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Using Online Data to Predict Patient Behavior

By | April 16, 2014

wheelchairPredicting the future ain’t what it used to be. In fact, it’s more real than ever. Social media. Big Data. Predictive Analytics.  These are big buzzwords, to be certain, but also keys to helping your healthcare system or hospital to provide better and more efficient patient care.

There are times in our lives that we wish we had that crystal ball. Picking breakout stocks or NCAA upsets is great, but imagine having insight into the future based on real data. And imagine that insight being actionable. That data can impact your healthcare system directly and help you reach more patients efficiently.

No need to imagine any longer.  Your crystal ball is here with healthcare predictive analytics.

Every one of your potential patients leaves a tremendous digital footprint.  They search Crohn’s disease, arthritis treatments or dementia care. They talk on Facebook about living with diabetes. They tweet about migraines and join forums to learn about concussion prevention.

And you, as a healthcare marketer, can use that data to anticipate patient needs, prepare your staff and provide better care.  Here’s how:

A variety of off the shelf tools can gather and analyze online conversations around keywords. Google and third party tools can track search volume. By marrying this data with your own historical data, you can then start predicting patient needs.

Here are a few examples of how online data can help your healthcare system or hospital.

  • Online conversations and searches around concussion injury tend to spike during the fall high school and college football season.  If you know that come November, your patients and prospective patients are hungry for information around concussion prevention, you can offer workshops, clinics and online information around the topic when it is most sought after.
  • Conversations around back and knee injuries often spike over Thanksgiving. As the dads and uncles take the backyard football games against the teenager, injuries are bound to happen. What can you do to anticipate this and offer tips, services or flexible appointment options in the days leading up to, and just after, Thanksgiving?
  • Bariatric conversations grow in volume and intensity during the holiday season and beginning of the new year.

Too obvious for you? How about these examples:

  • First, analyze the historical volume of conversations and searches around consumers talking about or searching on flu like symptoms. Then map that trend line to documented flu cases. It is very likely that the online information is a leading indicator of flu cases.  By monitoring online activity you can then anticipate the next flu outbreak.
  • If a local TV or radio celebrity takes up a cause, say breast cancer awareness, you can track the rise in local interest in mammograms and offer extended hours at your women health centers.
  • Suppose you find that weekend warriors in your area are active online during the first nice days of the year and lamenting how their old knee injuries prevent them from running.  You can make plans to heavily promote your runners’ clinics on social media and PPC advertising platforms during that first nice weekend in spring.

The days of guesswork around understanding patients are behind us. Using real data from real patients and understanding it in real times allows us all to provide better care more efficiently for our communities.


Check out our study of the competition health systems face in paid search.

Health Systems & Paid Search

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It’s National Doctors Day: Reward Your Physicians by Minimizing Negative Reviews & Generating More Patients!

By | March 30, 2014

Every day, more and more people are using the internet to research and find doctors near them. There are several websites out there such as,, that allows users to read user-generated reviews about each of your physicians. According to, who surveyed a total of 4,515 patients, patients are most likely to use online reviews as a first step in finding a new doctor. In addition, Healthgrades is the most popular site for physician reviews, but Yelp is the most trusted.

Unfortunately, sometimes even one disgruntled patient can ruin the reputation of your doctor and steer prospective new patients to another physician. According to NBC News, of 2,137 polled, nearly two thirds said that doctor ratings were “somewhat important” and 19% of those surveyed said doctor ratings were “very important.”

Below is an example of a doctor that has received less than stellar reviews from Healthgrades, which is the number 2 and 3 rankings. Users are more likely to click the top 1-3 listings than to scroll down further, so this could be detrimental to this particular physician and health system in terms of generating new patients and even retaining current patients.

Doctor SERPs

We have been working with health systems and physicians to improve their reputation management by using sponsored listings (i.e. paid advertising) to:

  • Push  negative reviews further down on Google
  • Generate incremental patients by sending users to specific pages where they can easily schedule an appointment
  • Inform prospective patients or existing patients of a new doctor for a specific health system/hospital
  • Inform prospective patients of a new doctor practicing medicine in their area

By using paid advertising through Google AdWords, we bid directly on a doctor’s name (and variations of the doctor’s name) to seal the number one position above any organic listings such as This tactic is very cost-effective, averaging around $.25 per click!

paid search doctor ad

In conclusion, celebrate National Doctors Day by minimizing your physicians’ online negative reviews (if any), leverage positive reviews and also help bring in incremental patients with these paid search marketing tactics.


Check out our study of the competition health systems face in paid search.

Health Systems & Paid Search

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Hosting a Google+ Hangout on Air for Your Healthcare Organization

By | March 10, 2014


More and more health systems, hospitals and physicians are using Google+ Hangouts on Air to replace webinars and news conferences. These public broadcasts are a great way for healthcare organizations to showcase medical research, hold physician roundtable discussions, announce organization news or publicly comment on a timely topic or event. The benefits to Hangouts on Air are they are free, allow you to broadcast to an unlimited audience, and also provide an opportunity for interaction and engagement with viewers.

Once your organization has a couple Hangouts on Air under its belt, they are fairly easy to use and don’t require a significant time investment. However, if this a new healthcare marketing idea and you are just getting started with Hangouts on Air, it can be a little confusing. Follow the four P’s – Plan, Promote, Practice and Prepare – to ensure your Hangout on Air runs smoothly.

