Marketing Automation: A Prescription for Successful Patient-Provider Relationships

By: Chelsea Kiko  | 11/06/2019


The baby boomers are aging, millennials are starting families and the government has ramped up its regulations on healthcare marketing. All these realities have the healthcare industry rethinking the way it connects with current and prospective patients.

Gone are the days of marketing being an afterthought for medical practices. The practice of marketing a hospital’s services like a traditional business is nearing extinction. Today, more and more healthcare providers are tapping into the power of marketing automation.

Used in an array of industries, marketing automation is all about using software to automate marketing activities, from email marketing and social media posting to launching and tracking multi-stream nurture campaigns.

Today, more and more healthcare marketing teams are automating these tasks — and not just for the sake of efficiency but to provide a more personalized experience for their patients.

Marketing Across the Patient Journey

If you haven’t considered using marketing automation, consider this: one in 20 Google searches are for health-related information, according to Google. More than ever, patients are searching the web both to educate themselves about medical maladies and to screen healthcare providers for themselves and their families.

Traditionally, healthcare marketing focused on individual episodic events, resulting in a related point-of-care treatment. This approach is a limited view of how a patient actually navigates through his or her healthcare journey. To truly engage patients, healthcare marketers must take an interconnected and revolving approach — one that engages patients from their initial research through appointment verification and continues with clinical follow-up and post-treatment check-ins.

Personalization Can Be Powerful

Consumers report that the biggest priority in healthcare is personalization of care. Below are three ways personalization can be used to enhance the patient experience:

  • Email nurture campaigns that educate and empower patients throughout their healthcare journeys 
  • Social media campaigns that connect with current and prospective patients 
  • Telehealth, which enables patients to receive personal care remotely

Marketing automation helps healthcare marketers leverage these methods of engagement. Hospitals that connect with patients and have high patient satisfaction scores are likely to have higher profitability because patients will keep coming back and often bring their families with them.

Nurturing Relationships

The bottom line for healthcare marketers is this: personalized nurturing must happen throughout the entire patient journey. The practice of sending a singular message to all patient segments is ineffective at best. Marketing automation helps healthcare organizations convert prospects to patients by creating an engaging journey — one with which each patient can identify. Here are some examples:

  • With “awareness” content, you’re starting the conversation by educating the patient on a particular health topic or condition of interest.
  • Using “interest/engage” content, your organization is providing answers or solutions to a patient’s questions or concerns at a high level (there’s no specific mention of your brand).
  • With “desire” content, you’re introducing the patient to your brand and what distinguishes you from your competitors.
  • In the “action” stage of engagement, you’re asking your leads to take a definitive step, whether it’s scheduling an appointment or finding a nearby practice, both of which are keys to converting the patient at the end of the nurture journey.

A Perfect Match

Marketing automation and the healthcare industry were made for each other, according to Frost & Sullivan, a Texas-based market research company. In a recent white paper, “Transforming Digital Patient Engagement,” the paper’s author uses a clever analogy, calling marketing automation the marriage of two essential roles within a healthcare organization — the chief medical officer and the chief marketing officer. The author goes on to explain that “the two positions really share the same goals: to align on campaigns to drive business, change the ways in which patients access and consume care, attract and retain top providers and staff, improve patient outcomes and lower costs and increase revenues across the organization.”

No argument here.

The Value of Marketing Automation

Marketers are constantly being challenged to improve their lead-management process along with the quality of the leads they acquire. Forced to deal with time and budget constraints, marketers need to automate processes that are being handled manually.

While its benefits are hard to argue, it’s important to understand that marketing automation doesn’t replace your organization’s lead-generation efforts. Instead, it fine-tunes the process, enabling you to personalize your contact and maximize your opportunity to build a healthy, long-term relationship with every patient. Put simply, marketing automation enables you to reach the right person with the right message at the right time.

Effective and efficient when used well, marketing automation:

  • Enables healthcare organizations to use and measure omnichannel marketing seamlessly throughout the patient journey.
  • Allows for a one-to-one patient conversation, making a more personalized experience for prospective patients working through their unique journeys.
  • Nurtures prospective patients throughout the entire marketing funnel (i.e., patient journey) — and often with less content — compared to overwhelming patients with “blasts” of information.

The Patient-Engagement Flywheel

To meet patients effectively wherever they are in their healthcare journey, Hileman Group came up with the Patient-Engagement Flywheel. The flywheel represents a healthcare organization’s engagement with a patient across a given point in time, whether it’s acquisition, activation or nurture. Below is a breakdown of the various stages:

Acquisition — This is when a healthcare organization is influencing patients engaged in online research. At this point, consumer choice is at its highest, and consumers are most easily influenced.

Activation — This is when a prospective patient has requested an appointment. At this time, the organization would want to include location wayfinding and appointment reminders in its messaging to ensure that attendance doesn’t drop off.

Encounter — At this point, the prospect has become a patient and is receiving treatment. Continued communication along the patient’s care path is paramount.

Follow-up — The patient’s treatment is complete, which means messaging should center on rehabilitation and wellness care to ensure a happy and healthy patient.

Nurture —This focuses on post-episodic care. No healthcare provider wants its patients to disengage, so the organization continues to nurture the patient around its brand and other wellness initiatives.

Whether you’re marketing to current or prospective patients, marketing automation enables you to execute everything from lead-generation programs and nurture campaigns to special events and webinars, not to mention direct marketing and multichannel marketing initiatives.

Keep in mind that marketing automation is only the software. Developing strategies for patient generation, data management and marketing operations is your responsibility. However, if used correctly, marketing automation can help you do all of them effectively — at scale — while helping incorporate other tech-stack items with custom and native integrations.

Modern Marketing that Works

An efficient way to manage and systemize marketing tasks, processes and campaigns, marketing automation has flung open a huge window of opportunity for healthcare marketers. Thanks to marketing automation, healthcare organizations have the power to nurture and grow lasting relationships with their patients. In other words, it’s just what the healthcare marketers and medical officers ordered.

To discover how Hileman Group can maximize your digital marketing, contact us.


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