Increasing New Patient Leads in the Hospice and Nursing Home Industries
Over $167 billion was spent on nursing care and continuing care facilities in 2016, and that amount is expected to rise, as more people seek health care services for themselves or loved ones. Providers of hospice and nursing home services need to effectively position themselves online to capture a larger share of this spending, attract more attention from patients and their families, and build stronger provider networks in order to better serve their patients.
Focusing on the wealthiest generation
The U.S. is a rapidly greying nation with over 70 million people who are 55 and older. Furthermore, approximately 50 million people in the U.S. are 65 or older, 15 percent of the entire population, and this number is expected to grow.
The baby boomers are the wealthiest generation ever to grace the census data, controlling $3.7 trillion as a group, and boast a much higher level of education than prior generations. As the American population ages, analysts are expecting spending on health care to exponentially increase, especially for nursing home and hospice providers. The baby boomer generation comprises 40 percent of demand in the health care market and controls 70 percent of all disposable income in the U.S.
To generate new patient leads, health care and hospice providers need to focus their marketing efforts on older adult patients and their adult children or caregivers/guardians. The most effective approach that offers the greatest ROI is online marketing. The internet has transformed how Americans interact with businesses, and it is critical for health care and hospice providers to have a strong digital presence.
What the data tells us
Pew Research found that 67 percent of baby boomers (who comprise groups of both patients and caregivers) and a whopping 85 percent of Gen Xers (typically caregivers) own a smartphone. An estimated 66 percent of Boomers have broadband in their homes, with almost 60 percent using social media on a regular basis.
Also, adults 55 and over spend more time online than millennials. This large amount of time spent online means that the digital marketplace is ideal for attracting patients and building relationships while promoting a positive brand image on a large scale.
The nursing home and hospice industry have become increasingly competitive, as more providers move into the health care space. However, while competition may be increasing, providers are finding market penetration challenging. Part of this issue is related to the inability to effectively develop online marketing strategies that generate new leads and enhance the business profile.
A strong online presence allows businesses to attract families and caregivers who need nursing home and hospice services, attract new partners to their provider network, and position themselves as a reliable source for nursing care referrals.
This white paper discusses how baby boomers use the internet when searching for a hospice center or nursing home, the seasonality of healthcare-related searches, and how online advertising is currently advancing the goals of service providers in the health care space.
Search engines are a vital tool in the patient journey
The rise of the internet has had a significant impact on how individuals search for hospice and nursing home services. Search engines, such as Google, are used in 77 percent of the searches for hospice care, making these initial touchpoints on the customer journey a critical gateway to businesses.
Using search engines is closely followed by direct visits to a health care facility's website, which make up about 76 percent of the way people look for health care services. Going online to find information and services is vastly preferred to engaging directly with an individual. For example, those who asked for a doctor's referral were in the minority (only 49 percent), and 34 percent relied on family and friends for referrals.
Since the vast majority of families and patients began their search for hospice or nursing services online, providers should be easily accessible on the internet. They should cultivate informational resources that help these potential customers make informed decisions about their services.
Unfortunately, not many nursing home and hospice care providers are taking advantage of online marketing opportunities.
Institutions hold on to myths about online marketing, and it costs them
Part of this failure to capitalize on internet marketing is due to a poor understanding of how it works, but another piece of the puzzle is misinformation. Many providers labor under several myths about the populations they serve. These myths are costing them.
There are some popular misconceptions about the baby boomer generation that can impact the ability to successfully generate new patient leads. The most hurtful is that they are a technology-averse population. It is unclear how this myth began, but it has led some businesses to fail to capture value via online resources.
The baby boomer generation is the first to embrace the fast-paced changes found in technology since they successfully adapted to the complete change in the employment market driven by computers. Studies have shown that 96 percent of baby boomers utilize search engines (with Google being the most popular) for their information needs.
Over 95 percent of baby boomers use email regularly. An astounding 92 percent shop for services online, with 70 percent watch informational videos about specific services online. Baby boomers spend about 27 hours per week online, almost 10 percent more time than that spent by millennials, who are often considered "Digital Natives."
Boomers are not only going online to learn about services and providers. They are also outspoken about what they find and are 19 percent more likely than other generations to share information they have found online.
Search is an indispensable tool in the patient journey. To generate new leads, businesses must have an online presence that leverages search engine power. It is the primary gateway to the information they want, so being placed at the entrance to this gateway boosts the chances of being seen. However, just appearing in search results will not always enhance a business's prospects. It is a matter of being first.
Studies have shown that most people do not click through multiple search page results - they typically only engage with the first page of results. Very often, baby boomers themselves will choose the sponsored content shown at the top of the search results.
Typically, the first five results get about 70 percent of all search traffic, which means that merely showing up in the search results, but not in the top five, could mean that almost no potential customers will access the company's content.
Seasonal changes in the search for online information about health care services
Businesses that have already entered the online marketplace with their message are well-positioned when queries about health care services begin to rise. However, for companies that have not started their own online marketing campaign, there is still time to prepare for the cycles that occur throughout the year.
There are certain times of the year when people are generally more interested in searching for information about hospice and health care services. Typically, most customers go through a research phase that involves aggregating a certain amount of data before making a health care decision.
