In order to grow, health systems need to do two things: acquire and retain a greater number of patients. By doing so, healthcare organizations increase the numbers of patients they serve, boosting revenue in both the short- and long-term.
Effective patient engagement supports not only getting patients in the door, but also developing relationships that last a lifetime. Patient engagement is about involving patients in their own care; when done well, it’s been shown to improve health outcomes, lower care costs, and create patient loyalty.
Leveraging healthcare data and analytics is vital to a successful patient engagement strategy; this intelligence informs how marketers engage with individuals and specific groups of patients. The first step to a data-driven strategy is implementing these four key technology platforms:
- Nearly all – 99 percent – of U.S. hospitals now use electronic health record (EHR) systems. This widespread use generates an incredible amount of patient data. After first focusing on HIPAA compliance, healthcare marketers can tap into available data to develop insights around how groups of patients can benefit from their services.
- Healthcare CRM platforms are centralized hubs of customer data developed from multiple sources, both internal and external, such as demographics, psychographics, social media activity, behavioral patterns, clinical history, call center interactions, and provider credentialing. EHR data is integrated into the HCRM to produce holistic, 360-degree views of patients.
- Good old-fashioned phone calls should be considered an important part of the customer engagement strategy since phone calls still handle 68 percent of all customer inquiries. While healthcare engagement centers, which are optimized call centers integrated with an HCRM, can be an important tool for delivering engaging customer service, it also presents opportunities to gather valuable patient data.
- Each conversation is a chance to learn more about the caller, such as their specific healthcare needs and care preferences. The information gathered by engagement center agents during calls is incorporated into the HCRM, creating a more complete profile of the customer.
- A PRM, or physician relationship management platform, is like an HCRM in that it gathers, stores, and analyzes data from multiple sources to create holistic views—but for physicians, rather than patients. Understanding physicians fully allows healthcare organizations to identify high-value providers, keep them engaged, and encourage them to refer patients in-network.
Using Data to Engage Patients
Leveraging this data in strategic ways and transforming it into actionable programs is critical for successful patient engagement. Here are a few ways it can be used to drive results:
Create Clinical Propensity Models
Health systems generate clinical propensity models by using diagnostic, visit history, sociodemographic, socioeconomic, lifestyle, and other variables to identify the best prospects for targeted outreach efforts. Propensity models allow healthcare organizations to find patterns and correlations in data, and then use them to target groups of patients effectively.
Propensity models improve patient engagement by informing marketing’s outreach initiatives. Think of it this way: if you can send a patient who is a likely candidate for developing type 2 diabetes an email about your organization’s diabetes prevention services, you are much more likely to engage that patient than if your email was about a service not pertinent to their healthcare needs. This method optimizes service line growth through increased clinical conversions.
When healthcare marketers deliver personalized outreach, patients feel important, understood, and well-served by your organization.
This feeling results in higher levels of engagement with your health system.
Personalizing outreach requires strategic data use, namely the HCRM, which provides patients’ locations, interests, channel preferences, and previous interactions with the health system. Personalization should be done across outreach channels when sending direct mail pieces to answering calls in the engagement center. If you can refer to patients by name, provide them with resources specific to their unique location, needs, and preferences, and build upon previous outreach, you increase engagement, boost patient retention and acquisition rates, and grow your organization.
Map the Patient Journey
Healthcare organizations map patient journeys to understand what patients experience throughout the care continuum, starting with a patient realizing they need a health system’s services and rounding out with post-clinical ongoing care.
Creating accurate journey maps requires extensive data analysis in the HCRM and a strong partnership between marketing and clinical/operational side of the organization to fully understand what your organization’s care experience is like for different groups of patients.
By analyzing journey maps, you identify the touchpoints necessary for patients to engage at each stage. If you notice specific times where many patients are losing contact with your organization, it’s a sign that more engagement is necessary to drive patient retention. Think of this process as building bridges— it prevents patients from falling through the cracks and leads them to the other side, where they can establish long-term relationships with your organization.
Increase Provider Network Utilization
The ways that physicians refer patients play a vital role in boosting—or discouraging—engagement and organizational growth. The implementation of a PRM platform supports the physician liaison team in this effort by enabling them to strategically build relationships with providers in the community. With a PRM, liaison teams gain insights into current physician practice patterns and can have more informed discussions with individual providers.
Pay particular attention to data around physicians’ in-network referral rates, as greater in-network referrals support and foster continued patient engagement and, ultimately, organizational growth. When physicians refer patients out-of-network, it results in missed opportunities for health systems; 30-50 percent of out-of-network referrals translates to $4-8 billion in lost revenue – a hit on revenue that may partially be the result of lost or fragmented patient engagement. To ensure your physicians utilize your in-network resources most effectively, create a data-driven physician outreach strategy that focuses on increasing internal referral rates.
The healthcare industry will continue to evolve in unexpected and unprecedented ways. It is vital that health systems keep their technology and data relevant so as to grow through smart patient acquisition and retention regardless of future market conditions. With the right information, healthcare organizations can be sure that they always have accurate 360-degree views of patients, informing how to find, guide, and keep patients for life.