Using Digital and Direct Marketing To Recruit New Primary Care Providers

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07/11/2019 in Blog

A shortage of primary care physicians across the United States has reached epidemic proportions, and is resulting in a lack of provider capacity and long wait times for patients. But now, healthcare organizations, such as Hendricks Regional Health in Indiana, are improving their recruitment programs with data-driven marketing that gets results.

Hendricks has developed a strategic marketing plan that combines in-house resources with the Patient Direct Connect solution from Healthgrades. Hendricks used its own marketing resources in tandem with Patient Direct Connect, an online portal for turning healthcare shoppers into loyal patients.

Elizabeth Cisco, executive director of marketing and employer strategy at Hendricks, detailed how the organization has developed and implemented a provider recruitment program during a presentation at the Healthshare Symposium 2019. Hendricks has more than 2,200 associates and a primary service area of 290,000 people within Central Indiana.  They have two hospitals, eight campuses, and more than 40 office locations.

The big challenge for Hendricks, Cisco said, was to improve bleak recruitment results and to fill the pipeline with new primary care providers. The solution was to develop an integrated marketing campaign supported by a targeted provider recruitment strategy. “We focused on creating an authentic and differentiating employee value proposition for prospective recruits," explained Cisco. “We rebooted the strategy to focus on who we are. We're very authentic. We're very real."

The Hendricks marketing team realized it had to target the 2 percent of medical students who, according to the American Medical Association, are interested in primary care. Moreover, they set their sights on nurse practitioners (NPs). In contrast to young doctors, 90 percent of NPs are trained to practice primary care. Finally, the team narrowed their focus to attracting millennials in search of a place to settle down.

Practice Locally. Stand Out Nationally.

Hendricks designed its "Stand Out Nationally" campaign in-house. The idea was to resonate with those millennials who are attracted to the “buy local" movement, and who are among the 56 percent of family medicine graduates who prefer to practice within 100 miles of where they completed their residency.

“Rather than focus on more traditional benefits, we lifted-up our organization's community engagement," said Cisco. “A key message in the campaign: Hendricks' marketing team is fully committed to helping providers grow their practices."

Hendricks used a combination of print ads, recruitment events, social media and direct mail to reach provider prospects. They also created a special landing page dedicated to recruitment-related messaging. “Our call to action is 'Choose Hendricks,'" said Cisco. “Choosehendricks.org, and you're going to go there. You're going to see videos, and you're going to learn about our culture."

The results from the Hendricks campaign exceeded expectations. In 2018, the organization on-boarded 26 new providers, including eight primary care physicians and three specialists. “Seven of the 11 signed providers in 2019 had at least one touchpoint with our campaign microsite or an event," said Cisco.

Patient Direct Connect

Recruiting new providers is one thing, keeping them busy and happy is another. Hendricks recognized the importance of using digital tools to both attract providers and to support practices in its network with new patient leads. As part of its digital strategy, Hendricks became the first healthcare system in central Indiana to use Patient Direct Connect.

Patient Direct Connect offered both existing and new providers a plug-and-play platform for engaging with patients. In fact, creating profiles for new providers on the platform, Healthgrades.com, is now a standard part of the organization's on-boarding process.

“Our marketing team is very committed to our providers," said Cisco. “We're among the first people at Hendricks they get to know. Being able to show them how we they would be visible on the Healthgrades site has helped us establish trusted relationships, and buy-in from new and existing providers."

While Hendricks started using Patient Direct Connect with new providers, it quickly expanded its program to include established providers. Hendricks also made a multimedia specialist and marketing liaison available to help its practices use the online portal. Photos were initially added for every provider, followed by video bios. Hendricks filmed, edited, and published 59 videos in-house, and used that process to engage with providers and physician leadership. The multi-purpose videos that can also be used in paid social campaigns.

From a marketing standpoint, Cisco said, Patient Direct Connect underscores how committed Hendricks is to the success of their affiliated healthcare providers. “They know that we're going to help drive their patients into their practices," said Cisco.

Integrated Analytics

The ability to easily track engagement on Healthgrades.com enables Hendricks to measure a direct correlation between its paid social campaigns and new patient leads. Establishing key performance indicators also helps to track results from Healthgrades.com. The metrics showed a steady increase in traffic, as well as higher conversions of visitors into new patients. Between June 2016 and September 2018, said Cisco, the program generated 2,775 new patients. Searches increased 63 percent, call volume increased by 53 percent, and new patients increased by 79 percent. “It's pretty incredible," she said.

The initial strategic marketing campaign resulted in a measurable return on investment of $3.5 million in net revenue from new patients alone. All total, the return on investment from the provider recruitment program was $19.7 million.

Healthgrades also helps healthcare providers translate data-driven strategies into relevant content that will get the attention of prospective new patients, and motivate them to act. Patient Direct Connect gives healthcare marketers access to end-to-end, omnichannel campaign optimization and marketing automation expertise. Moreover, Healthgrades.com captures relevant information about visitors to facilitate appointments and/or follow up communications.

Start by creating a marketing checklist that includes on-boarding new providers and engaging with patients online, said Cisco. Hendricks used a best practices checklist developed as part of the Patient Direct Connect program. In the final analysis, the program metrics from implementing an integrated marketing campaign with Healthgrades far exceeded expectations. As Cisco observed, “It's just really, really remarkable."