6 Predictions for Healthcare Marketing in 2018

Every week brings big changes in healthcare: a blockbuster merger, a tech giant entering the space, a new disruptive technology premiering on the scene. Many marketers are asking, “What could all of this mean for our organizations, and for our roles within them?”

As a marketer, you will be asked to grow revenue without a ballooning budget; design seamless, customer-centric experiences with your brand; and synchronize customer experience today with the consumer expectations of tomorrow. None of that will be easy.

You’ll have an all-important role to play in the changes to come. To help you prepare, here are six predictions for what this year will bring.

1. Consumerism Will Become a Central Pillar of Governance

Healthcare consumerism will rise to new prominence in the C-suite. Health systems will reorganize themselves to meet the challenges and opportunities that consumerism creates.

Hospital boards will elevate consumerism to a central pillar of governance alongside finance, quality and safety and population health as they realize the need for bringing together marketing and consumer experience to create a unified brand experience necessary for growing system revenue.

2. Digital Engagement Spending Will Double (Again)

More than ever, healthcare consumers are online and on mobile devices. Health systems will need to marshal every available resource to reach them.

Millennials may be phone-obsessed, but those born after 1995 — so-called Generation Z — spend twice as much time on their phones as millennials, and they are twice as likely to make purchases online. Healthcare marketers and strategists need to capture these future consumers of healthcare. Remember, your new competitors, like Amazon and Apple, are already on the case.

3. A Big Uptick in Natural Language Processing

For many health systems, much of this digital investment will move toward natural language processing (NLP).

NLP enables organizations to instantly understand and aggregate the voices of their consumers. It algorithmically analyzes patient comments, parsing out commonalities and organizing them by sentiment, demographic or any other factors a marketing team might find useful.

4. Service Recovery Will Speed Up Dramatically

The combination of real-time customer feedback and NLP makes instant intervention much easier. Patient complaints no longer have to wait for human analysis. Instead, algorithms automatically identify opportunities for essential clinical and experiential follow-up.

Consider an out-of-industry example: Delta Airlines. Currently, should a passenger provide negative feedback on Twitter about their experience with the airline, a bot (if not a human representative) responds within an hour — without fail. Immediate responses are what today’s consumers have become conditioned to expect. Health systems will begin to emulate Delta in that way.

5. Price Transparency

Opaque pricing for healthcare services has consumers frustrated and confused. That’s why in 2018 price transparency will rise.

Some states — such as Colorado, Maine and New Hampshire — have legislated price transparency into practice, while startups like Amino are working to bring prices out into the open. Health systems that publicly publish price information will earn goodwill and trust from consumers.

6. The True Age of Wellness

The brutal truth is that most consumers would rather not become patients at all. For this reason, the $3 trillion–strong (and growing) wellness industry will continue to thrive in 2018.

Many consumers would rather go to the gym, buy biofeedback devices, purchase anti-aging products or attend a cooking class than go to the hospital. Historically, health systems with compensation tied to volumes have struggled to capture this market.

Given the encroachment of nontraditional providers, health system leaders will be more motivated than ever. They’ll conceive new ways to participate in wellness,” and execution will fall to those in marketing and consumer experience.


At first, these may seem like intimidating issues to manage. But it’s important to remember that they’re all facets of the same issue: a transformational shift in consumer preferences.

This shift means that solid marketing strategy and execution have never been so important. The formula for success remains the same: the right engagement, with the right consumers, at the right time. Marketers that achieve this formula will have healthier communities, healthier bottom lines and a more defensible position in tomorrow’s healthcare market.


About the Author | Brian Wynne, Vice President and General Manager, NRC Health

NRC Health helps healthcare organizations better understand the people they care for and design experiences that inspire loyalty.