Strategies for Engaging Non-Consumer Healthcare Audiences

The way healthcare organizations communicate with non-consumer audiences is critical to brand and revenue performance. Here’s how you can engage physicians, employers and other business-to-business stakeholders to support effective rebound and recovery strategies.

The pandemic’s impact on health­care con­sumer behav­ior is well doc­u­ment­ed. New data is released near­ly every day on how COVID-19 is accel­er­at­ing telemed­i­cine and oth­er trends that were under­way before the cri­sis. For non-con­sumer audi­ences, there is sig­nif­i­cant­ly less cov­er­age despite the piv­otal roles that health­care providers, pay­ers and oth­er com­mu­ni­ty part­ners play in dri­ving refer­rals and brand reputation.

These audi­ences are expe­ri­enc­ing their own chal­lenges that need to be addressed as part of a post-COVID-19 mar­ket­ing strat­e­gy. For example:

Physi­cians are both val­ued as #Health­care­Heroes and stressed at extra­or­di­nar­i­ly high levels.

Employ­ers and oth­er com­mu­ni­ty lead­ers are jug­gling com­pet­ing pri­or­i­ties of safe­ty, finan­cial sta­bil­i­ty and productivity.

Hos­pi­tals and health sys­tems are shift­ing into recov­ery mode and engag­ing donors in efforts to address resource and finan­cial deficits.

If mar­ket­ing to one of these audi­ences is with­in your purview, there is a tremen­dous oppor­tu­ni­ty to build and deep­en con­nec­tions that can have a sig­nif­i­cant influ­ence on your brand rep­u­ta­tion and finan­cial health.

Whether your role involves physi­cian rela­tions, busi­ness devel­op­ment or some oth­er busi­ness-to-busi­ness func­tion, you’re pri­mar­i­ly respon­si­ble for man­ag­ing rela­tion­ships with people—and all audi­ences are ulti­mate­ly health­care con­sumers, who con­sid­er hos­pi­tals one of the most trust­ed sources of COVID-19 information.

To sup­port these efforts, we’ve com­piled a few rec­om­men­da­tions for engagement.

Engagement Strategies for All Non-Consumer Audiences

First, acknowl­edge the uncer­tain­ty that every­one is expe­ri­enc­ing. Any out­reach that does not rec­og­nize the anx­i­ety, fears and feel­ings of iso­la­tion could come across as tone deaf.

It’s also crit­i­cal to cre­ate align­ment on your brand’s iden­ti­ty, voice and com­mu­ni­ca­tion strat­e­gy as you shift from response to rebound and recov­ery strategies.

As part of this tran­si­tion, mar­ket­ing and com­mu­ni­ca­tion lead­ers can help ensure a safe, but quick, return to elec­tive vol­umes and in-per­son care by engag­ing can­di­dates and pro­mot­ing the appro­pri­ate access point.

Final­ly, con­sid­er ways to shift from the ubiq­ui­tous COVID-19 nar­ra­tives like #Health­care­Heroes and #InThis­To­geth­er to mes­sag­ing that high­lights your unique capa­bil­i­ties and dif­fer­en­ti­ates your brand.

Engagement Strategies for Physicians

Tak­ing care of those who take care of patients is a top pri­or­i­ty for all health­care orga­ni­za­tions. To reflect this effort in your physi­cian out­reach, share resources that will mit­i­gate stress and sup­port men­tal health for care­givers. This can include tools to prevent/address burnout like the fol­low­ing from the Amer­i­can Hos­pi­tal Association:

To facil­i­tate an effec­tive patient/provider inter­ac­tion, pro­vide sup­port that enables effec­tive uti­liza­tion of tele­health and oth­er new advance­ments that come out through­out the cri­sis. Effec­tive com­mu­ni­ca­tion is key to adop­tion of new tech­nol­o­gy, both for con­sumers and providers. Arm physi­cians with talk­ing points on pol­i­cy changes, fre­quent­ly asked ques­tions and oth­er resources they need to effec­tive­ly con­nect with patients on the cur­rent state and what’s next.

Dur­ing this process, be trans­par­ent with providers about what the future looks like if a decline in vol­umes con­tin­ues, and com­mu­ni­cate those reports often. This includes clear direc­tives about your return to in-per­son care so providers under­stand fac­tors under con­sid­er­a­tion and key pro­ce­dures to fol­low. Ensure providers ful­ly under­stand both what you’re doing for them and what’s expect­ed from them.

And of course, share sto­ries of your #Health­care­Heroes! Every­one needs some uplift­ing con­tent, doc­tors includ­ed. Find cre­ative ways to spot­light physi­cians and oth­er front-line staff going above and beyond for their patients and peers. Here are a few of our favorite exam­ples from hos­pi­tals and health sys­tems nationwide.

