Posted: July 12, 2017

In 2010, the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) pointed to the revolutionary potential of clinical data, writing that, "Clinical data hold the potential to transform the U.S. healthcare system," helping both to "...manage and drive improvements in care and for healthcare marketing."

"Still," they lamented at the time, "most clinical data are not collected at the point of care, and most are organized in isolated silos that are difficult to access." So, historically, that potential has been wasted.

Fortunately, times are changing.

Due to technological advancements in data collection, integration, storage, and analysis, healthcare organizations now have the ability to not only harness their clinical data in one location, but leverage it to dramatically improve the effectiveness of community engagement for the health of their populations in a way that honors the privacy and security of this sometimes sensitive data.

Pairing Clinical and Marketing Data

The silos that once bound clinical data up to this point — EHRs, practice management systems, lab data, claims information, and the like — can now largely be eliminated with a variety of integration techniques, most notably through the use of standards-based application programming interfaces (APIs). (As always, such integrations should be undertaken only with robust security measures in place to protect privacy and comply with HIPAA regulations.)

With APIs, you can feed disparate data sources into a single centralized platform, which, for the purposes of healthcare marketing, usually means a CRM. There, clinical data is meshed with consumer marketing data, crucially enabling organizations to launch marketing campaigns with the unprecedented ability to engage with consumers in a more refined, relevant, and personalized way.

NAS pointed to using data to, for example, identify a "demographic group of blue-collar or farm couples, aged 35–54, who are high school graduates and owners of single-family dwelling units." With clinical data merged into the marketing mix, it's possible to do more, like tailoring your messaging to be more engaging around what matters most to those specific people.

Personalization Can Drive Better Quality Care

By correlating clinical data with marketing data, you can not only identify highly segmented groups of consumers (information likely already found in the CRM) but also determine which customer segments represent the right patients for your organization to engage via each different medium. In other words, you're able to ask, "What are the actual demographics, socio-economic factors and clinical diagnoses of our highest-risk patients?" for example, before directing highly personalized content — i.e. health risk assessment (HRA) promotion or articles on safe exercise after knee surgery — to such specific groups, on the most appropriate media channels.

Here, the benefit isn't merely in identifying groups likely to respond to marketing, but rather in attracting patients who are, in fact, most likely to benefit from the care provided. Largely gone are the days when healthcare organizations market to mass audiences; rather, with an acute understanding of their facilities, physicians, and care plans, organizations are now better served by reaching the highly specific patient groups for whom they can deliver the highest quality of care. Integrating clinical data is the next step in achieving that patient-centered goal.

Bringing Healthcare Data Up to Speed

Of course, the trend of using personalization to reach the right consumers has taken hold across numerous industries; according to PwC, 94% of senior-level marketing executives believe that personalization is critical or important to reaching their customers, and according to Forrester research published by eMarketer, 64% of marketers use customer data to personalize content on a channel-specific basis.

In healthcare, moving towards increased personalization is doubly important: not only do healthcare organizations need to compete more effectively in digital spaces, but with the ongoing transition to value-based care, they need to maximize the quality of care delivered on a per-patient basis. As Kyra Hagan, SVP of Marketing and Communications at Influence Health, told," provider organizations that deliver a valuable, personalized digital experience are building trust and loyalty that result in top- and bottom-line improvements including greater return on marketing investment, increased patient acquisitions, higher revenues and contribution margin, improved outcomes, reduced delivery costs, and greater patient satisfaction."

In achieving such goals, the industry has come a long way. In 2010, NAS predicted that the use of comprehensive clinical data in marketing was, "...not 'right around the corner,' as sometimes suggested, but [is] likely to be realized only at some point in the future." They may find it heartening to learn that in 2017, that goal is becoming a working reality.

Need more help understanding how patient and consumer experience is the deciding factor for healthcare's future success? Read our white paper, Healthcare Consumer Experience in 2017.