Accelerating Orthopedic Service Line Growth with Multi-Channel Campaigns

As healthcare marketers look to drive growth for their organizations, the orthopedic service line is often identified as a key opportunity. Not only for its potential for profitability, but also its application across a broad range of ages – from aging Baby Boomers in need of hip and knee replacements to younger patients with sports injuries.

However, growing an orthopedic service line with targeted marketing campaigns has specific challenges. First, it’s incredibly competitive; digital trends show that orthopedics is one of the most searched for services in healthcare. There is stiff competition as orthopedics encompasses a spectrum of treatments that run the gamut from over the counter knee braces to hip replacement surgery. This means retail health options compete in the same space as renowned hospitals.

At the same time, there is also a sense of urgency among consumers seeking out orthopedic care. More often than not, people look for solutions because they are in pain. Addressing their concerns, delivering care, and alleviating pain quickly and effectively is a critical part of acquisition and retention.

Why Is an Integrated Multi-Channel Marketing Approach Necessary?

In order to effectively grow a high-value service line, like orthopedics, healthcare marketers need to reach the right customers, with the right message, at the right time.

How? Though integrated, multi-channel campaigns built with targeted and segmented audiences, differentiated messaging, and personalization.

There are two distinct reasons why this approach works so well when looking to accelerate growth for orthopedics.

First, the target audience spans a broad base. There are Millennial and GenX customers looking to resolve sports-related injuries and Baby Boomers (and beyond) in need of hip and knee replacements. In order to effectively reach this wide demographic range, marketers need to employ and integrate traditional and digital channels.

Second, while there is data indicating certain channels work well to engage certain demographics, there is an element of personal preference as well. To engage with multiple personas, marketers need to deliver relevant messaging across multiple channels. That way, the customer is able to have multiple entry points simultaneously available, whether that’s through email outreach, a landing page, or a phone call.

From a budgeting perspective, although a campaign is deployed across multiple channels, many of them are digital, which are considerably more economical than traditional media ad buys on TV, billboards, radio.

There are three key technologies necessary to effectively implement multi-channel marketing campaigns: healthcare CRM, marketing automation, and an engagement center (an HCRM-enabled call center). Below we’ve outlined some of the best practices for a multi-channel orthopedic campaign that leverages these marketing tools.

Designing an Optimal Multi-Channel Orthopedic Marketing Campaign

There are five critical steps to building, implementing, and executing an orthopedic service line campaign. Let’s walk through them:

1. Determine Operational Readiness

Before moving forward with an orthopedic – or any service line – marketing campaign, an internal conversation needs to take place between the marketing team and operations. Within this conversation, marketing needs to ask pointed questions to determine if the operational side of the organization is ready for the influx of consumers a targeted campaign may bring in terms of new patients, greater numbers of procedures, and more.

This is an essential step because if the organization is not operationally ready, but runs the campaign anyway, the hospital runs the risk of letting down – and potentially alienating – a large audience. In addition, they are spending time and money executing a campaign that creates demand for competitors.

Here are a few questions to ask:

  • What’s the catalyst for marketing’s involvement?

In other words, why should marketing invest in orthopedics? Marketing needs to understand the challenges within the service line – are patient volumes down? Are the numbers for specific procedures down? Or is there increased capacity for growth, such as a new surgeon joining the organization or a new location opening?

  • What is the operational capacity?

Healthcare marketers are concerned with growth, but they also need to be protective of the patient experience (for both current and prospective customers). Before developing a pipeline for a service line, marketing needs to be sure the hospital can provide timely care. Some key questions include:

  • Do particular services/procedures have capacity?
  • How long is the wait for the first appointment or consultation?
  • What is the average conversion rate from new patient consultation to actual orthopedic procedure?
  • What is the lead time from initial consultation to procedure?

For orthopedic cases, many patients seeking help are in pain and may not be willing or able to wait several months to be scheduled for surgery.

  • How are we engaging patients between consultation and procedure?

Orthopedic patients are apt to “shop around” to identify the health system that’s able to meet their needs. If there’s little to no follow-up post-consultation, patients aren’t going to feel engaged or cared for, especially if there’s a significant lead time to surgery. This critical time is where marketing can play an important role in continuing to engage the patient.

2. Develop Target Audience

Once marketing has determined the orthopedics department is operationally ready and has a strong understanding of the campaign objectives, the next step is to define target audiences and build segments. Using a healthcare CRM, infused with patient demographic and clinical data as well as third-party consumer data, marketing teams develop audiences to target based on the campaign objectives.

To do this, marketing needs to ask themselves: For this campaign, what does the ideal patient look like? Qualities may include demographics, type of procedure, lifestyle/interests, income, location, and payer type.

For example, with a precision marketing campaign, marketing may target commercial payers. Or develop two distinct audiences: a younger demographic with sports-related injuries to build a long-term patient relationship and an older demographic looking at potential joint replacements.

With the HCRM, propensity models based on multiple variables – combining proprietary and third-party data – identify key audiences and inform marketing tactics.

As the campaign runs, the audiences should be optimized and narrowed based on results. More on that later.

