One of the hottest strategies in marketing today is CRM, or Customer Relationship Management. While basic CRM marketing fundamentals apply across many businesses, a CRM health-care model must reflect the fact that healthcare is uniquely driven by services, not products.
Today’s health-care consumers are no longer led to services solely by doctors. Instead, patients are exercising their right to choose providers. In this environment, you can win and maintain patient and prospect loyalty only by developing an ongoing dialogue with individuals, or a “segment of one” audience.
The redefined CRM solution for healthcare is built on understanding customer needs and health histories, allowing you to effectively implement and track health promotion and prevention programs for your patients and prospects. This strategy focuses on building and maintaining individual relationships to increase the lifetime value of each customer.
Unlike product-driven industries in which telecommunications plays a large role, CRM for healthcare uses different communication delivery channels to connect with individuals at the right time with the right message, including Internet technology for responding to identified needs gathered through interactive health risk assessments (HRAs) and other database sources. Patients and prospects receive customized messages based on individual responses. CRM for healthcare also relies heavily on direct mail, including service offers or discounts that match the needs of current and potential patients.
Built on the right information delivery platform, CRM for healthcare offers:
- better prospect identification;
- marketing campaign management and marketing test cells;
- contact list development;
- event trigger communication; and
- campaign effectiveness measurement and marketing return on investment (ROI).
The implementation of a sound CRM strategy for your practice should be driven by the creation of a sales and marketing database and the power of the web. The unique blueprint or data model must be industry-focused, marketing driven and technology enabled.
What makes healthcare different from industry is the technical and complex patient, payor, and provider codes, including procedural and diagnostic acronyms required to build the database. Highly specialized knowledge and extensive health-care industry background and understanding are necessary. In addition, the applications required to support the marketing functions are highly specialized. Because of these requirements, outsourcing to a knowledgeable and experienced information technology provider is a good idea.
The components of a mature health-care data repository that provides a near-complete view of individual patient and prospect activities, attributes and behavior at the household level include:
- information-captured from an organization’s accounting and medical records;
- external information-enhancement data and marketplace data culled from outside data sources; and
- computed information-software functions to analyze data such as marketplace projections and health-risk assessment data.
The database accepts information from a number of “encounter” areas in a closed-loop feedback system that can provide immediate value to the user — such as results from an interactive health risk assessment — and can offer immediate information for strategic planning and marketing.
The health-care database should be developed and maintained with the most powerful open software available. The correct tools must be applied to make the database fulfill the tasks for which it was designed, in order to analyze and “mine” the data for information opportunities. This software, based on algorithms and statistics, can be grouped into three categories: information delivery and data analysis, data mining, and campaign management. All information should be accessible to the user on the desktop through standard word-processing and spreadsheet software.
Strategic Planning For Success
Once the data warehouse is built, you need to develop a plan to take full advantage of CRM’s capabilities. Start by asking the key questions any health-care provider must pose: What do I want to accomplish with my CRM program? Where are my opportunities? Who are my individual customers? What is the make-up of their households? What do they need? What is their health status? Are they insured? What is the message I need to communicate to them?
This is the starting point for a comprehensive annual plan, and is a springboard from which marketing can elevate its impact from a reactive force to a proactive change agent for your practice as well as your patients.
A CRM market plan might include:
- overall evaluation of services/products for value and efficiency;
- development/marketing of programs that can improve wellness and quality of life;
- tracking and evaluation of communications efforts and annual refinement; and
- overall market evaluation for revenue opportunities and growth areas. Identify the size of your market by total number of customers and analyze your current market share compared with your competitors’ share.
With this information, the most important thing you can do is define a goal and pursue it. For example, you may decide you want to increase market share by 10%. Or you may decide you want to become your area’s leader in preventive health-care services.Communication Vehicles
Once you determine your goal, you must develop your message and determine how to communicate it.
Some of your options include:
Direct mail: Surveys show that health-care consumers overwhelmingly favor direct mail to television, newspaper and radio advertising. In addition, direct mail pieces are important for the CRM model because they can include a response mechanism to feed and refine the database. Direct mail vehicles can be plugged into your overall plan to as a result of database analysis and needs identification, serving as a means of expanding the database and strengthening individual relationships.
For example, suppose you have a budget to mail 5,000 pieces to individuals in your market who are within a certain age range. You can select the top 5,000 prospects from the database and generate a mailing list. Responses to the mailing via a response mechanism would be added to the database and would provide return on investment figures in terms of services used and money generated.
Areas you could choose to focus on for a direct mail campaign to your patients and prospects include:
- Preventive healthcare: Educate prospects and patients about the importance of preventive care and wellness care, and highlight some of the services you offer.
- New movers: An excellent way to welcome new individuals to the community and initiate a dialogue with them through special offers.
- Community wellness: You can direct people to an on-line health risk assessment. Respondents receive valuable health information and suggestions, while you continue to gain valuable information for your database that will help you offer programs based on identified health needs.
You can further reinforce direct mail campaigns though:
- Education/seminars: Provide information to the community on the benefits of chiropractic.
- The Internet: The Internet continues to pervade every aspect of business and healthcare. By developing an interactive website, you can build on established relationships within the community.
When you direct customers to your website, you can offer information of value, and collect information about them. Thus, the website becomes a two-way, trackable communications stream that simultaneously fulfills user needs and feeds the CRM information warehouse. For example, CRM web capabilities can automatically trigger a personalized direct-mail piece or on-line coupon based on needs identified by an on-line health risk assessment. This marketing strategy is called event-trigger campaign management, because the communication is “triggered” by the encounter and provides specific information about the customer during the encounter. The event trigger campaign also includes a response mechanism to determine how the individual used the information. The answers update the database and help establish an ongoing relationship with the prospect.
There are many ways to approach a CRM solution and plan. As healthcare adopts a customer service focus, it is an ideal time to follow your colleagues in other health disciplines who are using CRM to develop an ongoing dialogue with patients and prospects. In doing so, you’ll discover that a comprehensive CRM program can improve the health and competitiveness of your practice.