Podcast #65

Navigating the Healthcare Landscape: Mapping the Patient Journey

Patient journey maps are a powerful tool that can revolutionize healthcare marketing. By understanding the different stages and touchpoints of a patient's experience, healthcare marketers can gain valuable insights into the challenges and opportunities they face. This leads to higher patient engagement, better outcomes, and a more comprehensive marketing approach.

Episode Highlights:

Rich Briddock

Rich Briddock: “Unless you know what your patient needs, you can’t provide a solution to meet that need. That’s what we try and do with our clients is help them to articulate to us or even help them figure out what their inpatient needs so that they can provide the right digital experience and marketing materials and messaging.”

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.

Alex Membrillo: This is going to be a fun one, guys. We talk all of the time about how to drive more patients, and we’re so performance focused. SEO, got to rank page search, got to have great ads that convert, and how do you track them, patient attribution and all that fun stuff, but we don’t spend enough time talking about the patient and the journey she takes to reaching out to the provider group. Rich is our head of media, performance, analytics, creative, everything. He is a mad scientist. Rich, welcome to Ignite.

Rich Briddock: That’s something else.

Alex: Yes. Do you really mean that? Are you appreciative of me having you on here?

Rich: I love being here.

Alex: [laughs] I saw your calendar today. I don’t think he really appreciates this. This is cool. The algorithms are taking over more of the hands-work of BBC and Facebook ads, even SEO with the writing. As marketers, as provider groups, we have to find different ways to stand out from market betters because everybody has access to the tools. It is our theory, maybe we’re the only agency, but it is our theory that creative is going to become more and more important over the next few years.

For creative to be more relevant and to work better, to help convert leads into patients and clicks into leads, you have to better understand your patient. Where do you start, Rich? Why is it important? Do we map out journeys? What do you need to know? What is actually relevant? What is marketing fluff? Where do you start in the patient’s journey? Why does it matter?

Rich: There’s a load of reasons why it matters. It’s not just creative. It’s also just messaging and landing pages as well. Maybe you’re wrapping landing pages and that stuff into the heads of creative, but it’s not just the pretty pictures that you see on social and display ads. It’s more than that. I think ultimately it’s really interesting when we talk to some of our clients and we say, what do your patients really care about? What makes them say, what are they looking for? Oftentimes we’ll find that they don’t really know. They have not had those conversations.

Alex: These are successful groups.

Rich: [crosstalk].

Alex: We don’t take mom & pops, we don’t take startups. They’re private equity owned by legit businesses that don’t really understand the journey to becoming a–

Rich: They don’t really understand the journey or they don’t understand core pieces of the journey that help a patient get from where they’re looking for a service to actually signing up with that service and getting that treatment. An example of that might be, if you’re a behavioral health provider, how do you select a therapist or how do you select a psychiatrist? That can be very daunting for a patient. How do they know, of a list of ten potential providers, which is the right one to pick?

Unless you know what your patient needs, you can’t provide a solution to meet that need. That’s what we try and do with our clients is help them to articulate to us or even help them figure out what their inpatient needs so that they can provide the right digital experience and marketing materials and messaging.

Alex: How do we help the practice, our client, figure out what solutions the patient’s looking for? What convinces them over provider group A over B?

Rich: There’s different areas where you can get that information from. You could ask your patients in person and provide anecdotal feedback back to us. You could send our client surveys. Why did you choose us? What was driving you? You can ask polls on landing pages online. “Hey, did you find what you’re looking for, what you need?” You can mine customer reviews, go to Google, go to other places where you can see reviews and understand what patients are saying about why they chose you.

I think also just working in healthcare space, a lot of it boils down to the same few things. Often there are a couple of-

Alex: [crosstalk].

Rich: -global [unintelligible 00:04:22]. “Can I afford it?” That’s number one for most patients is, “Can I afford it by insurance or self-pay? Or do you have payment plans, CareCredit, that kind of stuff?” For a lot of low-acuity stuff, affordability is a big thing that patients are looking for. Another thing is access to care, so “Can you see me quickly?” That’s a huge deal, the convenience of booking. “Can I book online or do I need to call someone?”

