2018: Taking your healthcare system marketing strategies into the consumer age

As we head in 2018 Healthcare system marketers should make a point to get well in front of Customer Journey Mapping (CJM), the current rage now among healthcare organizations, are becoming quickly ingrained in the Consumer Decision Journey (CDJ). You want to find consumers before they find you – or another hospital.

Some may wonder what the difference is in CJM and CDJ. The difference is easy and important. CJM puts the patient at the center of the experience, starting with the first touchpoint: a referral, a search of the website, an appointment, a treatment. The Consumer Decision Journey (CDJ) will identify potential consumers and provide data to communicate with them how, when, and through which channel.

It is estimated that the average consumer engages with 4 devices and consumes 60 hours of digital content per week. These devices don’t just fulfill needs, they create demand. Only a few years ago, no one would have even considered carrying a whole music collection in a pocket-sized device, or access data from multiple gadgets anywhere in the world, or send a photo to hundreds of friends instantly. Consumers can do all these things today, and it is largely due to tech companies leading them through the process.

Consumers (potential patients) have a wide choice of providers for their health and wellness needs, and they are not afraid to use the internet to help them make those choices. Healthcare marketers are spending more than $1 billion on advertising, often not understanding the how, when, and where consumers are in the consumer decision journey (CDJ). The result is that much of their budget may be going to waste as blanket appeals are reaching people who are not ideal patients or even prospects for their facility.

We know that over 80% of consumers prefer to buy from those who can personalize experiences that best fit their needs. They have come to expect companies to predict their intent and adapt the consumer experience to those behaviors. Thus, the need to rethink the idea of communicating to the masses, hoping to attract a small segment who will actually respond to the message. Hello big data analysis, goodbye billboards. The Consumer Decision Journey is alive and well. At Blackbaud, we have further expanded this consumer-only concept into the Consumer-Patient-Constituent lifecycle that includes continuous interaction throughout the journey.

While many healthcare systems are spending big on Electronic Health Record Systems, that data is currently not meant for outreach and/or marketing, as they are designed specifically for physician and nurse interaction. While the systems can output simple reminders to patients, it cannot manage channels of communication nor personalize messages. Neither are they available or accessible to non-patients (consumers). They do not provide a mechanism to reach out across the market to acquire new patients. They can, however, provide the HIPAA-compliant information to get you started. It’s the journey you choose from there that determines whether consumers will find your competitor before they find you, or you find those consumers.

Savvy marketers have realized that using the CDJ method to address these new realities is a must. With the introduction of new healthcare solutions, Blackbaud is furthering this process by showing hospital systems just how effective analytics can be for them as they have been for their foundations.

Let’s quickly summarize this process:
1. Determine the service lines in which your hospital wants to build an excess pipeline of patients. 
2. Target the consumers who will not only need your high-revenue service lines, but have other favorable factors that give your health system the advantage.
3. Determine which populations can be led to healthier lifestyles.
4. Blanket those communities with education and programs that will help keep them out of the hospital with costly expenses.
5. Further target these groups to see who has the propensity to give as well as the potential amount. 
6. Develop Grateful Patient and Patient Conversion programs that help guide these patients into donors.

To create these targeted strategies, marketers have longed for analytics that have been inaccessible, until recently. Now, companies like Google offer models and tools for marketers interested in delving into the CDJ. Enterprises like Amazon are pushing ideas about music you like, books you would be drawn to, the repurchase of the special detergent for your laundry, all based on individual consumer behavior. The same technology is now available to the healthcare market. Big data allows for a different view of our target audiences. While some companies are still collecting data in intermittent chunks, our predictive analytics do so continuously and update community insights in real time, over long periods of time. Applying what we have learned by serving hospital foundations for the past 35 years, Blackbaud is now furthering hospital systems’ missions while helping to increase their revenue and reduce their debt.

