Posted: February 21, 2018

While marketing teams in other industries focus on escorting prospects down the funnel and then handing them off to a sales representative, healthcare marketers have to extend their focus on engagement. Your efforts can’t end when the prospect becomes a customer or patient; in many ways, your efforts are just beginning. You have to understand the entire consumer patient journey – even beyond initial marketing touchpoints – to be effective at inspiring loyalty and satisfaction long term.


According to Aberdeen Group research, companies with a formal consumer journey management program see the following advantages over organizations that lack such a program:

  • 54% greater return on marketing investment
  • More than 10 times improvement on the cost of customer service
  • 24% more positive social media mentions
  • 3.5 times greater revenue from consumer referrals
  • 18 times faster average sales cycle

Consumers generally like continued engagement and communication beyond the clinical handoff because it makes them feel their healthcare provider or organization has a real interest in their well-being. As a result, those consumers become more loyal to your organization.

By incorporating ongoing touchpoints, you can map your consumers’ journey to further drive engagement beyond initial interest or scheduling. Consumer journey marketing uses rich content, automation, personalization, and segmentation to progress consumers to appointment setting, diagnostic capture, and appropriate care. You can use a consumer journey’s insights to decide what calls-to-action to offer prospective and current patients, so they can take the appropriate next step with your organization.

The Consumer Journey
So, what does the healthcare consumer journey look like, and how can your organization use it to engage with consumers? Each stage of the journey requires different tactics and tone, but all touchpoints you employ should function to create a seamless experience that offers value to the consumer and builds trust in your organization.

Start with developing a persona. Knowing who your target audience is the first step – where they live, their needs and expectations, and how they typically access information. Then focus on their decision making process – what are the main stages or phases they go through to make a decision and beyond.

When mapping out the actual consumer journey, think of the journey as the multiple potential touchpoints or encounters the consumer has with your brand as she accesses information through multiple channels and devices.

The Pre-Care Stage
1. Awareness: A potential consumer assesses symptoms and conducts research.
Develop data-backed advertisements, optimize website content, and create useful blog content to reach target audiences as they search online. Use social media platforms to reach customers organically or through paid advertising or use online patient forums and research networks to engage with prospects in real time by answering questions, connecting people with physicians, and building relationships between prospects and health systems.

2. Help: The consumer’s initial contact with the health system, usually online or through a call center.
Once a consumer makes an inquiry, downloads a guide, or books an appointment, you can use email nurturing to keep them engaged and satisfied until the point of care. With automatic reminders leading up to the appointment, consumers are less likely to drop out of the clinical process. You can also push the call center as a resource to have pertinent questions answered before coming in.

The Care Stage
3. Care: The consumer becomes a patient.
Here’s where the initial clinical handoff happens. While marketing doesn’t generally influence patient satisfaction efforts here, working with executives and cross-functional teams toward organization-wide consumer experience improvements can help connect the dots in this area.

4. Treatment: The patient receives onsite follow-up care.
After a consumers’ first appointment, healthcare marketers should continue deploying marketing tactics to ensure patients stay connected with the healthcare organization. Depending on the size of your team and organization, you can get consumers to opt-in to email newsletters, send them wellness visit reminders, promote general screenings and health initiatives, etc. to keep your consumers engaged after care.

The Post-Care Stage
5. Ongoing care and proactive health: The patient adopts proactive health strategies.
The goal during these stages is to ensure the consumer receives relevant information that will help them maintain a healthy lifestyle and relevant information to help them make the adjustments their physicians requested, such as such regular exercise or long-term medications. Communication at this stage serves another purpose: If a health issue does arise, your healthcare organization will be the obvious choice to address the problem.

This outreach can be done through email, postcards, e-newsletter, or a patient portal, and may include medication or follow-up appointment reminders, satisfaction surveys, latest health developments, or answers to questions.

Healthcare marketers need to understand how the consumer’s goals in each stage relate to your organization’s business goals. This can become your plan on how you will reach, engage, and convert the consumer using the most appropriate tactics, channels and content at each stage of the journey. And it will also help you understand the best metrics used to measure success at each stage.


Note: While we’re showing a linear journey here, the fact is that it is more often circular as the consumer goes back to some earlier stages multiple times in their journey.

How to Simplify Mapping That Journey
Without data, mapping your consumer journey is little more than conjecture. It’s important to look at your current marketing campaigns, evaluate which channels and tactics are most popular and effective, and look for gaps that you can fill with content, messages, web pages, etc. Good marketing automation software will have some of the data you need, but to get a more complete picture of your consumers, their demographic makeup, preferences, health literacy, and other distinguishing factors, you need to combine your other data with data from a healthcare-specific CRM.

Learn more about mapping your consumer journey, including templates and worksheets to get you started, or request a free healthcare marketing assessment to determine the best place for your organization to get started.