The Doctor Is In

Friendly pediatrician woman checks for sore throat of a boy who came for an examination with his mother. Doctor and his family are sitting in the hospital room. Healthcare concept.


Using digital advertising to deliver patients and increase physician referrals was the mission.

Our client is a US physician-owned private for-profit health care network that provides health care to more than 2 million people a year through its affiliated hospitals.

Working in concert with their communications firm, we helped them achieve two goals:

  • To generate awareness of the network’s primary care physicians (PCP) and to encourage patients to make both in-person or virtual appointments. The original focus was on virtual care during the pandemic.
  • To create and promote a physician referral program which will be part of ongoing marketing efforts to support physicians at the hospitals and medical groups that are part of the health care network. Physicians both within and outside the network were part of the outreach efforts.


A targeted approach and making the appointment process easy were the keys

The campaign to deliver new patients to the network took place over a six-week period.

We knew that campaigns to drive appointments at specific PCP practices would be the most effective and the most cost-efficient, so we drilled down on 48 specific participating physicians in four different cities.

The interest leads for the PCP campaigns were calculated as people who called, submitted a form, or arrived at the appointment page of a physician.

Our campaign included both digital display and social networks advertising as well as search engine marketing. The landing pages we built for the conversion of new patients ensured that they would make it right to their physician of choice.

As with most campaigns, you can finetune your strategy once you identify the winning strategies. By analyzing data, we retargeted the campaign for both digital display and social networking to improve click-through rates.


3,000 new patients in six weeks

This limited campaign – in three US states, two in the southeast and one in the northeast – brought nearly 3,000 new patients into the health care network.

The campaigns generated a very healthy 5,592,038 impressions amongst people who lived in the neighborhoods near the participating physicians. More than 16,000 people clicked on the ads to get more information.

Search advertising proved the strongest performer with a 4.06 percent click-through rate across all four cities. The northeastern state had the highest click-through rate at 4.88 percent.

We’ll use what we learned to shape additional outreach in the future.


The physician referral program was all about real connections

Our marketing program to drive referrals to the network’s physicians was developed and launched in one northeastern state. But it can be customized to any market or physician specialty.

This health care network markets itself as a provider that delivers high-quality care while keeping costs low by virtue of its many hospitals and medical groups. But for the model to work, there must be easy movement of patients between their providers – and between unaffiliated doctors and their physicians.

We wanted our ‘Physician Referral Program’ to make the targeted physicians aware of the high-quality colleagues and facilities within the health care network so they would be comfortable referring patients to them. What makes our program unique is targeting medical professionals both within and outside the health care network.

The content of the campaign was threefold:

  • To deliver name recognition and key background details of network physicians
  • To provide a clear understanding of the services they provide and where they are located
  • And to offer an opportunity to meet the doctor to establish a professional connection.

There are any number of ways to do this based on factors including location, competition, type of specialty, timing, and budget. Our suggested strategies included specialized print advertising, digital advertising, direct mail including a video direct mail package, online seminars, individual meetings, and marketing emails.

So far, we have narrowed the target market of referral sources and initiated selected LinkedIn and geo-targeted Facebook advertising. We also built the landing pages to get physicians, and their patients, right where they needed to go.

On the creative side we created videos to tell the story of the providers – then sent them out via high-end direct mail with the QR code embedded. This code generated an email message to go directly to the specialist so the two doctors could establish a personal connection.


After a 15 percent engagement rate, the next steps are clear

There have been 25 physicians out of 172 in the target market who have engaged the QR code to date. As we move forward in the campaign, we’ve locked in on the top converting platforms and reallocated the budget towards those best-performing strategies. And we’ve also been able to generate more hyper-targeted strategies based on specific users.

This is a work in progress, so we’ll continue to finetune the campaign and finalize a template to do a bigger rollout in this state, as well as to other states where the network has doctors and hospitals.

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