We certainly know that younger generations are adverse to calling and speaking to people who want to book online. Obviously, it’s easier to book online because you can see all the times that are available and which providers and then provider reputation is another huge one, so “Am I going to get quality of care?” A lot of those tenets are fairly universal, but there are going to be other things that pop up from time to time that help a patient make a decision in terms of their selection.

Alex: Yes, great landing pages that get to the point, and for whatever practice type, having the insurance, having the providers, the reviews, and whatever selling points help someone get over the hurdle choosing a therapist if that’s what you’re in. What about before we get the solution? The journey starts before the solution. It’s usually a lot of googling, I’m feeling this way, or had this thing happen? Where do you start with that? How do we advise the type of content or who the demographic is? Where do we go there?

Rich: You can’t think about the funnel from an acquisition point of view. I’m not talking about reactivation or nurturing or any of that stuff, but actually from they don’t know you to they call you or they book an appointment with you online. There’s typically three buckets that we look at. The first bucket is they are problem aware. They know they have an issue, but they don’t know about you or your solution. Maybe you have depression, you have anxiety, you know that you need to get some help, but you don’t know what that fix is. Those people are looking for information around what is available. Do you need therapy? Do you need event management? Do you need psychiatry? [unintelligible 00:06:32] with this example.

Alex: Behavioral leaders, you’re going to love this part [unintelligible 00:06:35].

Rich: Those people need a lot of education. What’s out there? Should I go virtual? Should I go in person? Is there any difference? They probably want to see more long-form content, because they need to be sold on the category they need to be sold on why should–

Alex: [crosstalk] we find out what are the symptoms or issues people are even googling for? Does it go outside of that? Does anyone ever interview front office staff? Why are people calling in? What are the elements they’re talking about? Talk to the providers, anything like that. How do we even know what to write for or create video for or anything?

Rich: I think you can tell from Google what the respective search demand is at by condition. Then there’s also other tools out there, things like AlsoAsked and Ask the Public where you can see what other people are searching for around certain topics.

Alex: Snippets, snippets, snippets that are saying the other questions.

Rich: That gives you a sense of relative demand for these things. Then the other thing you can do is, top of the funnel, the awareness campaigns where maybe you have different focal points on a different condition or a different offering. Then you see what response rates you get to those, like who’s watching which videos? You’re getting more people watching videos about general anxiety and potentially ADHD or something like that. You can put out different content to what the response rate and engagement rates are [unintelligible 00:07:56] gauge, out of your target audience, what are they interested in. Generally, I think general keyword research will give you a sense of what the interest level is out there in the area that you’re targeting.

Anyway, the top-of-the-funnel stuff issued a very explanatory, very educational, very soft sell. Then middle of the funnel is like that’s when you’re differentiating yourself as a business. Then the patient again has different needs. If they figured out that they need behavioral health, but now what they’re trying to figure out is, “Why should I choose you?” That’s going back to all those value props that we talked about and understanding what they’re looking for. “Can you see me the fastest? Do you take my insurance? Do you have the best providers? Do you make it easy for me to pick a provider?” All these things that’s like “Why brand X?”.

Then at the bottom of the funnel, “Okay, we’ve done this merry dance together and I know all the stuff about your business. I’m still sitting on the fence.” Then it’s, “Why today? Why now? Why should I take the action that you want me to take today?” That’s going to be a lot of action-oriented messaging, very practical stuff. We can see you tomorrow, we can see you same day, very pushing you in the door today.

A lot of mistakes that brands make is that they give the same information to the patient no matter where they are in the journey. You go to the same landing page. If I’m ready to commit today versus if I’m at the beginning of my journey and I’m still trying to figure out “What’s the solution for my ADHD?” “What’s the solution for my chronic anxiety?” I don’t even know that.

Alex: Or “My tooth hurts.”

Rich: Or “My tooth hurts,” if you want to bring in the dentist. [laughter] “My tooth hurts,” yes. Not to be controversial, but I think that things like dentistry, maybe the patient journey is a little shorter.

Alex: Yes, shorter.

Rich: Most people know that they need a dentist.

