Understanding the impact of marketing communications in healthcare—particularly mass marketing—is a challenge facing organizations across the country. Healthcare marketers struggle to accurately demonstrate and quantify attribution, or the direct impact of a marketing exposure on a patient’s decision to choose a healthcare provider. As a result, they often settle for “stand-ins” for metrics that don’t quite hit the mark:

  • Non-financial indicators (e.g., calls to a call center, hits to a website)
  • Direct marketing activities (e.g., direct mail/email, targeted online search campaigns)
  • “New patient” value calculations (e.g., the financial contribution of new patients attracted to a healthcare organization)

In addition, it is our observation that in the face of these challenges healthcare marketers are increasingly focusing on tactics where they perceive the greatest potential for direct attribution. These approaches either undervalue/understate the impact of fully integrated campaigns or reduce the potential impact of communications efforts by not leveraging the full marketing mix. And yet, other industries facing similar complexities manage to quantify Return on Investment (ROI). Why is that?

When examining other industries where attribution is also difficult to capture, such as the air travel industry where a consumer’s purchase decision is nearly as convoluted as healthcare, one significant difference emerged: access to critical market and business data. In other industries where this data is publicly available, marketers can use econometric modeling to analyze and calculate relationships between marketing and behavior to inform decision-making.

Unfortunately, such data is often difficult to come by in the healthcare industry. In the mean time, SPM set out to better understand if econometric modeling could shed light upon some of the unanswered questions of healthcare marketing communications ROI.

A Study on Healthcare Marketing Communications ROI

To attack this challenge, SPM engaged in a year-long research study in partnership with a leading university graduate program in Healthcare Administration to build an econometric model that might better illuminate the impact of marketing communications. We reviewed data covering a 60-month period between July 2008 and June 2013. To create as much separation from attributable tactics and impact as possible, we studied variables that were not directly promoted in marketing yet could likely be indirectly influenced by successful communications.

Using data from an academic medical center, the study assessed two variables: new walk-in (self-directed) patients to the hospital’s emergency department and National Research Corporation (NRC) consumer perception survey results. This data was then compared to specific marketing efforts to investigate whether a correlation existed.

Get the Full Story on this First-of-its-Kind Study!

This research shed light on the relationship between marketing communications and patient behavior, enough to support strategic and budgetary shifts for the organization studied. In particular, the data led to four key takeaways:

  1. How you spend your media dollars, not just how much, matters
  2. Advertising continuously, as opposed to taking periodic breaks where no ads are present in the market, has the highest return
  3. The benefits of a strong brand and strong service line perceptions impact other non-promoted areas of business
  4. Relative advertising “quality” can counteract increasing market noise and reduced share of voice

To learn more about the research and how we were able to draw these conclusions, fill out the form below to download the full Red paper.

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Dan Miers

Chief Strategy Officer at SPM Marketing & Communications
Dan anticipates “what’s next” in our complex industry and keeps SPM on the leading edge of healthcare policy and strategy. A valuable resource to all SPM clients, his strategic insights focus how we understand and apply industry trends to client issues. With 20 years of experience, Dan has two master’s degrees in healthcare administration and finance, worked in business development at an academic medical center, and launched a healthcare technology company. He is also a frequent speaker at industry events and an active member of the Society for Healthcare Strategy and Market Development (SHSMD).
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