Data, data, data

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Today’s guest article comes from Ken Robbins.

Ken Robbins is the CEO of Response Mine Health, a marketing agency that helps healthcare and wellness companies grow their new customers and patients.  Ken’s team serves clients like Mayo Clinic, The Emory Clinic and Back Pain Centers of America. Ken has been featured in Strategic Health Care Marketing, Healthcare Dive and the Journal of mHealth.

Leveraging anonymized patient data to create personas to better identify and market to potential patients

 In the new world of health consumers, physician practices can learn from retail and other industries how to better attract customers. As empowered health consumers are redefining the rules of the healthcare game, it’s time for practices to get a deeper understanding of how to effectively market to their potential clientele. 

Anonymized patient data provides incredibly powerful insight into who to market to and the best way to do so. Diving deeper into data to identify critical information about patients served in the past, can help guide your marketing efforts. When you leverage patient data, you can create marketing personas to identify target users and potential customers. Patient database segmentation – a stock and trade way of analyzing CRM and patient records – has become a proven marketing tool. 

In spite of the clear potential that patient personas represent, they are massively underutilized in the healthcare space. The concept of creating and applying patient personas is, however, becoming a popular theme at healthcare industry conferences. Practices, hospitals, and large healthcare organizations can tap into patient personas to increase engagement with their target audience and make more informed marketing decisions. As patient personas can drive more relevance in creative, copy, and benefits when marketing, they also help accelerate response and increase patient volume. 

To begin, let’s explore the following topics to give you a thorough understanding of the potential that patient personas represent:

  1. What are patient personas?
  2. What steps should you take to develop them? 
  3. How effective are they to create more favorable marketing results?

What are patient personas?

In the new era of health consumerism, practices are forced to become more consumer-centric than ever before. Hospitals, too, are stepping outside their comfort zone, as they are using techniques to gain a more intimate, in-depth understanding of their target audience. The creation of patient personas is one such technique, which allows you to describe your ideal customer. This determination is based on the research you conduct on your existing customer base. 

Some examples of metrics and feedback that patient personas use are:

  • demographics
  • consumption patterns and behaviors
  • pain points
  • marketing preferences
  • patient needs

What steps should you take to develop patient personas? 

Gathering the above information helps you define the types of patients whose business you want most. Appending records with demographic and behavioral data uncover incredible opportunities in where to market. Negative patient personas can also be used for the opposite purpose, which is to identify patients with undesirable qualities. For example, you may wish to exclude patients whose treatment requires specific diagnostic equipment. This exclusion could be highly relevant if your practice has no in-house diagnostic equipment available.

Patient data segmentation involves working with sensitive information. Remaining compliant throughout the entire process is paramount. This is why anonymizing the information first is an essential step. Once anonymization is done, you can then begin to gather facts about patients and ultimately use the results to make a determination about market potential. Patient personas provide you with the necessary information to help determine your best course of action as you move forward. 

Patient segments reveal who is the most valuable to your practice. They lead to the development of patient personas. Here is an example: Karen, professional mom – kids, but a career, mid-40-50 yrs old. You can use techniques like RFM analysis to help you pinpoint the customers you want to focus on to help grow your business. 

What is RFM analysis?

RFM stands for:

R – recency

F – frequency

M – monetary


This type of analysis is a marketing technique that can be used to define your ideal clientele quantitatively by examining the following:

  • How recently a patient has used your services (recency)
  • How often they use your services (frequency)
  • How much revenue does the patient bring to your practice (monetary)

RFM analysis is based on the 80-20 rule, the marketing hypothesis that states, 80% of your business come from 20% of your customers.

Technology has made it possible for marketers to collect and analyze data with ease. You don’t need to jump through hoops to develop patient personas. You can use surveys and website forms as part of the process. 

Analyzing your website data truly offers an incredible source of information. Gather data from current and prospective patients on your website to gain insight into what patients are searching for, the challenges they face, and what they expect from you. Take a close look at your website’s search history to capture data, such as age and essential demographic information, insurance provider, and more.

Patient interviews are also a fantastic source of information. Many people love to share their thoughts and experiences and will answer genuinely during in-person and phone interviews. Use these interviews to uncover what’s important to them when choosing a healthcare provider, and how they gather information and decide. 

How effective are they to create more favorable marketing results?

Most healthcare marketers, even those in a highly specialized niche, have multiple patient personas, with a mix of positive and negative. This diversity of personas is similar to how marketers in the retail sector are defining their audiences as well. Each patient profile is valuable because they deepen marketing knowledge and encourages more informed communication. They also help identify ways to deliver more high-quality service and better overall patient experience.

Key takeaways

  1. Start with a project plan around goals for patient volume and assumptions on “who” will be a great patient.
  2. Engage a third party to help anonymize the records and bring them out of CRM to work with
  3. Database marketing & techniques like data appending require specialized agencies. Consider using a company with expertise in database marketing to help you achieve your end-goal. Make your marketing far more resonant and compelling for your best audiences.
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