Alex: Something I heard from a guest. This is going to be a good interview. Theresa Porcaro, Pelvic Rehabilitation, how the marketing– when she started there, she did something really interesting. She didn’t do anything in marketing except actually get rid of campaigns. She started by understanding the patient there. She went and talked to a ton of patients, she went to the providers and the front office staff and she talked to all of them. Why are people calling in, not choosing us? Choosing us? What are my ailments, conditions and stuff like that. Then she created content that was clinically reviewed, guys, clinically reviewed.

All of us can create blog content using that tool at this point. That means your competitors will too. Everyone’s about to be spinning out tons of blog content, landing page content. The only way to stand out is going to be to get clinicians involved and getting a unique spin on it that is more educational, more clinical. Otherwise, everyone’s going to have the same regurgitation. You’re not going to be able to stand out. I see that as the future and that’s going to be an issue.

Rich: I think that makes sense and I think using the clinicians provided as key stakeholders in understanding the patient is important. The only thing that I would say is just don’t rely on them.

Alex: No.

Rich: They have a different perception, they look through a different lens, and they have a stake in the game. They have a reason to promote a certain type of reality about what patients want, even if that’s not an issue for the actual patients themselves.

Alex: They also have their own viewpoints of telehealth.

Rich: That was what I was alluding to. Patients think that telehealth is absolutely as good as in-person health. Providers think it’s not. You just got to be careful if your only stakeholder in the conversation is provided– or anyone. Because they may have a slightly biased point of view.

Alex: I like video content here, especially for the top of the funnel. Educational, everyone’s going to be able to create blog articles. You know what everyone can create is video content. Get your clinicians involved, reporting really good content that’s educational. Especially for your higher-acuity service lines, stuff like that. I think it’s going to be good. When should a group go employ a research or focus group firm or something like that? When have you seen that really help?

Rich: I think if you are starting out, and you’re high growth, and you’re looking to invest a significant amount in your marketing experience, digital experience, your web platform, I think understanding what makes [unintelligible 00:12:11] marketing, then I think it’s important enough [crosstalk]–

Alex: [crosstalk] position, you need any unique angle you can get.

Rich: Obviously, if you’re in a highly competitive market or highly competitive vertical where access to care is relatively straightforward, and there’s at least as much supplies as there is demand or there’s quite a lot of supply, then I think at that point it’s really important. Obviously, there’s some healthcare verticals where there’s not enough supply to meet the demand. In that case, you don’t have to be super sophisticated in how you [crosstalk].

Alex: You just have the clinicians and you’re good there.

Rich: You just have to be open. I think if you are in a more competitive set, then it’s important to understand that stuff [crosstalk].

Alex: I’ve seen some of the research that our clients come back with from these branding and research firms. It’s sharp and it does give you a little bit of an angle, not just in how the patients think, but what the providers think makes you unique so you can do more acquisitions because you’ve built a good network for them. Providers don’t want to sell to a conglomerate that’s going to toss them aside. That happens too often. I think the branding can help on both sides, not just for patients, but providers, too.

Rich: Yes, that’s right. I think understanding what providers look for or want is crucial-

Alex: That’s a journey.

Rich: [unintelligible 00:13:26].

Alex: That’s on a different episode. This was fun, guys. Marketing is always going to have its place. A lot of the tools and tactics, some of it is getting commoditized by AI or the platforms or whatever it may be. At the end of the day, you know what [unintelligible 00:13:41] always have consistent over the last 60 years of advertising? Marketing is understanding the customer and agencies and groups, the provider groups that understand their patient better than anyone.

Focus on educating the patient, maybe put conversion even second. If you focus on caring for the patient, what they care about, and solving their problems, I think you’re going to do a lot better than the rest of your competitors here. Rich, thank you for joining us talking about patient journeys. If you guys want any more research or partners, we partner with to do patient journey mapping that goes beyond our capabilities, happy to connect you. Reach out to us on LinkedIn, guys, or send us an email at [email protected]. I am AM, he is RB. Feel free to hit us up. Rich, thanks for joining us on Ignite.

Rich: Thanks for having me.

Alex: Still don’t believe it.


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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