How Healthcare Marketers Can Master Patient Acquisition
Events of the past few years have forced massive change for the area of patient acquisition and retention. Put simply, healthcare institutions’ bottom lines have been hit—and hard.
Met with problematic staff shortages, a high cost of inflation, health plan pressures and the COVID-19 aftermath, healthcare institutions are experiencing widespread financial difficulties:
- Historically, reimbursement rates have increased 1–2% per year—well below the current inflation rate and not nearly enough to cover rapidly increasing operational expenditures.
- The average length of stay in hospitals increased by 19% in 2022 compared to 2019, according to data from Stata Decision Technology.
- By 2025, the U.S. is estimated to have a shortage of 446,000 home health aides, 95,000 nursing assistants, 98,700 medical and lab technologists and technicians, and 29,000 nurse practitioners, according to a report from Mercer.
- The American Hospital Association reports that hospitals experienced $202.6 billion in losses in the first four months of the COVID-19 pandemic alone.
This perfect storm means healthcare marketers are challenged with not just getting more patients, but getting the right patients. But every challenge presents a new opportunity, and savvy healthcare marketers are getting smarter about patient acquisition and learning to convert more profitable patients.
These five steps can help you acquire and retain quality patients.
1. Assess Your Managed Care Contract Portfolio
Of course, quality and compassionate health care is needed by everyone regardless of what their insurance provider will cover. But marketing dollars are limited, and in order to master patient acquisition, healthcare marketers must maximize their spend. That can be achieved by aligning with managed care to better understand the preferred payor by service and by service line. Armed with this data, healthcare marketers can understand where to invest to ensure their organization not only serves its communities but also does it in a financially responsible way.
It’s not a stretch. Marketers already are marketing managed care content—think open enrollment campaigns, top-of-the-funnel campaigns and Medicaid redetermination communications. All of these are driven by managed care strategies and milestones.
Maximize your collaboration and coordination with managed care by working alongside the department to strengthen stakeholder relationships, create a unique competitive advantage and maximize return on hospital budget.
2. Leverage Marketing Insights Into Patient Lifecycle
Conversely, healthcare marketers can provide valuable insights for managed care. The more data you have about how and where people and money are moving across your organization, the more you can align your contracts and marketing to efficiently increase revenue.
In other industries, this is known as demand-side insight. It's about time healthcare marketers started round-tripping demand-side insights back to their managed care teams to help drive better payor rates.
To start, incorporate marketing insights into the patient lifecycle in order to prioritize service areas in your next payor contract negotiation.
3. Determine if You are Driving Traffic to Service Lines With Capacity Issues
With fewer patients cycling through the system, and reimbursements trends falling increasingly further behind necessary operating costs, it’s crucial to target marketing strategies to make the most of each interaction. In the process, you can convert more leads into loyal patients.
Unfortunately, especially in large health systems, siloes between service lines and departments exist. That can lead to a disconnect between where the healthcare organization has capacity and where marketing dollars are allocated. When marketing drives patients to service lines with capacity issues, you create a negative patient experience, end up with an overwhelming patient volume and degrade impact staff morale—not to mention the fact that it’s an inefficient use of marketing dollars.
To identify capacity issues, track speed to encounter, the time from initial contact to the date of service. For example, understanding that your average contact to service timeframe for oncology is six months due to a recent influx of patients, you may choose to adjust your marketing dollars.
At the same time, analyze financial data and external market factors to identify high-value service lines that attract the most patients and doctors, bring in the most sustainable revenue, have the best outcomes and offer the most potential for growth.
4. Don’t Relegate SEM and HRAs to Tactical Tools
If you view search engine marketing (SEM) and health risk assessments (HRAs) as disparate, tactical tools in your toolkit, you’re missing out on an opportunity to create powerful conversions that result in greater downstream revenue from each encounter.
Through SEM, you can capture interest at the initial point of education and decision-making—nurturing the patient’s journey further down the funnel. From there, HRAs help potential patients assess their next steps and accelerate conversions. When working together, the two tools can effectively shorten service line lead funnels, improve visit value and increase care access—all leading to cost-effective growth.
5. Deploy a Full-funnel ROI Solution
Healthcare marketers are increasingly tasked with demonstrating indisputable ROI. By deploying a full-funnel ROI solution, you can determine and defend your marketing investments. Remember the famous quote from successful U.S. merchant and forefather of marketing, John Wanamaker? "Half of marketing works, I just don't know what half?” It's time to retire that statement and start showing that marketing, as an investment center, is both art and science to drive bottom line growth.
Unlock ROI InsightsTM is a web-based reporting tool that calculates marketing ROI down to the specific service line, market and campaign level to match investments in lead generation activities with revenue. Unlock ROI Insights is the first and only purpose-built solution for healthcare organizations that can integrate clinical data from provider and ambulatory EHRs with marketing campaign data in a safe, secure, HIPAA-compliant environment.
Real, defensible ROI for large healthcare organizations requires gaining insight into full-funnel, downstream tracking that connects the dots to clinical data—all while maintaining the highest standards of compliance. The market has been looking for a transparent, reliable way to match campaign leads to downstream revenue. Unlock ROI Insights is that solution.