Podcast #77

Deep Dive into Behavioral Health Marketing: A Look At Industry Trends and Strategies Part 2

The behavioral health industry is expansive and encompasses a wide range of services. From inpatient treatment to ABA therapy, Lauren and Rich discuss how marketing strategies and priorities shift across the service spectrum. So tune into the final episode of this two-part series, to learn how to engage with patients and drive more leads throughout the mental health marketing funnel.

Episode Highlights:

Lauren Leone: “I would say, the theme over the past five to seven years I’ve seen, is the trend towards accessibility doesn’t mean the same thing for everyone. In traditional brick-and-mortar or online therapy psychiatry, it may mean ease of online scheduling, it may mean availability of virtual appointments for convenience and scheduling in this area…. It may mean a patient liaison team that helps you book your flights to get there. [Accessibility] can mean different things but the overarching theme is there vertical wide.”

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Announcer: Welcome to the Ignite Podcast, the only healthcare marketing podcast that digs into the digital strategies and tactics that help you accelerate growth. Each week, Cardinal’s experts explore innovative ways to build your digital presence and attract more patients. Buckle up for another episode of Ignite.

Lauren Leone: Welcome back, everybody. This is part two of our Behavioral Health Tips and Tricks podcast episode. While we’re on the behavioral health topic, have you seen shifting in the inpatient segment of behavioral health?

Rich: In terms of strategies or in terms of where there’s more-

Lauren: I would say strategies.

Rich: -demand and stuff.

Lauren: Strategies and if you’ve seen our clients or our work shift materially similar to what we’ve just talked about or have there been differences?

Rich: I think once you start getting into PHP hospitalization, STR, it’s a much more high consideration buying decision.

Lauren: We’re out of the retail consumer space.

Rich: You may still have a consumer buying decision especially for the child stuff that we do, the adolescent, the team therapy stuff, it may still very much be the parent of the patient leading the charge there and doing their own research and they may not have a referral from someone. That definitely could still exist in terms of the decision maker, but the burden of care, the duty of care as it pertains to that decision is massive.

Especially if you think about the teen care stuff because you’re sending your child away to a short-term residential or a partial hospitalization program and you’ve got to make sure that you’re sending them to people who are reputable, that they’re going to get the care that they need, that they’re going to be looked after, that their harm is going to come to them. These are huge decisions that in particular, in this case, these parents have to make. I think research is massive. Credibility for these companies is huge. To your point about, I just find you at the bottom of the funnel and it’s the first time I’ve ever heard of you.

Lauren: You’ve got 4.4 stars, great. I’m going to go to you. It’s a lot more complex.

Rich: It’s a lot more complex. I think you have to focus on credibility. You’ve got to have amazing reviews. You’ve got to have amazing content that talks about, again, to your point, why the category, then why us and why now. Talks to all of those things and then it’s a nurture process. You’ve got to have amazing people who answer the phone, who are empathetic, who help these people to feel heard, who are giving the right answers that need to be given and then you can expect that that’s not going to be the beginning and end all.

Obviously, there’s a verification of benefits process with these clients. They’re probably talking to you and two other people or three other people. There is going to be some level of nurture that goes on there. That patient value is significantly higher than someone who just goes and does a couple of online therapy rounds. I think one of the things where we have changed our approach is not only in telling a more rich and holistic story for that prospective patient or the parent of that prospective patient, not only in trying to focus in on credibility on the landing page when they first come to us and make the brand feel trustworthy, but it’s also in terms of the tracking and the measurement.

For those leads, it’s really important to understand the eventual outcome and if they didn’t become a patient, why did they not become a patient and understand those signals? Are the audience that we’re targeting, do they not have the right benefits? Does their insurance preclude them from utilizing your services? Are they the wrong age group? Are we reaching the parents of people whose children are too old?

In the case of the teen hospitalization program, is that not best served by this STR location? There’s all kinds of things that we have to understand and the way to do that is to tie into the CRM or tie into the EHR, the EMR, to understand the eventual outcomes of those leads that we’re driving into the system and are they converting? Then we can train the algorithm more effectively to find the right people or at least we have the anecdotal signals to make changes in terms of our marketing, our targeting, et cetera.

