Transformation of the Marketing Function in Hospitals (Part 2)

This is the second post in a series of three blog posts that discusses how healthcare marketers need to transform their approach to adapt to shifting buying and searching behaviors. Read our first post about how hospital marketing departments need the right tools and team members in place to effectively reach and communicate with patients and physicians and our third post about what modern healthcare marketing departments need to do to refocus, reorganize, and stay relevant in the digital age.

The consumer-based healthcare market is transforming the traditional hospital marketing approach. Marketers need to start aggressively addressing healthcare consumer desires – for example, price transparency, better experiences, and higher quality of care – in order to attract, engage, and retain patients.

Healthcare marketers can start this transformation by employing the skills and strategies traditionally reserved for consumer-focused industries such as retail. The key is to create campaigns that deliver informed and consistent omni-channel patient communication, which will ultimately improve patient engagement and health outcomes.

Let’s take a look at few important skills the modern healthcare marketer can use to change their strategy:

Customer Service

The healthcare industry should start thinking about value-based care as an opportunity to provide value to the patient or – more importantly – to the consumer, according to Dr. Vivian Lee of the University of Utah Health Care. Hospital marketing departments need to shift their focus toward providing standout healthcare experiences for consumers.

Zappos is an example of a consumer company wholly dedicated to providing superior customer experiences. Not only have they disrupted the barriers associated with online shoe shopping, like allowing customers to order multiple sizes at no additional cost, but they also give employees the freedom to make personal connections with customers. This personal touch ranges from waived shipping fees to a bouquet of flowers or a handmade card.

This sort of passion for the customer is demonstrated in several of Dr. Lee’s outpatient clinics. One offered in-clinic childcare for parents who can’t leave their young children at home during an appointment. Another offered the option of in-home newborn check-ups, since physicians’ offices are exposed to illnesses that could put a newborn in critical condition.

Why is exceptional customer service important for modern healthcare marketing departments?

Adopting this consumer-centric approach to healthcare marketing is an opportunity to boost patient satisfaction by deepening the relationship and improving the communication between patient and provider. If more marketers applied this customer-driven mentality to their campaigns, they could see better patient engagement and proactive health over the long term.

Data Analytics

The key to improving a consumer’s healthcare experience is knowing what that consumer wants and needs from their experience. Technology is integral for capturing the data necessary to identify and implement changes that can make a difference in the patient experience. Though choosing and implementing the right system for the hospital is a necessary first step, it’s also important that the marketing team is able to analyze data sets and determine which data points will lend themselves to actionable insights.

According to IDC, 70 percent of health care organizations will invest in mobile apps, wearable computing, remote health monitoring, and virtual care by 2018, resulting in a significant increase in demand for big data and analytics. The modern healthcare marketing team needs a data scientist who is able to translate big data from these data sources into the practical data that can be used to better inform marketing campaigns.

A healthcare CRM system that integrates demographic, insurance, and carrier data in addition to clinical data can help marketing professionals better understand consumers’ preferences, behavior, and motivations. Digital marketers can use this information to develop campaigns that will result in greater patient engagement and, ultimately, satisfaction.

Internal Collaboration

Improving the patient experience is only possible if all moving parts of a hospital are on the same page, especially marketing and clinical departments. Unfortunately, differences in technology, data sources, and vocabulary are challenges that must be overcome for effective communication between marketers and other hospital departments.

The holistic patient experience that attracts and retains consumers is dependent on unified and branded messaging across the entire patient journey. Hospitals need to able to break down the “clinical wall” between marketing and clinical departments because the patient comes into contact with both during their healthcare journey.

Collaboration starts with a conversation between these departments to develop a patient communication template. In order to deliver consistent experiences across the patient journey, both the clinical and marketing departments need to work from the same communication strategy. This template can be then personalized based on patient’s preferences and where they are on the clinical journey.

Why is internal collaboration important for modern marketing departments? If patient communication is consistent and branded across the entire consumer journey, both the physicians and hospital will build trust, improve retention, and drive patient engagement.

Final Thoughts

Healthcare marketing teams have to adapt to stay competitive in a value-based healthcare landscape. They need to transform into a department capable of creating personalized, holistic customer experiences that will help hospitals attract, engage, and retain patients throughout their clinical journey.

A recent study found that patients lacking the skills and confidence to actively engage in their own healthcare incurred costs up to 21 percent higher than patients who are more engaged. Ultimately, improved patient engagement and retention can drive down hospital operational costs and improve health outcomes.

How will your hospital adapt to the consumer-based healthcare landscape?

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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