Healthcare Relationship Management: Are Your Patients Really “Just Customers”?

Are your patients really “just customers”?  How do you get them to buy, and who really makes the buying decisions?

To answer these questions, the following steps outline a logical process for developing and validating an effective marketing program, aligning both internal and external resources to the maximum benefit:

  1. Identify the Key Influencers
  2. Relationship Management via Marketing Communications
  3. Identify Your Target, Craft Your Message, Define Your Measures
  4. Closing the Loop – Integrating Key Touch-Points with the Patient – Integrating Data Sources
  5. Evaluate Your Effectiveness, and Refine Your Actions with Analytics
  6. Progressing Along the Maturity Model

I will cover all points over the course of 2 posts.

Identify the Key Influencers
Healthcare providers are well aware of the realities: key influencers of patients’ choices for specialists and specific health facilities are their primary care physicians, or the patients’ satisfaction with prior services; and key influencers of patients’ choices for primary care physicians are the patients’ friends and family members, or their own health plans.

With this in mind, leading hospitals and health systems are striving to balance, and focus, their marketing efforts to reach these key groups with the information they need to make their healthcare choices.  Are you marketing direct to your patients?  Or to the key constituencies who influence your patients’ decisions to seek care?

Relationship Management via Marketing Communications
Healthcare organizations of every size and shape can begin immediately to leverage the capabilities available in straight-forward relationship management platforms: to target the audience; structure multi-channel campaigns; plan and execute the specific communications and outreach activities; and track both the costs and results of their entire marketing program.

Identify Your Target, Craft Your Message, Define Your Measures
Who are we trying to reach?  What do we need them to know?

You need to define your audience, including the precise demographics, and their preferences for how they want to be reached, and the methods they use when seeking care.

What is the service or disease setting we are targeting?  Who is the gender or age group that we need to respond to this outreach initiative?  Is this for preventive or screening services; or for advanced care needs?  Are we promoting a leading-edge treatment or a badly needed diagnostic technology?  Are we announcing regional or national performance scores on quality of care, case volumes, outcomes, or rankings?  Are we trying to influence new members of the community, or long-term residents?  Which specific geographic location or community are we targeting?  What specific needs will the target population have, if they’re candidates for the service?

What other information can be brought together to leverage your campaign?

If you’re targeting a specific service or disease setting, how many people in your markets are eligible for the requisite insurance coverage?  Which local employer groups have employee populations in the target demographic?  Are local colleges or universities sources of potential patients for this service?  Have health plans with local groups recently restructured their coverage for the targeted service areas?

And you need to be sufficiently nimble to test your message, and your content, with targeted segments; measure their response; and tune your approach accordingly.  Trying out new media channels and environments, such as professional or other social media platforms, can lead to new opportunities for engaging prospective patients and providers in productive dialogues, feeding new initiatives.

How do we measure what’s happening?

A key consideration will be to capture and monitor the primary indicators of the desired behavior and outcomes from the targeted groups.  What is the desired behavior we are seeking?  Is it increased referrals from specific specialist groups or locations?  Is it changes in key clinical measures in specific patient populations?  Is it measureable improvements in patient satisfaction, and their assessment of our service?  Are we seeking to tie market response all the way to changes in clinical outcomes?

Accurate and timely data capture at the point of contact (or evaluation) with the patient will be a key aspect of your program to measure the effectiveness of these campaigns.

What’s Next
The greatest value comes when the marketing effort “closes the loop” on the responses and desired behaviors you need from patients and key influencers.  Next time we’ll look further into the mechanisms for capturing these key events, demonstrating the ROI, and moving the organization along a maturity cycle for increasing effectiveness and efficiency. Stay tuned…

One thought on “Healthcare Relationship Management: Are Your Patients Really “Just Customers”?

  1. Pingback: Healthcare Relationship Management: Closing the loop « Edgewater Technology Weblog

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