To say the past few years have been volatile for the healthcare industry would be an understatement. The COVID-19 pandemic virtually transformed how medical care is administered overnight, in ways that have proven more lasting than anyone could have anticipated. 

As the healthcare industry continues to undergo seismic changes, healthcare marketing trends naturally follow suit. 

Between lingering impacts of COVID-19, the rise of AI, data challenges, controversial interpretations of HIPAA compliance laws, and aggressive mergers and acquisitions by major companies, healthcare marketing’s evolution in 2024 will continue apace.

Keeping up with how these trends are shaping the industry and practice will be the difference between adapting or being left behind. Here are key healthcare marketing trends we’ve been monitoring and helping clients navigate.

HIPAA compliance crackdowns necessitate alternatives to third-party tracking

In December 2022, the Department of Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights (HHS OCR) made the controversial policy decision to treat use of third-party tracking tools by hospitals and other HIPAA-covered entities as a violation of the privacy law.

In a March 2024 update, HHS confirmed that “regulated entities are not permitted to use tracking technologies in a manner that would result in impermissible disclosures of PHI [Protected Healthcare Information] to tracking technology vendors or any other violations of the HIPAA rules.”

This policy has huge implications for digital marketing because it means that many of the most common tracking technologies marketers use could be considered HIPAA violations. For example, healthcare websites using Google Analytics make themselves vulnerable to civil lawsuits. For the same reasons, retargeting pixel codes such as Meta Pixels or Google Ad codes are also now considered non-HIPAA compliant.

In the wake of this policy, healthcare marketers need to either remove all tracking from their sites or find new ways to render their ad tracking HIPAA-compliant. There are a few ways to do this:

  1. Manually ensure that your current martech stack isn’t sending PHI back to third parties 
  2. Start working exclusively with martech providers who will sign a Business Associate Agreement (BAA) with your organization
  3. Implement a Customer Data Platform you can sign a BAA with that can provide a “middleman” for data to pass to, allowing your team to ensure that PHI isn’t getting out to the third parties

While the long-term consequences of this policy on healthcare marketing are still unclear, what is evident now is that brands in this space are under heavier pressure to develop new, cookie-agnostic techniques for tracking and targeting. 

AI makes marketing personalization at scale possible

Personalizing your campaigns to your target audiences or even specific individuals and accounts has become the go-to digital marketing strategy post-pandemic. According to Gartner research, account-based marketing (ABM) provides a 28% increase in account engagement and a 25% rise in marketing-qualified leads to sales-accepted lead conversion rates, among other impressive results. 

Of course, ABM isn’t just more effective in healthcare marketing; by now, it’s practically expected. Just like patients are coming to expect more personalized service from their healthcare providers in 2024, healthcare customers likewise expect any marketing outreach they receive to speak to their unique needs and concerns.

This has presented a logistical problem for healthcare marketers: very few teams will ever have the time or resources to personalize their campaigns to the level of specificity most consumers expect. In 2024, however, there is reason to believe that AI may help solve this challenge.

As ChatGPT and other AI-powered tools like it sweep the marketing world, healthcare marketers have been quick to apply them to several aspects of their processes, from content ideation and generation to uncovering data insights. Among all of these exciting applications, one sticks out: by using AI to expedite the creation of personalized ads, true healthcare ABM at scale may become possible.

Several healthcare marketers have already begun documenting their experiments with AI as a means of scaling personalization, and their results are very encouraging. As AI technologies continue to grow more advanced and demand for ABM in the healthcare industry increases, expect to see more healthcare marketers turning to AI technology to help them expedite and deepen their personalization capabilities.

Consumers want more credible healthcare information online, and healthcare marketers are starting to notice

The fact that there’s a huge demand for health-related information on the internet is no recent trend. Even back in 2019 Google reported that a whopping 7% of its daily search traffic was health-related, meaning the search engine was fielding more than one billion health-related questions per day.

What is changing, however, is how credulous the average searcher is about the information they find. According to a study by GoodRX, 87% of participants were either concerned (19%) or strongly concerned (68%) about the spread of medical misinformation online. The study’s results found that these fears were well founded, as 70% of participants had been exposed to medical or health-related misinformation in the past.

As fears about medical misinformation continue to spread, there has been an increasing demand for high-quality, expert-verified digital health content. Healthcare marketing teams that invest in providing this kind of content are reaping the rewards: 99% of healthcare brands that participated in Semrush’s State of Content Marketing 2023 Global Report said their content marketing initiatives were proving successful.

Despite the obvious demand for credible healthcare content, however, healthcare marketers are still lagging behind when it comes to providing it. According to one study, 70% of healthcare marketing executives said they had a marketing strategy, but only 28% had it documented for continuous use and optimization.

Growth is taking place. As of 2023, 48% of healthcare teams had started to outsource their content development efforts to produce better content faster. As public trust in health information continues to erode, the demand for high-quality digital healthcare content will continue to rise. And as more healthcare marketers experience the kind of success content marketing can bring them, expect them to double down. 

Local SEO remains a major differentiator

In the world of digital e-commerce and the ease of globalized product delivery, healthcare services become one of the increasingly rare industries where location still matters. This is especially true for smaller, more localized healthcare institutions, which often have to compete with nationalized systems built out of the many large-scale mergers and acquisitions that have occurred in the 2020s.

For institutions like these, local SEO will become more important than ever in 2024 and beyond. After all, while their marketers may not be able to compete with industry titans on a national level, they can utilize the goodwill and reputation they’ve built in their own communities to differentiate.

At TopRank Marketing, we’ve helped clients navigate scenarios like these. Never underestimate the value of a thoughtful and nuanced strategy for leveling the playing field against resource-flush competitors.

The healthcare industry is only going to continue to nationalize as major players continue to acquire and incorporate smaller institutions into their growing empires. As smaller marketing teams face increased pressure to differentiate themselves from these encroaching competitors, expect to see them turn toward highly-informed and data-tested local SEO strategies like the one TopRank successfully implemented for our client.

Did we miss anything? What else have you noticed happening in the world of healthcare marketing, and what effect do you think it will have on your business in 2024 and beyond? If you have a challenge we might be able to help solve via specialized marketing services, we’d love to hear from you.

About the author

Harry is one of TopRank Marketing’s Content Strategists, and has been a professional digital content specialist since 2016. During this time, he has honed his content writing skills and worked closely with SEO and SEM experts to enhance his understanding of how to most effectively create high-quality content that performs well on both search engines and social media. Harry is passionate about creating content that represents the voice of his clients well and provides genuinely relevant, insightful information that his client’s customers will find helpful and entertaining to read. When Harry isn’t writing content, he’s usually reading it, or watching movies. He watches a lot of movies.

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