6 ways to conduct healthcare marketing research without sacrificing patient security

As a healthcare provider, you need to conduct marketing research to identify ways to serve customers better — just like any other business — to find the marketing strategies to help you attract new customers.

But unlike other businesses, healthcare providers have to work within the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). So rather than remarketing ads and sharing individuals’ information that you think is okay to be seen publicly, be mindful of the actions you take by using HIPAA-compliant systems and asking patients for permission.

HIPAA violations can lead to costly fines, so it’s critical to put patient privacy at the forefront of your healthcare marketing research. With that in mind, here are six ways to collect marketing insights that are maximally valuable and minimally invasive.

1. Conduct a competitive analysis

A competitive analysis compares your healthcare business — its products, sales, and marketing strategies — to others in the industry. From there, you can tailor your marketing strategy to highlight your competitive advantage.

For example, say you're the only OBGYN in Atlanta, GA, who offers water births. That's a signal to focus your marketing on expectant parents interested in alternative forms of labor.

SEO companies such as SpyFu and SEMrush help you see how other OBGYNs marketing efforts are performing. Their search engine optimization (SEO) analyzes the quality of the content and the visibility of your competitors' sites.

In the images below, for example, we compare the SEO of three OBGYN practices in Atlanta, GA. Through SEMrush’s Keyword Gap, you can see a side-by-side comparison between the keyword profiles of up to five competitors. In this case, we compare Gyn-Care, Prestige Healthcare, and Obstetrics and Gynecology of Atlanta based on their root domain — a URL that captures all the information from a website.

On the left, you can see top opportunities for keyword volume and keyword overlap, followed by a chart of all the keyword details for the three practices. On the right, the Venn diagram differs in size, revealing that Obstetrics and Gynecology of Atlanta (in orange) dominates the keyword search.

Keyword Gap

Source: SEMrush

Overall, using SEO tools helps you see what other healthcare providers in your industry are ranking high and how you compare to them overall. Seeing these stats will ensure you conduct a thorough competitive analysis.

2. Analyze your advertising efforts

Dig into the analytics of your existing ads to see which ads and platforms are driving traffic and engagement. For example, are you seeing more success from a Facebook campaign or banner ads in your local newspaper? Use this information to plan your future marketing efforts.

While you can use essential analytics tools to see how people interact with your ads, you should steer clear of retargeting to protect patients’ Personal Health Information (PHI). Retargeting — also known as remarketing — enables cookies to deliver targeted ads to website visitors across the web.

Say Jimmy was recently diagnosed with lung cancer and then looks on his computer for cancer treatment centers. If his spouse hops on the same computer and sees an ad from your company that says “#1 Lung Cancer Center,” PHI has been violated due to retargeting.

To remain HIPAA-compliant, collect generic data — non-PII (Personal Identifiable Information). For example, variables like a first name, residing city, or even something specific as a blood sugar reading (without a full name, of course) are okay to use for healthcare marketing research.

You can collect, for instance, that a 50-year-old Sarah from Omaha, Nebraska, clicked on your ad. But anything that mentions her full name, home address, or email address is considered PII — violating HIPAA and sacrificing patient security.

The HealthCare.gov Facebook ad below is attention-grabbing while remaining HIPAA-compliant. HealthCare.gov includes an informative, straightforward description that conveys urgency, proactive imagery, a pithy headline, and a link to their URL to learn more. All the good stuff, without using any PII.

HealthCare.gov Source: AdEspresso

3. Look at incoming patients engaging on your website

Improve your healthcare marketing research by integrating CallRail’s HIPAA-compliant Form Tracking. You’ll see where patients are coming from when submitting forms and engaging on your website. In addition, it has encryptions, firewalls, and secure user access — leaving your patients confident their personal health information (PHI) is safe.

While CallRail's Call Tracking reveals which marketing efforts encourage your best leads to call, Form Tracking works similarly. However, instead of tracking calls, form tracking tells you where people come from when submitting forms.

Enable CallRail’s Form Tracking by installing the JavaScript snippet on all of your website pages. The snippet relays everything you need to know about visitors back to CallRail. CallRail then uses that information to see how people found your website — from PPC (pay-per-click) keywords to a customer's activity to your website.

Use the data to increase your leads, optimize your landing pages, and strengthen campaigns for higher converting forms. For example, if patients are using your internal search bar to look up a specific procedure, consider publishing a blog post that can serve as a resource about that topic.

