Beyond Engagement: How to Create Harmonic Patient Experiences

With customers and patients interacting with a growing number of channels throughout the course of their day, hospitals can no longer afford to take a simplified approach to marketing.

They must strive to connect with patients across many different channels and deliver unified, seamless messaging. Historically, health systems have studied the strategies of successful retailers to enact powerful patient engagement campaigns.

Today, there’s a new trend on the rise: ‘Harmonic Retail,’ or the harmonic customer experience. This concept, trademarked by Harbor Retail, expands upon integrated customer engagement methods by reimagining marketing channels as an orchestra conducted by the customer. Instead of creating campaigns that simply combine online and offline experiences, a harmonic retailer continuously keeps a pulse on a customer’s activity across every channel. Retailers leverage these insights to craft personalized, reactive advertisements that are informed by previous customer interactions, enriching the customer journey and creating a living, harmonized brand expression that’s tailored to the customer. When I was with Swiss Army and Timex I played a heavy hand in retail and e-tail operations, bringing these approaches to life.
This cutting-edge retail marketing strategy can be harnessed in a healthcare setting, too. With the right data and tools, marketers create sophisticated programs that put patients in the driver’s seat of their own patient journey. Instead of serving advertisements based on demographic data alone, marketers track patient interactions across a variety of touchpoints using relevant and engaging promotional content. Then, the patient receives precisely targeted messaging based on these prior interactions and inferred interests.

Let’s take a closer look at the details that health systems should consider when enacting a harmonic patient engagement strategy.

Always Put the Patient’s Experience First

Harmonic retailers value the customer first and foremost, and often structure their business around being customer-centric in all things. Consider the make-up brand, Glossier. Customer service is integral to their marketing strategy – in fact, they even ask their customer community to help design products and promotions. They published a blog a few years ago asking followers about their ideal face wash. The post garnered over 400 comments, which were used to create Glossier’s Milky Jelly face cleanser. That product has remained a mainstay in their product line ever since.

With a patient-centric approach, practitioners, patients, and their families partner together to deliver the education and support required for individuals to take control of their own care.

12 - 463

Here’s an example: After a patient’s appointment, send a follow-up email asking them to rate their experience. Don’t forget to include a few related resources in the email to encourage the reader to become more engaged in their health. If a patient reports a subpar experience, an engagement center representative calls to resolve and record their concerns. With this, your health system is establishing two-way communication with patients, which creates authentic, positive customer experiences.

Instead of creating campaigns that follow rigid, pre-defined structures, create a dynamic strategy that shifts based on the content that patients interact with. Since patients engage on more channels than ever, health systems must first ensure that the right technology is in place:

  • A healthcare CRM (HCRM) platform that collects and stores detailed information (including interactions, communication type and content, and patient data) in a single, centralized location.
  • A CRM-enabled patient engagement center that functions to resolve a range of customer concerns while also collecting valuable data derived from a patient’s calls and emails.
  • A marketing automation platform that constantly nurtures patient engagement efforts by sending follow-ups and reminders even when there are lulls between visits.

Blend Online and Offline Patient Engagement

To provide a harmonic patient experience, it’s important to combine and analyze data from both online and offline sources, while allowing customers to take control of their own patient journey. Keep in mind that online and offline data comes from a variety of sources, so it’s vital to have a centralized platform to track and monitor patient interactions.

One of the keys to success for harmonic retailers? They’ve gotten integrated marketing down to a science. Consider Ulta, a popular cosmetics brand: When a customer visits the Ulta website, marketing technology tracks which products and content they interact with. If the customer seems interested in a specific product or query (like “oil-free moisturizer”), Ulta sends personalized offers to their mobile device – such as a coupon for a particular brand they were browsing online – upon entry into one of their stores.

Healthcare marketers should use the right technology to emulate the success of harmonic retailers. For instance, marketers are able to determine which channels the patient is most receptive to by consulting historical information stored in their HCRM, or by relying on market intelligence tools (such as Evariant Insights) to predict their preferred channels.

