To acquire and retain patients in today’s digitized world, healthcare providers must leverage online scheduling and check-in. But how do you effectively market these services in an evolving marketplace?
Stericycle’s Kate Darden and Sarah Bennight discuss how to optimize your marketing strategy with Intelligent Scheduling built on the InQuicker platform to maximize conversions and drive business growth.
How patient journeys have evolved in the modern healthcare market
Best practices for web, mobile, and SEO marketing
Actionable tools to help you develop a custom marketing strategy
Tips, tactics, and templates to execute your plan and measure the results
Strategic Sales Executive, Stericycle
Kate joined Stericycle in 2020 with extensive experience leading marketing and communications across the healthcare space. Most recently, she served on the executive management team for Brookwood Baptist Health. A former Stericycle client herself, Kate knows firsthand how Intelligent Scheduling modernizes the healthcare experience for both patients and providers.
Director of Marketing, Stericycle
Recognized as Medigy's Health IT Marketer of the Year in 2019, Sarah brings 15 years of expertise and thought leadership to the healthcare IT industry. With a fierce passion for improving patient experiences and outcomes through the use of technology, she evangelizes all things health IT through speaking engagements, virtual panels, chat moderation, and social media.
Good afternoon, everyone, welcome to our quick dive into Marketing Your Online Scheduling and Check-In Solution. I'm Sarah Bennight, Director of Marketing for Stericycle Communications Solutions, and I'm here today with the amazing Kate Darden. Hi Sarah, it's always a pleasure to collaborate with you. As you know, I was a Stericycle client for several years before I joined the team as a Strategic Sales Executive, and now I have the privilege of working with health systems who experience many of the same challenges that I did. I have that firsthand experience of in developing organizational buy-in and all of the roadmaps to operationalizing online scheduling for success and what the heavy lifting that has to happen before you can market it and bring the solution to market. So we're going to jump in to this topic today and whether you are just starting your search for a solution or you've got one up and running. Hopefully, the tips and tricks that we've pulled together in part of our definitive guide will be meaningful to you today. I think that we'll have some examples from some of our current clients as we onboard new clients into our scheduling solution. We spend a lot of time to make sure that they are geared for success. So really excited to talk more about that. Now, Thanks Kate, for the intro, and I'm super excited to bring all of your experience together with some of the things we do to help our clients through intelligent scheduling solution. And in case you're new to our solutions, Stericycle Intelligent Scheduling is a robust multichannel Enterprise Scheduling solution for healthcare systems. Our solution is interesting and unique in that it combines live voice and scheduling online for a convenient self-service experience through the InQuicker platform to help our patients schedule, confirm or reschedule appointments with the right provider in the right venue of care at the right time. I would say that online scheduling and check in are essential elements of both patient access and patient acquisition, so the multidisciplinary team that brings online scheduling forward successfully really might be coming at it from either the overall access or from New patient acquisition. But in both cases, online check in and online scheduling does incredibly heavy lifting for the health system for access and acquisition through search engine optimization SEO and is the key to being found and chosen, especially in competitive market. Yeah, absolutely. Kate and I think of myself as a busy mom of 3 and also, you know, scheduling really for a family of five, online scheduling is essential in my day to day needs as a patient because I don't have time to call up a bunch of health systems and say, can you get me in Wednesday from 2:00 to three? I prefer to just look at the schedule and see the open slots and go from there. Wouldn't you agree? Absolutely. And as you know, Kate being part of a healthcare marketing team, they have a lot of the marketing channels covered. Some organizations do go the extra mile, though, to help make online scheduling and exceptional patient experience. And this is important as the pandemic really heightened the sense of consumer expectation in bringing on demand service and check in service that is customizable and preferential to what the consumer wants. But in knowing that it's really important to select a solution with the modern UI design similar to those best in class e-commerce platforms. And if your patient has a tough time figuring out how to schedule and book your system won't help get more patients booked online, but it will increase frustration. In fact, our most recent consumer survey in their 31% of respondents cited a confusing user experience as a barrier to booking through online scheduling. So tool selection and placement is incredibly important. I 100% agree, and what one person finds to be convenient may not be the same for another person. Having a password to log into a system may be perfectly acceptable for some users, but not all users. And I think we are very comfortable using consumer tools in other areas of our lives, and healthcare tools tend to be more complex. And so that's one of the I think key elements in looking for a solution is having it not be as much like a healthcare solution as one that matches up with consumer expectations in all of the other areas. That they're using online check in and scheduling in their lives. I also think that it's pretty important to map those patient journeys from service line to service, line people's expectations and different areas for things that are more, let's say, primary care in nature. The expectation for that to be simple and easy in light of all the non-traditional players