Marketing a new service line goes beyond compelling creative and powerful messaging –having measurable results will gauge the success and relevancy of your marketing strategy and sustain your organization for the long run. To get to measurable results, you must gather DATA. Before you start reciting HIPAA guidelines, let us explain. Yes, HIPAA has created a protocol for how and when healthcare brands can collect patient information — certain methods that gather data without patient consent are completely off limits. However, there are effective ways to measure patient response that are both HIPAA-compliant and incredibly useful from a marketing perspective. As a healthcare provider, it’s important to constantly reshape your marketing tools to reach a wide audience and make an impact on your community, and there’s no better way to understand what’s working (and what isn’t) than tracking patient response.
So, how do you put patient tracking into practice without violating HIPAA? First, you should understand exactly what the law outlines. According to U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, “doctors, clinics, hospitals, psychologists, chiropractors, nursing homes, pharmacies, and dentists” are just a few of the parties who must adhere to HIPAA guidelines in all patient matters, including marketing endeavors. If a patient’s information is being used, it will require his or her authorization, and this extends to any type of internal or third-party tracking.
One popular way to track incoming patients is through phone calls. Think about it – people always have a phone at their side and, in terms of healthcare, a phone call can easily segue into booking an appointment. According to a report compiled by Invoca, phone calls offer a conversion rate of 30 to 50 percent, a number than towers over an online click’s 1 to 2-percent conversion rate. In addition to drawing in more leads, making a trackable phone number available to prospects can highlight how patients are hearing about the service line. For example, if you are marketing a service line across multiple platforms, like billboards, digital ads and magazine ads, this method can indicate which mediums are driving conversions for a more streamlined marketing strategy. However, be mindful that media works synergistically together. If you see a medium that is not generating direct phone calls, but know anecdotally that it is adding value to your brand, think twice before dropping it from your marketing plan.
As a healthcare provider, call tracking is one tool for your marketing toolbox, but don’t discount HIPAA regulations. It seems easy – incorporate a phone number into an advertisement and watch the calls roll in – but, there’s more to consider. What if a patient shares personal, healthcare-related information on this phone call? Well, that’s when things can get tricky. To ensure your call tracking is HIPAA-approved, you’re going to want to use a service that is specifically tailored to healthcare call tracking. CallRail, for example, is a call tracking service that identifies and blocks personal patient details while keeping certain HIPAA-compliant keywords in-tact, so the call can still provide helpful marketing analytics.
Another way to track patient enrollment is through physician referrals. This means of tracking patient response not only requires healthcare providers to be in constant dialogue with physicians, is also calls for a monitoring system to be put into place that goes beyond the average spreadsheet. There are a variety of referral tracking services that outline important patient referral information, such as the referring provider, the receiving provider, the reason for the referral and whether the referral was approved. This method is great for tracking patient response and can serve as a valuable CRM tool once a patient has enrolled in a service line. As always, if you are using third-party software, you will need to make sure that the information is encrypted to meet HIPAA privacy standards.
Signup sheets and contact forms present simple, HIPAA-compliant ways to gauge interest and measure response. Whether you’re promoting a newsletter, an event or a new service line, a signup form can be used to compile an easy-to-read list of prospects. As seen in an infographic created by Kissmetrics, 64 percent of marketers name landing pages as the most effective way to test the value of a product or service and “48 percent of marketers build a new landing page for each marketing campaign.” Landing pages beckon patient response with clear call to actions like “Sign up here” and, even better, since patients are volunteering their personal information, all of the collected data falls under the HIPAA-compliant umbrella.
Shifting your focus to the patient community, both online and in-person, can provide key information about patient response. Community classes and events are not only excellent for connecting with patients on a personal level, they’re also a great litmus test for patient response. During these events, consider handing out patient surveys to gather opinions on a certain service line. You can also speak to class instructors to gain some perspective on how patients are responding to your hospital’s services. Online communities can also offer essential data on campaign performance. With social media, for example, you can look at follower growth, user engagement and click-through rate to determine the impact of your online marketing strategy.
Lastly, when tracking patient response, it’s always wise to monitor service line activity and general hospital activity during the length of your marketing campaign. Keeping track of factors like total appointments booked, procedures performed and beds filled, and comparing these numbers to the period before a service line can provide a quick snapshot of patient response over time. You can also extend this method of data collection to general hospital activity, as total procedures and appointments for every service line, year over year, provide important insight into your hospital’s marketing endeavors as a whole.
When it comes to collecting patient information, you don’t want to cut corners. HIPAA adds a whole new level of gravity to healthcare marketing, as severe penalties are often doled out for non-compliant practices. Having patience with your patient response will ensure your healthcare marketing strategy drives results without the threat of a costly setback.