Posted: January 4, 2018

Managing marketing campaigns for healthcare organizations can be an exhausting process. But mapping the healthcare consumer experience — the journey from awareness to discovery and beyond — can seem like an even more daunting task. But, it's an essential part of designing a successful healthcare marketing campaign.

The good news? There's an easily identifiable starting point, no matter the size of your organization. The key, as always, is understanding your audience.

Begin With Feedback
Healthcare marketing is all about providing routes to awareness and conversion for prospective patients. Craft campaigns by examining what existing patients and patient stakeholders have to say about the level of care they're receiving, and identify trends that resonate with patients.

Positive and negative feedback are equally valuable in the planning stages of a new healthcare marketing campaign. Consistently good feedback strongly indicates the best selling points of a practice, whether it's a recruitment philosophy that attracts the best providers, policies that improve levels of care, or even facility amenities that put visiting patients at ease. Meanwhile, negative feedback helps pinpoint issues with the organization that need to be remedied in order to increase conversion and retention. Can you decrease ER wait times, and the ensuing complaints, with a campaign redirecting consumers to one of your urgent care facilities, for example?

Surveying Patients Post-Treatment
There are varying methods for gathering feedback, but to be effective, ensure you're collecting from multiple data streams. There are industry standards when it comes to feedback collection, chief among them the mandatory Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS). But keep in mind that relying on just one source of data like the HCAHPS is inherently limiting.

Additional surveying tools are, therefore, a requirement for receiving information from consumers in a post-treatment environment. You can use online survey tools and questionnaires as well as direct mail to gather this deeper feedback. Additionally, face-to-face interviews, most often conducted during patient checkout, are also beneficial as an additional data stream. Designing surveys and creating interview situations that provide as many opportunities to patients to leave detailed feedback is a must in order to gather enough data to begin constructing a clearer picture of the overall consumer experience. If your surveys and interviews show that your satisfied patients most appreciated the convenience of same-day scheduling, for example, you have a solid data point to promote in your next social campaign.

Feedback Collection Through Social Media
As useful as surveys and interviews may be, they're not the only tools to gain insight into the consumer journey. In fact, when it comes to one of the best alternative methods for gaining unsolicited opinions and feedback from patients, social media is an often overlooked source of valuable data. Plus, you can see feedback from people other than the patients themselves — think about how useful knowing what a parent or adult caregiver thought about your check-in process, for example, could be.

Public online review websites provide opportunities to gain insight into what patients and other stakeholders think and feel about the quality of care and treatment they've received at a particular facility in ways that might not be addressed in more directed user feedback surveys. Meanwhile, social media content where patients openly criticize or praise a practice, or specific providers or personnel associated with that practice, provide opportunities to follow up and appropriately address concerns or problems in a meaningful way. You'll need a consistent strategy for how to handle these reviews and mentions, both positive and negative, so you can improve your digital presence over time.

Other Feedback Concerns and Strategies
The importance of sourcing feedback from multiple data streams is undeniable. However, as crucial as it is to ensure you're collecting data sets from diverse sources, it's also just as important to ensure the content of that data is going to be beneficial in mapping consumer journeys. This means that collection efforts need to be focused on experiential data through the entirety of a consumer's contact with your organization from initial awareness via a search or social ad to conversion to scheduled appointment from a website form and beyond.

Identifying how patients became aware of and/or discovered your healthcare organization, and their decision making process in converting to a patient under care at the facility or location, should be a primary concern of any feedback gathering. Likewise, collecting data on what needs to be done to retain an individual as a patient also needs to be prioritized, as long-term retention is one of the primary goals of any healthcare marketing plan.

The Final Word
An effective healthcare marketing campaign can't exist in a vacuum; it needs to be built upon a solid foundation of statistical data, gathered from diverse sources, and focused with laser precision on both patient conversion and retention. Viewing data collection and healthcare marketing as a whole through the lens of the consumer experience by mapping the consumer journey gives you a solid foundation for crafting effective campaigns.

You need to keep in mind the consumer journey doesn't end with an appointment or procedure — a patient who is satisfied and pleased with the level of care he or she receives can transition into a strong advocate for your organization. Having unofficial brand ambassadors in the form of extremely satisfied patients is an invaluable asset that can help maximize your other marketing efforts.

Focusing on consumer experience and gathering data on the journey consumers go through from awareness to advocacy provides opportunities for you to create a more navigable path for future patients. When you know what worked, and what didn't, to engage consumers and influence them to choose your organization, you've found repeatable strategies that can help you demonstrate a return on your organization's healthcare marketing investment.

Want more insight into creating a strategy for winning healthcare consumer experiences? Request a free assessment.