The Power of Data: Healthcare Marketing Strategies for Success

andrew chang

Q&A with Andrew Chang
VP, Marketing
Summit Health

Data is the lifeblood of healthcare marketing strategies, allowing marketers and service-line leaders to deliver highly precise communications to consumers. In healthcare, data can drive both patient acquisition as well as patient retention, and it can help marketers understand and report on their return on investment.

The following Q&A with Andrew Chang, VP of Marketing at Summit Health, covers the variety of ways data-driven decision making can help marketing teams become primary drivers of revenue for their health systems. From geolocation to EHR data, healthcare marketers have a range of opportunities to power a new marketing approach – one that helps health systems attract new patients and keep their existing patients healthy and happy.

You manage two brands: Summit Health and CityMD. How do you leverage data to drive successful healthcare marketing strategies across those brands?

CityMD is an urgent care practice with over 160 locations – it is a more transactional business. You can walk in without an appointment. Summit Health is a more relationship-driven physician practice group. It's a very different mindset from urgent care. Our data is all in the same place right now – in our EHR, and our customer data platform (CDP), but the behaviors are very different. Trying to combine data from CityMD and Summit Health is always a challenge, especially when we're trying to promote one brand to the other. At the same time, the blessing of being in healthcare is that we have our own patient data in house.

healthcare marketing strategies - summit health citymd

What are some additional key challenges you face when measuring outcomes and successes?

With CityMD, we have to figure out how to attribute a person who walks into a clinic to a particular campaign or ad. It’s different with Summit Health because patients have to make appointments – they have to call or book online through the patient portal. There are follow-up appointments that are booked directly in the office too.

marketing strategies - geolocation

To solve this challenge, we enabled tracking using both third party and first-party data to connect the dots from an attribution model standpoint. For CityMD, we use geolocation data. If someone’s device interacts with an ad or an outdoor billboard, and that same device ends up in a CityMD location, then we compare that to a control group of people who also saw the ad but didn't come to a CityMD location. There’s another control group for those who did not see the ad at all too. Comparing those audiences allows us to see what the incremental lift is.

For Summit Health, we A/B test and use control groups to see what the incremental lift is from an appointment tracking standpoint. We have phone tracking, pixels, and campaign management tools that track interactions from the first click to the last touch, and then we compare that to the control group. That's how we figure out roughly what the marketing credit should be and how we measure our revenue.

What led you to start using a geolocation approach?

We are borrowing this technique from other industries. I used to work outside of healthcare, and these are the tactics we used 10 years ago. In healthcare, a lot of vendors are afraid to work with us because of HIPAA concerns. You have to dig to find a third party tracking company that is comfortable sharing data that they are legally able to. The same goes for us. We're pushing the envelope a lot but still keeping compliance while borrowing from previous experiences.

Do you see HIPAA concerns in marketing as a true challenge that needs to be overcome?

hipaa healthcare marketing

Many vendors are rightfully protective of their intellectual property. When they enter a highly regulated, highly scrutinized industry like healthcare, it scares people away. In the last five years or so, more and more of the vendors that used to say no to us are now saying yes. Healthcare is the largest industry in the world, but the marketing is so behind that these companies are now seeing an opportunity. Now they are trying to right size their internal processes and their legal and compliance expertise to see how they can do more in healthcare.

What KPIs do you use to measure successful healthcare marketing strategies? 

We have five main key performance indicators (KPIs) that we set quarterly goals against:

  1. Attributable revenue
  2. Return on ad spend (ROAS)
  3. Close ratio, and how many physicians send us new referrals
  4. Return on marketing investment (ROMI)
  5. Cost per acquisition

My standpoint as a marketing professional is that marketing should be in charge of driving the revenue, driving the patients, and creating the customer. Traditionally, that’s not how marketing has been perceived in healthcare. Tracking and reporting on these metrics to our leadership team helps change that perception. Healthcare marketing strategies don't just include making cool brochures or billboards – we actually drive revenue.

healthcare marketing roi strategies

And with these metrics I can prove it. Each metric is incremental – we show how we got there, what the trends are, what channels we used, and what campaigns are doing well. We report on a monthly basis because it's our job – to return on the investment that the company has trusted us with. Nonprofit health systems are taking money from patients and the community. If you're not being a good steward of the money that goes into your health system, then why does the marketing team exist? That's been a driving force for me.

Are your KPIs different when looking at new patient acquisition versus targeting existing patients?

The KPIs do change slightly. The retention metric is different, for example. As we all know, it's a lot costlier to get a new patient than to keep an existing patient. Therefore, it does not make sense to have the same expectations for return on ad spend or cost per acquisition for new patients. The metrics don’t change much, but the goals often do. Even though we track our metrics very closely, it is still tough to nail down what the number should be. A lot of our peers in healthcare don’t track these numbers, so we have to figure out what the baseline should be. We often borrow benchmarks from the retail industry to help set our goals.

Why don’t more health systems focus on patient retention over acquisition, since it is more cost effective?

