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Using Business Intelligence to Enhance Healthcare Marketing

Business intelligence has a lot to offer clinical healthcare organizations in terms of crafting real, evidence-based marketing messages.

This article originally appeared on the BeyeNETWORK

Rising costs. Medical errors. Waste and inefficiencies. Inconsistent payment policies and inequalities. The news is plastered daily with negative messages about healthcare organizations, and it is only going to get worse. Clinical healthcare organizations in particular are on the public relations defensive in terms of quality, costs, patient safety, etc. What makes this situation even worse is that this firestorm of negative messages is fueled by statistics, trends and credible real-life stories. All of this information is being used against you at every turn.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. One thing that you can do right now is to dig into your data to find positive messages about your organization reflecting the beneficial impact you are having on your patients, your purchasers and your community. The same or similar information that has become bad press can also become good press. You can use your own business intelligence data to counter these negative messages by going on the offensive and being proactive.

Healthcare Marketing Messages

Healthcare marketing is different than marketing in other industries. Part of this difference is right in the name of the industry, i.e., “care.” No matter what segment of the healthcare industry that your organization operates within (clinical healthcare, healthcare research, healthcare equipment, healthcare insurer, etc.), your marketing message must contain an element of mission, goodwill and community service. In other industries, it sounds a bit phony to talk of “care” and service to the community, but this is expected in the healthcare industry. After all, most other types of businesses are in it for the money, and people in general expect it to be this way. Healthcare is held to a higher standard.

Given the fact that healthcare marketing messages require an element of goodwill, some key building blocks must go into any messages that come from these organizations. Healthcare marketing must be:

  • Believable. Your messages need to be real. They need to reflect your true organization, or else your patients, your staff, your physicians and the public as a whole will laugh at them.
  • Backed by evidence. This means clinical evidence, research evidence, business evidence, economic evidence. Facts, statistics and studies are essential elements of healthcare marketing efforts.
  • Constant, consistent and pervasive. Your message needs to be the same regardless of where it is delivered. It needs to become a form of “frequent inoculation,” so that it can evolve into something much more valuable ... your reputation.

Fake messages can do more harm than good and can cost you a significant amount of money. Consistent, real messages are essential.

Using Business Intelligence to Support Your Marketing Message

Business intelligence is increasingly being used to provide the organization with information regarding the following measures:

  • Quality Accreditation.
  • Pay-for-Performance.
  • Operational Efficiency.
  • Effective Outcomes.
  • Community Impact.

Since you need this information for reporting to those who hold you accountable on these measures, you might as well get the benefit of using these same measures in your marketing messages.

Here are some examples.

Quality Accreditation Measures. Between NCQA, JHACO, URAC and other national healthcare quality accreditation organizations, there are hundreds of programs and measures that your organization can participate in. Chances are good that you already participate in several and are supporting this participation with information systems and business intelligence applications. These programs and measures have become so widespread that in many cases they are already viewed as commonplace. In essence, they are the price of entry into the healthcare field. But with a little digging and drilling into the information behind the measures, you can unearth compelling stories and statistics to use in your marketing messages.

For instance, let’s say you are meeting the requirements for 10 of the 61 measures offered by the NCQA through their HEDIS program. This is great, but so is your competition. How many of those measures are you exceeding? Which ones are you so good at that no other organization can touch you? How many could you set the standard on? Find those, and you have a real story to tell, with evidence to back it up.

Pay-for-Performance Measures. In the future, it is conceivable that if you do not cure somebody, you will not be paid. That future may not be too far off. But for now, you are rewarded for good performance, beyond what you are paid for providing the healthcare services themselves. Pay-for-performance contracts are becoming widespread and are even getting attention at the national level. Our next President may very well be elected based on his or her platform regarding how to drive performance into the healthcare industry through financial and economic means.

In the meantime, you are held accountable through these contracts to a certain level of performance beyond simply caring for and healing your patients. Measures such as lack of absenteeism, ability to function effectively at work, reduction of healthcare expenses, etc. are used to determine your rewards.

Why not use this information on an aggregate basis in your marketing messages? For instance, use your information and information shared by your partners and payers to make credible, fact-based statements about how many people you put back on the job last year. Use this information to tell your prospects, patients, customers, recruits and donors how much more effective the workforce has become as a result of your efforts. And how many more families are healthier and happier because you made a difference.

Operational Efficiency Measures. On my way to work, there is an ad for a hospital emergency room that promises a physician will see you in 28 minutes, or the visit is free. Why not 30 minutes? Because this hospital used its operational information, its business intelligence, to define its service level more precisely. This is marketing power. Healthcare consumers want convenience, comfort, efficiency and quality. Your data becomes your best ally in driving both your ability to meet these desires and your ability to talk about them with a high level of credibility.

Effective Outcomes Measures. How many people did you care for last year? What was the impact in terms of improved patient functionality? How much have you used evidence-based medicine and contributed to that body of knowledge? Data is essential to answering these types of questions. The answers to these questions make for compelling marketing and public relations messages. Plus, if you don’t like the answers, you can use the deficiencies as action plans for future development and improvement. Then you can crow about your accomplishments.

But loose, scattered data alone is not enough. Outcomes and clinical effectiveness measurement is complex and full of potential traps. Your data needs to be organized, clean and efficiently accessible by a wide range of professionals before it can ever be used as the basis for marketing messages. This is where business intelligence structures, processes and tools can make a real difference.

Community Impact Measures. Every year, millions of pieces of data are sorted, sliced, diced and summarized in order to develop and/or update community impact reports for a number of government agencies and economic development organizations. This information tells who you are, who you serve, how you operate and what your plans are for growth and improvement. This is a rich source of data to make evidence-based marketing messages about your organization. How many people do you employ? How much money do you pump into the local economy? How much does your reputation increase the value of people’s homes and businesses in the area?

Business intelligence data that you already own can help you translate regulatory statistical requirements into compelling marketing messages. For instance, data from your patient registry applications gives you profiles of your various patient populations and how your care has improved their health conditions. It also gives you trend information on how you are combating costly debilitating diseases in your community. Combined with provider information, it tells you how you are putting skill and knowledge to work to improve the health of the community. The list goes on and on.

These are just a few of the hundreds of ways in which business intelligence information can be used to improve your marketing messages to make them real, evidence-based and easy to tell frequently and consistently.

Next Steps

Business intelligence has a lot to offer clinical healthcare organizations in terms of crafting real, evidence-based marketing messages. By delivering these messages frequently and consistently across all channels your organization can enhance its reputation, which is worth its weight in gold. But you have to know where to begin. A good place to begin is with a rich understanding of your organization, your patients, your providers, your activities and your community. This understanding resides in your information, your business intelligence.

Thanks for reading. I look forward to your comments.

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