Responding to the Affordable Care Act Through Digital Healthcare Marketing

When you think of healthcare marketing, you don’t usually think of ostriches, but that was exactly the metaphor that came to mind in a recent conversation with a health insurance executive.  You see, the executive had asked, “How are your other healthcare clients and hospitals responding to the Affordable Care Act (ACA)?” When that awkward, flightless bird came to mind, I had my answer: “They’ve collectively stuck their heads in the sand … like ostriches. They are all hoping Obamacare goes away, instead of proactively dealing with it.” After the conversation ended, it occurred to me that perhaps it would make sense to outline some ways that your hospital or healthcare organization can respond to the ACA and the turbulence in the healthcare industry by using technology.

(An important aside: Before you write to correct me, in researching this blog post, I found out that ostriches really don’t actually bury their heads in the sand. Thanks, National Geographic Kids!)

Medicare is going to penalize us for re-admissions. What should we do?

We’ve talked in the past about using marketing automation (MA) in healthcare for patient retention, and we’re working with several hospitals to implement these customized, dynamic, and personalized emails for patient acquisition. But what about utilizing MA internally for patients who have recently been released after complicated procedures, where there is a real risk for re-admission? Today’s healthcare regulations emphasize value over volume, so why not offer that value online the same way you offer it in your clinic? Your emails should offer patients important, useful information for proper recovery and self-care, empowering the patient to stay healthy (and out of your hospital).

In addition to personalizing the content, your MA system should be able to flag any patient who isn’t opening or clicking through on these emails, so a nurse or doctor could call to follow up. Not only would this lead to better patient outcomes, but it would provide a tangible return-on-investment by avoiding the stiff Medicare penalties associated with regular re-admissions.

On a similar note, how about instituting marketing automation across your entire organization to measure patient satisfaction and facilitate patient engagement? Surveys, videos, quizzes, and polls all help to keep patients engaged with their own health—and your hospital.

Our emergency department, Medicaid care, and caring for the uninsured are all huge financial drains for our hospital, and we know reimbursements are going down across the board. What should we do?

As the Affordable Care Act shakes up the healthcare industry, the hospitals that will prosper are those that invest in recruiting new patients for profitable procedures. One of my hospital clients has identified three highly-profitable areas—LASIK, breast reconstruction surgery, and bariatric surgery—and is investing heavily to attract patients for those procedures. They know the exact revenue associated with each procedure, and the number of leads (in the form of screenings or initial appointments) necessary to close one new patient. With that information, we’ve created a strategy that includes pay-per-click advertising (PPC), search engine optimization (SEO), a paid YouTube video campaign, and marketing automation; these channels all work in concert to give this hospital a leg up on the competition. We have call tracking set up as well, so regardless of how a patient wants to schedule that all-important first appointment, we’ll be able to track them and the associated revenue.

On the flip side, I was at a hospital recently talking to the radiology department’s senior leadership about marketing an exciting new scanner that has the potential to catch diseases at their earliest stages, including cancer, Alzheimer’s, and much more. The only problem? They had no idea what the reimbursement rate would be from CMS, since the scanner is so new that they had yet to bill for the screenings. Only in the healthcare industry are doctors permitted to buy new equipment without any thought to how the hospital will actually pay for it!

I know revenue attribution and digital healthcare analytics are still pie-in-the-sky for many hospitals, which is why my colleague Tiffany Sumuel and I have put together a fantastic presentation called, “Yes, You Can: Valuing Your Healthcare Organization’s Website in the Absence of Exact Revenue.” I’ll be delivering that presentation—in partnership with Jane Kelley, Interactive Marketing Manager for the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC)—at the Greystone Healthcare Internet Conference on Monday, November 4th in New Orleans. Hope to see you there!

We know we should spend money on marketing, but we have no idea how to measure our return-on-investment from those marketing dollars.

Like the hospital I discussed above, closing the loop between marketing and actual patient care is critical. If you aren’t spending 2 to 5 percent of your overall marketing budget on tracking, measuring, and gaining insights, then you are missing out on important knowledge. To get a little technical, hospitals where the electronic medical record system (EMR) speaks to the customer relationship management (CRM) system and offers reporting on how marketing campaigns directly correlated to new patient acquisition are the ones that will survive and flourish in the age of the Affordable Care Act.

If you’re interested in connecting your organization’s EMR with your online forms and digital marketing, we’d love to talk to you. There is no reason that your EMR shouldn’t integrate with your online marketing, giving marketers a unique “digital fingerprint” for every individual patient.

At the end of the day, the Affordable Care Act will change everything we know about healthcare. But in any crisis, there is also opportunity. Healthcare organizations that embrace these changes and invest in their digital marketing will evolve past the other ostriches out there and take flight in this new era.


Check out our helpful 14-pg. marketing automation primer.

The Case for MA

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