out there who have really made it very simple and easy for people to access care, that expectation might be a little bit different than someone who's seeking more of a specialty care type of experience. So as that digital front door is changing, that door may look different. Service line by service line. And I love that you mentioned the digital front door. I think the digital front door is getting a lot of press right now and a lot of reaction from other healthcare players into the field as we see Google and Amazon and the Wal-Marts of the world taking part in this digital front door. It's really expanding that digital front door past the healthcare website, right? So I'd love to get started and kick us off with digital marketing because it is so important. Not only is it important to select the right tool, Kate, but once you get started, the patients have to find the online booking link, right? Absolutely and we know I mean, data confirms that over 60% of people start their journey to care whatever type of level of care they are via search. So they may come to you through a health risk assessment or respond to a class or an event registration. Or you might drop them directly into that scheduling page for the type of provider that they're looking for. But that really defines that digital strategy. And I would say in our guide, we've really sort of played on a few things that you've got to be aware of and mobile placement and where you are on your, your website or wherever you land, you've got to be in a both and mindset. So it's not finding the place to put that book now access. It's finding multiple place, just like we develop our own website and our own scheduling platform with a lot of UI and UX expertise, making sure that you've got people that can find it wherever they're looking, it's got to be in multiple places above the fold. Really important, I think for a lot of access, it's both and right. You can't win with digital online scheduling alone. You can't win with people just being able to reach you by phone both. And I always feel like that you're going to be much more successful. I think you can also look at, let's say you're doing enterprise wide scheduling in your environment. You can actually use the way you place those access and book now points to help people choose the right venue of care. If you're trying to really make them think, do I need to be in an emergency room and urgent care or a provider office with the same day appointments, you can really, really guide that whole experience. And if you are not scheduling enterprise wide, you even have to think more so about how do we then online check in or online scheduling into the places in on, on your website and how you're navigating people to that booking experience, especially if it's not enterprise wide. Yeah and I love I love that you mentioned mobile and one of the clients that uses Stericycle intelligent Scheduling across 4800s sites indicates that mobile traffic is 2 times higher than the desktop version, which isn't surprising. I mean, we all tend to make these appointments or do a little bit of searching. When we have our phone, we have a little bit of break and typically don't have a desktop in front of us, so nothing surprising there. Furthermore, into website and online, you know how much I love writing some good content, right? My marketing services say content is King and online scheduling shouldn't be any different than that when you're promoting it, when you're talking about it, when you're messaging and positioning it, online scheduling should be convenient and simple, and the copy to promote it should be as well with very simple CTAs. Keep it clear and concise and start by incorporating online scheduling into existing web copy in a harmonious way through backlinks instructions and answers to frequently asked questions. Absolutely I would say that it's very important, you know, to build that SEO is your foundation that if you're going to spend marketing dollars at some point and put that behind online scheduling it, the amplify or the magnifier effect is. Really in place when you've built that foundation with SEO. And that's one of the benefits of our online scheduling solution is that those landing pages are optimized for SEO and they help you be found in search when people start to put in more of those natural language queries like ER near me or urgent care near me. I think that's a really important piece of the piece of the pie. It's also another example of the both and mindset, I think, is you're building that SEO. Some of the tips that we really bring together during our implementation and onboarding is that you've got to do that keyword research in your market, but also understand the natural language queries and make sure that you're building SEO for how people are searching. And that might be very different depending on the venue of care, whether that's an urgent care or a provider office, for example. I also think another great tip is to be pretty much a maniac about your Google, my business listing the hygiene of those and management of those, and being able to put your online scheduling as a preferred link in that Google My Business listing. It's just it's going to make that experience for the consumer that much better if they can find what they're looking for and book the same way that they would book an OpenTable restaurant or a movie of their choice. Yeah, absolutely. And if your team needs a little bit of help with this or is struggling on how to improve search performance or results, I would definitely look into partners like Yext, one of our strategic partners to optimize your Google My Business listings. Your website answers that they return when patients search and other search optimizations like Kate mentioned with natural language queries to enhance your results. And from there, patients can more easily find what they're looking for, whether that's an appointment, a specific time at a specific place, or whether it's a specific doctor. The more information you have in those listings, the more information patients can find and be confident in their selection when they're booking care. And Sarah, if I