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Using AI in Healthcare Marketing

Insights from SHSMD Connections 2023

Artificial Intelligence was a hot topic this year at the annual conference for the Society of Health Care Strategy & Market Development. The expert speakers addressed it with both excitement and encouragement and some reservations about overly focusing on the trend over the important staples of online scheduling, tracking ROI and patient experience. As a healthcare digital marketing agency, Full Media has also been grappling with how to use the tool of AI to its full advantage, while ensuring that our clients feel confident with our expertise, and we mitigate any pitfalls. 

As we work to develop our own internal processes and governance around the use of AI in healthcare marketing, we wanted to share our key takeaways from the speakers at SHSMD, which included CXOs, Vice Presidents, Directors and data experts from hospitals and health systems across the country.

Develop governance on how you use AI.

The usage of AI is nothing new in healthcare, although it’s principally been used to augment patient care on the clinical side. While some marketers and agencies had been using AI before the release of Chat GPT, the quality of Chat GPT or Google’s Bard have far surpassed previous tools. Since then, AI has taken the creative world by storm with 68% of marketers now reporting they use AI sometimes. 

The truth is that your team likely already is using AI, and if they aren’t, you’ll interview someone soon who will. The speakers at SHSMD cautioned that while they didn’t think AI would take our jobs, someone who knows how to use AI will, so it’s time to learn how to use the tool well!

Their primary recommendation was to outline your processes on how AI should be used and what checks and balances you will use to ensure a high-quality, accurate result. Some of the recommendations included:

Perform a risk vs. benefits analysis for all potential use cases of AI.

If you’re going to use AI to create social media posts, consider benefits like how much time it might save you, whether it may enhance your creativity and if you might post more often. But also consider risks like your posts sounding unnatural or providing inaccurate information. If the benefits outweigh the risks, outline your process. 

Document your process and your controls. 

What are the steps your team should take to integrate AI into their processes? How can you integrate human rewrite or review to ensure that you mitigate the risks and end up with a high quality product? Can your team be reliably held accountable to these measures?

Don’t use fully automated AI.

The CIO of one health system stressed that they never use fully-automated AI. This could be critically important in the clinical setting, but it could be a good step to consider for us on the healthcare marketing side too. After you get several high-quality results, it could be tempting to set it on autopilot and let the AI do its thing. But your brand reputation and your marketing may suffer if there isn’t that element of human oversight woven into your use of AI. 

Consider consumer perception if you’re marketing the use of AI in the clinical setting.

As healthcare marketers, we’re often called upon to promote the latest and greatest things our organizations are bringing to the community, but what about AI? Healthcare research often uses the latest advancements in technology to save lives or improve outcomes for patients, including AI.

Consumers are just as concerned about AI as they are excited.

PEW research shows that as the day-to-day use of AI has proliferated over the past year, consumer concern about it has grown. 

“52% of Americans say they feel more concerned than excited about the increased use of artificial intelligence. Just 10% say they are more excited than concerned.” – PEW

Some of their principal concerns focus on fears about privacy or a loss of human connection, both of which are paramount in healthcare. 

Market the success stories or clinical outcomes of AI.

The experts at SHSMD recommended focusing on the stories or results provided using AI, rather than AI itself. If your organization has been able to improve clinical outcomes, provide a better patient experience or create a success for a patient through this new technology, that creates a tangible benefit for the patient and often a story that can be easier to understand than the nitty-gritty of artificial intelligence. 

Ways to use AI in healthcare marketing.

Organizations are exploring and integrating AI in creative ways across the country. Some potential use cases you might consider:

  • Copywriting – From social media posts to internal communications to ad messaging, organizations are using AI to help them develop copy more creatively and efficiently. Be sure to go back to your AI governance best practices, especially if you’re creating content for patients. Be conscientious about plagiarism too in your blogs or website content and take steps to create original content by discussing services or new technologies directly with your clinical leaders, using AI as a tool while letting your unique expertise shine. (Learn more about how Google feels about AI-generated content.)
  • Chatbots – Power a chatbot on your website using AI to answer common questions about scheduling, insurance and more. Some organizations are even building AIs that use their own website content as a resource to help answer questions or guide patients to the right next step. 
  • Data analysis – More and more marketers and platforms are integrating AI to help them mine their digital data for insights and improve their marketing ROI. One example of this is Call Tracking Metrics, Full Media’s go-to HIPAA-compliant call tracking platform, which now offers AI to help businesses understand key insights from a call transcript, like whether a patient made an appointment. These tools save marketers time and can have an immediate impact on the effectiveness of their marketing. 

Go forth and AI!

The overwhelming consensus was that learning how to properly utilize AI while setting appropriate guardrails will only benefit us as marketers and our organizations. There’s no way to put the genie back in the bottle, so how we can become experts at using these tools ethically? 

One thing will always remain true: transparency is critical. For our part, as Full Media develops its own governance for AI, we will be publishing that information directly on our website so our clients will know how and when we use AI, and what our governance looks like to ensure that patients who interact with our client’s websites or ads have a helpful, clinically accurate experience. Stay tuned!


Thanks so much to Dr. Dean Browell from Feedback, Laila Waggoner from Core Health, Rob Klein from Klein & Partners, Erin Killion from Goodway Group, Erin Echelmeyer from Quadrant Biosciences, Jeff Stewart from CHRISTUS Health, Brent Lamm from UNC Health System, Alan Shoebridge from Providence, and Patrick Higley from AVIA for all of their expertise at SHSMD Connections.

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