You probably don’t know where your blind spots are.

The healthcare industry has an unprecedented opportunity to drive market share, create transparency, improve performance, and engage patients, by leveraging digital marketing solutions.  Businesses, in general, are implementing  more targeted efforts aimed at getting in touch with more focused demographics when engaging in digital marketing.  In addition, they are relying on third party vendors to extend their online reach, connect with social networks and drive growth.  As websites are connected to apps, analytic tools, social media and partners, performance and privacy are often left unmanaged.  These efforts often rely on data gathered from users’ online behaviors, through trackers and other mechanisms.

The healthcare industry historically has not been keeping pace with these technological developments. In fact, comparative research done by MarketingProfs shows it is about two years behind other industries. Healthcare marketing is falling behind in just about every aspect studied, and using far more outdated techniques than other industries. Healthcare faces some unique challenges, which account for this lag:

  • Patient confidentiality is very important, and potentially hackable electronic systems raise concerns over a possible loss of privacy
  • Healthcare uses gigantic and complex data systems which are often incompatible with third party systems
  • Overall data security and performance relative to cloud services are top concerns for healthcare marketing professionals
  • Compliance with government regulations

But despite these unique challenges, digital marketing technologies represent the best path forward because they allow healthcare businesses to modernize, streamline marketing efforts, and eliminate risk associated with human error.

Organizations’ digital marketing budgets have grown, available technologies have surged, and there is a convergence of IT and marketing that has not yet been experienced before in healthcare to feed the new consumerism and increasingly engage patients in their own healthcare decisions.  In 2014, US ecommerce sales increased by 48%, and online advertising spend increased by 42%. In the same year, US companies increased deployment of digital marketing technologies on their sites by 100%[i].  Ghostery found the growth of available technologies and tools to manage them is growing at twice the rate of the fastest growing elements of online business units.

Innovators in healthcare digital marketing are leveraging SEO, online communities, social media, custom apps, digital ads, content marketing, and email automation. With this increase of digital marketing, healthcare entities have an increasing need to manage these efforts and monitor results, in a focused and secure manner that does not impact performance.

The Consequences of Unmanaged Digital Presence

The industry has plenty of examples of what an unmanaged digital presence looks like.

  • In August 2014, hackers breached the security at the website of the government’s health insurance marketplace,  Numerous weaknesses had been identified but were not synced up or considered relative to business goals[ii].
  • Earlier this year, the same site was crawling with ad trackers[iii].
  • In June this year, private Australian health insurer nib displayed the personal details of its customers, including mobile numbers, email addresses and claims history, on its website in an accidental breach of confidential information[iv].

Companies that compete directly with or are marketing ACA plans all use the same vendors.  This means that many large insurers and healthplans are at risk for trackers and data leakage. In this kind of environment, it is critical for any organization with a digital marketing presence to understand the risks associated with sharing or handing off customers online and how that info is collected and how it is stored, shared or joined downstream. A consumer looking at health insurance purchase options online may find themselves receiving unwanted calls from independent brokers who bought access to sales leads through an ad tracker on the original site.  If you don’t know how and where your visitors’ data are being shared, you can’t manage it.

The healthcare industry as a whole needs more sophisticated tools to better understand the threat landscape.  Insight into clear and actionable risk data and engaging the right internal parties are only the first steps in managing your digital marketing cloud.

Like any other business, healthcare entities have different internal stakeholders and teams with different goals. Units like marketing and advertising, ecommerce, web operations, user experience, IT and quality assurance are increasingly overlapping.  The challenge is to get these teams to play nicely together and aim at common goals; drive revenue and shift market share[v].

What Actions Should Healthcare Businesses Be Taking?

Governance Create a comprehensive data strategy.

Do you have visibility into all tracking across sites?

Have you assigned internal and external ownership of 3rd party partners?

Do you know what is happening on a page-level tracker detail level?


PerformanceMeasure your baseline so you know where to improve.

Do you know how your sites, apps or other digital assets are performing?

Do you have insight into tag latency metrics?

Are you benchmarking competitively to define proper goals and measurements moving forward?


SecurityIdentify and monitor for threats proactively.

Do you know your greatest data risks?

Have you established clear data sharing and compliance guidelines with partners? Are they enforceable?


Privacy and Compliance Share what you need to and not what you don’t.

Are you compliant with global privacy regulations?

Do you fully understanding what parties need to be disclosed?

Do you have the ability to easily disclose them?

The Take Away

The accelerating growth in digital marketing in health care, in combination with different website stakeholders with varying goals, can lead to a chaotic and poorly performing Marketing Cloud, which is the collection of digital technologies leveraged to power and measure websites and apps. The direct business impacts of vendor mismanagement and lack of visibility are poor customer experience, wasted operations time, increased abandonment rates and global privacy compliance issues.

The healthcare industry has a huge opportunity to engage patients, improve care and increase market share, but it needs to be ready to manage the risks associated with complex digital assets.  They can do this by focusing on bridging the gap between marketing and IT.  They also need to proactively manage digital vendor relationships. Finally, gather all of your digital insights in one place and use them to create a digital strategy.  Having the right partner in this digital age can make the difference between successful marketing cloud management and digital disasters.