Want to Boost HCP Referrals? Try These Hospital Advertising Strategies ASAP

Want to Boost HCP Referrals? Try These Hospital Advertising Strategies ASAP

People do what they know.

Take the same route to work.

Spend time with the same people

Get coffee at the same cafe.

It’s natural to stay in your comfort zone, which is why doctors refer patients to the same hospitals.

Fundamentally, there’s nothing wrong with this, but these “default” hospitals aren’t the only options — and for hospitals outside of a doctor’s consideration set, getting a referral can be challenging.

With a hospital advertising strategy, though, it doesn’t have to be.

What’s a Hospital Advertising Strategy?

A hospital advertising strategy combines digital marketing tactics, NPI targeting, and innovative ad types to engage doctors and help hospitals increase referrals.

Hospital Advertising Strategies & Ideas to Boost HCP Referrals

Use NPI Targeting

Hospital advertising has challenges, but we’d argue one stands atop the list: Targeting — and advertisers agree. Proper targeting was the biggest challenge mentioned by participants (24%) in one study.1

For hospitals, the challenge is engaging the right HCPs — HCPs ready to refer their patients.

The answer: NPI targeting.

NPI targeting lets hospitals target HCPs by American Medical Association (AMA)-recognized medical specialty, subspecialties, secondary or tertiary specialties, and more.

For example, a hospital wanting to increase referrals for its cardiology or pulmonology departments could use NPI targeting to deliver ads to cardiologists and pulmonologists nearby.

By refining their targeting strategy and focusing on high-intent HCPs, hospitals can improve performance and cost-efficiencies. This approach also allows you to navigate privacy laws because it uses first-party data.

Think Digital

The pandemic has changed many things, including how hospitals use telehealth and other technology — there was a 63x increase in medicare telehealth usage during the pandemic.2

While technology has always been part of hospitals’ DNA, patient adoption — 76% of patients want digital healthcare — means it’s here to stay.3

What’s also here to stay is digital advertising, like video, mobile and in-app, and digital display ads. Today, hospitals trying to increase referrals must bring their campaigns to the screens doctors are using, including desktops, smartphones, tablets, and EHRs.

Get Personal

Somewhere along the way, advertisers lost their “personal touch;” it’s why ads sometimes have a negative vibe.

That’s not the whole story, though. People aren’t tired of ads — they’re frustrated by ads that aren’t valuable.

In fact, 71% of consumers expect companies to deliver personalized interactions, and 76% of consumers get frustrated when they receive irrelevant ads.4

To increase referrals, hospitals should take every opportunity to personalize their hospital advertising campaigns by using messaging and creatives that make it clear they understand HCPs and their pain points.

It’s Video or Nothing

Although some estimates have video consumption declining in the coming years, that doesn’t mean it’s going away — as long as Millennials and Gen Z make up the majority of the population, videos are here to stay. Half of Gen Z and Millennials said they “don’t know how they’d get through life without video.”

If that’s not enough to convince hospitals to include video in their strategies, the performance of video ads should.

Advertisers who use video ads grew revenue 49% faster than those who don’t.5

Whether it’s in-stream, native, mobile or another format on the ever-growing list, video ads should become as synonymous with hospital digital advertising as poor handwriting is to doctors.

Get Creative

Audience building and targeting are arguably the most important parts of a hospital advertising strategy, but advertising teams shouldn’t discount creativity and ad types as a way to increase referrals.

Why? Because HCPs are busy and the online world is saturated with ads, making it harder to stand out.

So, instead of using a static banner ad, the best hospital advertising should opt for rich media that adds another layer of engagement to increase CTRs and conversions.

Rather than defaulting to traditional image ads, hospitals should use light animations to catch their attention.

Healthcare advertising agencies with creative services can help implement these advanced ad types and creative strategies by combining hospital advertising experience with in-house designers proven to deliver ads that get the attention of HCPs and drive referrals.

It Starts with Search

“Best hospital for treating kidney disease”

“Who are the top cardiologists near me?”

