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Strategic Insights into Five Trends Challenging Healthcare Marketers

Five Trends Impacting Healthcare Marketers in 2023

In the past two years, the healthcare industry has undergone some major changes — and these changes have happened fast. The implications will be felt across the industry for years to come. How marketers like you respond will either help you get ahead or cause you to be left behind.


As a marketing leader, you have a unique opportunity to lead your team and your organization strategically. The research and insights marketers collect help inform relevant, successful campaigns. This research also can bridge the gaps among departments and teams. Staying on top of current trends positions marketers as leaders capable of shaping critical business decisions. In an economic climate where many health systems are looking to cut departmental budgets and staff, this makes the marketing department invaluable to the entire organization.

These five trends in particular may be disrupting the marketplace and creating challenges for healthcare organizations, but they don’t have to disrupt you. By analyzing and taking deliberate action, you can leverage them to set your healthcare system apart and create better outcomes for your business and your patients.

Pay Attention to These Trends

Though these environmental factors are creating challenges as well as a highly competitive and uncertain atmosphere, they do present an opportunity for healthcare marketing departments to shape the future of their organizations. Paying attention to and analyzing these trends can help you and your team add value by applying your insights to marketing activities and strategic planning.

Download the full Core Health Top 5 Executive Summary, exploring landscape shifts, market trends and consumer insights.

1. Accelerated Change and Rapid Innovation within the Healthcare Industry

The healthcare industry has typically moved at a glacial pace. We ruminate on the same issues for years, which has previously allowed marketers to run campaigns more deliberately and take plenty of time to mull over strategic decisions.

However, the uncertainties of the past two years have upended this predictable rhythm. In some cases, the rapid changes have created some good outcomes, like new advances in providing services to patients. Other negative effects are causing pain for healthcare systems and organizations, like increased financial pressure.

As this breakneck pace of innovation and industry evolution continues, marketers need to adjust their mindset and become more nimble with their initiatives. This doesn’t mean making fast, sloppy decisions and ignoring longer-term strategies. It means being organized and forward-thinking.

The faster market conditions change, the more you’ll have to think on your feet. Preparation and control are key when you need to make decisions and pivot fast. Your marketing efforts should be guided by a north star — that way, if the terrain changes or your maps fall out of date, you’ll still have a guiding principle.

Your north star is the main objective you need to achieve. As the industry throws you unexpected challenges, framing any new moves around this goal will help you analyze new situations and reformulate your plans to match.

For example, perhaps the new competitive landscape is making your paid media efforts cost-prohibitive. Pivoting to owned and earned media with a revised, repurposed campaign focused on the same goals can help you avoid starting from scratch.

2. Consumerism’s Effect on Healthcare Experiences

Traditional retailers have risen to meet higher and higher consumer expectations for years. Digitally-savvy consumers have more power than ever and the healthcare industry is no longer immune to these trends. And as consumers benefit from increased levels of personalization, convenience, and speed in other areas of their lives, they have come to expect it in their healthcare services, too.

Particularly for non-acute care, like preventative care or wellness visits, the consumer knows technology exists to enhance these experiences. Whether that means online check-ins so visitors can skip the waiting room or applications with data interoperability that make patient experiences seamless across providers, patients have high standards when it comes to their experience with your system.

Your marketing team is in a unique position to observe these challenges. That’s because you often have access to consumer insights and data about customer expectations and satisfaction before any other department.

However, despite this early data, marketing departments are rarely in charge of the financial and technical operations that enable them to leverage the technology needed to meet rising consumer expectations. But that doesn’t mean you can’t help solve the problem.

First, clear communication and messaging can set customer expectations before they even walk through the door. Next, training internal staff can provide a framework for customer interactions — assuring experiences will be cohesive and on-brand. In some cases, there are even opportunities to work across teams and pitch new ideas.

When marketers work across teams, like operations, facilities, and clinical staff, it can lead to great innovations that serve consumers and organizational goals. For example, years ago, the idea of managing expectations around wait times led to emergency rooms across the country providing live updates about wait times. Hospitals with underutilized emergency rooms across a market started to run campaigns centered around faster service to direct traffic away from busy trauma centers. Beneficial for patients, AND for busy hospitals with overloaded ERs.

3. A Greater Focus on Equity (or Lack Thereof) in the Healthcare Industry

The lack of attention on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in healthcare treatment and the corresponding impact on patient outcomes has long been an unbalanced scale. Now, the spotlight on this issue is brighter than ever, and it’s time for healthcare systems and organizations to address their role.

