The customer relationship management (CRM) market has exploded in recent years, particularly among retailers, business and financial services companies, and technology companies. Not on the list? Healthcare.
CRM is most commonly used to nurture sales leads and as we know, thinking about patients as consumers is not something providers are used to doing. But as incentives shift to reward more efficient care delivery, and hospitals start to focus more on primary care, thinking about patients as consumers has become the new reality.
Competition for hospitals heats up
Every day it seems, consumers discover they have new options for care, whether it’s a walk-in clinic at their local CVS or Walgreens, the urgent care center that opened up just down the street, or even a quick phone call to a nurse or doctor, thanks to the support line being heavily marketed by their health insurer. Hospitals can no longer rely on patients to choose to see the same physician, affiliated with the same hospital, every year for their annual check-up (or even ad-hoc for injuries or illness). Instead, they are becoming one choice among many options.
Given this new landscape, healthcare providers must focus on nurturing the patient relationship to keep patients engaged. CRM systems, which compile information on customers across channels, provide hospitals with a much-needed solution for tracking and cultivating this patient loyalty and enhancing their marketing strategies.
According to technology research and advisory company Gartner, CRM will be a $36 billion business by 2017. Yet today, hospitals only represent a small piece of that spending. In recent years, providers have been occupied with so many other technology initiatives such as Electronic Health Records. EHRs were once viewed as serving as the core application for patient management. Instead, EHRs are serving as valuable systems of record but aren’t capable of sitting at the center of the patient relationship, the way CRMs do in most industries.
Leading edge providers have figured this out; with the widespread advent of cloud computing and consumer-driven healthcare, the tide is turning and CRM adoption among hospitals is on the upswing. A 2015 survey of 130 providers by consulting group KLAS found that 40 were using a CRM solution; and of those, just more than half (53%) were using CRM for precision marketing.
How does CRM help hospitals keep up with competition?
CRM platforms enable sophisticated data collection and communication strategies, allowing marketers to segment target audiences, track communications and connect data across contact channels over the length of the entire customer journey. In the case of providers, CRM can help drive patient acquisition and retention by helping hospitals target patients and prospects based on risk or health status, select the right messages and channels based on affinities and behaviors, and time communications around health needs. Today, few healthcare marketers do this, but the CVSs and Walgreens of the world most certainly do. And to compete effectively with retailers and insurers, who are increasingly direct competitors in care delivery, providers must get serious about investing and deploying CRM.
Digital engagement needs to be a centerpiece of building relationships with patients. Patients live in a digital world, and where your patients go, so should you. Digital marketing and engagement programs also facilitate the collection of more data on prospects and patients, so healthcare marketers can create more personalized messaging strategies to keep them engaged. The data collected from these digital engagement points, be it via email marketing campaign or an online advertisement, can be collected and fed back into the CRM system to make customer-centric engagement even more tailored.
As the industry moves forward, CRM will most certainly be a foundational element of patient engagement and marketing. It’s time to learn the ropes if you haven’t yet invested.