could, I would add one more really key point to the success of online scheduling and Google My business listings is making sure that you've got provider data management on target. That's also something that our partners can turn to Yext for to help manage that provider data. But it's a really key piece. The better provider data you have, the cleaner Google business, the easier your online scheduling can be found through that channel. Absolutely, Kate. And just one more section of the digital and online side is to make sure you integrate your online scheduling Solution, new service lines, new urgent cares new ERs into your social media strategy, educating patients on the availability of the service and pointing them to where they can book online or where a new facility has opened that has online scheduling. Evergreen posts give patients straightforward step by step instructions on how to use it, and pictures and videos increase engagement and make your post stand out. We have some great tips and data on social in the toolkit. I don't want to spend too much time on it as much as I love social media, so make sure you download the toolkit to get more on social media. And then Kate, I love for us to talk more about traditional media and public relations. I know it's a little bit different in my world that I've been in marketing for 15 years now in the B2B space. I'd love to hear how, how it's a little bit different and what's key in this program to using traditional advertising venues for your online scheduling solution. That's right, Sarah. And since we were talking about a guide and a toolkit, I think you can look at the media in your media outreach as an important tool, especially in competitive markets. If you're the first to market with online scheduling or you're the first to market in a new service line or new ways to access, that's something that we know that you can have covered and just have more people find out about your scheduling as they're going about their day to day activities and just planting the seed before they perhaps might be ready to schedule. Making sure that your name is being attached to innovation and bringing more services to the market is always a fantastic experience. If you have, let's say, a new opportunity to schedule mammography in your market and you're the first person to do that, letting a reporter schedule online, work through an event around mammography that you've got going on is a great way to highlight the ease of that access. Yeah, I love that example that you gave there. Another great example of telling people about it and letting patients know is our client during the COVID 19 initial shutdown was seeing ER volumes down quite a bit. And you're wondering what's going on because people were still probably getting hurt, getting sick, but their ER volumes were down and they went onto just an evening News session. And we're telling the news and are by the public that we can see patients safely. You can book online, we can get you InQuicker and we can get you home faster. We'll utilize a virtual waiting room so you'll sit-in your car, will come out and take your intake form in the car. We'll take you directly back to a triage room. We'll take you directly back to an exam room. And you will completely bypass the emergency room waiting room, which a lot of people were afraid of because they weren't really sure how COVID spread at the time. They weren't really sure how close you could or couldn't be. Did you need a mask or not? In the early stages of the pandemic? And because of that slot, they were able to share with a large amount of people who were sitting at home because it was a lockdown that we can see patients safely. Please come to the ER if you have a life threatening or an emergency type situation, we can see you and we can keep you safe. Absolutely I would say that for all. I mean, if you think about online, scheduling is truly being a strategic imperative, which I believe it is the stickiest part of it. For a consumer who may not have used online scheduling or may not have used us or been aware of that in their own health care provider's network. Before this, the stickiness of being able to have that enablement of a virtual waiting room and where people will wait and how they will wait, I think is for forever changed for sure. From the perspective of internal communications, it's one of those things that could get glossed over, but I think we forget sometimes that our large health system is made up of. People that work in a health system, but they're also patients, they also manage care for themselves and everybody else. And really touting this new level of access and getting your own team members using online scheduling and being exciting about it and being able to talk to their friends and family about how easy it was, I think is a fantastic strategy and not to be, you know, missed out on if you can really get people excited about it with internal launches and encourage people to talk about that and incorporate it into your internal communications. Talk about how many people have used it. Interview them, get their feedback on the experience. It's a fantastic way to really build some more excitement and adoption within your own organization. Absolutely what better evangelists for an online scheduling solution that you just spent a ton of time implementing? Now you're spending a lot of time and resources to market it, but your internal teams should be educated. They should know it's coming well in advance and know how it's going to impact them. How is it going to impact their schedule? How is it going to impact the front desk flow? And what about phone calls now? Are we still going to get phone calls? How is that going to work? So do not forget the internal teams when you're marketing and evangelizing your online scheduling solution. Like Kate said, they can be great evangelists with our online scheduling platform. 