Key patient outreach and healthcare marketing tools include direct mail, email messages, text messages, and even telephone outreach. In response to growing consumerism in healthcare - remembering that here you can also include elective and aesthetic procedures, clinics and doctors' offices are turning to health marketing strategies to increase their reach to patients.
Lapses in patient care and attendance are key problems when health professionals engage in humanized care, not just because they represent missed opportunities to identify acute health problems before they become too expensive and difficult to treat, but also because making the patient keep up to date with their exams and preventive measures is an extremely important point in humanized care.
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Some clinics and medical practices have been lucky to adopt more conservative and old-fashioned measures regarding their patient retention strategies and integrate them with your health marketing and other patient outreach strategies, such as:
- Direct mail;
- Email and direct message portals to the patient;
- Reaching out by text messages;
- Reaching by calls.
As patient engagement continues to dominate priorities within healthcare, healthcare organizations, whether they are small or large, must ensure that they are still capable of providing quality patient care and a good experience.
Using direct mail to send the patient postcards or even letters with promotions is still a valid way to provide the patient with useful information and health tips that help the patient in their daily lives.
Although nowadays the practice of digital submissions is already more common, direct mail is still effective for people who don't have access to technology, or even for older people who have difficulties with them and prefer not to use them.
A study done by the Minnesota Medical Program in the USA confirmed that campaigns using direct mail have been successful in increasing screening for breast and colorectal cancer. Mailings sent out provided educational materials about the exams, location, and contact information on where to take them, plus a $20 per exam incentive.
The researchers concluded that people who received direct mail are more likely to be screened for breast and colorectal cancer than people who did not, indicating that the mail merge option is still useful. Of course, the financial incentive helped to motivate people to take the exam, but looking at the number of exams performed and the number of submissions, this study can still be called a success story.
But, with the world becoming more and more digitized, there is already a large fraction of the population that prefers to receive engagement and contact digitally. With the globalization of technology, we have access to consumerism facilitated, since digital technology does not encounter some of the obstacles that direct mail does.
E-mail and patient portals
E-mail and patient messaging portals have more immediate and direct contact with the patient than direct mail.
E-mails and patient portals are a tool that can not only bring information to the patient, but also they can make a "call to action" to patients, encouraging and engaging them to get vaccinated or to take their children and children to get vaccinated, for example.
The main advantage that e-mail brings is that the patient does not need to remember extra logins since most people have email these days and they use it not just for health reminders. And putting the e-mail next to the patient's registration is something simple if we consider that at some point he will have his file with his registration data made.
Engagement via Text Messaging
Text messages via SMS also reach the patient wherever they are. Thus, with the cell phone number on the patient's file, clinics and health offices can send short and direct messages to their patients.
The advantage of text messages over E-mail and direct mail is that patients check their messages on their cell phones several times during the day, and many times e-mails and direct mail will only be checked once a day. With the evolution of mobile phones, more and more people depend on them every day, therefore, when a text message via SMS or even via WhatsApp is received, it is seen practically immediately.
Text messages can also be configured to contain the most different types of messages to patients, from simple messages with appointment reminders, and addresses, to more targeted messages, such as sending only to patients who need to undergo a specific procedure. Messages via WhatsApp may also contain a link that, when the patient clicks, he is redirected directly to the clinic's online booking page.
Voice and calling service
Interactive voice services, being an automatic system of calls without human interaction in the first contact, with pre-recorded messages, which interact with patients to schedule appointments and to confirm their presence, among other functions, without having to go through a person. While voice services can already handle some of these interactions well, very specific questions still require a humanized service.
Even though voice services are now beginning to be more used in healthcare, phone calls are still the main form of direct contact with the patient. Data show that telephone placements are more effective than other less technological forms such as direct mail.
Not to mention that phone calls are efficient because practically the entire population has a phone number, which no longer occurs in the cases of email and fixed addresses.
Using marketing tools to drive engagement in healthcare
Regardless of the strategy chosen to reach patients, organizations and healthcare facilities must be careful not to overwhelm patients with messages, calls, and emails, and thus end up doing a job contrary to what was proposed. Since too many messages can make the patient create a negative opinion about your clinic.
The excess of marketing sent daily already harms the opinion of the population regarding this service, where the patient often declines direct contact with the health clinic when offered because of bad experiences in the past, therefore, care must be taken when sending any type of material to patients.
Clinics and healthcare facilities should always seek to offer marketing services as a service that the patient can choose to receive, thus ensuring greater engagement since the patients who will receive the marketing are precisely those who chose to receive it. This option form should be made available not only via email but in any form of communication the clinic chooses to use.
The other negative impact of the excess of messages is that over time, the patient can start to ignore the messages and so one day, he could end up missing important communication. Another situation that occurs with a very high number of messages, is that some technologies may consider the email or message as spam, and thus throw the message to trash or other inboxes than the main, most up-to-date one. Messages in the trash or spam box also tend to be discarded without much care on the part of people.
And finally, the excess of messages causes people to unsubscribe from the forms of engagement made by the clinic. A survey done by the Institute for Health Research in Kaiser Permanente Colorado found that more than 10 messages want to unsubscribe from the messaging service of a specific campaign, and with more than 20 messages per year, he tends to unsubscribe from all messages from the clinic.
A way around this is to filter who the messages will be sent to, for example, if you want to remind your patients to get their annual flu shot, you can choose to send only to those who have not yet attended your clinic for this, thus avoiding disturbing those who have already taken it. With Ninsaúde Apolo para clinics, this is possible behind email marketing and WhatsApp messages. But of course not all clinics need to resort to marketing tools to engage their patients, it is also necessary to understand the profile of your patients to achieve your goals correctly.
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