Every clinic or healthcare organization has a lot of patient date….a lot! In fact, we’re often overwhelmed by the amount of data at our disposal. Often times, clinics wish leverage the data they have available to make better marketing & better business decisions, but are unsure of where to start. Well, a little bit ago, I was interviewed by the folks over at Chiropractic Economics to wade into this topic. In fact, they wrote two pieces based off of my interview with them. You can find those pieces here: part 1, part 2. Now, even though the interview was aimed at chiropractors and helping them wade through patient date to improve business development and marketing decisions, the information I shared is widely applicable regardless of your healthcare specialty or clinic size, so I decided to share the original interview here.


While a lot of clinicians are great at what they do, they’re sometimes not great at marketing what they do. Can you explain first what kind of data they should have and be using regarding their loyal patients? How long they’ve been coming? Where they live? What kind of issues they have?


The first metric that should always be tracked and managed when it comes to patient loyalty/retention is called “Course of Care Retention” or “Course of Care Completion Rate”. Basically, if the average plan of care for patients is 2x/week for 6 weeks, what percentage of patients are actually attending all 12 visits (or completing their plan of care). That number provides great insight into patient engagement, satisfaction, and —of course— retention.


The other data that should be collected involves demographics: age, gender, diagnosis; and even contact info (email addresses are great as they allow you to continue to keep in contact with patients after they finish a course of care or fall off the schedule for a while).


In addition to this, when you’re looking at loyal patient data, it’s important to also track: 1) average length of care (# of visits work -for example: # of visits per discharge or per new evaluation tends to be the industry standard for tracking this); 2) average revenue per patient (this can be calculated based off of average revenue per visit and the number of visits per POC) 3) average cost per new evaluation 4) source of new patient (example, MD referral, social media, google ads, etc) and 5) payer mix (insurance vs. medicare vs. private pay). These 4 data points give you everything you need to know 1) how much you can spend to attract new patients 2) how profitable each new patient is depending on their payer and 3) where to allocate your advertising budget (should you spend $ on facebook ads or google?).


Another useful tool to use is something that measures the patient experience of the process of care in a quantitative way. Something like the CARE Survey is benchmarked to standards, open source, and does a good job of providing a view of how patients experience the care they receive at a clinic. I’ve used it as an internal measure and benchmark for a while and have found it helpful in making changes to the process of care in a way that maximizes patient engagement & retention.


Once clinics know what data they need to be looking at—or if they haven’t collected it, doing that—how do they determine how to use it? What should their data be telling them?


When it comes to marketing for new patients, it’s important to consider what I call your 3 Elements (I outline that here). Part of this process involves looking back at past patients and determining which ones had the best outcomes, experience, and feedback. Again, if you’re tracking course of care completion rate, then you can break that down by diagnosis and the like. For example, if patients with c-spine dysfunction are completing their courses of care at a higher rate then shoulder pain (or leaving more/better reviews or testimonials), then you may consider developing a marketing campaign to target more patients with neck pain/c-spine dysfunction. (It also allows you to troubleshoot what may be going on with those shoulder patients). The next thing to break down would be some of those basic demographics (age, gender, location, etc.). Most EMR systems collect this data and can display it at very broad or granular levels. Breaking it down by zip code can be an effective way of determining where to spend advertising budget for digital ads and the like.


That information, coupled with 1) your clinic’s area of clinical expertise or specialization, 2) market need/demand, and 3) your organization’s mission or purpose will help you begin to craft a targeted marketing campaign designed to bring in more new patients to your practice.


In addition, information about patient-perceived quality of care (such as the CARE survey) can be used to make organizational changes, as well as provide opportunities to coaching and mentoring specific staff or clinicians for quality improvement.


What conclusions can clinics & organizations glean from this data? After they understand what they have in terms of data, how can they begin to use it in attracting new patients? Should they be going after the same kind—or different, depending on what type of patients they have?


The conclusions that can be drawn from the data mentioned above have implications for both administrative & clinical processes. For example, the data about course of care completion & patient-reported perceptions of quality can be used to change clinical processes to improve patient engagement & can even highlight which patients would be good candidates to ask for referrals/reviews etc.


The data around course of care completion & satisfaction coupled with demographic & geographic information provides insights for 1) the geographic region to target with advertising & marketing dollars and 2) the types of patients/diagnoses to target with specific offers. Once you combine that information with the three elements discussed above, you can craft powerful marketing messages & offers aimed squarely at your target market in a way that positions your clinic as the clinical experts and your offer as the most effective solution to their problem.


What kind of marketing should healthcare organizations & clinics do in order to attract similar patients?


Attracting new patients should be viewed as a 3-legged stool: 1) provider referrals or other referral sources (MDs, other healthcare providers, etc.); 2) word-of-mouth referrals; and 3) direct referrals (or direct-to-consumer patient acquisitions). Each of these sources of new patients can be leveraged in different ways depending on the situation, but as a general rule, direct-to-consumer marketing is the most reliable way of attracting new patients; mainly because you have more control over the process. With the other two options (healthcare referrals & word-of-mouth), you’re leaving a lot to chance in waiting for someone else to recommend or refer. With direct to consumer strategies, you can target, retarget, track key metrics, & adjust accordingly to hit your goals.


