woman drawing global customer structure

Create a Portrait of the Healthcare Consumer with Unified Digital Strategies

Fast food restaurant operations often rely on the assembly line method, assigning one person to perform and perfect a specific task. The result is that the customer experience and end product never change—consumers can trust that what they ordered off the menu is what they have always ordered. In healthcare marketing, however, the experience and outcome are multifaceted: each patient is a consumer with individual needs, and the treatment, or end product, is informed by dozens of interactions.

How can digital strategists across separate departments align their functions and tool sets to better track those interactions and inform marketing initiatives?

That was the focus of a session at the 2019 Healthcare Marketing & Physician Strategies Summit this past May. Chris Boyer, System Director of Digital Strategy and Analytics at Fairview Health Services (Minneapolis, MN), one of the speakers for the session, explains how digital strategists across teams are often siloed.

“Depending on where you sit, the role of the digital strategist can be dramatically different,” Boyer says. “I’m on the marketing/communications team, and because of that, my role as a digital strategist is focused on enabling the digital technology and processes to support the marketing efforts underway. If you’re in IT, however, your role as a digital strategist is focused on internally developing the tools and strategies to make other team members’ jobs more efficient.”

Collaborate With Consumerism in Mind

While each person has a specific function to perfect and perform, Boyer explains individuals on the marketing, IT, and clinical side alike must collaborate for the sake of both transparency and effectiveness in attempting to predict organizational needs and promote service lines with the consumer in mind.

“The way most health organizations have been built does not promote collaboration across departments,” Boyer says. “In this new day and age when consumerism is impacting healthcare, and when we’re starting to really try to understand how to apply digital technologies in a much more advanced way, learning to work together is crucial.”

One of those digital technologies is a CRM, which is widely employed in the retail industry but still finding its footing in healthcare. According to Greystone.net’s 2019 State of Digital Healthcare Marketing Report, fewer than six in 10 health systems have a CRM system in place. According to Boyer, implementing these kinds of systemwide tools to collect data is key to creating a more seamless team approach.

“From a marketing perspective, we can use a CRM to identify how people who are not patients become patients,” Boyer says. “Once they become patients or pick up the phone to make an appointment, the call center can reference the CRM to understand where the person came from and how they discovered the facility. The CRM also allows us to track every interaction the patient will have with the organization going forward.”

Increase Brand Awareness and Bolster Operational Planning

With consumerism on the rise, using digital tools to track interactions not only allows separate departments to work together as they optimize marketing initiatives but also helps inform operational planning and forecast growth.

“Most healthcare systems have strategic planning teams whose role is to identify needs in the marketplace, but they work separately from the marketing team,” Boyer says. “For instance, if a system has established that a neighborhood needs a primary care clinic and wants to open one, both teams could leverage digital tools to collect data about the audience in that specific marketplace. Then, they could work together to better understand the area’s consumers, develop ways to begin engagement with them prior to that new clinic opening, and more accurately identify the organization’s investment.”

How can you leverage digital tools to inform strategic planning and build brand awareness in the process? Boyer provides these examples:

● Encourage people to follow and engage with your social media accounts so you can gather feedback, learn more about your audience, and strengthen your community presence.
● Request patient testimonials that you can share with your internal and external audiences.
● Invite community members to be involved in the design process of a new facility or renovation.
● Launch a telemedicine service prior to opening a new facility to fill a gap in care.

Moving Toward One Goal

When it comes down to it, the real benefit of aligning digital strategy is allowing all departments to get to know the whole consumer, not just the version they must focus on to do their respective jobs. Using standardized data pulled from handfuls of tracked interactions, this type of unbiased knowledge allows a more vivid picture of the consumer to develop.

“By developing unified digital strategies, you’re actually advocating for the customer by building digital solutions that aim to understand him or her better,” Boyer says. “We can’t live in a world where our responsibility is very much structured in one area. Our real responsibility is to first understand our customers and then understand how we can leverage other digital spaces within our organization. We must move toward the common future goal—which is being customer-first.”


Learn more about the role of the digital strategist, as well as healthcare CRM strategies and other digital solutions! Order the 2019 Healthcare Marketing & Physician Strategies Summit Playback.

This post was developed in partnership with True North Custom, the official content partner for the 2019 Healthcare Marketing & Physician Strategies Summit.

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