I wish I knew. In the traditional marketing funnel there is awareness, consideration, purchase, loyalty, or however many levels of the funnel you’ve mapped out. With new patients, you have to start from the top of the funnel with awareness, which is the most expensive level. Then there is the consideration level, which again requires you to pour money into retargeting, and you may not have emails or contact information yet. A lot of money goes into trying to get someone to consider you.

healthcare marketing database

With patient retention, you already have their data. Hopefully they’ve agreed to let you send them emails so you can start marketing to them. When it comes down to dollars and cents, retention makes more money per dollar. Data-driven marketers should be looking at what percent of your patient base is new versus existing in order to hit your goals. The numbers that I've seen in different health systems show that 90 percent of your primary care patients are usually existing. Why are we trying to grow that other 10 percent when we already have the data needed to keep that 90 percent of existing patients?

What are some healthcare marketing strategies for retention versus acquisition?

With patient retention, you don't have to spend any money on awareness. You also don't have to spend too much on the consideration part of the funnel as long as your website, reviews, and provider directory are all updated. Making the patient experience as seamless as possible makes it easier to acquire new patients as well as retain existing ones.

Healthcare marketing strategies that include new patients, you first have to get the attention of someone looking for primary care or urgent care. People who are looking for a new doctor may be in a particular state of mind or have a particular set of emotions. Once someone is a patient, though, retention rates are historically pretty good for primary care. For example, I've been seeing my primary care doctor for 15 years. That tends to be the norm – people don't switch primary care doctors every year. So, it is a lot harder to get a new patient in primary care than it is to retain existing patients.

What are some specific retention efforts you have underway?

We just launched a CDP, in addition to a personalization tool. Our main 2023 strategy is to make the best use of the CDP as possible by building segments and identifying priority segments. With patient retention, we are asking ourselves which are the segments that have the highest value, and how do we target those segments? Then, how do we personalize the experience whenever someone comes to our location or uses our website or app? How do we make it an omnichannel, seamless experience?

marketing personalization

What are some additional challenges you anticipate in your patient retention efforts?

Thanks to our partners in IT and finance, data integration between our CDP and EHR is fairly smooth. The biggest challenge is trying to identify the use cases and enhancements that we want to make. How deep and broad do we want to go with our CDP and personalization tools? There is a limitless number of combinations that you could use, but we have to prioritize patient segments. The second challenge is attribution. It's an uphill battle to get the right tagging and tracking in place, especially when personal health information might be involved. As a result, we do have some gaps in our attribution model. Making our attribution model more and more accurate is a big challenge, and then the next big challenge is attributing that back to our CDP.

What healthcare marketing strategies would you recommend for peers looking to leverage EHR data?

It's all about having a conversation with your IT, compliance, and legal colleagues and explaining your use cases. One result of this conversation at Summit Health and CityMD was that everyone that uses patient data has to take a compliance course.

Another best practice is to have all data requests go through a data governance committee. That way everything that we do is transparent, and we earn people’s trust. Marketing teams have to demonstrate a willingness to be protective of patient data. We have to share how we’re going to use it and keep everyone apprised of updates.

How are you measuring the patient experience at Summit Health?


One of the many things I love about Summit Health is that they are very obsessed with net promoter score (NPS). We do a lot of NPS surveys, and it's even a part of the doctor compensation model. We have an NPS report that can be filtered down to the date, location, doctor, type of procedure, and more for any of our CityMD locations. Everyone on the marketing and leadership teams looks at the NPS report on a very regular basis. Then we try to figure out how to improve our NPS scores. What message can we send to make sure our patients come back? Our operations team oversees this work, and they do an amazing job. I'm very impressed by how attuned they are to the customer's feelings, expectations, and perceptions.

What's next for your healthcare marketing patient retention initiatives?

We're going to get very granular. We're partnering with our implementation data science teams to build more complex models using AI and machine learning. This will help us identify the type of patient that we're trying to prioritize in terms of profit lifetime value or other strategic goals. That’s the next challenge – how do we link our CDP directly into a machine learning tool and get a lot more complex as opposed to trying to brainstorm patient segments?

How did you decide to use machine learning to develop your patient segments?

In our roadmap, we want to be able to use artificial intelligence and machine learning. We want to launch and use our CDP to its maximum capability. We have a lot of partners in these efforts. Our team did an internal roadshow to present about CDP with the finance team, chief operating officers, chief data science officer, chief product officer, CEO, CIO, and their teams. We spent a lot of time explaining why we need a CDP, answering questions as much as we could. We also developed – and vetted with the finance team –  a business case that showed a good return on investment within a short time period. Getting people on board and developing transparency is key to our approach.

Listen to the full Hello Healthcare podcast interview with Andrew Chang on your preferred streaming platform or watch the full video interview below.

About Andrew Chang

Andrew Chang is a senior marketing professional based out of Atlanta, Georgia with experience in working for multiple industries ranging from airlines to health care. Chang has held senior marketing roles for Piedmont Health Company, Stan Johnson Company, UPS, Southwest Airlines, and AirTran Airways. His expertise ranges from marketing analytics and research to audience segmentation and lifecycle management. Andrew has been with Summit Health and CityMD for over two years. Connect with Andrew Chang on LinkedIn.