Podcast #71

Building Your Analytics Platform in 2023: Essential Tools for Healthcare Marketers

Leveraging the power of analytics to your advantage empowers smarter campaigns and supercharges growth. However, increasing data restrictions, new technology platforms, and the complexity of multi-site healthcare marketing have made it more difficult than ever to gain insight into marketing and business performance.

Episode Highlights:

Turner McCreight: “A great online appointment scheduler is going to let your potential patients book an appointment directly on the site without even having to call you. It will integrate with your healthcare system to find available time for providers.”

Related Resources

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.

Rich Briddock: Welcome, everybody. The Ignite Healthcare Marketing podcast I’m hosting today. I’m Rich Briddock, the SVP of analytics and media strategy here at Cardinal, and as a guest, we have a debutante on the podcast, Turner, who is the director of analytics here. Welcome, Turner.

Turner McCreight: Hey, yes, nice to be here. Thanks.

Rich: Today’s podcast is essentially talking about analytics tools and tech stack in 2023 and beyond, hopefully. We get this question all the time, right, from clients, especially ones that are starting out. They want to understand what their tech stack should be, they want to understand how can they join up all the dots with their data, make great decisions based on the information that is available to them through digital marketing, and it can get pretty complex, and there’s a lot of different solutions out there.

Obviously, our job is to guide them in picking the right solutions, but then also, how do they tie all those solutions together to get the most out of them. I know we wanted to talk about one that was really looming large, and especially by July, everybody will have had to have made the move. The big new data player is GA4.

Turner: The 2023 tool to watch and look at. Yes.

Rich: Google is making it mandatory for everyone to switch to GA4 in July. What should clients be aware of in making the switch, Turner? What should they be thinking about as they migrate? I know we’ve done other podcasts on this specifically, but just to briefly touch on this as part of their tech stack, what do they need to be thinking about?

Turner: Sure. It’s definitely a project. You want to make sure that you’ve done it before July, because if you haven’t done it by July, you won’t be getting any data anymore. You also want to make sure that it’s done well, that you’re tracking the things you want to be tracking, because if you don’t set it up right, you can’t go back and retroactively track things. If you want to track new appointments, and that’s something you can do in analytics, but you haven’t been tracking that, when it comes time to say, “Hey, how many appointments did we get from these channels?” you won’t be able to do that.

Rich: Essentially, it’s not just a case of Google’s putting a gun to my head and I have to move from UA to GA4, but essentially, what you’re saying is we should use this as an opportunity to actually review the UA configuration and make sure that it is as good as it can be, make sure that everything that needs to be tracked is currently being tracked, that you don’t have anything that is superfluous, that’s no longer needed, right? This is a good opportunity for people to do some spring cleaning.

Turner: Yes, for sure, because a lot of these analytics accounts have been around for like 10 years or more, and they’ve updated the websites, but maybe not kept up with the analytics and the tracking. It’s definitely a good opportunity to take a look at all of your data and your whole system and make sure that it’s modernized and you’re tracking everything. Then also, to take a look at your dashboards and your data warehouse and everything, really, just to make sure that you’re putting your best foot forward with your data.

Rich: How do we ensure consistency, too? Because that’s another thing. We’re going from UA and GA4, they’re very different platforms, they track things in different ways. UA is session-based, GA4 is event-based. How do we get consistency in data when we’re looking at dashboards or reports? How do we make sure that those trend lines that we’re looking at are comparable to one another?

Turner: Yes, you definitely want to make sure that you have a good framework for what you’re measuring, and that if you were measuring something in the past, you can also tie it into what you’re measuring in Google Analytics 4. Now, I think it’s a little complicated to merge the two because there’s no retroactive data and analytics.

Really, what you have to do is make sure you’re downloading your UA data and your GA4 data and really stitch them together to make sure that you aren’t losing anything and that you have a consistent story, because if you’re tracking different things, you’ll see, “Oh, my CPA or my lead count really increased or decreased,” and that’s really not necessarily true. You just have to make sure that your measurement framework is good and what you’re tracking is consistent. Yes.

Rich: One of the things to think about is making sure it’s as apples to apples as possible when you make this migration.

Turner: Yes, or if it wasn’t very good, then it’s a chance to start over, really. Yes.

Rich: Throw all that past data out the window. Useless. You’ve just been making the wrong decision.

Turner: Sometimes. Yes, really. [laughter] I’ve seen it a lot. Yes.