Now, direct to consumer marketing requires a different approach than the other two referral types. This is mainly due to the fact that, when you go hunting for patients on places like social media, you’re reaching out to prospective patients who may not necessarily be looking for the solution you provide. Therefore, more care needs to be taken to convert those prospective patients into paying patients (or plans of care).


Let’s look at a specific example: let’s say your clinic has a high POC completion rate for 30-45 y/o male patients with shoulder pain. You want to capitalize on this and attract more patients like that. The first thing to do is to determine where those patients “hang-out”. Maybe it’s a specific social media platform like facebook, twitter, or instagram. If there’s a specific mechanism of injury with those past patients (maybe they’re weight-lifters) or if there’s a demographic of patients that likely have shoulder pain, then you can use that to target patients as well. The next step is to craft a marketing message specific to those types of patients. Now, this isn’t a copywriting article, but you basically want to do a couple things with the ads you run: 1) write a catchy headline 2) show that you understand their situation/pain 3) build trust & credibility through some demonstration of expertise in that area and 4) make an irresistible offer to get prospective patients to click through to a landing page.


Now, that’s just step one. After the prospective patient lands on your website or landing page, you need to have some way of tracking conversion rates (and ensuring that they actually convert to a consultation or evaluation). There are tons of ways to do that, whether it be automated schedulers, having them call the office, or having the office call them, etc. The point is that, once someone clicks on one of your ads, your work in getting them in the door of the clinic is really only about halfway done. You need to have a solid follow-up system in place to convert those leads into patients.


Could this data also point clinics to the type of patients they don’t want to continue attracting?


Absolutely. Take the POC completion rate metric. If you realize that let’s say patients with nonspecific knee pain only complete their POC at 50% the rate of say patients with shoulder pain, then the easiest thing to do is not build out any marketing campaigns to attract patients with nonspecific knee pain. You can also use that data to put in prequalifying steps into the lead generation process to ensure that only the patients you want to work with make it through the lead generation system. A simple example is patients that may show up to an evaluation and not want to continue with a POC because of cost or the like.


This often happens when clinicians offer “free” screenings or consultations in an attempt to convert a portion of those consultations into paying POCs. The problem is that by offering something for free, you’re opening yourself up to a lot of no-shows, cancellations, and patients who want something for nothing. An easy way to do that is to offer paid consultations or write copy that includes costs and the like. This is a very nuanced topic, which requires a bit more digging into than this article has space for.


What are the biggest mistakes clinics and healthcare organizations can make when it comes to looking into their loyal patient data to acquire new patients?


The biggest mistake is to make generalizations based on data that’s not specific or accurate. For example, if all you’re doing is tracking visits per new, or course of care completion, but it’s not coupled with specific demographic, geographic and clinical data points, you don’t have enough information to craft specific & targeted marketing campaigns for specific patients/problems. Especially with direct to consumer marketing, you have to be specific & targeted. Running ads for “chiro for pain” or something generic doesn’t work. You need to call out a specific patient population, a specific problem, and offer a specific situation.


Is there anything else about that you think is important for readers to know?


It’s important to understand that there’s a whole lot more to getting new patients than just figuring out which populations to go after and how to generate leads. Until a lead becomes a paying patient, they’re just that…a lead. You need to couple the marketing & advertising with a system that is designed to convert those opportunities into paying patients.


How does your clinic or organization analyze patient data to improve marketing & business development processes? Share some thoughts in the comments below!


For more informational reads, check out our Insights Page to see all the articles we’ve published to date, recent podcast episodes, and links to past webinars and videos. Or if you want to develop a system to attract, acquire, engage, and retain more patients to increase your clinic’s revenue, learn how Rehab U Practice Solutions can help  here! You can also schedule a call with Rafi to discuss your clinic or organization’s situation and learn here.

Rafael E. Salazar II, MHS, OTR/L (Rafi) is the Principal Owner of Rehab U Practice Solutions and the host of The Better Outcomes Show and the author of Better Outcomes: A Guide to Humanizing Healthcare. He has experience in a variety of rehab settings, working with patients recovering from a variety of injuries and surgeries. Rafi has worked in a variety of settings, from orthopedic and musculoskeletal rehabilitation, to academia, and even healthcare consulting. He spent the majority of his clinical experience working at Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center, where he was the lead clinician and clinical education coordinator for the outpatient specialty rehab program. In this role, he treated many veterans with chronic pain and helped to establish an interdisciplinary pain management program. He has worked on projects ranging from patient engagement initiatives to marketing communication campaigns to a multi million dollar project assisting the State of Georgia’s Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities transition individuals out of state institutions to community residences. His work on Telehealth has been discussed in Forbes. He also has experience as a core faculty member at Augusta University’s Occupational Therapy Program, as a Licensed Board Member on the GA State OT Board, and he serves on the Board of Directors for NBCOT. He works to help healthcare clinics and organizations deliver uniquely impactful patient experiences by improving service delivery, increase revenue, and deliver better outcomes.

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