9 out of 10 folks that use it said they would recommend online scheduling to a friend. So if your own employees are using it, they can definitely get more people to use it by saying, hey, I can book an appointment quicker through the InQuicker platform, so definitely start there and then move your strategy outward into the community. Kate, I have a question because we I've been in marketing for a while. You and I have both been in the industry for a while, and some people say print communications are kind of not important anymore. What do you think about that? I think of a print and what other industries outside of healthcare would think of as point of sale as still being very relevant. There are still times when our patients and communities engage with us. Let's think about a mom who brings a kid or an aging parent to an appointment. They're on site. What are they picking up? I mean, obviously we've all seen magazines and those kinds of things. We've waiting rooms over the last couple of years, but having something that's relevant to someone while they're waiting or if you're in the emergency department to talk about an urgent care or new providers in the market, new orthopedic surgeon or a new heart doctor, it's a way to capture the attention, right? That's what we're all looking for, is that attention mindset. And so we can capture that and at least be relevant to them when they're within our four walls. And outside of the four walls. I think that people still do touch their very local types of media. Maybe they don't get time magazine anymore, but they probably get something that's very neighborhood focused. So I think that you've got to be both. And yeah, I absolutely agree. And especially in the case of someone that's new to the community that may not know your health system, they may have come from somewhere else. Maybe they are using a doctor, especially putting it in those little neighborhood kits that people give out. I know my community when we moved into this small community, somebody came by our door and gave us a whole packet of here's our favorite orthodontist, here's our favorite doctors. And there were little cards inside, and I definitely went through that and made some decisions based on that. So thanks, Kate, for walking me through that. Do you want to spend just a hair of time on traditional advertising and just remember that it's a powerful and important way to capture your patients and their family's hearts and imaginations and attention and campaigns can emphasize convenience, choice and the quality of the online scheduling and check in offers patients and help improve loyalty and patient acquisition in your community, and just make sure you build your advertising mix based on your budget and your target audience. I do love the thought of for someone who drives for work and may be driving alone into a new area. Kate, I know you and I both traveled for work, and sometimes a billboard. Strategically places is comforting to know, hey, there's a health system right next to me or there's an air next to me in case something goes wrong because I'm in a new environment and I'm driving and I can't check on my phone right now and search for what's right. So traditional advertising definitely has its place if it's used efficiently and well within your budget. Yeah, absolutely. Every market is completely different. And so if you've got a large commuter market or you are reaching sort of that new mover type of group, you've got new developments that have been built. You have to really match the channel to. A population and what you're trying to communicate. I think that outdoor boards are probably the most hotly contested medium in healthcare marketing, and there are equal evangelists on both sides who say don't ever do it. It's pouring money down the drain and other systems who demand it or might have even posted it to satisfy a physician demand, right? That's also very common. I think you've got to think of it in terms of your specific market, and it's just that surround the surrounding, especially from a launch perspective. It may not be, you know, two years into an online scheduling where your community has recognized and readily adopted online scheduling and everyone's up to speed. Maybe that you shift dollars at that point, but certainly for a launch time period, I think it can make a lot of sense. You are the best expert on your particular market and the media mix that you've got. We love how one of our clients put us InQuicker patient parking signs during the pandemic in front of their emergency room to improve patient experience and make it easier for the ER staff to find them when they were converting to a virtual waiting room. At the time, virtual waiting rooms were somewhat new where you wait in your car for treatment until someone calls you back. Who comes and gets you. And so we love this image of this parking sign they put up, especially for and quicker patients who had booked online. Just another fun way to market and represent your online scheduling tool. Yeah, I think it also generated a lot of what is that? What does that mean? And allows the staff to underscore what the opportunity is. And hopefully next time, if you need to access the emergency room, I hope you'll book online. It's really quick and easy. So after chatting, I'm getting an even greater understanding of how important the marketing strategy is for online scheduling. It's not just a technology push, it's also a strategy ploy and a revenue ploy. If you missed anything or you want to dive in deeper. Don't forget to download the guide. Kate, it's been a pleasure visiting with you today. Absolutely I hope that we get to do again soon. And if you are considering online scheduling or you want to look at the guide, please know that any of us are available to chat through other ideas and specific things we've seen from our partners. They bring great ideas to marketing this that are real world examples in their markets, and we'd be happy to bounce some ideas around with you. Absolutely and don't forget to register for our next live event on June 16th, where we'll be sitting down with marketing executives from CommonSpirit and Mayo Clinic to talk about how retail and big tech are shaking up the healthcare journey and what health systems can do to enhance and support this new journey. Thank you for joining us today at Stericycle Communication Solutions and have a great day.