March 2021


2021 medical marketing: The mindset practices need to attract COVID-era patients

by William Rabourn Jr.


What are some of the most relatable experiences we all face in 2021? How could being able to identify them benefit your practice? Though it may seem irrelevant to someone neck deep in the day-to-day operations of an ophthalmic business, understanding patients’ everyday behavior can significantly affect your ability to market your practice, grow your patient base, and increase revenue.
Understanding the modern experience means you respond faster to change, utilizing new, quickly evolving technology and spotting opportunities within hardships. In the last year, we have all heard the phrase “finding a new normal” as we attempt to cope and adjust to the COVID-19 pandemic. In many ways, we are still redefining that new normal. However, there are certainly some new relatable experiences that have developed as a result of the pandemic, some of which present new marketing opportunities.
Developing a 2021 medical marketing strategy that is designed to meet the needs of patients in the COVID-19 era requires a change of mindset. Place yourself in patients’ shoes, start identifying relatable 2021 experiences, and convert those into profitable marketing opportunities, as well as chances to improve patient care. To help jumpstart your new mentality, here are three examples of modern relatable experiences and just a few of the many potential marketing opportunities surrounding them.

Example #1: Stuck inside and online

One experience shared across the globe lately is a dramatic increase in the amount of time we devote to video streaming. Even before we were stuck at home, many people were glued to a smartphone or some other kind of screen. Among the many entertainment options available to us through our devices, video streaming has been and still is popular. We do this over many different platforms. Some people visit YouTube; others prefer subscription video-on-demand (SVOD) services such as Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Disney+, to name a few.
Since the pandemic, many of us have pushed the boundaries of how much video and screen time we can stand. For example, according to an analysis of 21 leading global SVOD services by Strategy Analytics, global subscriptions reached nearly 770M in Q3 2020, up 39% year over year.1
How does this increase in video streaming present marketing opportunities for your practice? If you are not already placing ads within YouTube videos and SVOD services, now may be a great time to learn more about these options. Reach your audience directly in their living room while bypassing traditional TV providers that control media distribution.

Example #2: Waiting in cars at appointments

Another new, now relatable experience could be that of patients waiting in their car to be called in to their appointment, or their drivers remaining in the car for the duration of the visit. While this may have been more common earlier on in the pandemic, waiting in the car is still a common social distancing procedure in 2021.
One way to use marketing to turn this new norm into an opportunity could be to investigate how automated patient text messages could improve your patient flow and experience. For example, some practices have used this technology to inform those waiting outside for ambulatory surgical patients that the procedure is complete, and the patient will be out soon.
“Isn’t this just improving internal operations?” “Is this really related to marketing?” Yes, but in a less direct way compared to the first scenario. Improving your patient experience is one way to cultivate a patient-focused brand. Building your brand is a marketing effort.
While we are on the topic of automated text messages, how are you reminding patients of appointments and promotions? Do they have the option to receive text reminders and updates from your practice? Updating your communication methods may be one way to show patients your practice is sensitive to their needs and trustworthy as a brand, especially since the patients you are communicating with may be the same people who have grown used to ordering groceries online and selecting “contactless delivery” in food apps over the last year.

Example #3: Pandemic panic

Whatever your personal feelings, the worry associated with going out in public and either getting or spreading COVID is perhaps one of the most widespread and relatable experiences of 2020 and 2021. Unfortunately, this increased feeling of caution coincides with a doubled cancellation/no-show rate in many ophthalmic practices.
If patients are not showing up to appointments because of a fear of exposure, practices can take this opportunity to ramp up their digital marketing efforts to reassure them that their facility is safe to visit. This may include creating videos for Facebook and Instagram of your doctors and staff explaining their new policies and procedures or putting together text and picture posts. Some eye doctors have even taken to TikTok, where they entertain and educate a younger portion of their patient base. Whichever digital platforms you choose to focus on, putting the doctors’ faces and voices in front of patients will be more impactful than only putting an update on the website (though that is also a crucial step in educating your patients). Words are more reassuring when they come directly from the experts. This is a time to establish your team as leaders in your community. You should be giving them a face to put with the name of your practice.

Stay savvy

Remember, these experiences and their related marketing opportunities are just a few examples of what is possible. The idea here is to help you reimagine how your marketing can reach today’s patients. Whether scenarios like these represent only a short window of time after which the world will return to “normal” or if this is the new normal, your marketing mindset must always be changing. Regardless of duration, these changes—be it technological, societal, or economic—will always offer opportunities for the savvy business that pays attention. Take time to think about your patients and get creative with your approaches to marketing in 2021. You may be amazed at the difference it makes in your bottom line. If creativity is not your strength, or you simply do not have the time or resources in house to dedicate to it, make delegation your strength. Seek out an experienced marketing team that specializes in creating medical content. Think of it as just one more way in which you are keeping an eye on your patients.

About the author

William Rabourn Jr.
Managing Principal and Consultant
Medical Consulting Group
Springfield, Missouri


1. Goodman M. COVID-19’s Impact on SVOD in the U.S., U.K., and Germany. Strategy Analytics. June 22, 2020.



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