Healthcare Providers: Here’s Why Experience and a Data-First Mindset Matters

Updated on January 13, 2023
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Jay Calavas

Healthcare is both an industry and a cause, and not many businesses stake their success on the wellness of their customers. 

But healthcare is also a market that’s highly-regulated, with government oversight at both the state and federal level. So, engaging in regular marketing activities that a retailer would see as routine is not part of this industry’s day-to-day.

Managing data and consent in a regulated market is a different game. It’s not that the deck is stacked against a particular organization as much as there are additional steps required to maintain compliance. 

The Understanding

Anonymization refers to making it impossible to identify a specific customer by rendering information about them anonymous. For example, anonymized data may reference how many patients of a healthcare facility need a certain kind of care, but will not identify individuals. A third party can’t drill down to learn about specific cases, but can use the information to determine trends among a group of patients or around patients who have a particular ailment. It seems like an obstacle to customer relationships, but anonymization can still provide detailed data to help outline a business strategy while providing an increased level of privacy and security to patients.

By contrast, pseudonymization is a different level of privacy and allows healthcare entities to personalize their marketing while still remaining compliant with guidelines set down by European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). Under this process, an individual customer or patient becomes “Customer001” instead of identification by name.

The healthcare provider can understand the behaviors and tendencies of Customer001, which is beneficial to both parties. And it allows the organization to provide health reminders and related content, in addition to promotions and offers, all without compromising privacy.

Experience Matters

All of this data management can happen within a Customer Data Platform (CDP), which is software that collects, manages, and utilizes customer data across multiple touchpoints by integrating it into a single 360-degree view. Whether a patient is visiting their doctor’s office, setting up a telehealth appointment, or managing their bills and records on their mobile device, having a connected and personalized experience is critical. Unlike interactions with people’s favorite retail brands or restaurants, health and wellness is the center of this journey. The bar for ethical standards is high.

Healthcare organizations also need to engage in the same marketing practices that any other brand routinely does, including attracting new members, while maintaining loyalty among those it already has. This is heavily influenced by direct experiences people have with these organizations. Is my information accurate everytime I meet with a doctor? Do I feel that my information is private and secure? Are the reminders and promotions applicable to me and the care I need?

Every commercial entity must operate as a business, and these organizations are no different. But in healthcare, experiences matter most. The end user must always be treated as a customer second, and a patient first.

The Data Ecosystem

The sensitivity of the data set in healthcare is heightened because the information is among the most personal anyone can have. There is a demand for individualization driven by Personal Health Information (PHI), which dictates how patient care is handled across their journey.

A consistent and seamless patient experience cannot be implemented without connecting all touchpoints they have with an organization. This 360-degree view calls for CDP: the most efficient and privacy-protected option. Integration with third-party providers’ information and patient data is a critical step. If a single aspect of the patient’s profile is missing, there’s risk in not having a full understanding of care complexities and options. 

Different data sources store information in different ways and different formats. For example, one source may identify a patient living at “728 State St.” and another showing a different patient at the same address with a slightly different name. These are the same people, validated by date of birth details, but if the data management program cannot identify the discrepancy, there’s an increased margin for error. Potentially, a patient could be sent medication twice. Or perhaps there is a mix-up on treatment for very different and particular medical conditions. This hurts the reputation of the healthcare institution and defeats the purpose of having sophisticated systems that aggregate information for greater visibility and consistency. More importantly, the patient’s treatment and overall experience is hindered due to the mismanagement of data. 

Much at Stake

The healthcare sector has some of the most stringent regulations. But there is flexibility in data sharing because the stakes in healthcare are high; any information that could benefit patient outcomes is welcome.

When it comes to data breaches: this can be a result of human error, or more likely, a legacy IT system that has not been properly updated to current standards. Breach also spills into the realm of the mishandling of data – often by mistake. There are legal implications in wide-spread data breaches or improperly sharing patient information. But, having a strong and secure data infrastructure in place, coupled with ongoing education about technology and overall compliance with healthcare workers, can help minimize risk and better manage sensitive information. 

Healthcare organizations are tasked with holding the most personal information a person can have. It’s an awesome responsibility. But this information is key to securing better patient outcomes, advancing medical science, and fostering a healthier healthcare system. More than commercial interests, healthcare providers need to understand and be sensitive to the needs of all stakeholders. That means implementing a higher standard for data collection and management isn’t a nice to have, it’s must have. The systems exist. CDP offers a shining example of a data system integration tool that can increase the functionality of legacy systems and make them more secure. Patients are demanding greater data security and healthcare organizations must honor their preferences, just like every other sector. 

Jay Calavas
Jay Calavas
Head of Vertical Products at Tealium

Jay Calavas is Head of Vertical Products for Tealium.