Using Facebook for Medical Tourism Promotion

Are you one of the thousands who compete for medical tourism and medical travel brand awareness posting promotional advertisements on Facebook expecting unrealistic results. If yes, this article is for YOU!

  • So many dollars, hopes, dreams, and effort are invested into Facebook and social media marketing by medical tourism and medical travel startups. On the other hand, a seasoned and experienced health tourism marketing expert requires only milliseconds to review and determine if the marketing strategy is likely to produce results or just add overhead cost and consume capital without Return on Marketing Investment (ROMI).

The ad above is one that I designed and published for, an American cost containment brand that is keen to attract Canadian patients to the USA and to its pre-inspected and approved surgery facilities, primarily hospitals and ambulatory surgery centers (ASCs).

Prior to publishing this ad, a significant investment in market research was made to determine if advertising to the Canadian market was even feasible. 

The Marketing Research

Paid Facebook advertising was conducted on an A/B test with two ads that were quite similar, one that led the target to the home page and another that led visitors to a deep-link “gateway” page for all the surgical procedures on offer (

The parameters set for targeting were as follows:

  1. Age: 25-64
  2. Gender: All
  3. Location: All USA, certain provinces in Canada, (excluding Quebec and Ontario, specifically) with a target intention of the less urban hinterlands of Canada where elective surgery rapid access is a challenge.

The test ran 10 days. The purpose of the test was threefold:

  1. to see if anybody clicked on the ad;
  2. to learn where they were located; and
  3. to see what visitors did when they arrived on the two landing pages.

Preliminary Research Outcomes

The outcome was interesting. In the research, the results indicated high interest and click through from Canada, Texas, California, Alabama and Ohio. 

Among People, overall, the reach was 45.5% women and 54.6% men.  

  • In the 25-34 age range, the distribution was 5% women and 15% men; 
  • In the 35-44 age range, the distribution was 7% women and 13% men; 
  • In the 45-54 age range, the distribution was 8% women and 8% men; and
  • In the 55-64 age range, the distribution was 25% women and 18% men.

Well, that blew the standard thinking that women are the primary purchasers and decision-makers of family healthcare matters in North American culture. Next?

Among Devices the consumption of the promotion were as follows: 

  • News Feed on Mobile Devices was 98%; 
  • Facebook stories on Mobile Devices 0.8%;
  • Instagram Stories on Mobile Devices 0.6%;
  • News Feed on Desktop Computers 0.4%; and
  • Instagram Feed on Desktop Computers 0.2%
Click through rate was .1% of total reach. Frankly, I had no pre-concieved notions about what to expect.  Furthermore, I don’t believe most of the theories and guidelines in articles about click through rates and drop off rates when it comes to Medical Tourism and Medical Travel. My lack of confidence in what is published in the media comes from the fact that real research isn’t being done to any great extent. What exists is mostly copy-paste from what some medical tourism association in some country asserts as part of its conference sales and advertising spend and sponsorship propaganda. I didn’t really care what the rate was, I just wanted to see if the ads provoked response in the USA and Canada. I wanted to learn if the ads resonated with “anyone” in particular. I also knew that if I could get them on page and that they clicked anywhere upon arrival, I could see more clearly into what specifically fascinated them or drew them in to invest more time exploring the site. 

Among Locations, in the A advertisement, the results were as follows: 

  1. Texas 7.2%
  2. British Columbia 4.9%
  3. Manitoba 4.6%
  4. New Brunswick 4.6%
  5. Nova Scotia 4.5%
  6. Alberta 4.3%
  7. California 3.6%
  8.  Saskatchewan 3.4%
  9. Ohio 3.4%
  10. Tennessee 3.3%
In the B advertisement, the results were as follows:
  1. Manitoba 12.0%
  2. New Brunswick 11.5%
  3. Nova Scotia 10%
  4. Saskatchewan 7.4%
  5. Alberta 6.4%
  6. Texas 5.1%
  7. Alabama 3.2%
  8. Kentucky 3.0%
  9. North Carolina 2.6%
  10. Ohio 2.6%
As I followed them on their discovery journey by viewing where they clicked on the site once arrived, that’s what informed purchase intent and interest. What the data revealed was heavy interest in 
  1. Knee surgery prices (solid margin, high need)
  2. Hip surgery prices (solid margin, high need)
  3. Spine surgery prices (solid margin, high need)
  4. Eye surgery prices (solid margin, high need)
  5. Hernia surgery prices (low margin, very high need)
All the propaganda about medical tourism procedures being centered cancer, bariatrics, plastic and cosmetic surgery, orthopedics and cardiac surgery did not materialize though those pages were available to be clicked and explored. Each layer of the market research produced more and more refinement in learning about the targeted prospective customer. Understanding customer psychographics (consumer behavior) about people who want to repair a bum knee or hip or seek relief from back pain or neck pain led to my choices in the ad described above targeting people with certain interests and proclivities, in Canada, in a targeted age range, for this specific service.


As a medical tourism, dental tourism or medical travel startup, if you are planning to create and deploy a social marketing strategy, be prepared to invest time and money in market research before you spend money to “attract patients”. Realize that your first ads are not going to produce “leads”. They are going to produce insights. If you aren’t prepared to invest some money in insights to refine your business development strategy,  you aren’t prepared to deploy a business development tactical plan. Wait. Don’t just start plastering the world of social media with posts that don’t connect or tell you anything more than “no one clicked or liked your post.” 
For one thing, neither you nor your provider network nor prospective customers will find your ads on Facebook if you don’t boost them to a specific target audience.  If you are going to make an investment even if it doesn’t produce patient leads, it should produce some value such as market insight into how the ad performed and with whom it resonated. That insight can then be used to start crafting a more specific and strategic strategy and tactics for future efforts when your advertising budget is replenished. And don’t be afraid to fail as long as there’s a lesson to be learned. As Maya Angelou said, Do the best you can until you know better. Then, when you know better, do better.
Maria K Todd, MHA PhD is a trusted adviser to the healthcare industry in the USA and abroad.

About Maria Todd

Maria Todd shares insights from decades of success and experience in medical and dental tourism and health and wellness travel business development and operations.  She consults privately to hospitals, surgeons, and ambulatory surgery centers on marketing and branding strategy, tactics, and helps them attract new patients seeking surgery, second opinions, and options other than those where they normally reside. In 2016, she earned certification from Google in digital marketing to help her clients even more. She blogs frequently and generously shares insights she’s learned along the way from doing healthcare marketing, branding, and business development projects in the USA and abroad.  She is also the author of 19 healthcare industry best selling professional books, most are available on in both print and e-book formats.  Maria is happy to consult in person and remotely to meet your coaching and business development needs.  You can purchase time in 15-minute increments if that’s all you believe you’ll need. 

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