patient recruitment

How Healthcare Organizations Can Reach Patients

Think about this:

  • In 2018, over 30% of Internet users in the U.S. used an ad blocker.
  • According to a June 2018 study by Pew Research Center, a whopping 42% of Facebook users have decreased their daily activity and engagement on Facebook. More alarmingly, 26% of respondents reported deleting the Facebook app from their phones.
  • 59% of social media users think it would NOT be hard to give up social media.

These numbers can be a bit scary to those of us who are working to reach patient populations online. After all, how do we promote healthy behavior, have a representative research sample, and get helpful resources into the hands of patients, if it’s increasingly difficult to reach them?

Below I’ve identified three key strategies and tactics for healthcare organizations to explore. I believe they offer organizations innovative ways to cut through the clutter and get in front of their target audiences.

Identify Micro-Moments In Your Audience’s Patient Journey and Offer Value

Think about the patient journey of your audience. What are key moments that are especially memorable? How can your organization leverage these moments to offer them value?

Most organizations will create marketing and engagement campaigns around awareness months, but are those days as meaningful to the patient as the moment they received their diagnosis, the moment they told their loved ones about their diagnosis, or the moment they decided they had to quit their job because of their health?

By delivering value to patients in moments of stress or excitement, organizations set themselves apart from the competition and become a trustworthy ally in their patient journey.

Here are a few examples of micro-moments and how organizations can tap into them:

  • The moment a patient receives a diagnosis and immediately uses Google to research it. Organizations can run Google Ads to give this user helpful resources on being newly diagnosed.
  • The moment a patient is prescribed a new medication and anxiously seeks information about its side effects. Organizations can produce SEO-friendly editorial content that addresses these topics.
  • The moment a patient is trying to figure out what to eat and uses Google to figure out a recipe that accommodates her dietary restrictions. Produce branded recipes, print-outs, and grocery lists that make the patient’s life easier at that moment.

The key to micro-moments is to offer value immediately. In these moments, users are often stressed and have questions that they’re trying to answer quickly. Don’t require users to submit a long lead generation form. Use less restrictive tactics like email sliders, retargeting ads, and embedded Facebook posts to invite them into your community.

Reach Younger Audiences By Engaging Micro-Influencers and Nano-Influencers

In the for-profit world, brands like Heineken, Mercedes-Benz, and Coca-Cola have started integrating two new tactics into their marketing campaigns: micro-influencers and nano-influencers. The New York Times defines micro-influencers as people willing to advertise products on social media and have 30,000 or fewer followers (typically Instagram). Nano-influencers are those with fewer than 1,000 followers.

Brands would identify these influencers and offer them free products and/or compensation in exchange for a post on their account. Below is an example of an ad about a Suave product by micro-influencer, @alexisbakerrr, who has 2,972 followers on Instagram.

reach patients online

For organizations that are trying to reach younger populations, working with nano-influencers and micro-influencers to promote your cause or program should be a tactic to consider.

AdWeek reports that the followers of micro-influencers tend to be more engaged, with 60% higher campaign engagement rates than traditional influencers.

They’re also relatively inexpensive: @TheTieGuy has 37,000 followers and reported earning $500 for two Instagram posts promoting a men’s shaving product.

The challenge that healthcare organizations will likely face is the lack of tangible products. That means organizations will have to rely on monetary compensation and find creative ways for the influencer to visually post about your cause or program. We recommend testing different asks to see what resonates the most with the influencers you’re engaging with.

If you’re skeptical of being able to find quality micro-influencers and nano-influencers that make sense for your cause, here are a few Instagram accounts that turned up in my quick search for various chronic conditions:

  • @ActiveAutoimmune is a 26-year-old Instagrammer with over 8,500 followers and diagnosed with lupus. She actively posts about her life with an autoimmune condition.
  • @jessicaskitchen_gf is a 27-year-old from the U.K. with over 12,000 followers and has celiac disease. Most of her posts are gluten free recipes.
  • @saski.ia_ is diagnosed with cystic fibrosis and chronicles her patient journey on Instagram. She has a little over 2,000 followers.

Stay Searchable By Investing In Your Website’s E-A-T

First, some background: E-A-T is a Google ranking factor that stands for Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trust. The more E-A-T your organization’s website has, the better chances it has at ranking for keywords (in addition to optimizing your content for SEO).

E-A-T is an especially important ranking factor for health organizations that are producing content that can affect the lives of patients. Google even has a name for such websites: YMYL (Your Money or Your Life). YMYL websites are those with content that “could potentially impact the future happiness, health, financial stability, or safety of users. If your organization produces editorial content for a patient community, you can assume you have a YMYL website, and it’s important it exudes expertise, authoritativeness, and trust.

In August 2018, there was a significant update to Google’s algorithm that hit health organizations hard. Known as the “Medic Core Update”, a large number of websites in the health vertical saw massive drops in organic Google search traffic. Some of the websites that were hit the hardest, according to MOZ was,,, and One of Media Cause’s health clients also saw such a drop:

How can your health organization increase E-A-T?

Remember, the goal is to show Google that your content is credible and trustworthy and it’s written by authors who are reputable and have authority over the topics they’re writing about. With that, here are a few ways to increase E-A-T (Hint: It’s not easy!):

  • Try sourcing writers who have personal or professional authority over the topic, such as medical professionals or patients with years of experience
  • Make sure every writer’s bio communicates his or her expertise. The reader should walk away feeling that this writer is an expert in the topic he or she is writing about. Mention the writers’ degrees, achievements, and any reputable website that they also write for.
  • Get your website mentioned on authoritative sites. Use tools like MOZ to help you evaluate the domain authority of different websites.

What new strategies and tactics will your organization try? Let us know!

If you need help reaching patients, contact us! We can further explore how micro-moments, nano-influencers, and SEO and content marketing could help your organization reach your audience and help you accomplish your goals.

Take a look at our case studies about how we helped an arthritis organization quadruple its organic search traffic or how we grew a diabetes organization email list by 45,000 new subscribers.


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