1. Plan

While this is an obvious first step, planning the Hangout on Air is crucial to its success. Pick your date and time carefully. You don’t want your Hangout on Air competing with an industry event or Monday morning priorities. Additionally, it is important to set up your Hangout on Air on Google+ properly and give it a professional appearance prior to promoting it. Make sure to include the time, date, description, presenter bios, hashtag and a link back to your website. Create a branded banner and video trailer for your Hangout. And finally, check that your Google+ page and YouTube channel are connected properly, as the Hangout on Air will automatically broadcast to your YouTube channel.

2. Promote

Now that your event is official, promote it! Share event details on your organization’s blog, Google+, Facebook, Twitter and any other social networks. Many organizations make the mistake of only promoting the Hangout on Air on Google+, but they have a much larger, more captive audience on their other social networks. Cross promotion can help ensure your Hangout on Air is well attended. Also, encourage presenters to promote the Hangout on Air on their social networks, and ask employees to add the event link to their email signatures. Promotion should start at least two weeks prior to the Hangout on Air.

3. Practice

Test video and sound on the computers that will be used for the broadcast. Additionally, make sure the light is adequate in the rooms where the presenters will be located. It should be hosted in a private location where the microphone won’t pick up background noise. Ask presenters to wear the same shirt they will be wearing the day of the Hangout on Air. If this is your first Hangout, download the Hangout Toolbox to obtain Lower Thirds, which is the banner that runs on the bottom of the screen to tell your audience who the speaker is. Test the appearance of the Lower Thirds to ensure it shows up the way you want it to the day of the Hangout on Air.

4. Prepare

Have all presenters set up and ready to go at least 30 minutes before your Hangout on Air is scheduled to go live. Check video, audio and Lower Thirds. You don’t want to lose your audience because the Hangout on Air doesn’t start on time due to technical reasons. Click “Start Broadcast” and your Hangout on Air will begin!

Remember to keep an eye on comments in the Comment Tracker and by searching for posts with the event hashtag, so that you can address any questions during the Hangout on Air. Following the broadcast, check your YouTube channel and add an optimized title, description and tags. And finally, remember to keep promoting the Hangout on Air in the following weeks. Some people won’t be able to watch live, but would still be interested in consuming the information at a later date.


For more illustrations on how patients use social media and search, check out our webinar on The 2014 Digital Patient Journey on Tuesday, March 25th at 2 pm.

Patient Journey Webinar

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Fight Dirty Healthcare Data Like You Fight MRSA

By | February 27, 2014

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 our white paper about physician-inspired healthcare ISV market(ing) opportunities.

Health IT Market(ing) Opportunities

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Assisted Living Digital Marketing: Where We're Going

By | February 5, 2014

I know it seems like it will never come, but trust me: Spring is around the corner. January flew by – pretty soon, I won’t be able to go sledding with my girls (which is probably a good thing for my physical health). With the end of January, and our best month ever conducting assisted living marketing, I figured this would be a good time to list out all the ideas we have for advertising senior housing for our clients in the second quarter of 2014. Over the past two years, Fathom has really developed an expertise in senior living marketing, culminating in our recent guide “From Lead to Move-In: Digital Marketing for the Assisted Living Industry.”

First, let’s start with our success in providing quality leads to our clients for a very reasonable media spend. As you’ll see in the example, for one client we spent $71,258 across all our branded and non-branded campaigns in January (a branded campaign in this space is critical, as every competitor bids on every other competitor’s brand name!). Between the 646 online conversions and 520 phone calls, the cost-per-lead was a dirt-cheap $61.11.

Most senior living providers pay lead-gen sites $150 or more for a quality lead. Fathom delivers for roughly one-third of that price.

Most senior living providers pay lead-gen sites $150 or more for a quality lead. Fathom delivers for roughly one-third of that price.

Other experiments are also working out well, through local directory submissions, using second-tier advertising sites like, and Facebook remarketing. Here’s where we’re going in Q2:

1. Deep Dive on Demographics – How well do you know your audience? If you haven’t started leveraging the Google Analytics Demographics capability, what are you waiting for? Here are some actual screen shots that should whet your appetite for this exciting new feature; using Demographics has completely reshaped how we view the client’s target audience and the strategies for reaching them.

How well do you know YOUR assisted living company's leads? Are you taking action on data like this?

How well do you know YOUR assisted living company’s leads? Are you taking action on data like this?

2. Let’s get creative – Where Fathom really excels is when clients give us an experimental budget, as this client does. Given our specific target audience – mostly women, ages 45-75 – we think we can reach this audience through several channels. First, we’d like to try out Pandora, as their targeting options are perfect for our demographic. YouTube advertising offers a great way to get your brand out there in front of relevant searches by caregivers. Gmail Sponsored Promotions, though a little bit creepy, is also an exciting way to target caregivers by the content of their email in-boxes.

3. Leverage reviews – We all know that review sites like Yelp and Google+ local pages are exploding, so we need to stay ahead of the curve and actively solicit positive reviews from our residents and families. There are services that will help with this process, so we are going to try a small pilot that will both test the tenor of the reviews we receive, and also integrate those reviews into the Google search results pages. Our hypothesis is that communities with 4 stars or more will start attracting more clicks and conversions; so stay tuned for how that works out.

Google, Yahoo!, and Microsoft’s Bing all make billions of dollars on advertising. As a result, new products are constantly coming out that can help the assisted living industry drive quality leads to their sites. An agency like Fathom constantly stays on top of the latest trends and leverages them for the benefit of our clients.


Learn how to get more new move-ins to senior living facilities from the digital world. Turn more prospective residents into actual residents with our 17-pg. guide:

From Lead to Move-in

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