Understanding why customers behave the way they do can be extremely valuable for organizations. In fact, companies that focus on how and why customers make decisions and interact with businesses, also known as the customer’s journey, reap over 50 percent greater return on marketing investment than those who do not.
Any industry can benefit from mapping the customer’s journey, and healthcare is no exception. The truth of the matter is, many healthcare organizations provide excellent clinical care but fall short when it comes to administrative experiences. A lot of potential customers never become patients, and a lot of current patients lose contact with the healthcare organization simply because administrative departments do not know how to engage or communicate with them.
Using journey maps as a guide, healthcare marketers can implement programs and processes that deliver timely and relevant information and fill gaps that cause leakage in the customer’s experience. This practice can help to improve pre- and post-clinical engagement, as well as further population health initiatives.
Let’s look at the benefits of customer and patient journey mapping and how this exercise can help improve engagement and population health initiatives:
Improving Pre-Clinical Customer Engagement
The key to customer and patient engagement is forming trusting, long-term relationships between the individual and the health system. These relationships are what keep customers and patients interested and proactively engaged with healthcare organizations. Ideally, these relationships would last for an individual’s lifetime and lead to economic growth for the healthcare organization.
Thus, journey mapping comes in to help healthcare marketers identify gaps and leaks that may hinder this relationship building during pre-clinical phases. Gaps are points during the customer’s journey where they are vulnerable to losing contact with a health system, such as a lack of appointment reminders and weak or no engagement outreach at critical times.
Once potential gaps in the customer experience are identified, timely and relevant outreach, such as sending additional resources or automating appointment reminders, becomes a simple “plug and play”. Marketers take into account communication preferences, behavior, and service line involvement when creating retention programs and placing customers within them.
Customer journey maps give healthcare marketers visibility into these gaps and where people are falling through the cracks, especially when they are involved in long-term service lines. For example, in the orthopedics service line there can be extremely long periods of time in between points of contact and procedures. Losing customers between these touchpoints is expensive – health systems spend $15,000 to $20,000 just to get a customer to the point of scheduling a procedure. This, unfortunately, is actually a common problem. Research shows on average, healthcare organizations lose 20 to 30 percent of these types of customers before their procedures.
After healthcare marketers identify when and where to engage customers, a healthcare CRM should be used to build, launch, and manage acquisition and retention-focused campaign programs. Using this tool, healthcare marketers can reach out in a targeted, personalized way that keeps customers engaged with the health system throughout the care continuum.
Improving Post-Clinical Engagement & Population Health Initiatives
Even though a patient is discharged from the hospital and has completed their treatments, that doesn’t mean their care journey is over. Patient journey maps should also include post-clinical stages to encourage retention and reduce costs. Healthcare organizations spend much more acquiring a new lead vs. retaining an existing patient – five times as much, in fact.
Similar to how marketing can support gaps identified in the map for the pre-surgical stages, programs should be designed and implemented to support gaps in the post-clinical customer experience. Health systems need to maintain contact with previous patients to encourage healthy living and to remain top-of-mind in case the patient needs clinical care in the future.
Most post-clinical outreach is focused on ongoing health, including providing patients with information and suggestions to improve their long-term wellbeing. Since this outreach is personalized, it can be used to target population health groups and encourage them to be proactive in their own health. The result is improved health outcomes and lower readmission rates overall.
Population health is an initiative that focuses on long-term care management based on geographic region, community, ethnic group, disability, and more. By using patient journey mapping to inform population health strategies, healthcare marketers can similarly help reduce readmission rates and improve health outcomes for these groups.