3. Create Segmented, Personalized Messaging

Personalization is a key ingredient to successful orthopedic campaigns. Customers and patients want to know that you understand them, care about their pain, and want to resolve their issue quickly.

As orthopedics typically encompasses both a broad demographic range and different stages of pain and urgency, marketers need to recognize and incorporate throughout the campaign.

Consider this journey: A 35-year-old man was a college athlete and continues to participate in “weekend warrior” activities, such as the community 5K and a men’s basketball league. He has a nagging knee injury that has been bothering him to the point he’s had to take a step back from his activities.

The onset of pain is a key time where health organizations want to capture customers, build a relationship, and become a trusted resource and advisor. The patient may start with a visit to his primary care doctor, do a stint of physical therapy, and if the pain persists, seek an orthopedic referral. From there, if he still is in pain, he may consider pain medication, cortisone shots, or eventually surgery. Even if the pain is resolved without surgery, there is opportunity to continue engagement through education about how to prevent re-injury and lead a healthy lifestyle.

In this journey, education, influencing, and nurturing are core to the marketing strategy and engagement.

Now, consider this journey:

A 75-year-old woman has been dealing with hip pain for more than a year. She mentioned the pain to her PCP and received an orthopedic referral, but didn’t follow up to make an appointment. As a result of audience targeting, she receives a direct mail piece from your health organization that speaks to her situation, current pain, and has a direct number to call. She takes action.

The messaging for this patient would be very different than the previous example. Across channels, marketing needs to recognize the ongoing pain and support the patient with solutions and education on potential procedures to alleviate pain. Ultimately, this patient may be a candidate for surgery.

These two examples illustrate why a one-size-fits-all messaging and targeting approach doesn’t work well for a service line that runs as deep as orthopedics. Simple things, like making sure campaign assets feature images of people similar in age to the target audience, can go a long way to conveying a sense of understanding to the customer.

For many customers, the orthopedic patient journey is long – sometimes spanning years, which underlines the importance of ensuring the marketing team continues to nurture and engage a lead long after they’ve indicated interest in orthopedic services.

Across all audiences, it’s important for messaging to be customer-centric. The orthopedic customer has pain and wants to resolve that pain; they’re looking for a healthcare partner that recognizes that. Today’s customer is not just looking for excellent clinical care, they want to feel supported and engaged between appointments and throughout their journey.

4. Map the Patient Journey

In multi-channel campaigns, there are many paths a potential patient can take to arrive at conversion. They may engage on multiple digital channels (i.e. see on an ad on Facebook three times, click on an educational landing page, download a guide, and receive a weekly nurturing email) before ultimately phoning the healthcare call center to make an appointment.

Envision patient journey mapping as multiple streams leading to a river. The goal is to attract them via a stream and then guide them down the river to become a patient for life with your healthcare system.

With a fully integrated campaign, every step in the journey has a clear next step in the process. Make it easy for customers to take the next step by clearly displaying a phone number or automatically populating the customer’s information on web forms.

5. Proactive Optimization

Multi-channel orthopedic marketing campaigns are not “set it and forget it”. Healthcare marketers need to take a proactive focused lens and look at all the channels and data coming in to understand how customers are engaging and converting, and how those channels effectively interact with one another

Identify where the bulk of the audience is coming from and evaluate if you’ve missed the mark on any of the services you’re offering. As the campaign continues to run, marketers should be monitoring their campaigns every day and making optimizations accordingly.

With optimization, there are typically two types of indicators of success: leading indicators and lagging indicators. With a 6-12 month campaign cycle, gaining a clear picture of the return on investment (ROI) can take time, so this is a lagging indicator.

However, leading indicators offer clear insight into how the campaign is performing based on the objectives. Marketers need to understand if their campaign is attracting the type of customer it intended. Examples of metrics include

  • Volume of leads
  • Demographics of leads
  • Keywords leading to conversion
  • Where leads are dropping off

With an ongoing campaign, you want to understand how prospects are progressing down the funnel – where are they in the journey?

Final Thoughts

At the conclusion of the campaign, it’s important to fully evaluate the funnel. Look at the leads in the funnel, all that converted, and what channels/content led to the conversion. Look at where leads were lost as it may be an indicator another touchpoint is needed in the patient journey. This evaluation will help build an even more successful campaign next time.

A West Coast health system took a multi-channel approach and saw an 11 percent decrease in cost per digital lead, a 44 percent increase in call leads, and 449% increase in organic search click-through rate from 2017 to 2018. Overall, this strategy resulted in 23 percent more procedures and 27 percent higher ROI in 2018.

Rachel Neely

Rachel Neely

VP of Customer Success at Evariant
Rachel Neely is the VP of Customer Success at Evariant. In this role, she serves as a healthcare marketing expert, guiding clients through collaborative workshops, identifying and reconciling points of ROI, overseeing the usability of Evariant products and solutions to ensure they meet client-specific needs, and collaborating with Physician, Engagement, and Marketing Practice Leaders to build new assets, frameworks, and points of view. Rachel holds a BA in Communication from Purdue University with specializations in Advertising and PR.
Rachel Neely