Consider a potential customer that’s shown interest in pediatric primary care. Their browsing data suggests they spent time visiting physician profiles on your website, and then read a few blog posts regarding pediatric care. However, they didn’t schedule an appointment. An HCRM solution helps understand the patient’s preferences. Then, by combining insights with remarketing tools executes precisely targeted advertisements and personalized communication regarding your hospital’s pediatric care.

After seeing the ad on a preferred social network, the customer submits a form requesting to learn more about your hospital’s pediatric care. Then, depending on the inquiry and/or the consumer’s score contact center staff can call and inform the customer of your pediatric specialists’ availability, while they are simultaneously triggered into a nurture campaign within a marketing automation solution.

This cross-channel strategy moves the customer further down the funnel by providing valuable information at the right time (while it’s top of mind). After learning about the specialists’ credentials and how open their schedules are, that customer is more inclined to schedule an appointment while they’re on the phone.

Remember to Consider Context

Quality content is central to successful healthcare marketing strategies – but marketers that strive for a harmonic customer experience believe that delivering content under the right context is perhaps even more important. What does this mean?

For example: A patient that passively researched a particular symptom (like “sore lower back”) earlier in the day may not be ready to sign up for a seminar or schedule an appointment. They’re more likely to read a basic, expository blog post about the subject when it’s served to them while scrolling their social media feed.

An example of a harmonic retailer that values context over content is Target. When Target connects and collects enough shopper information to know that a shopper is expecting a child, they advertise in-store promotions for nursery products. Target continues to track the shopper’s activity over time until they can predict when the child has been born. At this point, their marketing strategy shifts. Since parents of newborns suddenly find themselves short on time with limited ability to go on shopping trips, Target advertises similar products under a different pretext – serving advertisements and promotions for online shopping, instead.

Healthcare marketers can emulate this by serving different content depending on where a patient is in the care funnel. For example, if a potential patient searches for “knee pain” online, you may want to direct them to educational assets about sources of knee pain. If they read these resources but don’t immediately book an appointment, your organization may want to proactively reach out (via an HCRM-enabled engagement center) or advertise upcoming orthopedic seminars with messaging based on the resource they initially engaged with.

With patient insights readily available, the engagement center understands an individual’s experience with your health system at a glance, enabling actionable and informed patient communication.

Final Thoughts

Harmonic retailers blend e-commerce and brick-and-mortar shopping experiences to create a superior experience that transcends channels. In healthcare, there is tremendous value in both channels: Hospitals and clinics are fundamental touchpoints that support the patient relationship and provides service when they need it. At the same time, online campaigns work in conjunction to create engagement before, during, and after a visit to a health system’s physical location.

To accomplish this, health systems must study connections among multiple disparate touchpoints. They need access to the resources required to track patient engagement in a unified, personalized way regardless of which channel a customer chooses to engage with.

Once a healthcare organization has access to this information by leveraging an HCRM and business intelligence tool, they can study how patients choose to engage and use these insights to deliver cohesive, relevant messages using the ideal channel. By giving patients the steering wheel to their own patient journey and playing to the strengths of every channel, you create harmonic messages that encourage patients to take control of their health.

12 - 462

Gary Druckenmiller

Gary Druckenmiller

Gary Druckenmiller, Jr. is Vice President, Customer Success at Evariant. He functions as lead strategist, digital marketing thought leader and C-level executive sponsor for all of Evariant’s enterprise clients, primarily focused on advising health system leadership of opportunistic methods to improve their digital presence and interactive growth potential. Prior to Evariant, Gary served as Vice-President for Harte-Hanks, responsible for healthcare digital strategy and deliverables including multi-channel campaigns, paid digital media, social media, CRM and analytics. Gary has been with Evariant for 8 years and can be heard often on the hospital marketing speaking circuit. Gary has a bachelor’s degree in marketing from Bentley University.
Gary Druckenmiller