3 Things I Learned Working In Healthcare Marketing For A Private Hospital

May 18, 2022

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3 Things I Learned Working In Healthcare Marketing For A Private Hospital


Healthcare marketing wasn’t an area I would’ve seen myself ending up in when I graduated over a decade ago. However, fast forward 10 years and it is a sector that has provided me with some incredible experiences and helped me take my career to the next level. 

My journey in healthcare marketing began at the Hospital of St John & St Elizabeth, when I joined as an eager Marketing Executive back in 2016. At the time my knowledge of what healthcare marketing entailed was limited, but the role gave me the chance to immerse myself in an exciting,  fast paced environment (and allowed me to walk through the stunning St John’s Wood to work).Looking back, I can safely say that it was one of the best decisions of my career as it turned out to be a job that I had enormous passion for. 

Seven years later and my journey in healthcare marketing is still continuing. Which brings me nicely to this article… Having spent so long in the healthcare marketing space I now want to share what I have learned. I want to let you know the secrets I’ve unlocked, and explain exactly how healthcare differs from the other sectors I have worked in. 

Can I successfully share the gory details and juicy secrets of healthcare marketing without facing backlash from current and former clients/employees? Strap yourself in and find out as all shall be revealed…

  1. Fight To Showcase Your Success

As a marketer you fight two main battles. 

The first, running a successful marketing campaign. In the healthcare sector this is usually in the form of raising awareness and generating leads through enquiries/bookings. 

The second, being able to showcase that your campaign has achieved its goals and then being able to build off of the progress you have made. This is where it gets tricky and where I found the healthcare sector to be much more complex than others. 

Put simply, other sectors have more clearly defined conversion paths. With e-commerce you showcase revenue, B2B marketing is centered around leads, while for software companies you may be measuring downloads. Admittedly this is an overly simplistic take, but its main aim is to showcase how complex the healthcare space can be to truly define a ‘conversion’. Unlike other sectors where a lead/enquiry comes through and is then noted and subsequently followed up, healthcare is often different. Especially with the larger private hospitals.

As a marketer, this poses many problems. With PPC for example, the beauty is that you can easily showcase results. It’s fully transparent and the client/employer can visibly see what they are getting from their investment. At least that should be how it works. In healthcare it can be very challenging. 

Let’s propose you are running a ‘Knee Treatment’ campaign. In the first week you see via Google Ads and that you have acquired 10 conversions at a healthy cost per conversion. But this is where it gets tricky… What actually happened to those conversions? That’s what I spent a long time trying to figure out. 

The range of potential outcomes from a ‘conversion’ for a private hospital is large. Tracking the outcome and then being able to use it as actionable data is enormously difficult. As an example, if a patient wants a particular healthcare Consultant that enquiry could be lost forever. This was even an issue I had recently working with a prestigious London hospital.


This was the user experience:

–  Clicked an advert for a Private Dermatologist

–  Browsed website

–  Submitted a contact form enquiry

–  Contacted and told there was limited availability and was then given the individual Consultant’s PA details


You may be thinking “What’s the issue? A potential patient has got in touch”. But this is where the structure of a private hospital means things can get a bit messy. As a Private Hospital you are paying for the click that generates this enquiry. But as soon as the patient is passed over to a medical secretary or someone outside the bookings team, they are lost forever.

The medical secretary can offer the patient appointments at the hospital they enquired at, another hospital that Consultant works at, or never get back to them. At that point you lose control over the ROI on your campaign.

Most, if not all, booking teams at private hospital’s don’t have the time to chase up individual medical secretaries to see if patients they passed over were booked. As a result of this, it becomes difficult to showcase your worth as someone running paid search campaigns.


The solution?


In short, the only way you can report and showcase your worth as a healthcare marketer in this situation is to report on enquiries, but also be proactive and aim to work alongside the team to better inform yourself of the conversion process after an enquiry comes in. 

This won’t be perfect. You may be funneling loads of enquiries that are simply low value or for a service/condition that isn’t a focus or particularly profitable for the organisation. You therefore aim to remedy this by being proactive and communicating effectively to try and weed out these rouge conversions. It won’t be perfect,  but hey, don’t let perfect get in the way of good. Or at least progress.

  1. Communicate Effectively and Ask Questions


My biggest piece of advice to anyone working in healthcare marketing, or even marketing in general, is to ask questions. Loads of them. Be a bit annoying. As long as they’re relevant and your knowledge is improving, of course.

Various elements of healthcare marketing won’t be obvious and require a bit of digging. For example… 

Scoring loads of conversions for a certain procedure, but the only Consultant that offers it is booked up for 3 months? 

Bidding aggressively on high ‘converting’ conditions but in reality there are very limited treatment options available and they saturate the bookings team’s time? 

Many of these potential outcomes occur in the healthcare space, in particular at larger private hospitals. To improve cohesion and overall performance it’s always worth poking around and asking questions to see how you can make campaigns more efficient. 


Questions Worth Asking

  1. What are the most/least profitable procedures?
  2. What are the best/most difficult types of enquiries ?
  3. What conditions (if any) do we want to avoid?
  4. What do we offer that might be a USP compared to other organisations?
  5. What is the feedback from the booking team?
  6. Do we take non-insured or insured patients?
  7. What demographics are more/less relevant for each condition/speciality


Ultimately the more questions and knowledge you build up, the more ammunition it gives you on how to target and advertise to these audiences.


  1. Understand what you are selling

healthcare marketing

Hernias. They became my passion. They had to otherwise I’m not sure how I could have successfully run a PPC campaign focusing on hernia treatment. Having expertise in any sector can be helpful but in healthcare it’s arguably pivotal. Knowing the difference between an inguinal hernia and a herniated disc, understanding that  femoral hernias are more common in women, or that people enquiring about hiatus hernias rarely convert, are just some of the nuggets of knowledge I picked up when trying to drum up hernia conversions.

Healthcare has many specialties and sub-sections and while you’re not expected to know enough to be getting the surgical gloves on, knowing a decent amount can really give you a rather competitive advantage. 

There you have it… three things I learned while working in the healthcare marketing sector for a private hospital.

Ultimately the healthcare marketing space is interesting and rather lucrative. I’d argue it’s a more traditional space than many others but playing a catch up game that seems to be gathering pace. Now an owner of a digital marketing agency that specialises in healthcare, I feel that I have been on a wonderful journey in the healthcare space,  working with companies of all different sizes and specialisms both locally, nationally and even internationally. It’s a sector that will always have a strong place in my heart and one I’m sure I’ve got a lot more stories to tell in the future.

For any questions, feedback or even if you might have an interest in working together, I would love to hear from you.




Nathan Palmer 

Managing Partner – Signify Digital


Highly analytical and passionate about achieving results, Nathan brings technical expertise to every client project.
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