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Tom Hileman leads Hileman Group, an award-winning agency delivering high-touch, data-driven marketing solutions for leading organizations.
Individuals who are actively engaged in their health care are more empowered to stay healthy, allowing for more control over their health. Unfortunately, that control was limited by the Covid-19 pandemic and its restrictions, which led to a devastating number of undiagnosed cancers. In fact, according to estimates from the National Cancer Institute, pandemic-induced delays in screenings could account for roughly 10,000 additional breast cancer and colorectal cancer deaths over the next 10 years.
So, what are the next steps now that we are emerging on the other side of the pandemic? How can we, as health care marketers, undo what the pandemic has done to preventive care? Below are four ways marketing can help health systems reengage patients in their care.
1. Make it personal.
We have talked at great lengths about the importance of personalization in health care. Personalization allows health systems to learn more about their patients, providing better care and improving outcomes. And, while that is certainly important, in this instance, we’re talking about how health systems talk to patients.
Engaging patients in their care means we health care marketers need to better understand their needs and tailor our messaging to what’s important to them. For example, if you have patients who are at-risk for certain types of cancer (e.g., have a family history, exhibit risky behavior, etc.), you will want to emphasize the importance of routine skin checks and lung CT scans. Or, for individuals of a certain age, it might be about colonoscopies and mammograms.
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How to use marketing to get personal:
• Data: Integrate customer relationship management (CRM) tools with electronic medical records (EMR). By integrating these systems, you can better manage patient interactions and provide a greater patient experience that can, in turn, lead to increased patient retention.
• Content: Develop personalized content for emails and landing pages. Speak to the things that really matter to the patient (e.g., cancer prevention tips, healthier lifestyle strategies, etc.) and motivate them into action.
• Mar-tech: Leverage your mar-tech stack by identifying patients for the appropriate conditions and setting them on the right marketing nurture paths.
2. Make inaction riskier than action.
Obviously, the risk factor of action this past year was Covid. That’s why, according to a study by JAMA Oncology, an estimated 9.4 million cancer screenings didn’t take place last year due to the pandemic. But now, more than a year later, inaction is the true risk factor.
Routine screenings help detect cancer in its earliest stages when it is the most treatable. The American Cancer Society states a colonoscopy can help reduce the incidence of colorectal cancer — the third most common cancer in the U.S. — by 40%. This past year’s delay in care could lead to finding more advanced cancers, potentially making treatments more difficult.
Marketing can help incite action through content. Show the importance of early diagnosis and routine care through infographics. Create risk assessments in the form of quizzes and other interactive tools. Demonstrate how the inaction of regular screenings can lead to cancer or other serious medical conditions.
3. Make it easy to execute.
It can be hard to get an appointment for preventive care. And other exams (i.e., colonoscopy) sometimes require a referral from a PCP. Giving patients an easier way to make appointments can remove potential barriers and show patients the path toward a healthier lifestyle.
Marketing can make this easy by utilizing:
• Digital engagement: Integrate mobile apps into your patient experience to help them easily find a doctor, schedule appointments and get referrals. And build on your existing telehealth offerings to those who can’t easily travel.
• Data: Establish regular follow-ups and reminders to help confirm credibility, show patients you care and keep the health system top-of-mind when making appointments.
4. Make it run at scale.
The above activities cannot be manual to be sustainable. Automating processes can help eliminate steps that don’t provide real value so that you can, in a way, “set it and forget it.”
Marketing can automate mundane processes with mar-tech. Nurture potential patients with highly personalized content that converts. One of the main benefits of marketing automation software is reducing the number of repetitive tasks. Also, analyzing campaign performance can reveal inefficiencies in your marketing content and workflows, helping scale your efforts.
The pandemic took a toll on the health care industry, leaving millions of patients at risk. But it doesn’t have to end there. By implementing these four strategies, health systems and marketers can inspire patients to take back control of their own health care, leading to an increase in preventive care and an overall healthier population.
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Author: Tom Hileman, Forbes Councils Member