Rich: It’s not all doom and gloom in GA4. There’s a reason why Google is doing this. It has benefits in terms of tracking across multiple different platforms. If you’ve got an app, which more and more companies are developing their own apps now, GA4 is seamless around tracking across both apps and web properties, and also, they’re going to have a better ability to fill in some of the data gaps that were caused by the lack of third-party cookies that’s happening in the cookieless world that we’re moving to.

There is some benefits to GA4 in terms of future-proofing data moving forward. It’s just more set up for the world that we’re moving into as opposed to the world that we’re leaving behind, which is what UA was really good at.

Okay, let’s move on from GA4 because it’s not all GA4. Other elements in the reporting tech stack, one of the things that’s coming up a lot for us is having a really good call-tracking platform, because working in healthcare, we get a lot of clients who are heavily relying on phone call leads to measure success. One of the things that we’ve been working towards as an agency, which, Turner, maybe you can talk about in just broad brushstrokes terms, is moving away from call tracking providers that just track the quantity of calls and moving towards call tracking providers that also help you understand lead quality. Maybe, can you just give us an idea of how those new solutions help us to understand that?

Turner: For sure. You definitely want to be tracking all the calls they get made. You can’t necessarily always do that just in analytics. That’s why you’ll want a call-tracking platform. Many call-tracking platforms, they really just count all of the calls that are getting made and give you some information about what happened during the call, but really, the best call tracking platforms tell you the outcome of the call, so whether it was a new patient, a sale, whether it was a lead, and then even the best call tracking platforms tell you information such as, well, if they were interested but didn’t book an appointment, what’s the reason behind that.

Then really, that gives you good information and data to go back to your team and your operation and really optimize there, maybe make some few changes to your IVR if you have to, maybe there’s a different script you need to be looking at, maybe you need to be more upfront about not accepting Medicare or Medicaid. Many different opportunities if you’re really looking at your calls and analyzing them. Yes.

Rich: Essentially, it’s bubbling up insights that not only help inform the algorithm because you can send the signal back into Google Ads, or Bing Ads, or even Google Analytics that a new patient appointment phone call was booked, but it’s also giving you more anecdotal information in terms of the reasons not booked, to the point that you made about getting a lot of callers who have Medicaid, but we don’t accept Medicaid.

It’s helping us as marketers know that we need to be more prominent about the fact that we don’t accept Medicaid on the landing page or on the websites, that we’re not generating calls if people don’t have the right insurance that we can accept. Yes. I think the other thing that you touched on as well that’s valuable here is it also looks at operator performance. It will tell you-

Turner: It can see who’s doing the best.

Rich: Who’s converting the most.

Turner: Who can really close the leads.

Rich: Exactly. That can be important too. We tend to focus in on the marketing side, but obviously, if we’re driving a lot of leads and then there’s a fumble once those phone calls come in, that also reflects poorly on us in terms of our numbers and the ROI that marketing is generating. I think we as an agency are also now starting to shift a bit further down that lead pipeline to help make sure that the conversion rates remain pretty high across that.

Turner: What you said about sending the signal, that’s super important too, because the better signal you can send into your ad platform, the more that that platform will know, “Okay, go after these types of leads.” You’ll get a better audience that way. That’s really important too, with a better call tracking platform to be able to send that data.

Rich: Some more advancements on the form-tracking solution side as well. It used to be that you were just able to count the number of forms that came in. Now with some of the call tracking solutions that we’re looking at, these more sophisticated solutions, they even have technologies around understanding the disposition of form. A form will come in, it will go into their system, someone will then call them back.

Then once the outcome of that phone call is known, once they make contact with that person, that can then be reported back on, “This form submission turned into a new patient appointment,” or “This form submission didn’t book for whatever these reasons are.” That, again, if you’re using form tracking, that’s something else that you can also start to work out, which is what percentage of these forms are actually turning into the outcome that you want, which is new patient appointments.

Turner: You’ll really want to integrate your forms with your whole system and make sure you’re working them because too many times I just see providers collecting forms but not really working them. You’re really missing a lot of opportunities if you’re not using, for example, a call-tracking platform that’s auto-dialing the forms. Yes, super important if you are using forms to work them. Otherwise, you may want to consider not even using forms.

Rich: What’s better than forms? What do we think about?

Turner: Appointment schedulers. An integrated appointment scheduler.

Rich: I know you’ve been working to set up a couple of those recently. Give us a short rundown of the benefits and what you should be looking for in terms of an online appointment scheduler.

