Medico Digital Insights

UPDATE: How is the coronavirus (COVID-19) affecting private healthcare marketing?

Healthcare marketing

Read time

6 min


8th April 2020


Written by Louis Meletiou


Digital marketing

In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, we have decided to take another look at how private healthcare is being affected from a marketing perspective. In our previous article we saw that search volumes had not yet begun to dip. We want to know if that is still the case, how are our clients being affected and what advice can be given to someone running a private healthcare practice right now?

How is COVID-19 affecting search?

To analyse the impact that the pandemic is having with the way searchers interact with private healthcare, we have once again taken several search terms for a selection of specialties and charted their average search popularity over the last year. Scroll over the graph below to highlight the search popularity for each specialty/area. To provide some context, the yellow area is the date from which the UK government announced strengthened legal powers with regards to quarantine, and the orange area is the time from which non-essential travel has been advised against. For many specialties search volume has not been significantly impacted, but some are seeing huge positive and negative trends.

Interactive graph of search popularity by specialty over time

Which specialties are being impacted most?

Ophthalmology and orthopaedic search volumes have been impacted negatively by the coronavirus

The areas that appear to have most significantly and obviously lost search volume are ophthalmology and orthopaedics. This makes some degree of sense, with public pressure being put on to postpone elective surgeries, patients with very physically presenting symptoms (such as orthopaedic and ophthalmological patients) appear to be more willing to stay at home and view their conditions possibly as less urgent.

Which specialties are seeing a positive impact?

Cosmetic hair loss and paediatric search volumes have been impacted positively due to coronavirus

Counterintuitively, there are some specialties that have seen a boom in search popularity during the COVID-19 crisis. Specifically cosmetic hair loss and paediatrics. It would make sense that these two distinct areas have seen a benefit for different reasons…

Why has there been an uplift in paediatric search volume?

For paediatrics, we are seeing an increase in search volumes related to private paediatricians and the services they offer. Anecdotally, these searchers appear to be concerned parents who are worried that an increasingly stretched NHS will be unable to provide adequate care for their children.

Whether or not this concern is valid, private paediatricians are certainly seeing an uplift in enquiries and queries during recent weeks, if not an increase in paying private patients.

Why has there been an uplift in cosmetic hair loss search volume?

There was an initial reduction in search volume around all cosmetic procedures, as “luxury” surgeries were put to the back of people’s minds. However, with the closure of barbers and all other non-essential customer-facing brick and mortar businesses, many men dealing with hair loss have been met with uncertainty as to how they should treat their hair. This appears to have led to two things: an increase in people employing DIY methods to shave their heads, and an increase in search volume around hair transplants as people begin to research alternative options available to them.

Overarching trends across private healthcare during the COVID-19 pandemic

While some specialties are seeing positive and negative impacts from coronavirus, averaging the data across specialties suggests that the lockdown period has resulted in a dip in search data that is comparable to the 2019 festive period.

Average search volume popularity across a number of private healthcare specialties

It is still only partial data for the most recent week, but it does appear that search volumes are bouncing back slightly as people adjust to a new way of living.

Whether or not search volumes recover over the next few weeks, the reality is that the majority of the population are not currently looking to book non-essential surgery. However, they are currently a captive audience. People are at home with access to the internet being their primary source of entertainment, and healthcare is firmly on their minds. It is this mindset that has informed our digital marketing advice to our private healthcare clients.

Our COVID-19 healthcare marketing top tips

Be useful

The number 1 rule at the moment is to be as useful as possible to your patients:

  • Provide specialty specific information as it relates to coronavirus
  • Provide telephone and video consultations where possible, and make it easy for patients to understand and book
  • Keep your website up to date with relevant information as the situation progresses

Consolidate your position

While running lead generation advertising campaigns is not likely to give you value for money right now, there are huge opportunities to be had if you turn your attention to long term marketing objectives:

  • Focus on SEO – now is a great time to analyse your weakest search engine rankings and flesh out any gaps in content you might have on your website.
  • Improve UX – Are their things about your website that could be improved? Does a competitor have a sleek booking system that provides a much better user experience for patients? Now is the perfect time to implement.
  • Build a following – We normally would not suggest focusing on soft metrics such as social media followers or website traffic, as we instead opt for a performance-focused approach. However, with bookings taking a back seat, now is the perfect time to start to build a following and grow your brand digitally.

Get Personal

Now more than ever people are looking for a personal connection. Now is a great time to show your patients who you are, and build an emotional bond with them that will translate to enquiries and bookings as some sort of normality is restored.

  • Why not wrap up all of the above advice into a blog on your website, detailing how you and your business are adapting to care for patients during the pandemic.
  • If you’re going to post on social media, don’t put up salesy “business as usual” messaging. Record a video diary, post pictures of working from home or testimonials from patients who have received help during lockdown. Make your content relatable and relevant.

Medico Digital Can help

If you’re not sure what to focus on with your private healthcare business or are looking for some support during this evolving time, speak to one of our digital marketing experts today to find out how we can help you to come out of the other side of this pandemic in a much stronger position than you are in now.

If you don’t act now, you can be sure your competition will.

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