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How Attribution Can Help Healthcare Organizations Take Their Marketing to New Levels By properly tracking all patient touch points in the marketing journey, healthcare providers will have a more holistic view and be able to adapt their marketing plan to their customer's needs.

By Sergio Alvarez Edited by Chelsea Brown

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Marketing in healthcare differs greatly from many other industries. With the ethical and regulatory implications of patient privacy, many healthcare organizations may feel that their marketing efforts are limited. As a direct result, it's likely that healthcare marketing often lags behind other industries, because it focuses heavily on traditional media.

There is another way, though, and it doesn't have to violate any of the critical patient-privacy rights. By using holistic and targeted attribution, healthcare organizations can understand their patients' journeys and meet them where they are.

Related: Here's What You Need to Know About Marketing in the Healthcare Sector

Different stages of the journey

If your healthcare organization is focusing its marketing efforts solely on traditional media, you're missing out. In today's world, potential patients go online before they access any other form of media. When a healthcare concern or need crops up, the first thing they do is pull up a search engine and do their own research. Therefore, it's vital to understand what that digital journey looks like for your patients.

Not every person consulting Google for medical advice is attempting to self-diagnose. Some may be searching for information on behalf of a loved one. They may have heard about a condition somewhere and are seeking more information. The motive behind the search is vital to understand as a starting point, and the rest of their digital journey will help you track that motive correctly.

By the same token, the nature of the search must be considered, too. People looking for information on elective procedures such as teeth whitening or corrective eye surgery will take a much different path than those searching for information on more pressing medical situations. Even within that elective group, there are various levels of interest. Someone with eyesight that has just started to degrade will feel differently about corrective eye surgery than someone who lives constantly with blurred vision.

Healthcare, though, also relies heavily on more traditional marketing strategies: URL tracking on emails, phone call tracking, billboard, and radio or television advertisements. Therefore, marketers need to understand and track both traditional and digital touch points.

Each of these specific types of journeys (and the touch points within them) represents opportunities for healthcare providers to connect with prospective patients.

Related: Healthcare Marketing Disruption in the Modern Age

Keep it legal

Marketing in healthcare is far more regulated than other industries — and rightfully so. There is no business objective that is more important than the privacy and respect of patients, but healthcare marketing doesn't need to contravene any of these regulations to be effective. We simply have to understand which regulations apply.

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) is a set of regulations that govern, among other things, how patient information can be used. Healthcare providers can market and stay on the right side of the law at the same time, though.

For example, if a patient searches for a LASIK eye surgeon and clicks on a specific provider's site, Google cannot retarget or remarket that person as it would for other industries, because that interaction is required to be HIPAA-compliant. However, such retargeting is not limited on many other platforms, such as social media. So, already, an opportunity is presented. While marketers in other industries can lean far deeper into less conclusive claims about their products, HIPAA requires all health-related claims to be clear and honest. LASIK eye surgeons cannot claim 100% success in restoring sight to 20-20 capacity. However, they can provide research-backed data that places their services and practices in a good light.

So, while healthcare marketers need to be more careful and rein in their "creative" claims, there are clearly far more opportunities to connect with prospective patients with correct attribution data than with the occasional television ad on a Sunday night. The bottom line is: Attribution allows healthcare marketers to see what steps it takes for a patient to convert to a booked appointment with a LASIK surgeon.

Related: 7 Best Practices to Grow Your Healthcare Business

Help the patient

After having covered the "first, do no harm," aspect of marketing for healthcare professionals, let's look at how marketing in this industry can also be helpful to the prospective patient. When you're using a holistic attribution method, you can track all the touchpoints within a patient's journey. This is not just beneficial to you, as the provider, to access their patronage. When your marketing is done well, it can also help the patient arrive at a solution for their health concerns quickly and conveniently.

It's important to keep in mind that the touchpoints of a patient journey will include various media across different platforms. A patient may start with a Google search, watch a video on YouTube and complete their journey with a click-through on an Instagram ad. By understanding each of those intersections of engagement, without crossing the privacy line, healthcare marketers can be better informed about which levers they need to pull in their campaigns. This information also gives providers an advantage over the competition. They understand patients' needs, and therefore, are better placed to meet those needs and comfort and guide their patients. Everyone wins when healthcare focuses on holistic attribution.

Marketing in healthcare is unique. Privacy laws, regulations and even individual ethics play a role in determining what marketing looks like for these organizations, but getting attribution on-point will lead to numerous new opportunities. Despite these challenges, proper attribution platforms built into your healthcare organization can boost your business and help your patients.

Sergio Alvarez

CEO and Founder of Ai Media Group/ Atrilyx

Sergio Alvarez is a performance-marketing expert, digital-attribution leader and CEO and founder of Ai Media Group.

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