Turner: A great online appointment scheduler is going to let your customers, potential patients book an appointment directly on the site without even having to call you. It will integrate with your healthcare system to find available time for providers. The best schedulers, the patients will be able to select what services they want, when they want to come in, and be able to book their appointment online. Then the best schedulers also are able to send that data back to Google Analytics, Google Ads, and other advertising platforms so that you have the signal of these are booked appointments.

Rich: From an operational point of view, the very best schedulers, part of it is not only the ability to communicate with the platforms, which you just mentioned, but it’s the speed in which they sync to those platforms. I think we have one technology partner which we work with that is able to sync every 15 seconds to the EMR. It prevents the issue of someone booking in the same time slot online that someone is also booking in over the phone and creating this nightmare for the admin staff where they then have to call back one of them and say, “Actually, sorry, this slot’s been double-booked, I need to reschedule you.”

I think that’s another important thing, is once you’re giving the ability to the end patient to book online directly, it has to be updating those systems quickly so you don’t end up with a lot of double-booked appointments.

Turner: You’ll also definitely want some sort of data warehouse because Google Analytics, and it’s always been a little bit like this way, but it’s increasingly more like this way, they won’t store your data forever. You really need to be downloading it if you want to look back when it’s 2028 and look back and say, “Hey, what were we doing in 2023? How are we doing?” You’ll want some sort of data warehouse or system to download your data there.

What good is data really if you’re not visualizing it? You’ll also really need a good data visualization tool. For data warehouses, we really like Funnel, Domo, and BigQuery. Those are the ones that we most commonly use with our clients. Then with the visualization tools, we really like Looker Studio and Tableau are some of our favorites. Domo’s really interesting because it does the data warehouse and the data visualization portion together in the same platform. That could be a good choice if you’re looking to consolidate your vendors.

Rich: Funnel we like because as an ETL solution, it gives you a lot of flexibility.

Turner: It’s very easy to use too. Domo can be quite complicated. I’ve seen some projects that were just way too complicated for no reason.

Rich: If you guys are wondering what the benefit of the ETL solution is, extract, transform, and load, what we mean by that is, essentially, it’s a place where you can pull all the data in from all your different data sources that you’re using for all of your marketing channels and then you can create custom dimensions and metrics based on that data. If you wanted to look at all your activity by a single location, as an example, you could create a location dimension and roll up all the data that pertains to that location or pertains to that service line. That’s really the benefit of an ETL solution.

I guess we should also mention just quickly, because I know we’ve probably been going a fair while now, we do also like a bit of conversion rate optimization here, and there are some great tools out there. Actually, another Google landmine to be aware of is that Google Optimize, which is probably the most common AB testing tool out there, which Google offers for free. It has an enterprise solution as well, but it also offers a free version, which is most widely used, is going to cease to exist.

Turner: I didn’t know that.

Rich: Yes, as of, I believe it’s October of this year. Because of that, if you guys are doing AB testing through Google Optimize, you may have already come up with a contingency plan for this, but if you haven’t, VWO, which is another big player in the AB testing space, they are offering a free solution now. There is free package for VWO, which is pretty comprehensive.

More enterprise players like Convert that we utilize, they have a low-cost package also to help people who are migrating from Google Optimize to a new AB testing solution. I’d say definitely if you guys are doing some AB testing on Optimize right now, take a look at VWO, take a look at Convert, see which solution makes the most sense for you, both are great options. If you’re not doing any kind of AB testing or personalization or multi-variate testing and you guys have the traffic to do so, so if you’re getting 10,000 sessions or page views a month-

Turner: A little bit bigger.

Rich: -yes, you get a little bit of traffic, then we would highly recommend that you guys look into CRO testing and personalization solutions. Obviously, if you need an agency, then we can certainly help with that. Otherwise, like I said, we’re having to make some technology recommendations as well. I think that is pretty much all we need to cover today. We’ve been over a lot of ground. Anything else you’d like to add, any final thoughts on tech stacks in 2023?

Turner: More complicated is not always better. Don’t fall into that trap.

Rich: Keep it simple.

Turner: Keep it simple stupid. 2023 is all about Google Analytics 4, basically, for most companies.

Rich: Focusing on GA4.

Turner: Focusing on GA4, you got to build a good base and then you can start pulling some of your other vendors in, make sure they all integrate. That’s super important.

Rich: Think about lead quality too. That’s another thing that we’re really pushing with our clients. Just keep your eye on it. Doesn’t matter the quantity of leads if none of them are actually turning into patients. Just keep an eye on that. All right. Turner, pleasure to have you. Thanks for making your pod debut, and we look forward to seeing you guys next time.

Turner: Yes. See you.

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 [email protected].

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