Fight Dirty Healthcare Data Like You Fight MRSA

Just as hospital clinicians are aggressively fighting accidental infections at every turn, so too must hospital marketers diligently battle the numerous dangers threatening their online data. We all know that MRSA – methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus – is a serious problem in healthcare; what not enough healthcare executives understand is that inaccurate Google Analytics tracking is causing “garbage in, garbage out” at hospitals nationwide. Service line managers should be reviewing, analyzing, and cleaning their data meticulously, so they can not only optimize their online conversions, but also trust their data and advocate for additional financial resources.

Why should you care about your data?

In a recent Analytics audit we did for a major national healthcare system, we found that almost every major metric was inaccurate:


Unfortunately, dirty data lurks at every turn and can creep up when you least expect it. Like a doctor diligently washes her hands to protect her patients, you can protect your marketing efforts from infection by implementing these preventative measures below.

Dive deeper into your referral traffic.

In a recent audit we did for a major national healthcare system, we found over 78% of the “referral” traffic was actually internal, guest wi-fi access hitting the main homepage. Because of this inaccurately-categorized internal traffic, the hospital was overestimating its homepage visits by 23%.

Implement subdomain-friendly code across all online domains.

This same hospital didn’t realize that they needed to implement subdomain-friendly code across its five different online domains; its .edu site, blog, and internal search, were all incorrectly tallied as referral traffic. All of this can be easily fixed with Google Analytics code that properly tracks the user’s cookie. As a result, here’s what the hospital’s Analytics was showing versus the reality:

Referral Data

Don’t miss out on the latest updates to Google Analytics.

You installed Analytics a long time ago, so you’re golden, right? Wrong! Analytics has been through several upgrades recently, and hospital marketers need to take the unfortunate step of having to upgrade their Analytics code. Especially exciting is the new Demographics reporting capability: this reporting will give you not just a look into your overall traffic, but also who your leads and new patients actually are. Check out the slide below – do your hospital’s service line marketers understand their leads at this level of detail?

What We Know About Your Leads

In the future, to keep up with the ever-changing world of online marketing, hospitals should implement Google Tag Manager, which allows for far more flexibility and adaptability than previous versions of Analytics.

Attribute traffic back to the appropriate campaign.

With every email or online campaign, hospital marketers must also be conscientious about tracking every link through Google’s URL builder. Because of this hospital’s campaign misattribution, the hospital’s email traffic lacked any campaign attribution – robbing the hospital’s hard-working email specialist of her well-deserved credit. Again, here’s a look at the what the hospital’s Analytics were reporting, versus the stark reality:

Reality Metrics

Establish Analytics Goals to satisfy long-term objectives.

Many hospitals face the dual problems of both heavy turnover within their marketing departments, and shifting priorities amongst senior leadership. To combat this, set up Analytics Goals that meet the hospital’s long-term objectives – rather than just the senior management’s “flavor of the month,” which can be easily tracked as Events.

These more permanent goals tend to revolve around online conversions and user engagement, both of which can be tracked accurately; in addition, a savvy marketing department tracks its PDF downloads, virtual tours, online quizzes, and incoming calls.

Just as MRSA is no laughing matter, neither is bad data that causes wasted spend, inaccurate reporting, and strategic mistakes. If this article has you wanting to wash your data – and your hands – here are three concrete next steps to ensure your next report is an accurate one:

  1. Enlist an unbiased third party Analytics expert to conduct an in-depth audit and clean-up.
  2. Just as you distribute an employee handbook to orient new staff members, create and disseminate an online marketing handbook that ensures that team members keep your data clean in the long term.
  3. Don’t be satisfied with numerous disconnected data sources. Implementing technologies like Tableau allows you for the first time to gain clear tracking from your call center to your patient database to your analytics.

You wouldn’t want your doctor examining you without taking the appropriate sanitary measures, so don’t send out your next mailer or e-blast without ensuring your data is clean, transparent and accurate.

Check out the marketer’s guide to hospital acquisition to take the headache out of rebranding:

The Art of Rebranding

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