By Jacqueline (Jacquie) Goodwill, APR
The other day, I met with a physician whose practice was just getting off the ground. She came to our meeting well-prepared and engaged in our conversation about how-to capture market share and prevent outmigration. At the end of our meeting, I was impressed. As we said our farewells, the physician totally surprised me by saying, “you know, I never had to do marketing before. My patients used to just come to me.”
What she said to me reflects the angst of many medical practitioners and health administrators. Back then, not only was marketing a foreign concept to them, it also was incredibly difficult to quantify the return on the investment. Today, with all the ways we can reach out and touch our key community stakeholders-Facebook, our website, or online advertising, just to name a few-we are amid an age of constant communication. It’s natural for many in the health care industry ask, why even bother with a Customer or Patient Relationship Management Program?
First and foremost, let’s understand what it is. Customer Relationship Management (CRM), or, as it is referred to in the health care industry, Patient Relationship Management (PRM), enables direct-to-patient communication. In its application for the health care industry, it provides the medical practice or health system with both business intelligence and a communication platform to educate and inspire patients-or prospective patients.
Knowing who to reach
So, let’s say you want former and prospective patients to engage with your cardiology practice. You want to know who has need for these services. More than just age and height-weight, your PRM should provide invaluable insight on who is most likely to benefit from care. For prior patients, their procedure codes lend significant insight. For prospects, there exists a host of publicly-available data to lend insight on their propensity to need specific health care services. Knowing more about your possible patients gives you a higher likelihood of reaching the right person with your message.
Keeping track, from contact-to-conversion
Now you know who to reach with a call-to-action for your cardiology practice. That’s a great first step. Next, you issue your direct-to-person communication. After that, your PRM vendor-partner will compare those in your target audience with the list of patients for those specific procedure codes. They can also check those names against related procedure codes. Like a deductive reasoning exercise, you will derive your “direct lift” or your “associated lift,” respectively. Using PRM, you create a direct correlation between the engagement or promotional campaign and the results of that campaign. You know, without a doubt, whether your work, or investment, was worth the effort.
But wait, there’s more…HIPAA compliance in PRM
Patient data is serious business. HIPAA states that failing to ensure the privacy and security of patient information triggers serious penalties. Naturally, as a result, PRM solutions must be HIPAA-compliant. How do they do that? Well, communication to your patients must be health-related, and may cover fundraising. Their information must not be sold or traded to market other products or services.
Along with how it is used, your PRM vendor must sign a Business Associate Agreement (BAA) and follow technical and physical security requirements. Whether handling physical or cloud-based systems, your vendors must demonstrate adherence to HIPAA standards.
It’s a brave new world, out there. The transformation of the health care industry is making each patient encounter more valuable-and scrutinized-than ever before. It is possible to quantify your promotion, in ways that are HIPAA compliant and that will stand the test of value with your chief financial officer. Whether your goal is to increase patient volume, reduce readmissions, increase ROI, or all of the above, you can achieve it with PRM.