By providing sophisticated data and analytics programs, healthcare systems can now identify consumers even before they have a need for hospital services. Looking for that patient who will be a likely candidate for geriatric needs in the future? Looking for that patient who may need future treatment for orthopedics issues? How about maternity care? Predictive analytics can provide these answers. Once they choose your hospital for their care, prescriptive analytics can show you who can move from patient to donor…again, expanding and completing the entire lifecycle every assertive healthcare system can no longer afford to neglect.

Let’s dig deeper into this lifecycle:

Analytics partnerships with healthcare institutions and organizations work to define the model patient for the most profitable choice of service lines. Using the most sophisticated behavioral, persona, and demographics analytics available today, individual consumers who would be likely patients and future donors can be easily identified. It even goes as far as learning the time of day they are most receptive to communications, the type of communications they prefer and about which subjects. A partnership with an ideal third-party vendor makes you nimble, able to deliver more relevant messages at the precise moments when consumers will listen, ultimately engendering greater loyalty and brand advocacy to your organization, not your competitors. So, whether it is a consumer searching for the right place to deliver her baby, a Parkinson’s patient looking for the best care for his progressive disease, or the athlete soon needing a knee replacement, data and analytics programs will identify those exact consumers your system wants to attract. But it cannot stop there. Data and analytics are of little use unless action-filled strategies follow. This is where our analytics solutions have risen to the top.

Because healthcare systems’ net operating margins continue to plummet, the appeal of a targeted, strategic way to guide the consumer to becoming a patient, and ultimately, even a donor, is fierce. Data, analytics and corresponding strategies is the way to move ahead to increase quality patient volume. It's up to your institution to be ready, to examine the level of the care, the outcomes to be expected and, of course, divided by cost. That's the definition of "Value" in today's marketplace.

A majority of healthcare consumers search online for information about treatment options or to learn about more general health concerns or care providers. They also use social media as an important resource, strongly considering what others have to say. It has become clear that consumers and patients are taking advantage of online resources, both during initial research and ongoing care – thus, it is increasingly important that organizations take advantage of digital compliance marketing to boost patient engagement and care outcomes. Ideally, hospital systems must have the ability to contact potential customers by email, phone, direct mail, and social media. Predictive analytics provides that knowledge of patients as individuals as well as an understanding of their unique habits, wants, and needs — both clinical and non-clinical — throughout their care continuum, from pre-care, through the point of care, and eventually post-care. It requires a knowledge of when to reach out to and engage with specific patient segments and the best way in which to do so. Again, it’s the all-important strategy that propels this plan forward.

As patients continue to take a more consumer-oriented approach to their healthcare, delivering superior outcomes at the point of care is often not enough for health systems to drive patient loyalty. Your organization needs to provide sustained engagement and be as equally active in nurturing your existing patients as attracting new ones.

Is this process a disruptor in the healthcare field? Absolutely! Healthcare leadership is faced with bigger challenges than ever before. Healthcare marketers are faced with big decisions that help address these challenges. Why continue to spend thousands and even millions of dollars on more billboards, blanket ads and mass mailings when the most efficient, effective way to use your resources is to target the people who will most likely use your facilities' services and even eventually become a supporter? Your competition may already be on the analytics freight train, targeting consumers that have the potential to choose you instead. The time is now. Forward-thinking and forward-pushing hospital systems are putting analytics and proactive strategies to work and the return on the investment will no doubt prove their strategies were the right ones.

Russ Cobb is President and General Manager of the Healthcare Solutions Group with Blackbaud. With vast experience in sales, marketing and management, he brings a wealth of healthcare market knowledge and forward-thinking solutions to both hospital systems and their foundations. Blackbaud partners with these entities to increase revenue, reduce costs, enhance constituent relationships, and increase philanthropic giving.

The views, opinions and positions expressed within these guest posts are those of the author alone and do not represent those of Becker's Hospital Review/Becker's Healthcare. The accuracy, completeness and validity of any statements made within this article are not guaranteed. We accept no liability for any errors, omissions or representations. The copyright of this content belongs to the author and any liability with regards to infringement of intellectual property rights remains with them.

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