Healthcare marketers report falling budgets—and share what works to attract patients

Healthcare organizations are putting the squeeze on marketing budgets. With 55% of people saying their budgets will fall this year, marketers need to find ways to make their money stretch further—and a look at what worked in 2022 offers some pointers on how to maximize returns.

Actium Health generated the data through an online survey, partnering with the Forum for Healthcare Strategists to collect the insights of 52 senior-level healthcare marketers. The survey revealed that 55% of the respondents are working with a budget for 2023 that is reduced, either somewhat or a lot, from the sum they had to play with last year.

With less money to spend, marketers will need to think carefully about how to deploy their dollars to hit their targets. Healthcare organizations primarily evaluate marketers on their ability to drive appointment bookings and outpatient volume, objectives that overlap with the goals of biopharma companies. The survey shows the approaches that helped healthcare marketers achieve their objectives last year.

Three-quarters of surveyed marketers increased outpatient volumes as a result of particular tactics. Paid media and always-on campaigns led the way for 71%, followed by ad hoc campaigns promoting specific services, 61%, online scheduling, 52%, and increased physician capacity, 32%. 

An analysis of the tactics that drove patient appointments generated similar results. Asked what tactics are extremely effective, 59% of marketers said paid media campaigns, putting it in the top spot ahead of online scheduling, 45%, always-on campaigns, 41%, mobile apps, 23%, and ad hoc campaigns, 22%.

Is focusing on getting patients through the door enough, though? Alan Tam, Actium’s chief marketing officer, said “one thing missing in these findings is a high prioritization of patient retention,” a metric that could become increasingly important in a cash-constrained environment. 

“When [new] customer acquisition can cost five times more than retaining an existing customer, it makes sense that healthcare marketers move retention up in their list of priorities, and identify tactics and tools that both activate patients to make appointments and cultivate a sense of satisfaction and loyalty while doing so,” Tam said in a statement.