meetings or event booths and sponsorships.

While effective, personal promotion was a bit outdated and challenging even before COVID-19 entered the scene. Since COVID-19 forced a sort of evolution in the outdated practices of engaging with HCPs, NPP has increased rapidly. MM&M surveyed medical marketers recently, and 45% said they were increasing NPP, with 73% of those individuals citing COVID-19 as a significant factor for that increase.

This is by no means bad news—it’s actually a big step towards a more digitally evolved healthcare industry which benefits everyone involved. But it also presented a unique challenge for healthcare marketers… how do you make non-personal promotion feel personal? This question pushed marketers to work smarter and reevaluate how HCPs are targeted online and how they’re consuming media, which is something that will last long after COVID-19 ends.

In short, COVID-19 gave the healthcare industry, and thus healthcare marketing, a big push into the digital space, where it will remain long after COVID-19 dies off. Telemedicine, more non-personal promotion, and the ever-evolving digital solutions for healthcare, are here to stay. And, so is the responsibility of healthcare marketers to keep communicating the industry trends to both patients and healthcare providers, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Connect with us to learn more about healthcare marketing with Centro!