Acquiring Patients at ‘First Touch’ - the Top of the Healthcare Funnel

By: Jim O’Brien, Healthcare Marketing, Valassis
Published Friday, Jun 9, 2017

Acquiring Patients at ‘First Touch’ - the Top of the Healthcare Funnel

Retention and acquisition are critical to success for consumer packaged goods (CPG) companies, retail companies and in healthcare systems alike. Customer relationship management (CRM) companies have worked with healthcare systems for years on patient retention, yet patients still leave. As an example, in imaging services there is a 55 – 65 percent in-system referral “leakage.1

The Challenge of Reaching Patients

Patient acquisition is imperative as existing patients continue to drop out of hospital systems. For healthcare network marketers to succeed in new patient acquisition, their area of focus needs to be at “first touch” (at the top of the healthcare funnel). This includes areas such as Primary Care Provider (PCP) networks, urgent care, women’s health, bariatric and information sessions. Media spending can be most efficient in these areas, attracting new patients before they are put into the CRM/referral loop.


Media Influence and First Touch Points

As a whole, the majority of healthcare system advertising spend is on TV (41 percent) and newspaper ROP (Run of Press) (15 percent), with digital rapidly expanding. Yet these mediums have seen declining audiences and shrinking consumer purchase influence over the past five years.

When asked, “Which of the following media influences your purchases,” consumers answered that print and digital influenced roughly two-thirds of their purchase decisions while all other media influenced one-third of their decisions.3 Now, let’s examine the areas where healthcare systems spend most of their advertising dollars:

  • TV: There has been an 18 percent decline in the influence of TV in consumer purchasing decisions over the past five years.3 Millennials watch TV 40 percent less than they did five years ago3 due to “cord-cutting” (cancelling cable television) and online streaming via the internet.
  • Newspaper: Readership has dipped nationally to 39 percent of all Americans, a 28 percent decline from five years ago.2 Additionally newspaper ROP purchase influence is down 30 percent over the past five years.3

Generational Differences in Media Influence

Another important consideration for healthcare marketers is variations in media influence among generations. Does your client’s media mix match up with the way consumers make purchase decisions?


How to Reach Patients at First Touch Points

While most healthcare systems use a mix of print and digital along with their TV buys, this is not an integrated approach. CRM companies typically manage the digital portion of the buy and the healthcare system, or their agency, manages the ROP portion. The challenge with this segregated approach is that it is much less effective than an intelligently targeted, integrated print and digital campaign. This involves using synthesized online and offline data to create relevant, impactful offers that reach the right consumers at the right time.

In the end, healthcare marketers have a great opportunity to lead their clients and help them drive ROI by pinpointing and addressing their ideal consumers through the best received mediums, ultimately enabling them to acquire new patients.


(1) ReferralMD CEO Jonathon Govette, January, 2017; imaging referrals

(2) Scarborough Multi-Market, 2016, release 2

(3) Prosper Insights & Analytics MBI Survey, January 2017