Chief Strategy Officer

Performance Marketing Expert

Closing the Loop on Patient Acquisition

Throughout the many years Rise has worked with healthcare providers, we’ve witnessed a major shift from brand-focused marketing to targeted patient acquisition. As consumers are exposed to a growing number of healthcare options, healthcare organizations are faced with increased competition for share of voice. This has led healthcare to become one of the fastest-growing categories in terms of advertising spend – reaching a record $9.7 billion in 2015, with digital ad spend alone growing 20.5% in the past year. As greater investments are being made across the industry, it’s vital that healthcare marketers understand the impact of their advertising dollars and maximize areas of greatest opportunity.

Healthcare organizations that prioritize identifying and understanding the initiatives that drive patient acquisition will be primed for more efficient ad spend and increased ROI. By developing the right analytics framework, understanding your goals and KPIs, and continuing to advance your analytics maturity, your team will be best equipped to “close the loop” and optimize marketing spend.

In order to successfully develop a data-driven strategy, it’s important to achieve clarity in two key areas:

1. First identify specific goals around what you want to achieve. For instance, are you looking to drive encounters for a high-value service line with excess capacity? Or do you want to affect the payer mix of your patient base? Are you trying to achieve both?

2. Develop the right analytics infrastructure to measure and optimize performance while developing a deeper understanding of the patient engagement lifecycle.


It’s time for healthcare marketers to move beyond disjointed proxy metrics (such as appointment request form submissions or location web page visits) and understand how marketing activities impact organizational goals.

Setting Goals
As you think about your marketing goals, establish target metrics not only at the engagement level (such as an appointment or service), but also based on the value of these engagements and how they differ across specialties. For example, the revenue generated from securing a podiatry appointment is much different than what’s generated from scheduling cardiac surgery. While this may be known from a business perspective, having the right thresholds to drive marketing strategy is critical.

Move beyond disjointed proxy metrics and understand how marketing activities impact organizational goals.

Your digital marketing campaigns (search, programmatic, social) should also have granular account structures built around service lines. This enables your team to match highly specific goals by individual specialty area to the thresholds that you have set, and allocate your media budget accordingly. The alternative, “catch as catch can” model may drive patients and appointments, but will not provide insight into which campaigns are performing and how to scale them, as well as which investments are not driving value and should be eliminated or shifted to new tactics.

Developing the Right Infrastructure
From a technology standpoint, there are also specific investments that should be made to collect accurate KPIs and develop deeper customer insights. Web analytics is the measurement foundation, and there are now numerous ways to integrate these platforms with patient record systems to close the loop from initial engagement to service delivery and even lifetime value. In addition, a number of other technology platforms will deliver the proper insights, if implemented correctly. Outlined below are some of the most critical:

  • Customer Relationship Management System (CRM) - An advanced patient-driven marketing practice starts with having a CRM system that can integrate with marketing from both the analytics and campaign standpoint (such as your email platform, data management platform, and other tools).
  • Phone Tracking - We find that many healthcare systems that are just beginning to scale their digital investments do not have proper phone tracking technology. Phone tracking through platforms such as Invoca, enables you to understand which online ads have led to phone calls. This provides the ability to determine which channel and even which creative unit (keyword, banner ad, video, etc.) is driving each appointment. Additionally, phone calls may help you drive down acquisition costs – one of our clients has found that form-driven encounters are up to 200x more expensive than call-driven encounters.
  • Landing Pages - Generating higher engagement and conversions starts with delivering a meaningful patient experience. By leveraging a content management system (CMS) platform, you’re able to develop highly relevant landing pages customized by service line. For instance, the creative design, copy, and conversion funnel may be very different for a future mom seeking prenatal information compared to a dermatology patient that wants to see a specialist as quickly as possible. Your website experience should reflect this.
  • Clinical Service ID Reporting - Is your programmatic cardiology campaign generating an efficient cost-per-lead? Do you know how many of those leads were for cardio appointments? Capturing self-selected lead type (clinical service/specialty) from the lead form upon submission enables marketers to understand correlation among all digital efforts and the types of appointments they drive. A persistent ID is the functional way of actually closing the loop, connecting business outcomes to IDs and IDs to marketing efforts.
  • Digital Surveys - Digital surveys, such as Nielsen’s Digital Brand Effect survey, allow you to gain better insight into how your programmatic efforts are driving brand preference among your target audience. This can be broken into specific target subsets, like commercially insured audiences, helping you to better understand the impact of your ads from a qualitative standpoint.

Additionally, while your electronic healthcare record technology may not have been set up specifically for marketing purposes, integrating it with web analytics platforms can accurately measure appointments scheduled online. Our team has helped leading healthcare organizations place custom tracking into these systems, enabling information such as doctor name and specialty to be pushed into Google Analytics upon a successfully scheduled appointment.

If this seems overwhelming, remember this basic, three-step framework for continuing to evolve your analytics maturity:

1. Start with strategy. Define the questions you want to answer about your marketing investments. How many new patients/appointments are you trying to generate? What is the value of a new patient or appointment? How do these differ by service line? How will patients potentially convert?
2. Then, define technology requirements. What tools or processes are needed to properly answer your questions? Once you’ve identified the business metrics you want to optimize for, develop the right infrastructure to connect the right data back to your marketing efforts.
3. Finally, model and optimize. Now that your closed loop is in place, you will better understand channel-level ROI and last-touch contributions, but likely won’t have 100% of the picture. Use models to fill gaps while you refine your implementation to capture more data.


What’s Next?
Successfully closing the loop will allow for ROI analysis at both the channel and last-touch level. There is also an opportunity to understand higher funnel influence through standard marketing tools, such as Google Analytics.

Forward-thinking marketers will see maturation in the advanced attribution space as an opportunity to understand fractional revenue contribution of online and offline media across the patient’s entire journey. What was once the holy grail is quickly becoming a reality.

To learn more about understanding your marketing investments and building a framework for closing the loop, reach out to our team at Rise.




07/06/2017 at 09:41