Not quite Amazon but getting there: How Mercy personalizes healthcare marketing

Marketing a health system is way more than slapping its name on a billboard, Kristina Dover, chief marketing officer of Chesterfield, Mo.-based Mercy, told Becker's.

"One of the examples I really like to use is that a 55-year-old male OB-GYN should never see our mother-baby advertising if we're doing our job right," she said.

With all the data-driven tools at its disposal, Mercy focuses on reaching the right patients at the right time with the right messages. Ms. Dover said health systems aren't quite at the Amazon level of personalization yet, but it's also harder in healthcare because of data privacy rules.

Through its Mercy Now campaign, the $7.5 billion system is also trying to balance its supply and demand, by "triaging" patients to the service lines that are the best fits for them and that have openings at the time. It's a collaboration between marketing, care teams, product development, and technology services.

"We are honestly having conversations every day to say, 'We have the access for inpatient primary care visits today, let's increase our marketing or let's dial back a little bit' or 'we have this virtual offering that we're not seeing that same level of engagement, so let's up the marketing there,'" Ms. Dover explained.

Ms. Dover, who is based in Oklahoma City, started her marketing career working for nonprofit organizations before moving to an architecture firm that did business with Mercy, the nation's seventh-largest Catholic health system with more than 40 hospitals across Missouri, Arkansas, Oklahoma and Kansas. She also delivered her children at a Mercy facility.

"Before I started working here, I always thought, I know all of these cool stories and these cool services that Mercy does just from word of mouth," she said, "so how can we make it more engaging and interactive so that even the person like me, who was born and raised here right by a large Mercy Hospital, really knows this is the right service for them and here's how they can get it?"

Initially, after joining the system in 2012, her job focused on uniting the brand and its hospitals under one Mercy name. Then it shifted to the data-heavy approach that still rules today.

Going forward, she wants to help perfect that personalized, consumer-focused marketing model at Mercy at a time when patients increasingly do their own research rather than strictly following whatever their physicians tell them to do.

"Consumers have so much information now at their fingertips that they're empowered to find their own solutions and make their own decisions. That previously has been more in the retail sector and other areas, but it's quickly moving into healthcare," she said. "Having all that information readily available to them so they can make those best decisions and feel that they're empowered to make the decision is going to be where marketing goes, has to go."

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