Attracting and keeping the right patient mix is vital to the success of a medical practice. The outcome that has the strongest effect on the practice is revenue as measured on a per patient basis.
Using outcomes to measure performance is sweeping the healthcare industry. As Medicare leads the charge on determining reimbursement rates based on outcomes achieved rather than services rendered, clinicians and their support staff are rethinking how healthcare is delivered and measured. The same should be true of healthcare marketing.
Technologies like marketing automation and web analytics make tracking engagement and conversion straightforward in other sectors, but healthcare has lagged behind the migration to coupling marketing efforts with outcomes. There are many reasons for that, but practices can no longer afford to spend resources on marketing that cannot be measured and optimized.
To that end practices must change the way marketing strategy is approached and executed. The first step is to understand how the best outcomes are achieved. From that point, it becomes clear to identify and correct whatever stands in the way of reaching those outcomes.
Creating Engagement Is the Springboard
Virtually all conversions begin with some type of engagement. In the digital realm, that engagement can and should be measured. Tracking patient page visits to a website is a good starting place for studying engagement, but what you really want to know is where you are catching the potential patient’s attention and holding on to it. Is it on the page where one of your clinicians is explaining the newest research and thinking in treating a specific condition? Perhaps it is on your testimonial page or the area of your site that describes physician credentials. Understanding what pages enlist the interest of potential patients and which ones don’t, tells you what is valuable and which parts of your website need help.
Patient interest can be easily measured through opt-ins such as subscriptions to newsletters on health topics or sign-ups for workshops or webinars. Looking at the subjects that are eliciting the most interest is a clue about what is most important to the market you are trying to attract. Once leads are enrolled in an e-mail marketing program, tracking the links they click and how much time they spend on each destination sheds additional light on what is resonating most deeply with patient populations.
Responsiveness Is the Ultimate Measure of Your Marketing Program
Many healthcare practices are still using traditional methods of marketing: Placing digital ads and perhaps billboards and some print advertising, hoping people will respond. That was a fine approach 20 years ago because nothing better was available. The problem now is that when patients call the office to make an appointment, you generally have no idea how they found you. Did they see an advertisement, or were they referred by a friend or insurance company? Some practices ask callers whether they were referred by anybody, but that still does not identify whether any of your marketing campaigns may also have reached them. Most practices need help to catalog and analyze such data.
Today it is possible to know where all web traffic comes from and call-tracking software makes it easy to understand which piece of marketing collateral referred each phone inquiry you receive. Tools like Google Analytics are excellent at building intelligence on the journeys consumers take prior to reaching your website and are valuable at optimizing SEO, an integral part of any modern marketing program.
Google Analytics is not strong enough, however, to tell you which elements of a traditional campaign are working. When consumers go directly to a URL because they saw it on a billboard or print ad, how do you know where it came from? The only way to find out is to build landing pages and tie each one to different marketing channels. Then you can measure and compare the performance of each. Doing that will quickly identify which campaigns and channels are working well and which you should change or eliminate altogether.
Using Conversion to Correct Weaknesses in Your Marketing Program
Consumers are smarter and have more choices than ever before, and they know it. All too often, a prospective patient sees your advertisement, reads online reviews, checks out your website, intends to make use of your services, but then never does. What went wrong? A successful marketing program must identify what helps a lead convert and what does not. Once your program has a potential patient’s attention, the job of marketing is not over.
When patients call to make an appointment, every second they are placed on hold or forced to fumble through a set of voice prompts is an opportunity for them to hang up. When a patient makes an appointment, the time between then and the appointment itself is another opportunity to drop out. Even after the patient shows up, signs in, and is waiting to see a clinician, there is opportunity to drop out. It happens—today’s empowered patients will simply walk out of a waiting room if they have to wait too long, and they may never return.
All of the advertising and marketing in the world cannot rescue a practice that provides a poor customer experience. Dissatisfied consumers, in this case patients, will quickly share their negative experiences on review sites. You can’t even count on existing patients who have had good experiences to return. Every post-appointment follow-up, every lab result, and every billing communication is an opportunity to lose that patient if not handled properly.
Optimize for Success
That is what makes basing the success of marketing strategy on actual outcomes so vital. It starts with the first moment you have a potential patient’s attention, and it never ends, because the patients who are most valuable to your practice are the ones who are the most loyal. Attracting and keeping the right patient mix is vital to the success of your practice; and it’s the outcome that will have the most important impact on it: revenue as measured on a per patient basis. Following a marketing program based on this outcome will help identify who those patients are and help you to find the best ways to reach and retain them.
If you’d like help with your call strategy or digital marketing plan, contact us today to learn how our healthcare marketing experts can work with you to acquire more patients.