Using Marketing Technology to Improve Digital Health

Using Marketing Technology to Improve Digital Health

When people want to learn, buy, plan or do anything these days, they frequently turn to their digital devices to provide them with immediate information, answers and/or suggestions for various information providers such as company websites and mobile apps. Users expect their effort to result in a relevant experience that meets their needs. Marketers call this “scratching the itch.” If users’ needs are met, they are likely to return again and reward the information provider with their loyalty.

This consumer-centered mentality is now reaching health care, too. Clinicians are finding patients now want the doctor-patient relationship to be a partnership.  Patients often do their own research and have their own opinions on how to care for their health and well-being. In the past, hospitals mainly focused on in-patient and clinical procedures. Now, however, when the health-care industry is increasingly evaluated based on the quality of its interventions and patient satisfaction, a more proactive approach is emerging. Marketers have been using technology to foster relationships at scale for some time now. Connecting hospital groups with marketing technology could provide health care with useful tools to produce better results, especially in healthy populations where a lot of what is needed is the dissemination of information.  

The Zero Moment of Truth Has Arrived for Health Care

In 2011, the term “Zero Moment of Truth” or ZMOT was coined by Google.

ZMOT soon turned into a marketing buzzword. ZMOT describes the point in the consumer buying cycle when a person is gathering information on a product or service he or she is thinking of purchasing. The omnipresence and accessibility of digital technology expanded the relevance of the ZMOT and the possibilities it offers those concerned with quality service.

Consumers now heavily rely on online searches, peer reviews and online consumer reports to establish if a certain product or experience is going to meet their needs and expectations. Smartphones now help people decide where they are going to dine, what they are going to read, where they will go on holiday and which airline they will fly with.

The awareness of the importance of the ZMOT has now also been recognized in health-care settings. When a person is faced with a health issue, everyday decisions like what to eat, how much to exercise and which doctor to visit can heavily influence a person’s particular health outcome. Mayur Gupta, marketing technologist and senior vice president and head of digital platforms and technology at HealthGrades, talks about the consumer’s journey in health care as a perpetual cycle of ZMOT-like micro-moments. Patients want access to the best care and the best doctors. Similar to how we have been trained to vet other goods and services, those seeking medical care often look for information and ways to engage that do not require a trip to the doctor’s office.

This is changing the traditional health-care paradigm.

The continued rollout of the Affordable Care Act, coupled with consumers’ evolving buying habits, is requiring health-care providers to approach patient care in ways that evaluate not just procedural outcomes but also the patient experience. Many patients have a wider range of choices than they did before, so if a hospital fails at providing excellent service a patient might go elsewhere. Another aspect is that some health-care providers are now rewarded by lower readmission rates. Research shows that when a patient feels close their care provider this bond correlates with lower admissions. Chief Marketing Officers are now being hired by many health organizations to help optimize their outcomes and engage patients in ways that scale, using tools that were traditionally first built for establishing a connection to a brand or product.

Digital Communication as an Important Health-Care Intervention

With the arrival of technology, our modes of communication changed — alternatives to face-to-face communication were introduced and are becoming increasingly familiar. Do you care anymore that someone does not come out to pump your gas? Do you long for the time when airline baggage lines took 30 minutes because they required human interaction? Advances in communication technology can help frantically busy and over-stretched physicians who will now benefit from slightly less personal, yet possibly just as effective, ways of connecting and following up on their patients. Startups that offer technology for patient engagement and increased patient satisfaction are emerging, aiding the evolution of health care into a more consumer-centered way.

HealthLoop is an example of patient-engagement technology that is currently being tested in several medical centers. HealthLoop is built around the concept of so-called “automated empathy” – following a medical procedure, patients receive daily communication and questions from their doctor. The contact is automated, however, it gives the patient an opportunity to report back to his or her doctor, so any red flags can be detected in due time and dealt with appropriately.   

These digital technologies can be used in multiple ways. Automated systems can support medication adherence, patient screening and follow-up procedures. This type of technology is not only assisting health-care providers to communicate with patients in more effective ways, but patients to better communicate with health-care providers as well. The company DohJe was first created so that patients had better communication options for showing gratitude towards nurses. Nurses are an employee group whose work often goes unappreciated because of various factors that make it hard for patients to reach out to nurses post-care.

“Compared to traditional methods, DohJe has led to ten times more gratitude shared between patients and healthcare providers at both large academic and small community hospitals,” says Amanda Krantz, CEO of DohJe. “Because the gratitude is being expressed through technology, we also can provide a quick and simple way for supervisors to recognize providers who are making a big impact on people's lives. Studies have shown repeatedly that real-time recognition is one of the best methods to raise morale and performance.”

Further work is required to progress and adapt these methods for the purpose of patient engagement. Patients will need to trust these systems, and providers will need to address demographic and cultural differences so the technology is truly patient-centered. Nonetheless, the health care industry will undoubtedly benefit from the evolution of marketing and advertising technology, and potentially revolutionize the way patients are approached, both in hospitals as well as their daily lives.

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