Customer Relationship Management (CRM) can be a nebulous term, referring "to practices, strategies and technologies that companies use to manage and analyze customer interactions and data throughout the customer lifecycle". That dry definition is broadened by the phrase "throughout the customer lifecycle", expanding the application of CRM to every phase of an interaction with a customer or prospect. And when applied to healthcare marketing, it becomes even more complicated.
First, any communication must, of course, strictly adhere to privacy laws. And we are not simply communicating with "customers" who want consumer goods or services, rather people who are searching for answers about something that’s far more vital.
Permission and relevance are table stakes
The foundation of any healthcare communication plan tailored to individuals is, of course, permission, given HIPAA’s strict proscriptions on gathering and utilizing data. Thus, any CRM must have the fundamental default of requesting and receiving permission from individuals who provide this data based on their desire for better information.
The second principle of healthcare CRM is to have a technology infrastructure that can accurately gather, track, store, and sort these interactions, and then utilize them to deliver relevant communications. And the final, vital step is to deliver those relevant communications in a very specific healthcare context. What constitutes relevant information varies widely, but there are clues based on specific patient groups, as well as their preferred methods of communication.
Responsive CRM ensures relevance
Let’s say an individual is diagnosed with Stage 1A (T1N0M0) non-small cell lung cancer. This devastating diagnosis will trigger a search for answers from doctors, the Internet, and other resources. Of particular interest will be basic information on the disease, its prognosis, and treatments.
Communications to this effect — whether they’re email, direct mail, or web resources — can outline some essentials:
- Prognosis: The disease has a relatively high survival rate (49%) compared to other forms of lung cancer
- Treatment options, including the various surgical interventions (wedge resection, lobectomy, pneumonectomy), as well as treatment for those with non-operable cases (radiotherapy) Impact on quality of life and potential outcomes
- Lifestyle changes that may influence the course of the disease and practical considerations, such as dealing with the financial burden.
From this point, let’s say the patient complies with treatment and achieves success. Perhaps they are even told by their physician that the cancer is in remission. New questions arise:
- What does remission mean?
- What are the terms that define it (asymptomatic, tumor markers, response to treatment)?
- What is recurrence?
Hopefully, the patient’s journey segues into complete remission. If there is a recurrence of the cancer, the journey would take a different branch with many different communication options, from details on renewed treatments to the importance of compliance with treatment, to the potential for a difficult discussion about hospice care and end-of-life wishes. The key is that the communications remain relevant.
Analysis and adaptation are key to effective CRM
There is a wide range of conditions, representing an exponential number of paths in each patient’s journey. To be effective, healthcare CRM must have a system to navigate these paths, adapting to what the patient is going through, what information they want, and how they want to receive it.
To meet the latter need, marketers require the ability to segment, survey, and profile their audiences, and analyze and optimize every aspect of the engagements – optimally in real time. Marketers adapt by providing dynamic content across the communications channels that are effective to their target demographic. If the open rate on one email is vastly better than an alternate, a marketer leverages that information for future streams. If a landing page produces minuscule opt-ins, an alternate one needs to be tested.
In the end, the performance of a marketing campaign and the CRM tools must be specific enough to tie this performance back to actual revenue. A holistic CRM will do everything from evaluate the number of opens in an email campaign and the number of interactions with a landing page, to tracking the journey through to the point of sale for a pharmaceutical company.
By tailoring CRM effectively, healthcare marketers can achieve their return on investment goals while providing patients the vital information they want.