While the number of health systems actually transforming their businesses to address the social determinants of health remains small, the recognition that population health and value-based care must be more than catchphrases is becoming more widely embraced.

Marketing departments can play a role in bringing DEI initiatives to the forefront. It’s not an issue that can be tackled in one meeting, but marketers can prioritize and help make progress by focusing on initiatives that drive change. Instead of feeling helpless about solving systemic issues like food insecurity or access to transportation, work on the areas you can control.

Make your website ADA compliant, do deep research on population demographics, and ensure your messaging and communications are welcoming to all, in different formats and languages. Create channels that make it easy for underserved populations to reach out and get in touch. Reach out to make connections with community organizations and support their work. And consider who you support financially through sponsorships, partnerships, and media buys.

Mt. Sinai DEI Roadmap

Mount Sinai Health System
MarComm DEI plan

The Mount Sinai Health System in New York City offers an excellent example of how Marketing can impact an organization’s commitment to DEI. The Health System in 2021 created a diversity, equity, and inclusion road map to address racism, ensure a fair, just, anti-racist, and equitable community for staff, patients, students, and visitors. The system’s Marketing and Communications Department in turn developed its own complementary plan to improve supplier, audience, and content diversity. These plans were presented at a national conference this year. The presentation focused on how DEI impacts research and clinical care, as well as on the impact of bias and racism on health care marketing, and how Mount Sinai is focusing on measurable strategies to encourage action.

4. Strategic Partnerships and the Need for Collaboration

The pandemic created an urgency to quickly solve community health problems, using any resources available. Many systems relied on partnerships — and that is unlikely to change. Insular work environments are the norm, so working collaboratively is going to require a new way of thinking and approaching campaigns.

Within teams, systems, and communities, working with a strategic partner can help address issues around internal and external communication, reaching the right audiences, balancing financial constraints, and resourcing.

This presents an opportunity for marketers to collaborate internally across departments and externally with agencies and partners to take a new approach to how health systems solve problems. For instance, maternal-fetal mortality rates are a devastating problem in many communities across the country. It’s not enough to simply conduct research with no strategic plan on how to find solutions and communicate results and proposed actions to the right audiences.

Your team may not know how to reduce community health challenges or solve public health crises, but healthcare marketers can offer valuable perspectives and relationships — whether it's an internal resource or an outside partner.

5. New Players Redefining Competition

With all the disruptions in the past two years, the way major players are participating in delivering health care has changed. Pharmaceutical companies, startups, and insurance companies are all branching out into tangential offerings. Even retailers, physical or digital, like Amazon and CVS are finding ways to expand their footprint.

Health systems are rethinking the nature of their core businesses, re-evaluating how cooperation and competition might evolve, while working to protect their revenue streams as disruptors continue to experiment in the market.

Marketers will feel the impact of the shifting competitive landscape. In this scenario, the industry stands to be forever changed by how innovative companies are approaching new ways of delivering health services to patients and consumers.

Your seat allows you to bring the customer point of view to these conversations. Combined with your knowledge of current events, consumer research and technological developments will ensure you can respond to these changes and shape your organization’s proactive strategy.

Get Ahead of Healthcare Industry Trends or Risk Getting Left Behind

The healthcare industry rules have changed. These five trends, among other societal factors and landscape changes, have impacted the way the entire healthcare industry runs, and thus how marketers do their jobs.

And these challenges, increased competition, and focus on patients and consumers are an opportunity for creativity and out-of-the-box strategic thinking.

Core Health has made it our business to stay on top of the current events and market trends that challenge healthcare marketers every day. Through this research, we return actionable insights to help you achieve more and create better outcomes for the systems and organizations you work for.

Marketing can have an impressive impact on the business if you know what to look for in these changing times. Staying on top of these trends and using them to inform your strategy will lead to the all-important short-term wins and long-term strategies that will pay off over time.

author

Laila Waggoner serves as Vice President, Strategic Partnerships for Core Health, Core Creative’s specialized healthcare marketing practice. Laila brings more than 30 years of experience working with regional health systems, community hospitals, academic medical centers, hospices, managed care organizations and B2B healthcare brands in markets across the country. She’s held in-house health system and agency leadership roles, and provides unique insight into how clients can best leverage the strategic branding, marketing and creative resources of an agency partner.

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