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Leveraging the patient journey in advanced specialty care marketing

Leveraging the patient journey in advanced specialty care marketing

When you work in healthcare marketing, the most important goals you need to meet revolve around driving patient volumes and revenue. And the most effective way to achieve those goals is by investing your time, and dedicating a lot of attention, to your advanced specialty care (ASC) service lines — AKA, your highest revenue drivers. 

So how do you go about making the most of your ASC marketing and making sure the right information meets the right people? 

Broad messaging isn’t dead yet

Before the days of digital marketing, marketers had limited options for promoting specialty service lines. For example, when advertising cardiology — one of the most profitable ASC lines in healthcare — on TV or radio, the messaging had to remain general. There was no way to tell who would be seeing that ad, or what heart condition they might have. 

In other words, you weren’t able to promote treatments for heart arrhythmias or any other condition that would only apply to a small portion of your audience. It simply wouldn’t be relevant to most viewers.

With the arrival of new technology and precision marketing, there came a need to prioritize specific, targeted ads and layer your strategy. For example, you can — and, frankly, should — begin using ICD-10 codes and prescription data to create one-on-one messaging with your patients through programmatic digital media buying. 

Why are we so confident that this approach works? Because we’ve been investing in this technology and offering it to our clients for more than eight years. And throughout that near-decade, we’ve repeatedly seen the results and success it generates. Plus, the nature of how this anonymized data is sourced means it will still be a viable source of information in a cookieless future.

Of course, this isn’t to say there’s no value in painting your messaging with a wide brush — that value is just different than what it used to be. Now, it serves as an opportunity to create a halo effect and reinforce your brand. 

So if a patient has been seeing social ads with messaging specific to their condition, that’s what they’ll remember when they encounter an ad with more generic messaging on TV, print, or radio.

Finding the balance between wide-reaching messages and precision all begins by aligning everything with the patient journey.

What’s better than one patient journey? Four of them.

Not all patient journeys are the same. Even an individual service line could have five or six different journeys. To give an example, we’ll walk you through the four major cardiovascular patient journeys DECODE looks at when crafting CV campaigns.

General Awareness and At-Risk: In reality, marketing to this subgroup of CV patients — who are likely looking for general guidance on caring for their heart health — is more of a primary care push. This journey is an opportunity to build pipelines through resources like HRAs or awareness observances like Heart Month, as well as an opportunity for business development within hospital walls. This is where you see referrals enter the picture.

Chronic Conditions: Patients with chronic heart conditions are those who are looking for a cardiologist today. There are two ways for them to find a physician: referrals from their primary care physician or by doing their own search. With this group, you begin centering messaging around the symptoms and conditions they’re already experiencing. 

Emergent and Cath Lab: This is a journey that looks pretty different from the first two because, in this one, patients don’t have much of a choice in where they go. So how do you get patients into your emergency rooms? By shifting from a B2C approach to a B2B model. The best course of action here is to craft campaigns targeted to EMS, educating them on why they should bring patients to your ERs rather than someone else’s. Your messaging within this journey can still be centered specifically around cardiology patients, but at the end of the day, all of your service lines will benefit.

Surgery: People in this stage of the patient journey are coming to your surgeons from one of two checkpoints: referrals from a cardiologist they were seeing in the chronic conditions journey or they’ll be arriving from the emergent stage. This is another example of the importance of knowing when — and how — to account for referrals and a B2B approach in your marketing strategy.

Now, with your newfound knowledge of the various CV patient journeys in hand, it’s time to dig deeper into ASC referrals — the unsung hero of your marketing plan. 

Let us refer you to your next ASC strategy

So, why place such an emphasis on referral journeys? Because they can be even more influential when it comes to driving volume and revenue within ASC lines. And although patient referrals aren’t quite as important as they used to be — thanks to the internet and a patient’s resulting ability to do their own research — it’s still an important jumping off point. 

In essence, your marketing plan needs to embrace both old and new approaches.

The tactics and collateral you see when focusing on referrals and building a pipeline might not look like “traditional” advertising; they could be emails or making sure your specialists are on social media and connecting with primary care physicians.

And most importantly, you can’t let your marketing happen in a vacuum. You have to meet with your business development team and ask what steps they’re already taking to get cardiologists or other ASC physicians out in front of the primary care providers at your organization. With that information, you can continue to create a strategy that builds off of the momentum generated by business development.

ASC is not a monolith

There are two final thoughts we suggest keeping in mind. First, ASC isn’t just acute — it’s ambulatory. This means knowing how to find the balance between the voices each aspect of your organization needs to encompass. 

And second, remember that marketing for ASC is more than one brush stroke — it’s a layered oil painting made up of different touchpoints, different audiences, and different approaches.

We get it — even though ASC isn’t a monolith, developing plans for your specialty service lines usually feels like one. As the saying goes, an elephant gets eaten one bite at a time, so take the first bite and start by mapping those patient journeys in your top specialty care service lines. 

We’ve created a patient journey template that can help you get a head start on becoming the favorite marketers in every one of your organization’s ASC lines.

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