Lauren: I would say, the theme over the past five to seven years I’ve seen is the trend towards accessibility, doesn’t mean the same thing for everyone. I think we talked about how in traditional brick-and-mortar or online therapy psychiatry, it may mean ease of online scheduling. It may mean availability of virtual appointments for convenience and scheduling in this area.

Accessibility may mean making the content or a testimonial or a virtual tour of a bedroom where my child may stay. That is what accessibility means. It may mean a patient liaison team that helps you book your flights to get there. It just means different things but the overarching theme is there vertical wide, but it’s just what does it mean to your business and more so, more importantly, what does it mean to your patient?

Rich: Yes. I think another one too, that often healthcare lags behind is it might mean someone answering the phone 24/7 or following up with a form submission within 60 seconds. That’s-

Lauren: Texting.

Rich: -two-way texting. Absolutely. That’s another form of education. Is not just the onsite stuff, but also then the follow-through. Once they reach out, how do you educate them quickly, answer their questions, make them feel good about the choices they’ve made? I’d also say another big difference and again, this goes back to the retail model, the e-commerce model of healthcare, is that for people who specialize in behavioral health, in terms of therapy appointments, you probably want to spend where the efficiency is.

Let me spend all my dollars in search where I can drive $200 cost per appointment or a new patient or whatever it might be. For these STRs, these complex ones, you’re going to want to spend in places that just make you visible to these people, irrespective of if that channel drives the end conversion because if I’ve seen you when I was reading this blog about short-term residential programs for teens, or I’ve seen you on Facebook, the minute that I come to actually take action, I’ve seen you all over the place.

I know that you’re a player in space. I know you’re credible. I feel like you’re trustworthy because I’ve seen your content. I’ve seen a video about one of your doctors talking about this issue that’s affecting my child. I’m far more likely to engage with you and convert with you than if I’ve just seen you for the first time at the bottom of the funnel on a search ad. I think it’s about being in more places, educating and engaging with the audience than necessarily just focusing on the bottom of the funnel and maximizing your visibility there.

Lauren: We’ll have one more quick chat about bottom of the funnel that I think is interesting in behavioral health. Really moving ourselves on the spectrum of the different types of companies. I think ABA has done a very interesting evolution over the past few years. Talk about an area where you’ve got wait lists. The service availability and the provider gap has been maybe, perhaps, more massive than any of the other areas we’ve spoken about.

We saw what happened in traditional therapy where the demand was significantly higher than the service availability, but we’re reaching some equilibrium now. This is an area where that is going to happen. More organizations are entering because payer contracts, the state funding for those types of programs, whether it be in-home, virtually, or through the school system have evolved to meet the demand of what has been there for many, many years.

Organizations that are thinking about and investing now, early and often, in a program similar to what you’ve just described on the STR side around education, emotionally connecting with the parents of these children because this waitlist thing and I hope that this waitlist will not be an issue soon. There won’t be wait lists when you need service. You will go to a search engine, you will identify, at 18 months your child needs care and you don’t have to wait a year and a half.

There’s enough to go around. The marketing strategies at that point in time will look very differently than build it and they will come, which is where that industry has been for the past few years. Curious to get your thoughts. I know you work very closely with a couple of our clients in ABA, autism treatment, ABA speech, occupational therapies, what you’ve noticed organizations who are doing it well are already thinking about.

Rich: I think it varies depending on whether you are operating in a state where there is Medicaid accessibility or not. One of our providers operates in a state where Medicaid does not cover ABA therapy. For them, the biggest hurdle to getting a new patient in the door is passing that verification of benefits. They need to actually engage with more prospective patients because they are looking for a needle in a haystack in some regards. Again, just focusing on the bottom of the funnel isn’t always the way to do that because especially from a keyword search, there’s no way to understand if that patient has–

Lauren: What [crosstalk]

Rich: Exactly because they search the same thing. They search ABA therapy near me, and you can’t expect patients to be educated in the fact that their will not be covered. They don’t know that before they go to a website. I think it’s more about engaging with a wider audience and driving more leads for a provider in that sense further up the funnel.

