How Patient Data Can Be Used in Outreach Programs


As a healthcare marketer, you want to find the right audience for your outreach programs. Maybe you’ve been tasked with increasing appointment volume for Medicare Annual Wellness Visits (AWVs). How can you leverage patient data to know if patients have already scheduled an appointment or perhaps just had one?

And what about diagnostic services such as pre-diabetes exams, colonoscopies, and breast cancer screening that should be always-on outreach campaigns? Does your system know who can benefit the most from those services? 

To drive patient volume effectively and efficiently, healthcare marketing leaders are increasingly adopting a patient activation strategy to use the data stored across the healthcare system itself for marketing to your existing patients.

Benefits of Using Patient Data for Patient Outreach

Unlike consumer marketing data (online browsing history, purchase history, brand preferences, etc.), the data in healthcare is designed to help your customer, not sell them more stuff. However, they don’t see that data or know how to act on it. Patients have to rely on their care teams to understand the data and use it to guide them, whether to a simple wellness visit, a preventive screening, or a care gap appointment.

The good news: your healthcare system has the data your patients need. The bad news: it’s hard to access and harder still to know which information to use.  

Patient data in electronic medical records (EMR).

The data, of course, lives in electronic medical records (EMR) or electronic health records (EHR). Some health systems may also have some data in their customer relationship management (CRM) system.

Here are some example datasets in your EMR/EHRs and CRMs that you can leverage for your patient outreach communications:

  1. Appointments (care/visits that will happen in the future)
  2. Demographics 
  3. Insurance
  4. Provider
  5. Communication preferences
  6. Conditions

With these data points, you can apply machine learning and data science to predict and prioritize audiences for highly personalized outreach campaigns. The more personalized, the higher the patient activation for appointment scheduling. The challenge: how to extract the right data to build the right audience at the right time?

Do’s and Don’ts of Using Patient Data in Marketing for Healthcare

Do Don’t
Use data to deliver personalized communications to your patients. If a streaming service gives me personal recommendations, shouldn’t my healthcare system, too? Use clinical data without working with experts who understand the data. They’ll be able to tell you what data is important and relevant to your campaigns/programs.
Completely understand the patient data you plan to use. Know what you need and why, so your data use is purposeful and targeted. Be afraid to use patient data. Knowing who they are and what their behavior patterns are allows you to create personalized outreach that leads to action. After all, if someone just had a mammogram, getting a reminder to schedule one isn’t helpful.
Focus on operational data, like encounters and appointments. For success metrics, drive toward appointment volume and capacity utilization. Not to say attribution isn’t important: knowing click-through rates that lead to appointments will be key to proving the success of your program. Over-complicate marketing programs by trying to tie together all of the patient data. EMRs contain a wealth of information, but limit your focus to actionable data that drives the desired behaviors, like scheduling appointments. Always ask, “how will this data lead to action?”

Challenges for Using Patient Data

The right data can lead to higher relevance for your marketing campaigns. That’s a clear benefit. But what are the challenges, and how do you overcome them? The data itself presents challenges, by its very nature, including:



Privacy issues, such as HIPAA, typically limit access to patient data.


Think of all the codes in a typical EMR. How do you translate those without a clinical data partner? And even when translated, how does the information drive the next step?


Lack of standardization in healthcare poses another problem. For example, test names can be different between different hospitals. Mapping data correctly can fail because each health system/provider may use different naming conventions. Is a visit a past appointment or a future one, for example?


Not all data is in the cloud. Trying to find all patients who are due for a mammogram, for example, could be quite difficult if some clinics in the system use paper and some only have the information stored on premise.

Using the data for marketing presents another set of challenges:

  • Health systems typically don't have the resources or expertise to dive into EMRs for any purpose other than clinical.
  • Health systems generally have multiple priorities and unpredictable volume, making it tough to take on a long project involving multiple teams.
  • Even with those internal teams (if they exist), projects like this take months if not years.

Solving the Data Challenges

The challenges of using data for healthcare marketing may seem insurmountable. You need months or years of time, specific expertise, and dedicated team effort to tap into EMRs and connect them to CRM systems to create an always-on marketing machine that knows patients and proactively prompts them to act.

As with many complex systems and under-resourced organizations, the answer is to bring in professionals. If you already have a CRM platform, or perhaps more than one, you may think: I’ve tried working with professionals in database management and now I have data silos, without being able to truly tap into the goldmine of information in our EMR. I don’t need more of that!

In healthcare, you need to go a level beyond CRM to CRM data intelligence. Technology partners with this expertise focus on exactly the patient data challenges you face as a healthcare marketer.

Here’s what to look for in a technology partner who can help you access and use patient data for marketing purposes:

  1. Do they have healthcare CRM expertise?
  2. Does their software have built-in artificial intelligence (AI) to help with propensity models, meaning the ability to use data to predict the likelihood of needing a specific medical service?
  3. Is their AI designed to eliminate bias in building outreach lists?
  4. How do they describe their information security practices for patient data?
  5. Do they have clinical data experts (professional coders and clinicians) on the team to handle coding?
  6. Do they have expertise in HL7v2, the industry standard for handling health data?
  7. Do they deliver integration plans?
  8. How much time do their projects take (look for weeks, not months)?
  9. Can they cite examples of other healthcare systems like yours?

Socialize Your Patient Data Journey

While you’re building your marketing plan and looking for a CRM intelligence partner, don’t forget to share your goals and your needs with internal stakeholders to let them know how data will play a crucial role in the organization’s success. No one likes surprises, and while you’re not asking any clinicians or IT professionals to do the work, the more people who understand how data can benefit both the patient and your healthcare system, the better.

How Actium Health Can Help

Actium Health is a CRM intelligence partner that speaks the language of both IT and healthcare, making us an ideal partner. If you’re feeling uncertain of what data will drive results, we have defined data sets that are effective in marketing campaigns, which means you can start campaigns with confidence in a short amount of time. We also:

  • Understand HL7v2, the industry language of healthcare data
  • Work with clinicians and professional coders to make sure clinical data is digested properly
  • Have a predefined integration plan in place
  • Partner with your IT team/integration team directly to complete integration

For an example of how this can work, read about how Actium Health partnered with Virtua Health to deliver targeted outreach strategies that resulted in 1,395 lives that were positively impacted by early breast cancer diagnosis.

Prioritized breast screening outreach case study