Real-Time Referral Data in Healthcare Marketing

How healthcare marketing can track referral sources, connecting physicians and patients faster

With more data available than ever before, the game has changed for most everyone in a marketing or sales capacity. Marketers are expected to make more data-driven decisions, tying leads, conversions, and eventual sales to their “spend,” the accuracy of which would have been impossible to gauge just a decade ago. Naturally, healthcare marketing is no exception to these new rules of engagement. And if a healthcare organization is dependent on physician referrals to get more patients — for labs, radiology, or a specialist physician network, for example — there is even more responsibility on their marketing departments to have full data visualization, so they can take appropriate action in a more timely manner.

Bridge Connector recently hosted a webinar on exactly this: “Making data-driven marketing decisions in healthcare.” Our team, along with Salesforce and a featured client, focused on a powerful use case around how to use data-driven analytics to empower a marketing team to go after referral sources more strategically.

Our featured client was Premier Radiology, the largest outpatient diagnostic imaging network in Tennessee. A joint venture organization with Ascension Health and Saint Thomas Health, they have 20 diagnostic imaging locations and over 50 sub-specialized radiologists.

“Our challenge as a marketing team was to find an alternative to the labor-intensive, manual reporting, which resulted in large, bulky binders that no marketer wanted to carry around,” said Gail Bedlack, Chief Marketing Officer, Premier Radiology. “Previously, we relied on monthly reports, which meant we were calling on physicians with data that was up to 30 days old. We knew this needed to change.”

Premier has a network of over 5,000 referring providers. But with its previous manual processes, each of the marketing reps primarily focused on their territory’s Top 100 referral sources, thus their need for more comprehensive and timely access to data.

Erik Wagner, Senior Director of Global Provider Strategy, Healthcare and Life Sciences, at Salesforce, adds, “No longer can an organization simply be better than the radiology center across the street or the surgery center down the road. We have to raise our expectations to make these offerings more affordable and more enjoyable for our patients. How to achieve this with all of the siloed systems in healthcare is a challenge.”

“We purchase a system to solve problems, per care setting. So in radiology, it’s an RIS (Radiology Information System), and with labs, that may be an LIS (Lab Information System), an ERP system in HR, and so on. But now we need the IT department to magically turn these systems into a system of engagement so that we can improve the experience? These systems weren’t designed for that, however. This is where Salesforce comes in,” said Wagner. “We need to bring this siloed data up to a system delivery layer. The Salesforce platform allows you to have a single user interface where we’re able to access the right data, at the right time, in the right context for the end user. This involves bringing in data from one or multiple sources so that the end users have a unified platform that’s more cohesive. I can’t stress how important integration is in the healthcare ecosystem.”

Premier Radiology had already adopted Salesforce as their engagement platform, and they engaged Bridge Connector to address their healthcare marketing integration challenges.

Bridge Connector first identified their business use case, and through our process of solution architecture and solution engineering, further assessed “what data they were trying to bubble up,” as Joshua Douglas, Bridge Connector’s Chief Technology Officer, calls it.

“They needed more referral data delivered in a real-time manner, and it’s our job to really translate that business use case into the technical ‘how’ we’re going to achieve that for the customer,” Douglas said.

Premier had two systems they needed to connect — their RIS and Salesforce — and Bridge Connector began mapping that initial integration to transform diagnostic imaging results coming real-time out of the RIS, what data elements would need to be pulled out of those, then perform “business logic” on that data to create referral orders in Salesforce. The stage was now set to visualize the data of all 5,000 referring providers from the RIS on the Salesforce platform — a significant increase from the previous manual reporting process.

With this success, Premier realized they could benefit from additional functionalities, including the ability to update information in Salesforce about a referral order, as well as the ability to delete or inactivate a referral order in Salesforce.

“Premier had a great grasp on the business problem they were trying to solve, and Bridge Connector was happy to be able to help them quickly find a solution,” said Douglas. “They were able achieve that elusive closed-loop on tracking referrals, giving them that real-time data and visualization that’s so critical to their marketing efforts.”

Where a lot of integration companies go wrong, according to Douglas, is that, “You shouldn’t start with the technology. You should start with the business use case and what you want to accomplish for a client. What’s the end goal? Once you actually know what you’re trying to achieve and the business goal, then you can begin to work backwards to determine what the technical needs are to achieve that goal.”

In Premier Radiology’s case, they wanted to increase provider referrals to their facilities. With the solution provided, they were able to accomplish that, along with developing marketing strategies for increasing high-modality volume and improving overall referral satisfaction.

Their challenge, while referral management-specific, is not unique among other healthcare organizations.

The recurring theme is to improve the experience for the groups that matter most to an organization — Premier Radiology’s providers, their patients and their employees — and streamlining your processes, so data can help with the lift of all three of these efforts.

“The ability to confidently enter a practice with real-time referral data is a game-changer for Premier,” said Bedlack. “We are able to communicate confidently with the practice and also discuss other marketing and service-line initiatives based on that particular account’s dashboard information. The access to real-time data is exceptional.”

Bedlack is referring to not only the number of studies the referring office is ordering, but also the imaging study and relative value units (RVUs). This level of detail allows for market forecasting and better informs the team’s overall strategic focus.

“There’s no more speculation. We now have real-time, accurate data, which allows our marketing team to do their best work,” said Bedlack. “We have moved past focusing on each rep’s Top 100, of our total 5,000, referral sources. With our robust platform, we have multiple options for data-sourcing. The ability to identify and begin fostering specific referral sources to increase high-modality volume is significant for us.”

Click here to watch the full webinar.



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