When you enable form tracking across your website, you can be confident you're collecting the most accurate and comprehensive data available without sacrificing privacy.

4. Create surveys and questionnaires to get direct feedback

Surveys are an effective way to talk to your audience directly about their needs and experiences and adapt your marketing accordingly. But healthcare providers must be sure the survey data they collect (and how they collect it) is HIPAA compliant. Form Tracking produces successful surveys and questionnaires.

It’s essential to customize the format of your survey to your target demographic. With Form Tracking’s Form Builder feature, you can build your survey and set up automated responses or alerts for the type of responses you get.

You’ll get more answers and better data by letting people respond to surveys in the way that makes them most comfortable.

Health Insurance Survey

Image Source: QuestionPro

  • Younger folks will likely be more receptive to responding to surveys via email or directly on your website. Since young and middle-aged adults are generally comfortable with smartphones, send them a quick text to look out for your survey.
  • Virtual surveys are more convenient and increase the likelihood of responses. With the clear and concise questions in the health insurance survey pictured on the left, individuals can respond and submit the responses quickly.
  • On the other hand, older folks might appreciate surveys or questionnaires being sent to their home address or completing them directly in your office during their next visit.

5. Interview your patients

The best way to get to know your patients is to speak to them directly. You can conduct one-to-one interviews or larger focus groups to have in-depth conversations. Discussions allow you to dig deeper into questions or topics that otherwise can't do with a survey — revealing additional vital insights that can help develop more effective marketing strategies.

Ask open-ended questions during interviews and focus groups, which are designed for patients to steer the conversation and discuss what matters to them. To get the most useful feedback, make sure to recruit a diverse group of patients and create an environment where they feel comfortable being truthful.

Here are five suggestions for open-ended questions to ask:

  1. How did you hear about us?
  2. What are three things you like about our practice?
  3. Before joining us, what were your past experiences in healthcare like?
  4. What is something we could do to improve the patient experience?
  5. Are you okay with us sharing your responses from this interview publicly?

To conduct HIPAA-compliant interviews and focus groups, you have to get patients' explicit permission to be a part of them. (That usually means having them sign a document.) CallRail ensures that all data is secure and encrypted through Conversation Intelligence if you conduct interviews virtually.

CallRail's Conversation Intelligence uses artificial intelligence (AI) to transcribe and analyze your calls. It then surfaces actionable insights from those calls through Call Highlights. With Conversation Intelligence, you can specify keywords within a conversation that meet the criteria you've set up.

CI timeline

There are also Automation Rules within Conversation Intelligence. Here you set the key terms you are looking for, and AI identifies where these words came up during the call. The insights Conversation Intelligence offers will help you understand your audience better and to make informed decisions about how to improve the services your healthcare facility provides?

6. Leverage what your audience is saying online

Reading what patients are saying online allows you to learn about what matters most to them. And to make the process easier, consider tapping into social listening tools like Brandwatch, NetBase Quid, or Synthesio. Each can help you pull insights from your social interactions.

Hone in on social platforms like Twitter and Facebook and review sites like Google Reviews, Trustpilot, or Extole. Your current and prospective patients turn to social media and review sites for recommendations on everything — including healthcare. Keeping tabs on these channels gives you insight into what aspects of your practice are working.

In addition to using user reviews for insights about your patients, you can mine positive reviews for marketing. For example, take a screenshot or a quote from a satisfied patient and post it on your website, where prospective patients can see it. Keep in mind that it is crucial to ask for patients' permission to highlight what they share.

If you prefer a more automated process of watching and sourcing reviews, add integrations to your internal communication channels to deliver feedback as it rolls in.

You can set up a tool or channel on the platform to collect all your reviews from platforms that share reviews to see them in real-time. For example, ReviewBot is a review automation tool that can be integrated with Slack that scans reviews made on Yelp, Google My Business, and any place your business is mentioned.

Prepare the path to patient-centric marketing research

HIPAA-compliant market research will help protect your healthcare practice. Then building out better marketing strategies will help it grow significantly.

Before anything else, a strong visual presence is the key to a strong marketing strategy. Your website, social media platforms, and ads (HIPPA-compliant, of course) must be clear and eye-catching to attract potential patients.

To make those great first impressions, know precisely what potential patients you want to attract. Using CallRail's platform provides you with the information you need to tailor ads, content, and your website as a whole to be patient-centric. Doing so will show how you make an effort to put them first, always.