In this collection phase, companies that have a strong search presence and well-developed website are more likely to be seen as a trusted health care service provider. As more businesses get online, service providers are realizing that the digital space is one of the best marketplaces for attracting customers, cultivating their brand image, and finding relevant business partners.
Seasonal fluctuations in search impact the generation of new patient leads. Health care service queries tend to be light in the summer months, with fewer searches occurring in June, July, and August. March and October tend to be months with very heavy search activity, followed by November, September, February, April, January, and December.
This data tells us that any digital campaigns should be built with the activity in these months in mind. It typically takes a few months to put a successful campaign together, so businesses that begin during the summer months can be ready to capture attention in the fall. Late bloomers can still capture attention during March if they start planning their strategy in December or January.
There are also periodic fluctuations in searches throughout the week. For example, health care queries tend to be the heaviest on Tuesdays, with significant searches occurring from Monday through Thursday. There is some search activity on the weekends, but it tends to be lighter, especially on Saturdays.
These results could be due simply to the number of activities that keep patients and caregivers away from their technology. For example, the summer months tend to be slower in regards to customer queries. However, this may be because many people in this generation work and therefore take a well-deserved vacation. Queries are also lighter on Saturdays, which may be because busy caregivers or families use Saturdays to run errands or relax.
On Monday through Thursday, office workers will have more time to access the internet and may be more focused on health care services if they feel the pressure of working and caregiving.
Online advertising generates a significant number of leads and conversions
And this makes it one of the most cost-efficient and effective ways to reach patients and their families.
Online advertising is one of the best ways for nursing homes and hospice facilities to generate new leads, position themselves as a trusted source of information in the health care space, and build relationships with other providers to create stronger networks. They are realizing these advantages by tapping into the power of the internet.
Since one out of every 20 healthcare-related searches occurs on Google, businesses that tap into its power are positioning themselves for successful lead generation. For example, Google's My Business profile is one way that institutions are creating a presence. By entering all the information about their business and ensuring that the profile is kept up to date, businesses can ensure that the Google algorithms can locate and tag their profile as active. The My Business profile is useful, and it can continue to deliver value as long as it is frequently updated with relevant information and positive patient and family reviews.
To take advantage of the top listing on a search results page, businesses need to harness the power of sponsored content. Of course, business pages with the correct keywords will appear in the organic listings, but health care providers that invest in the sponsored content option will appear at the very top of the results.
Optimize your site for mobile
For mobile devices, this means that the sponsored content may take up almost the whole screen, moving competitors down or entirely off the first screen that users see. The advantage of using sponsored content on Google is that the business only pays when potential customers actually click on the sponsored link or call from the page using their smartphone. Businesses can also take advantage of ad extensions, such as a direct link to call the business directly or write a text, allowing the profile to take up more screen real estate.
Google does penalize sites for being poorly maintained. Businesses must keep their websites and online content up to date and remove broken links to maintain their search rankings and attract customers.
Also, any graphics on the site should be optimized; this is especially important for a company's mobile site since Google will index the mobile version first. The content on the site is important, too. For example, calls for action (such as "Click this link") should be displayed using different kinds of wordings in order to avoid a lower search ranking.
Tap into the power of YouTube
Since YouTube is the second largest search engine in the world, many health care providers are taking advantage of its platform to create relevant content and generate leads. In areas with a larger number of retirees, video is one of the key aspects of their internet activities.
For example, in Phoenix, AZ, there are about 700,000 viewers of YouTube videos every week (ages 55 and over); Ft. Lauderdale, FL, has a similar number of viewers in a typical week. Honolulu, HI, has over 240,000 YouTube viewers every single week.
High-quality videos support the business's brand image in the space while delivering important information about the facility and its services. The most impactful videos tell a story about the caring services provided by the nursing home or hospice and utilize testimonials from actual residents or patients. In the increasingly crowded digital marketplace, videos allow providers to differentiate their business or services from others within the area.
Online campaigns offer a significant advantage over traditional ones - businesses can view hard data about the success of their online campaigns. All aspects of the online campaign can be tracked, and success is measured by the number of phone calls, leads, and conversions that result.
Also, Google provides tools to help analyze which keywords generate the most clicks and their related conversions, as well as a variety of other types of data, such as when call or click volumes are heavier.
Online campaigns are incredibly effective, and their returns are almost immediate. In some cases, the shift to online advertising generated 100 new phone contacts and calls per month once the business began its advertising campaign. There is no waiting for success with an online campaign: Immediately after launching a campaign, the calls and queries start to come in.
Nursing home and hospice providers benefit from online campaigns
In conclusion, nursing home facilities, hospices, and long-term care centers must advertise online to realize improved lead generation and conversion. The key to attracting interest in the facility is the business's online and offline reputation, which can be cultivated via in-house training and online activities.
While hospice and nursing facilities typically focus on attracting new patients from the local communities, it is vital for them to have a professional and educational presence online, not only via their website but also in search engine directories.
The U.S. population continues to age, and more individuals will be seeking care. They will turn to the internet to find that information. The businesses with a strong online presence are positioning themselves to dominate their local market and provide superior services to their patients and caregivers.
 CENSUS DATA
 US NEWS
 PEW RESEARCH
 WASHINGTON POST