If there’s one constant in health care these days, it’s change. Not a day goes by without disruption in the industry. Mergers and acquisitions, new competition, emerging innovations, shifting regulations, rising costs and perhaps most notable of all, the changing payment landscape are all impacting hospital systems, their employees and the care they provide to patients.

The way hospitals and care providers are paid is fundamentally changing, which is also impacting how their marketing teams are engaging with patients. Fee-for-service payment structures, the traditional reimbursement model that compensates doctors and hospitals regardless of results, are increasingly giving way to value-based care (VBC) paradigms. With VBC, doctors and hospitals are incentivized to improve treatment outcomes, manage population health and advance the well-being of those with chronic conditions. And, while they’re at it, providers need to remain cost effective and enhance the patient experience—that's where the role of the health care marketer comes in.

The shift in focus from volume to value has caused health care organizations to rethink the services they offer and how they communicate with patients. While metrics like the number of beds filled and procedures performed remain paramount, today’s health care marketing teams are actually critical to achieving the tenets of VBC. As healthcare marketers pivot their strategies to address the move towards VBC, they have to also take into consideration changing patient expectations. Patients increasingly demand value for their growing share of health care costs, and expect personalized, timely and connected experiences across all channels and devices. Consider that according to Decision Resources Group, 59 percent of online consumers expect the health care system to offer the same level of service they receive from a company like Amazon.


Better Healthcare Communications with Personalized E-Mail


Murray Friedman, digital marketing director at Aurora Health Care, is well versed in health care's changing dynamics. Together with Stacie Cotey, Aurora Health Care's CRM and Digital Marketing Manager, Friedman and their team must balance the wants and needs of patients with those of the not-for-profit organization’s shift to VBC. That's no easy task for a health care system the size of Aurora Health Care, which serves over 1.2 million patients annually through 15 hospitals and 150 clinics in Wisconsin and northern Illinois. Additionally, Aurora employs a total of 1,800 physicians and 33,000 caregivers.

On the front line of health care, Aurora Health Care's marketing team is responsible for ensuring patients get the information they need, in the moments they need it, so that they can get the proper care they require. “Fortunately, there’s alignment between our goals and those of our patients,” says Friedman. “Our patients want to be healthy, and they want to minimize the complexities that come with health care. It is our job in marketing to help meet these objectives. That's why we’re increasingly providing information and resources around preventative education and healthy lifestyles, while enhancing the patient experience.”

To better understand how Aurora Health Care patients prefer to be engaged with, it initiated a four-part patient survey from which 1,400 patients revealed their communication preferences, and the information they would find most valuable. The message was loud and clear--nearly 60 percent of respondents indicated they were interested in receiving email with relevant health information, and 77 percent wanted the option to select the specific types of health information and content they would receive.

As a solution, Aurora Health Care selected Salesforce, implementing Salesforce Marketing Cloud and integrating it with its already installed Salesforce-powered CRM. With nearly 650,000 email addresses in its database and a cautious eye toward compliance, Aurora Health Care first sends a permission email that provides each patient with the option to receive or decline future health information emails generated by the marketing team. From there, Aurora Health Care leverages Salesforce Marketing Cloud to communicate with patients regularly. From health screening reminders to options for low cost same-day medical access and regular tips on preventative care, Aurora Health Care is able to develop a better, more trusted relationship with its patients by keeping them informed and engaged. In fact, since launching Salesforce Marketing Cloud, email open rates have grown from 26 percent to 37 percent.

Driving Portal Membership, App Adoption and More

Making sure patients are informed means more than email engagement. Using its growing list of email subscribers, Aurora Health Care's digital team launched a campaign to drive adoption of the myAurora portal, an online portal where patients can easily view lab results, message their providers, schedule appointments, manage prescriptions and more.

“Boosting myAurora membership and encouraging its use is key to improving the patient experience,” says Cotey. “By turning to email marketing with Salesforce Marketing Cloud, we're able to generate awareness and boost sign-ups to the portal. As with all email campaigns, the key to success is relevance and timeliness, so we target patients who have an appointment scheduled in the next two weeks, but have not yet created a myAurora account. The strategy works--we see open rates approaching 50 percent, click-through-rates of eight percent, and now have about 25 percent adoption and growing. We have no doubt that our patients see the value in the portal, and in our emails prompting them to sign up—all thanks to our Salesforce tools.”

Aurora Health Care also leverages email to drive mobile app adoption by targeting patients with recently completed appointments who don’t yet have the mobile app. Within two weeks of the email launch campaign, Aurora Health Care doubled its number of app downloads and mobile users. Subsequent on-boarding campaigns introduce unused features, and re-activation campaigns will target dormant users.

In its first year of using Salesforce Marketing Cloud, Aurora Health Care has expanded its email marketing efforts to include over 40 different campaigns and variations. A few examples include population health emails that target patients who are due for screenings, and campaigns for patients who have seen a specialist but don’t have a primary care physician—all of which have been well received. Looking ahead, Aurora Health Care has plans to continue to stay ahead of the curve and be a trend setter in the digital marketing and email space as it focuses on providing valuable services to its patients in the evolving health care industry.