How Marketing Is Transforming Healthcare by Promoting Personalized, Proactive Care

By: Brett Colasanti  | 01/15/2020

This isn’t your father’s healthcare.

Today’s consumers expect to “own their health,” which means they have the control, awareness and tools to influence their healthcare decisions. To connect with consumers, providers must create memorable experiences that inform, delight and spark an emotional connection. And with healthcare more consumerized than ever, patients want access to relevant, personalized information and services simply by tapping a screen or clicking a mouse.

As the healthcare landscape changes, so does the landscape of healthcare marketing. Evolving business models, policy changes and technological innovations — supported by an increasingly digital-first population — are influencing how and how often providers engage their audiences. Healthcare marketing no longer stops after patient acquisition. Healthcare marketers have to influence other points in the patient journey to reduce or remove friction and improve the overall patient experience.

Nurturing a long-term relationship with patients begins with adopting a patient-centric approach — both to care delivery and to marketing. The “healthcare flywheel,” CRM and marketing automation are all key parts of this process.

Marketing Across the Patient Journey: The Healthcare Flywheel


Traditionally, healthcare marketing focused on acquiring — or re-acquiring — patients for individual episodic events and point-of-care treatment. It began with providers. And this approach gives a limited view of how a patient actually navigates their healthcare journey. Instead, we need to shift our thinking. Healthcare begins with patients and engages them as active participants throughout their journey — from research through delivery of care — and beyond.

To meet patients wherever they are in their journey, providers need an evolved marketing model like the one we developed at Hileman Group: the Patient-Engagement Flywheel. The flywheel represents a provider’s engagement with a patient across a given time. Each turn of the wheel represents interaction with a provider or system during a care episode. Each blade has specific goals and messaging.

Here’s a breakdown of the various stages of engagement:


This is when a healthcare organization is influencing people engaged in online research. Let’s call this person “Sue.” At this point, consumer choice is at its highest, and Sue is most open to input as she makes her decision. The goal at this stage is to engage and influence Sue about specific provider and treatment options.


This is when Sue requests an appointment. During this stage, the provider would want to include location wayfinding and appointment reminders in its messaging to ensure that its relationship with Sue remains active.


At this point, Sue’s a patient receiving treatment, but continued communication along her particular care path is paramount.


Sue’s treatment is complete, which means messaging centers on rehabilitation and wellness care to ensure a happy and healthy patient.


This focuses on post-episodic care. No provider wants Sue to disengage completely, so the provider continues to nurture their connection with her through various wellness initiatives. During this stage, campaigns are measured, analyzed and optimized.


Removing Friction After Acquisition

Marketers know that finding a provider is only one step in a person’s healthcare journey. That’s why leading providers are implementing ways to ensure patients can get the care and ancillary services they need — when they need them — as painlessly as possible. It’s a matter of removing friction from the patient experience. This is where marketing can assume the dual roles of patient advocate and provider ambassador.

Engaging your audience and nurturing a relationship with them begins with adopting a patient-centric approach to not only your care, but also your marketing.

Consider a couple of cases outside of healthcare. Like a tiny Chipotle inside your smartphone, Chipotle’s app lets you order and pay for food ahead of time so you can walk right up to the counter, grab your bag and go. Disney’s Park Hopper® option allows guests to not be constrained to a single product choice, because they can visit multiple parks per day. These companies are identifying points of friction that constrain the complete customer experience. And they’re resolving them in how they offer their services.

As the face and voice of healthcare providers, healthcare marketers must focus on ensuring a frictionless experience for today’s healthcare consumer. This thinking has led to the creation of patient-focused blogs, scheduling apps, and secure patient portals for accessing blood test results and other health-related information. But there’s more room for growth and innovation here. Staying connected with the consumer and improving the overall patient experience have never been more important. By addressing those points of friction that influence people to exit the healthcare system, marketers help providers give their patients reasons to be loyal “customers.”


Putting Patients at the Center With CRM

Modern healthcare systems need growth as much as they always have. But today it’s less about bringing in as many new patients as possible for episodic care and more about patient-centered care that keeps patients engaged throughout a lifecycle. That’s why forward-thinking healthcare systems and clinics are applying CRM software and principles to create a more cohesive patient experience – from marketing and lead generation to regular care.

A key to transforming marketing is delivering the right content, information or service to the right person at the right time. And the right technology manages marketing processes and integrates marketing messaging. In other words, by combining the data and analytics of a CRM system with marketing automation, you can initiate meaningful interactions with prospective patients when it makes sense to engage them.

CRM software can also help you create better outreach and campaigns by providing more insight into who your target market is. This kind of technology makes it possible to segment your patient audience, resulting in more meaningful, relevant communication. What’s more, a CRM can help you track and measure all your practice’s sales and patient engagement activities to your audiences while helping you maintain and build relationships with your current patients.


The Power of Personalization: Marketing Automation

Because providers must engage prospective patients where they are at every step of their healthcare journey, the practice of sending a singular message to all patient segments is ineffective at best.

Whether you’re reaching out to current or prospective patients, marketing automation (the technology that manages marketing processes and campaigns across multiple channels automatically) is invaluable. It enables you to execute everything from lead-generation programs and personalized nurture campaigns to special events and webinars with maximum efficiency.

Used by marketers across an array of industries, marketing automation:

  • Enables healthcare organizations to use and measure omnichannel marketing seamlessly throughout the patient journey
  • Allows for a one-to-one patient conversation, creating a more personalized experience for prospective patients on their own journeys
  • Nurtures prospective patients throughout the entire patient journey (i.e., marketing funnel) with focused, relevant content — instead of overwhelming them with “blasts” of catch-all content that speaks right past them.

Keep in mind, though, that marketing automation is just the software. Strategies for lead generation, data management and marketing operations are still required to make it “run.” The good news is that marketing automation makes it possible to implement all of them effectively — at scale — while helping you incorporate other tech-stack items with custom and native integrations.


Cultivating Healthy Relationships

In recent years, Hileman Group has collaborated with industry leaders like Cleveland Clinic, Baylor Scott & White Health and Vanderbilt University Medical Center to create campaigns based on detailed patient personas that address specific motivations and concerns during a particular stage of the patient’s healthcare journey. With topics ranging from diabetes to pregnancy to heart disease and cancer, the campaigns provide content designed to resonate with the reader, whether a mom-to-be or a retiree living with arthritis.

Content adapts to where the patient is in their journey. Here are some examples:

  • “Awareness” content starts the conversation by educating the patient on a particular health topic or condition of interest.
  • “Interest/engage” content providing answers or patient stories related to a patient’s high-level questions or concerns about a condition or its treatments.
  • “Desire” content introduces the patient to your healthcare brand and what distinguishes you as their choice option.
  • “Action” asks your leads to take a definitive step, whether it’s scheduling an appointment or finding a nearby practice, to convert them to a patient under your care.

The Evolution of Healthcare Marketing

With shifting mindsets and advancements in digital technology, the time is ripe for positive disruption within healthcare. Whether you’re a health system, provider, pharma or payer, evolving your thinking — and your marketing — is a prescription for growth and long-term relationships.

To discover how Hileman Group can help you engage your healthcare audience throughout their journey, contact us.

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