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With an ever-changing and complex landscape, healthcare marketers are facing more challenges than ever before. Growing consumerism and changing demographics in healthcare have led to higher patient expectations and demands. Regulatory uncertainties make it hard to strategize and execute on long-term growth. New entrants from retail and technology are shaking up the traditional ecosystem. Increasing marketing touchpoints and channels have created an overwhelming amount of noise for target audiences. With all these changes, it’s clear that the winners in healthcare are those who can embrace technological solutions faster. One thing is for certain—if you don’t innovate, someone else will.

Attending this year’s SHSMD Annual Conference gave me insights of how healthcare providers have tackled these challenges by undergoing a digital transformation in different parts of their business. In this blog, I’ll share three ways to leverage digital solutions to deeply understand patients and stakeholders in ways that truly move the needle.

Personalize Physician Engagement

Physicians are more overwhelmed with marketing messages than ever before. Tired of a constant barrage of phone calls, emails, and office visits, it’s not surprising that a recent study by ZS Associates shows that over 50% of physicians have stopped responding to sales reps. To combat this while driving service line growth and moving market share, Valley Health System transformed the way it approached physician relationships. Using a “needs-based relationship” approach, the team found the key to building physician relationships is by uncovering pain points and addressing them.

With targeted communication tools, marketing teams can uncover and track each physician’s top concerns, such as improving patient outcomes or staying current on professional information, and communication preferences. By combining the two using digital marketing tactics, you can drive the most compelling message through at the right time and the right channel. Moreover, these insights can enable physician liaison teams to build trusted advisor relationships. Unlocking insights about an individual physician’s newsletter subscriptions, which articles they’ve read, and which CME’s (Continuing Medical Education) they’re interested in, can help target communications and drive conversations to help physicians understand truly what’s in it for them.

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Leverage Virtual Health

Virtual Care is a transformational solution that produces real revenue results and can impact lives in profound ways. Mercy Sisters rolled out virtual health options to the sickest 5% of their chronic health patients who also contributed to the highest healthcare costs. With virtually supported home hospice care, elderly patients were able to stay home surrounded by family and comforts, instead of a nursing home. They interacted with physicians more frequently and received quicker response rates. Not only did this improve quality of life, but it also had enormous revenue benefits, Mercy was able to reduce Medicare and labor costs, totaling $1M in cost savings. Although we tend to think technology can create an impersonal and disconnected culture, this is a great example of how technology, combined with change management, in a healthcare environment can make a real and personal difference to human lives.

Understand Patient Journeys

In healthcare, increasing your share of voice by understanding the ins and outs of your target audience is not a new concept. Especially in crowded urban geographic regions, health systems have leveraged databases to research patient demographics and use focus groups to test messages for years. However, what’s new is the idea of designing marketing campaigns around the concept of “digital first.” To grow market share in a highly competitive region where leaders consistently outspent them in marketing, UI Health did just that.

First, the marketing team armed themselves with in-depth insights about their target audience. This changing demographic doesn’t just include millennials, but anyone exhibiting digital and participatory behaviors, including over 33% of seniors. This audience tends to self-diagnose online, use online research to confirm a doctor’s diagnosis, and share health information via social media. Armed with these insights, the team crafted two ad concepts designed for online viewing, rather than a traditional TV ad, and tested them with a virtual focus group. But they didn’t ignore traditional advertising completely. By creating a consistent experience across channels, such as running TV and YouTube ads together, physically reaching Millennials with billboards, and having a single continuum from paid search and display ads, they actually saw 2.4x more ROI.

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I hope these examples can serve as inspiration for you, as it did to me, to think critically about your organizations and look for transformational ways to innovate. Let’s challenge ourselves to take a risk now because the consequences are too significant to wait on the sidelines.

Share your stories of healthcare innovations you’ve seen both inside and outside of your organization. I’d love to hear what you have discovered. Tell me about it in the comments!

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