Episode 16: Breaking Down Barriers with Digital Marketing

Lauren Donahoo, Director of Digital Marketing for Professional Physical Therapy, explains how she uses technology to amplify messages and continue conversation with patients.

For Lauren Donahoo, marketing is all about spreading helpful messages and using tools like technology to better engage with patients.

But Donahoo, who works as the Director of Digital Marketing at Professional Physical Therapy, understands that a lot of people in the healthcare industry might not see it that way. 

In this episode of How I Transformed This, Virsys12 founder and CEO Tammy Hawes and her co-host Clark Buckner talked with Donahoo about the unique challenges in healthcare marketing and how she’s working to overcome them.

Balancing Engagement with Privacy

Donahoo believes one of the biggest obstacles to effective communication between patients and providers is the question of privacy. 

Because of this, healthcare has fallen behind when it comes to marketing and the consumer experience. For Donahoo, this is a major problem, because it makes it harder for her and others to educate patients about topics like the preventative nature of physical therapy.

Whereas retailers can build profiles and make assumptions when they reach out to target audiences, healthcare marketers have to be a little more cautious. 

“The healthcare market has to be able to do that and have a very empathetic message to our patients, and not go too far into that doorway where we are assuming that they are making incorrect choices, or we are assuming that they are or have a particular diagnosis,” she explained. “So translating the value of preventative physical therapy can be a challenge.”

A big part of the solution hinges on starting an ongoing conversation with the patient, Donahoo argued.

“Being able to open the conversation with our patients and translate that education in the very front of the patient journey is part of what I want to and continuously am working to achieve,” she said. “My purpose is to inspire people to let us help them.”

Creating Accessible Communication

One of the biggest ways Donahoo has been able to achieve that goal is by making sure that patients have plenty of opportunities to connect with their providers on their own terms. Different people want to engage with providers in different ways, and Donahoo believes it’s important to meet each person where they are.

“We have to provide as many opportunities as we can for our patients or for our referral sources to talk to us and communicate with us in any way they choose,” she said. “To me, having features like live chat, having features like self-scheduling, lots of security in place to make sure that we can have a conversation with you on the phone and get you taken care of in one conversation.”

On top of that, Professional PT has tried to minimize paperwork and prioritize security and information privacy, along with following up to ask for feedback and provide education even after a patient’s care is over. 

“All of those to me are really where the focal point of patient engagement turns into a relationship,” she said. 

Maintaining Relationships Through Salesforce

Once that patient-provider relationship has been established, it’s even more important to keep the lines of communication open so a patient feels comfortable coming back when a problem arises, or even preventatively before there’s a problem.

In this, Donahoo has found Salesforce to be the tool that sets Professional PT apart. 

“For so many businesses in general, not just in healthcare, the relationship with a consumer ends at the point of sale. To us, this is a system that allows us to keep a one-to-one conversation for years after,” she explained. “We become the preventative, annual expected course of care for you, and being able to translate that value and send those reminders and make sure that this becomes an accepted point of your life.”

Beyond maintaining the relationships they already have, Salesforce’s data analysis capabilities also help Donahoo and her colleagues to identify more needs and eliminate more barriers to care.

“Being able to apply some AI to our current patient database and look at how many more people we can be serving and how much more we can be doing for our communities. Being able to grow our offices and being able to translate the value of quality care back to our communities… All of those I think hinge on the ability to have all of that in one place,” she said.

“Salesforce is going to help us shine a light on all the opportunities that are currently sitting in the shadows.”

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