Building a Hospital Digital Marketing Plan to Reach & Engage HCPs

Building a Hospital Digital Marketing Plan to Reach & Engage HCPs

There are more than 6,000 hospitals in the United States.1

That means, theoretically, a healthcare professional (HCP) who needs to refer a patient to a specialist has 6,000 hospitals from which to choose.

This number may not be a big concern for smaller hospitals or those more geographically isolated, like those in smaller cities.

But for those in densely populated areas, like New York City or Los Angeles, the number of hospitals in relatively close proximity can pose some challenges, especially when it comes to getting referrals from doctors nearby.

For hospitals fighting for a referring physician’s attention, a hospital digital marketing plan is a must.

Here’s how to put one together.

What’s a Hospital Digital Marketing Plan & Why Are They Important?

A hospital digital marketing plan blends digital marketing tactics to engage HCPs. These marketing plans include HCP-level data, interactive ad types and messaging that aims to generate HCP referrals for the lowest price.

Why’s a hospital marketing plan important?

  • Competition: Hospitals are competing for the attention of HCPs. A hospital’s digital marketing plan can help hospitals “cut the line” and influence HCPs’ referrals.
  • HCPs Are Digital: HCPs are highly dependent on technology. A study found that more than 80% of hospitals sent healthcare information directly to their EHR.2 A hospital digital marketing plan is the only way for them to draw a straight line to HCPs and connect the dots across digital touchpoints.
  • Doctors Are Always Connected: HCPs are connected outside of their work environment, too. The average household has access to 25 devices, which means a hospital digital marketing plan is necessary to continue the conversation when they’re not at work.3

How to Build an Impactful Digital Marketing Plan for Hospitals

The “what” and “why” of hospital digital marketing are clear, but what about the “how?”

What does it take to build the best hospital marketing strategy?

Understand Your Target HCP & Build Your Audience

The best digital marketing for hospitals starts with an understanding of the audience, HCP-level data, and a targeting strategy that delivers ads to high-intent HCPs.

Research the main reasons HCPs refer patients to any given specialty (neurologypulmonology, etc.), what patients are looking for from the specialist, and what your hospital offers to meet those needs.

Once there’s an understanding of the target audience, including their digital behaviors, workplace challenges, and expectation from ads, hospitals can take HCP data to refine their target list and engage HCPs based on specific characteristics.

For example, if a hospital in Miami wanted to increase referrals for cardiology services, it could use HCP data to engage cardiologists or PCPs nearby. It could even target them by job title to ensure they’re delivering ads to HCPs who actually have the power to refer patients. You might, for instance, show an ad offering facts about your cardiology department or highlighting a new building or piece of equipment; your goal is to motivate HCPs to click on your CTA.

Think of this as a people-based approach to hospital digital marketing — one proven to outperform less refined targeting tactics. 90% of companies saw “improved performance” when implementing a people-based advertising approach.4

Set Your Digital Marketing Goals

Today, hospitals with the best marketing plans focus their campaigns on one goal, like increasing the number of referrals.

By setting a specific goal instead of casting a wide net, hospitals can dedicate their resources in the smartest way possible and build their strategy in a way that aligns with the intended outcomes.

For example, if the goal is to increase referrals, the ad types used should have an interactive element so HCPs can easily reach out.

Hospitals should think of this step as “setting the foundation” as it determines the rest of the campaign, including the targeting, creative, and messaging.

Analyze the Competition & Look for Opportunities

Before diving into hospital digital marketing tactics and strategies, forward-thinking hospital marketing teams will take a step back, analyze the competition and look for opportunities.

The biggest wins in hospital digital marketing often come by filling the gaps instead of following the leader.

  • What messaging is the competition using?
  • Which product or specialty are they promoting?
  • Which ad types are they using?

These answers — and a host of others — paint a picture of the competition’s strategy and what it’ll take to shine brighter than them.

At the same time, hospitals should look at their strengths and weaknesses, asking themselves how they can use them to woo HCPs in their favor.

For example, maybe there’s an opportunity to use a more innovative ad type or tweak messaging to focus on more relevant values.

Pick Smart Hospital Marketing Tactics & Strategies

As digital marketing has gone from a “nice-to-have” to a “must-have,” hospital marketing teams have written a playbook that outlines the best ways to advertise to doctors.

This playbook works, but using it without regard for the audience could alienate doctors by failing to deliver a personalized experience.

Instead, the best hospital digital marketing should use tactics and strategies that align with the behaviors, preferences, and lifestyles of the HCPs they’re targeting. That’s how you increase referrals from HCPs.

For example, the propensity for mobile technologies among HCPs — 90% of physicians use smartphones at work — means that marketing strategies should prioritize optimizations for these smaller screens.5

Similarly, the hustle and bustle of healthcare environments mean that marketing teams may have to fight harder to get HCPs’ attention. For this reason, video ads or interactive ad types are a must to break through.

Launch, Evolve, Repeat

The best hospital digital marketing strategies don’t form overnight; they take shape with insights from past campaigns.

As the current campaign runs, hospital marketing teams should break down their ads by messaging, creative, and targeting to see what’s working and what’s not.

  • Is certain messaging getting more clicks?
  • Are 15-second videos outperforming longer ones?
  • Have doctors largely scrolled past ads delivered on certain lifestyle apps?
  • Were doctors with specific job titles more likely to refer patients?

Over time, these insights will help hospitals find the optimal media mix that’ll lead to better performance but also create cost efficiencies because they won’t be spending on ads and inventory not destined to convert.

Boosting Your Strategy with a Hospital Digital Marketing Agency

The best hospital marketing plans rely on more than smart goals, audience targeting and strategies; they rely on hospital digital marketing agencies, too.

Adfire Health is a healthcare advertising agency with a proven track record of helping hospitals create campaigns that engage HCPs and drive referrals.

We do this by combining years of hospital digital marketing 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 Adfire Health’s hospital digital marketing services? Reach out today.


  1. Fast Facts on U.S. Hospitals, 2022. American Hospital Association. Published 2022. Accessed June 17, 2022.
  2. Stewart C. ​​Share of U.S. healthcare organizations that sent select information directly from patient monitoring equipment to the EHR as of 2019. Statista. Published September 2019. Accessed June 17, 2022.
  3. Brassfield M. Smart devices more than doubled in US homes amid COVID pandemic. IT Pro. Published June 9, 2022. Accessed July 17, 2022.
  4. Sarah O’Neill. What is People-based Marketing?. LXA. Published September 22, 2021. Accessed February 5, 2024.
  5. Franklin R. 11 surprising mobile health statistics. Mobius MD. Published October 25, 2021. Accessed July 17, 2022.

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