One of the things that we’ve started to do is actually play a little bit more on social with these providers, doing things like lead ads where we are offering an initial hook of a free consultation to engage with parents who may not be sure that their child needs ABA therapy. They may have an Autism diagnosis, they may not do, but they’re obviously thinking about it. They’re thinking that that might be a possibility or a need for their child.

Lauren: For someone to get on the phone and have a conversation.

Rich: Have a conversation and talk to them about it. Talk to what they’re seeing, why they’re thinking that. Do they have a diagnosis? Do they need a diagnosis? Is that something they’d be interested in doing the testing, the evaluation. It’s a great way for them to have initial conversations further up the funnel with prospective patients that then obviously can lead into the next phase of, okay, well, let me verify your insurance. Let me do the VOB stuff before those people are necessarily actively seeking out those ABA therapy services at the bottom of the funnel and may have a diagnosis.

Lauren: I’ll make one more observation on accessibility in this area that I thought was really unique, brands that are offering that hybrid of you know I’ve seen in-home therapy. I’ve seen some organizations move towards offering it virtually which every parent can decide what’s best for them and their child. There is no one size fits all in this vertical but the ability in other areas to adapt to how and where the patient can see you or their schedules to make sure that it’s most importantly about the patient getting care.

Secondly, it’s about what is my business structure going to look like to make sure that that’s possible. I’ve seen groups that have put significant thought into their facilities and how the world has changed in parents, what their expectations are, what’s going to make it feel and seem more like, this is a lifestyle that these families are going to live for the rest of their lives.

How do I adapt myself? How do I become more accessible in creating a facility that feels very welcoming, that is the hybrid between a typical speech or occupational therapy clinic but maybe more of a school and daycare field setting as well, so that there’s this consistency across what the child will see now early and often and help them migrate into the school system. I thought that was a unique point of view. I appreciate organizations that are focused on improving both the quality of care but the environment where care is provided as well.

Rich: If you think, one of the massive shifts in behavioral health is the stigma shift which we haven’t even spoken about.

Lauren: I know, the foundation of all of this.

Rich: I’m not saying that stigma does not exist in behavioral health anymore and that it has been completely removed, it does but our generation and even the generation below us are a lot less concerned about the stigma of seeking treatment both for ourselves or for our children. Given that there’s a lot more discourse around treatment and treatment options, I think maybe a generation ago or two generations ago, if social media had existed, people probably would not have been going on social media and being like, “Hey, my child has Autism. Where do you think is a great place for them to get treatment?”

Because there was the stigma around that. Or, “Hey, I have anxiety. Where do you think is a great place for me to go get treatment?” Now, people are posting those things and so that encourages these businesses as you alluded to, to have these higher standards in terms of their treatment facilities, their reputations, and stuff because there is discourse happening online and probably offline too with prospective patients and existing patients about how good these places are.

Lauren: You cannot fake your digital reputation with a great Facebook ad, right? I mean, operational excellence and excellence in care, you will not succeed if that is not the foundation of your business.

Rich: Because these perspective patients can go to more and more places and get objective information on how good a business you are. They can go to a mom’s group on social and ask a group of 10,000 moms, one of whom is bound to be using your business how good it is.

Lauren: Or has used.

Rich: Or has used it, right? You have to be very careful. The marketing cost will not solve for everything. If you do not have a good operation, then that will come to light now. It’s very important.

Lauren: I appreciate the conversation, Rich. We probably could have spoken forever. If you’ve been listening this whole time, thank you for sticking around.

Rich: We have a lot of stamina.

Lauren: Yes, we do. It’s been a long time in behavioral health marketing and the changes are good. We’re happy to see them and happy to evolve and adapt to them. If you have any other questions about behavioral health marketing, a lot of the privacy adjustments coming down the pipeline, please don’t hesitate to reach out to Rich or I on LinkedIn. In the meantime, I’ll wrap us up here. Thank you guys for listening to another episode of Ignite. If you haven’t already, like, share, subscribe, wherever you’re listening and we’ll be back next time.

Announcer: Thanks for listening to this episode of Ignite. Interested in keeping up with the latest trends in healthcare marketing? Subscribe to our podcast and leave a rating and review. For more healthcare marketing tips, visit our blog at cardinaldigitalmarketing.com.


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