March 12, 2021

Marketing to Healthcare Prospects: Show Your Empathy and Your ROI

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Think back to 2019: cost pressures, a hefty regulatory burden, technology disruption from tools like artificial intelligence and cloud computing, and a search for innovative ways to connect patients with care are reshaping the healthcare industry.

These elements and more were responsible for significant upheaval in the healthcare market before the global pandemic struck in 2020. Today, that disruption is being amplified.

The advice for B2B and B2C marketers alike since the pandemic started was to show empathy for customers and prospects. This is especially true if you’re targeting the healthcare industry.

For B2B marketers trying to reach prospects in the healthcare industry, this is a complicated time. The technology you’re trying to market can likely help the people you’re trying to reach. But reaching them is not easy. Selling to them is even harder. And budgets? Budget might be the biggest obstacle of all to closing a deal.

Disruption in the healthcare industry

The pandemic added disruption to what was already an industry in flux. The combination of financial strain and shifting priorities that was introduced in 2020 was both sudden and monumental.

Financial strain

According to the American Hospital Association, the financial losses suffered by US hospitals during the pandemic were expected to surpass $323 billion for 2020.

The influx of patients and the high costs of care for those afflicted with COVID-19 are largely responsible for the losses, but the pandemic also restricted other forms of healthcare-derived income. Elective surgeries were paused in many areas. Patients were reluctant to schedule routine exams for fear of being exposed to the virus.

In some ways, healthcare is a lot like other industries. When there’s a sharp reduction in billable services, it negatively affects revenue. And when there’s less revenue, there’s often less spending.

Shifting strategies and priorities

Before the pandemic, healthcare was in the midst of a digital transformation not unlike other industries. Data center transformation projects were popular. Cloud computing was gaining traction thanks to cloud solutions developed with the specific needs of the healthcare industry in mind.

Once the pandemic struck, however, much of that work came to a halt. For starters, it was difficult to send employees into a data center (an often cramped indoor space) when many people were working safely from home.

Many healthcare organizations re-assigned those IT resources to more pressing priorities, such as enabling remote care, which allowed care providers to meet with patients in a safe environment. In the US, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) removed a number of barriers to remote care. Before the pandemic, for example, pathologists could not work remotely. The FDA also fast-tracked the approval of prescription-only remote devices for monitoring patient health.

ALSO READ: The Best HIPAA Compliant Video Conferencing Tools for Telehealth

Can your tech cure what ails healthcare?

IT remains crucial to the future of the healthcare industry because it helps organizations in this space meet a number of challenges. If the technology you’re marketing can help healthcare organizations in these areas, you will likely find an audience receptive to your message.

Security and compliance

Security and compliance are essential to everything that happens in the healthcare industry. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) is perhaps the best-known industry regulation in US healthcare, but it’s not alone. The Affordable Care Act (ACA, also known as Obamacare) and regulations issued by the Center for Medicare and Medicaid services (CMS) also govern data and privacy in healthcare.

Cyberattacks on the healthcare industry are up since the pandemic began, and security professionals expect more healthcare-related data breaches are in store. Expect intense competition around data protection solutions in healthcare and intense scrutiny from buyers with tight budgets.

In some ways, healthcare is a lot like other industries. When there’s a sharp reduction in billable services, it negatively affects revenue. And when there’s less revenue, there’s often less spending.

The patient experience

Customer experience has been a huge driver of digital transformations in a number of industries. Consumers are accustomed to doing almost everything online, especially with mobile devices and apps. But the healthcare industry often lags behind in this area.

Healthcare providers continue to search for ways to increase efficiency. Consumers increasingly prefer online interactions and grew accustomed to low-contact experiences during the pandemic. If you’re marketing IT solutions that can open the door for online scheduling, easier methods of communicating with care providers and the continued adoption of electronic health records, healthcare organizations will likely be interested. Thanks to the FDA relaxing restrictions to enable remote care, and many patients having no choice but to meet with care providers remotely during the pandemic, the barriers to telehealth have never been lower.

ALSO READ: Making the Transition to Telehealth: What You Need to Know

Back office complexity

The business side of healthcare is extremely complex. Billing information, for example, needs to be exchanged with insurance providers and government agencies like CMS. In large healthcare organizations in particular, legacy IT systems are behind many of these processes.

Legacy systems weren’t built to share information with other internal systems or with external partners. This presents a challenge for many IT organizations. If legacy systems could easily be ripped and replaced, many organizations would have done so years ago. But they can’t. So technology that works to open these systems up is critical to running an efficient operation. If you’re marketing technology that can help integrate systems to eliminate information silos and increase efficiency, healthcare organizations will likely be interested.

Prepare to prove your worth

Most technology vendors employ messages around increasing efficiency. But technology deployments, especially software deployments, fail to deliver on their promises at an alarming rate. According to McKinsey, as much as 70 percent of digital transformation efforts fail.

Along with the customer empathy required to work with the healthcare industry, be prepared to demonstrate your return on investment (ROI). That means arming your prospects with case studies and success stories — especially from customers in the healthcare space — that show measurable ROI.

The pressure put on healthcare in 2020 and 2021 will leave its mark on the industry’s transformation going forward. We don’t know exactly how it will play out, but if you can demonstrate value and innovation, your products and services can play a role in the industry’s future as it unfolds.