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5 Ways Healthcare Companies Can Use Big Data to Drive Engagement

By Carrie DagenhardJul 22, 2015

healthcare big dataOn a scale of 1 to Justin Bieber, how sick are you of the term big data?

It’s the most buzzy of all buzzwords. It’s monopolized nearly every conversation about marketing in the last five years and dominated dozens of national headlines — largely in reference to healthcare security breaches. In fact, a band called Big Data had one of the most overplayed (albeit catchy) songs of summer 2014. Coincidence? I think not.

But maybe we should put down the pitchforks for a moment and think about how you can use big data to your advantage — to make customers’ and patients’ lives easier, and foster a better relationship between your brand and your audience. After all, healthcare is perhaps the most personal of all industries, and knowing more about the people behind the numbers can help you make choices that will inspire action.

Still feeling queasy at the thought of translating exabytes of information into actionable data? Have no fear. Today, we’re going to discuss how healthcare companies can use data-driven marketing to spark lasting engagement.

What Do You Do with All This Data?

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Conversations in healthcare marketing in the past decade have invariably moved from “How do we get data?” to “What do we do with this virtually unlimited amount of data at our fingertips?”

The sheer quantity of available information is overwhelming (hence the name big data). The first step toward using this data is funneling it into a user-friendly marketing platform. A tool like HubSpot, for example, will allow you to not only visualize your data in the form of graphs and charts, but you can immediately use this data to begin segmenting your audience and fueling targeted marketing endeavors.

But how can you apply this data in a meaningful fashion? Here are five ways you can use data to fuel customer engagement.

1. Understand user behaviors

Behavioral data is collected from online and offline sources; it paints a story of the actions customers engage in on a regular basis. This data can help you better align your marketing practices with your customers’ activities. Examples of online behavioral data include browser data, social media activity and email opens or clicks. Offline data may include places customers shop and purchases they make.

For example, in an effort to encourage more customers to use its new online prescription refill portal, a pharmacy may send a coupon for 15 percent off online refills — but only to customers who usually order refills in person.

2. Build more targeted messaging

As with any brand, there are many factors to consider when formulating a healthcare company’s messaging. Everything from age and gender to income level and geographical location will have an effect on which types of messaging make the greatest impact on your customers. Instead of a one-size-fits-all message, companies can use data to segment lists and produce content specific to each segment. (Learn how to segment your contacts here.)

For example, a clinic may launch a healthy lifestyle campaign. The clinic may create a segment of adults aged 20-45 with children in the household for a Meatless Monday family recipe newsletter, but may send a segment of adults aged 60 and up a list of local exercise classes for seniors.

3. Stay ahead of industry trends

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If you attended a healthcare technology conference in the last 18 months, chances are you were bombarded with chatter about wearables. From Fitbit to the Apple Watch, there are no shortage of trendy monitoring devices, or implications for the data they collect. By connecting with wearables, healthcare companies can stay on-trend and gain an innovative edge over competitors.

For example, a private practice physician may obtain data from patients’ wearable devices to not only make more educated diagnoses, but transparent data can lead to greater shared decision making (SDM). This information can help doctors and patients develop more realistic, sustainable and targeted care plans.

4. Predict outcomes

“It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data.”
— Sherlock Holmes (Sir Arthur Conan Doyle)

You know what they say about assumptions? Not very nice things.

Assumptions are dangerous, both when treating patients and when marketing to customers. Just as the data obtained from previous similar cases can help a doctor predict the progression and better treat an illness, historical data can help marketers better predict the success of new campaigns.


For example, before launching a campaign, a healthcare application company may review results from previous campaigns. The company may discover prospects were more likely to attend webinars than download a case study. Or the company may find subscribers engaged more with emails sent in the morning than afternoon. Each of these pieces of data will help the company refine its campaign and spend smartly.

5. Build trust through thought leadership

Healthcare and trust go hand in hand. Whether you work directly with patients or your company serves healthcare providers, trust is essential for engagement and long-term success. By positioning your brand as a thought leader within the industry, you can enhance credibility and inspire trust with your audience.

Data can help you by painting a clear picture of your personas, what they care about and which influencers drive their actions. By speaking authoritatively on the subjects that affect your buyers most, they’ll be more likely to trust your solutions.

Although you may have grown tired of the term big data, its influence is undeniable. From insight into buyer behavior and creating more sophisticated segments to connecting with trends like wearable and better predicting outcomes, the right information is a powerful advantage. Big data not only can help you ignite engagement, it can help solidify a long-term relationship between you and your audience well into the future.

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The Author

Carrie Dagenhard

Carrie is a seasoned content strategist who worked as a department editor and music journalist before making her foray into inbound marketing as a content analyst for a web development and SEO company. Carrie works hard at crafting the perfect content strategy for clients and using her hard-hitting journalism skills to tell your brand’s unique story. Outside of the office, Carrie enjoys live music, Tex-Mex, exploring the city with her husband and attempting to win the affections of her two terrible cats.
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