“Heart disease care in New York City”

These are search terms an HCP could use before, during, or after a patient interaction.

While a search ad is unlikely to lead directly to a referral, targeted search ads insert hospitals into HCPs’ consideration set and influence their decision — for current and future patients.

Hospitals can take it one step further by adding search extensions, i.e., the “Request an Appointment,” “Find a Doctor,” etc., to give HCPs an easy way to reach out.


Despite social media’s presence in the spotlight for more than a decade, hospital advertisers have largely steered clear.

Until now.

Today, social media is becoming a mainstay in hospital marketing strategies as HCPs and patients use it to stay connected and find information.

Case and point: Nearly 60M people are turning to influencers on platforms like Instagram, Facebook, and TikTok for healthcare information. Meanwhile, 67% of doctors use social media for professional use.6

Where did this surge in healthcare social media come from?

Millennials and Gen Z.

Whether it’s more established players, like Facebook or Twitter, or relative newcomers like Snapchat and TikTok, these younger generations trust social and won’t steer clear of it for their healthcare needs just because it’s not “traditional.”

As a result, marketing strategies for hospitals should adapt to include social media so that they can reach younger HCPs entering the workforce and older ones evolving.

Build Trust With KOLs

Similar to how hospitals haven’t always included social media in their strategies, influencers have also remained at arm’s length.

But, again, as younger generations enter the picture, strategies are changing, which is why influencers — also known as key opinion leaders (KOLs) — are making their way into healthcare.

Today, KOLs can add a layer of trust and authenticity to hospital advertising strategies, similar to how influencers sway consumers in other industries. ROI for influencer marketing is 11X greater than certain types of digital marketing.7

By building trust, your KOL strategy will help you connect over shared values, build brand affinity, and create an emotional connection with HCPs, driving them to act. After all, emotional factors are one of the biggest drivers of providers’ decision making.

Spend Wisely & Optimize

Like advertisers in any industry, those running hospital campaigns are under pressure to perform.

While the forcing function is there to provide immediate value, teams dedicating all of their hospital advertising spend at once will see diminishing returns.

Instead, hospitals with the best advertising strategies power them with optimizations from past campaigns.

They increase upon what’s working and sunset what’s not. This could mean rotating ad types, switching messaging, activating new audiences or something in-between.

Digital hospital advertising strategies are built over time, not in a day.

Get More Referrals From HCPs With a Hospital Digital Advertising Agency

The best hospital advertising strategies rely on more than NPI targeting, programmatic tactics, and innovative ad types. The hospitals that generate the most referrals do so by teaming up with hospital digital advertising agencies.

Adfire Health is a healthcare advertising agency with a proven track record of helping hospitals develop campaigns that engage HCPs across the digital world and increase referrals.

We do this by combining years of hospital advertising experience with our proprietary database of more than 7MM HCPs and 1.4MM registered NPIs to help hospitals build the perfect audience to achieve their goals.

Want to learn more about how Adfire Health can help you maximize your hospital advertising strategy? Reach out today.


  1. Statista Research Department. Leading challenges of digital advertising according to marketers in the United States as of September 2021. Statista. Published November 2021. Accessed July 23, 2022.
  2. New HHS Study Shows 63-Fold Increase in Medicare Telehealth Utilization During the Pandemic. U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. Published December 3, 2021. Accessed July 23, 2022.
  3. 76% of Patients Want to Digitally Manage Healthcare. PYMNTS. Published August 30, 2021. Accessed July 23, 2022.
  4. The value of getting personalization right—or wrong—is multiplying. McKinsey & Company. Published 2021. Accessed February 4, 2024.
  5. Quinn C. Video Marketing Isn’t The Future: It’s Right Here And Now. Forbes. Published October 6, 2017. Accessed July 23, 2022.
  6. Patient Trendscoping Study. Published 2022. Accessed July 23, 2023.
  7. Dopson E. 30+ Influencer Marketing Statistics to Have on Your Radar (2022). Shopify. Published July 5, 2022. Accessed July 23, 2022.

How can we help your marketing?