When the pandemic hit in early 2020, financial losses for health care organizations were drastic. “We were essentially hemorrhaging as an industry. Over four months, from March to June, it was estimated that the health care industry was losing about $50 billion a month,” says Jason Brown, CEO and chief strategy officer at the marketing firm, Brown Parker & DeMarinis (BPD).
While the cavalry soon arrived in the form of three COVID-19 vaccines, the virus has continued to disrupt operations, most recently due to a surge fueled by the variants. Many health systems are now struggling to determine how they will regain their financial footing in its wake.
A “game changing,” precision marketing approach that helps identify the most receptive consumers and engages them with personalized messaging may help organizations do just that.
Leaders from AdventHealth and its marketing partners, Optum and BPD, recently discussed this approach during the HealthLeaders Marketing Now Online Summit for Effective Marketing webinar.
Slipping market share
Even before the pandemic, AdventHealth, a 49-hospital system based in Central Florida, was feeling the pressure from an influx of competition and a light flu season resulting in declining ER volume, says Sharon Line Clary, vice president of strategic marketing and communications for AdventHealth.
As the marketplace grew more crowded, so did the marketing space. “We could no longer approach our marketing strategy like we did in the past. We had to find a way to break through the clutter,” says Line Clary.
The organization piloted a precision marketing campaign designed to speak directly to the people likely to use their services, says Anthony Cadieux, executive director of digital marketing strategy for AdventHealth. But they needed digital tools and help from marketing partners to make the leap.
“Cue Optum, which offers incredible visibility across the market to help you identify your best prospects,” says Cadieux. The detailed insights from Optum helped identify people in the market area likely to align with key hospital services by creating tailored messaging to turn them into customers.
Optum and BPD mined digital data to prioritize 850,000 people, dividing them into 11 specific cohorts. Some of these included young singles without a primary care physician, married individuals with kids, very sick people with more than two or three diseases requiring complex and difficult care, and people of all ages suffering from unexplained stomach and abdominal pains.
BPD then designed unique messaging for each group, taking into account clinical needs, gender, language and culture. People received the messaging through their preferred media channels at the times they were likely to see it.
The campaign ran for six months and was not only focused, but nimble. “During the campaign we were optimizing and when people weren’t responding, we were changing the message and continually looking at it,” says Line Clary. “We had tremendous results.”
During the six-month period, the campaign led 134,000 patients to AdventHealth rather than to the competitor's emergency departments, says Cadieux. In terms of total net revenue, the marketing investment yielded a $474 return for every marketing dollar spent.
If your organization is interested in embarking on a similar approach, there are several factors to consider.
Cost. A campaign like this requires an initial budget of up to $250,000 to install the platform to obtain consumer data, and another $250,000 minimum to run the campaign itself, says Brown. “It’s not cheap, but as you can see from the results, it’s also not expensive,” he says.
Time. A campaign should last at least six months, ideally 12 months, to be effective.
Flexibility. A precision marketing campaign can be adjusted or turned on and off anytime, says Line Clary. But doing so effectively requires ongoing monitoring.
Access. Campaign success can be tracked in real time based on patient revenue, but the organization needs to grant access to this information to do so.
Keep in mind, that this is not your traditional marketing approach, so be prepared to learn as you go. Done well, precision marketing can help your organization shore up financial losses from the pandemic and also better position it for future growth.
Adopting a laser-focused approach to marketing by reaching out directly to likely customers and engaging them through personalized messaging can provide better results with less wasted effort.
This article originally appeared on HealthLeaders on November 4, 2021.