by Paddy Padmanabhan

How technology and data shape digital marketing in healthcare in an on-demand era

Nov 07, 2016
AnalyticsHealthcare IndustryMarketing

Aiming to attract and retain increasingly well-informed patients, health systems are using sophisticated data analytics to target people at the 'moment of healthcare need.'rn

Healthcare revenue
Credit: Thinkstock

The digital transformation of healthcare, driven by the shift toward value-based care (VBC), is also a mandate for improving patient engagement and a new approach to healthcare marketing. Digital officers in healthcare today are focusing on improving patient experiences, responding specifically to the need for transparency and control over healthcare costs in the face of soaring health insurance premiums and higher deductibles.

As patients increasingly turn to independent platforms such as Leapfrog and Healthgrades to make informed choices about medical care, health systems have to transform their marketing practices to engage with this newly informed class of patients.

Attracting and retaining patients with data and analytics

At Lehigh Valley Health Network (LVHN), a regional health system in Pennsylvania that serves over 1.9 million patients, digital transformation is driven by a need to attract more patients and by population health management objectives. Working with Evariant, a healthcare marketing company that has developed a platform built on the Salesforce CRM platform, LVHN has been driving a multichannel marketing program with aggregated data from a wide range of data sources. These include proprietary data from electronic health records (EHR) systems such as Epic, as well as commercially available demographic data (such as Experian). LVHN is also beginning to look at public data released by entities such as the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).

Despite being in early stages, LVHN has been able to identify several measures of campaign success since moving to CRM and multichannel marketing. By one measure, the cost per acquisition (the cost of acquiring one lead) for the orthopedics service line is three times lower than it was when they relied solely on traditional mass media, which is historically difficult to measure. In bariatrics, there has been a 30% year-over-year increase in surgeries since the multichannel marketing program launched. By looking at multiple measures, LVHN estimates that the ratio of revenue generated for each dollar spent on marketing ranges from 8:1 for orthopedics to 11.1 for bariatrics.

These results indicate the transition of marketing from an expense item to a revenue-generator in a traditional hospital environment, and from a reactive to a proactive mode of engagement with patients and consumers, driven by data and analytics.

At LVHN, targeting consumers through enhanced data analytics is designed to drive patients into the network at the “moment of healthcare need.” By targeting the commercially-insured, LVHN is able to drive revenue increases through increased marketing leads and conversions.

Lehigh Valley has also developed a variety of new experiences for patients, and watches the response and behavior to gain an improved understanding of consumer engagement and preferences that drives marketing content, targeted messaging and communication channels to be deployed. One example of this is the use of video consultations, a relatively new concept for healthcare consumers with tremendous potential to reduce costs and improve productivity in healthcare.

Managing strategy, structure and technology in an on-demand environment

The proliferation of technologies and tools creates a need for a robust integration strategy to ensure success. As healthcare becomes more of an on-demand environment, interoperability between different systems becomes a critical factor in responding quickly to consumer demands. Keeping this in mind, LVHN is becoming a part of the CareQuality network of the not-for-profit Sequoia Project, a consortium supported by the Office of the National Coordinator of Health IT (ONC) to advance the implementation of a secure, interoperable nationwide health information exchange. The network provides a comprehensive view of a patient’s medical history regardless of where the patient has received treatment within the network of participating entities.

With the rapid pace of digital transformation, organization structures need to adapt as well. One aspect of this is the need for a close alignment between the marketing and IT functions. At LVHN, CIO Mike Minear and vice president of marketing John Marzano work closely, recognizing that while marketing owns the digital function, the CIO organization has deep knowledge of data and technology integration that is integral to digital transformation.

While the opportunity to use data-driven approaches for digital marketing has great potential in healthcare, enterprises have to proceed cautiously as the use of patient data is governed by HIPAA rules for data privacy and security. The recent spate of data breaches and ransomware incidents has underscored this need for increased caution.

As healthcare embarks on the digital transformation journey and adopts sophisticated consumer marketing techniques, the ROI of these programs may not be immediately evident. However, by experimenting and innovating with new approaches, and using a combination of metrics, healthcare can successfully navigate digital transformation.