Effective Tactics

  • Email out­reach with daily/weekly updates on COVID-19 impacts, pol­i­cy changes and oth­er resources
  • Physi­cian con­tent hub (like this exam­ple from Van­der­bilt Health)
  • Lead­er­ship hud­dles and vir­tu­al town hall meetings
  • Social media posts cel­e­brat­ing caregivers
  • 1:1 con­ver­sa­tions and support

Engagement Strategies for B2B Marketers

Employ­ers and oth­er com­mu­ni­ty lead­ers play a key role in the rebuild­ing strat­e­gy. To ensure they’re well informed and sup­port their efforts to dri­ve down costs, start by help­ing your part­ners or clients under­stand and pro­mote the tele­health solu­tions avail­able to their employ­ees. Also, find ways to con­tin­ue screen­ings, smok­ing ces­sa­tion pro­grams and oth­er well­ness ini­tia­tives that can pre­vent cost­ly hospitalizations.

Be trans­par­ent with your part­ners, and arm them with infor­ma­tion to share with employ­ees about COVID-19 test­ing pro­ce­dures and avail­abil­i­ty. When you resume in per­son care/elective vol­umes, share with your partners/clients how you’ll be pri­or­i­tiz­ing case vol­ume and the demand for ser­vices. Depend­ing on the scope of your rela­tion­ship, share con­tent on dis­ease pre­ven­tion, stress man­age­ment and oth­er top­ics designed to dri­ve down costs on health plans and keep the work­force healthy.

Effective Tactics

  • Email updates with local COVID-19 sta­tis­tics, state return-to-work guide­lines and oth­er resources
  • Webi­na­rs with “how-to” instruc­tions on telemed­i­cine and oth­er non-tra­di­tion­al access points
  • Con­tent and col­lat­er­al on pre­vent­ing illness/injury and ensur­ing a healthy workplace
  • 1:1 con­ver­sa­tions with employ­ers and com­mu­ni­ty leaders

Engagement Strategies for Donors

Dur­ing a cri­sis, donors want to hear from reli­able sources like hos­pi­tals on what is hap­pen­ing and how they can help. The key is to be spe­cif­ic by focus­ing on what you need and how donor sup­port will be used, par­tic­u­lar­ly when direct­ly relat­ed to COVID-19 needs.

For non-mon­e­tary gifts, help peo­ple under­stand what you can accept, where to deliv­er or ship masks and oth­er items, who to con­tact with ques­tions and oth­er direc­tives that can avoid donor con­fu­sion. If a fundrais­ing gala, golf tour­na­ment or oth­er foun­da­tion event has been post­poned due to the pan­dem­ic, reach out to those who have signed up with an offer to sup­port invest­ments in telemed­i­cine and oth­er new tech­nolo­gies that will advance patient care.

And again, share your sto­ries of the front-line staff going above and beyond to take care of patients. This will cre­ate an emo­tion­al con­nec­tion that illus­trates where the mon­ey is going and the lives being impacted.

Look­ing ahead, be trans­par­ent with major donors on any changes to strate­gic growth plans so they’re well informed and feel invest­ed in the organization’s future.

Effective Tactics

  • Print mate­ri­als on what/where/how to give
  • Social media posts cel­e­brat­ing donor impact
  • Hos­pi­tal web­site con­tent tai­lored to cur­rent and prospec­tive donors
  • Email out­reach to your donor list fea­tur­ing video mes­sages from your CEO/leadership
  • 1:1 con­ver­sa­tions with donors

We Can Help You Engage Non-Consumer Audiences

Let our team of health­care mar­ket­ing experts con­nect you with physi­cians, donors and oth­er communities.

Vanderbilt Care Paths: Clinical and Marketing Leaders Collaborate to Improve Population Health

When marketing and medical professionals communicate, remarkable things happen. Just ask the experts at Vanderbilt Health Affiliated Network, whose internal collaboration is improving population health in Tennessee and surrounding states through the use of standardized care paths.

Pop­u­la­tion health man­age­ment strate­gies are gain­ing trac­tion all over the coun­try as hos­pi­tals and health sys­tems look for ways to improve patients’ over­all health and low­er costs. The 2018 Health­Lead­ers Media Pop­u­la­tion Health Sur­vey reports that 87% of providers say pop­u­la­tion health is a top pri­or­i­ty for their organization.

For Megan Pruce, vice pres­i­dent of strate­gic mar­ket­ing at Van­der­bilt Uni­ver­si­ty Med­ical Cen­ter (VUMC), this shift marks an impor­tant oppor­tu­ni­ty for orga­ni­za­tions to rethink the way they deliv­er and mar­ket their services.

“The mod­el we have today isn’t going to work for too much longer,” Pruce says. “We have to keep peo­ple healthy and liv­ing a high qual­i­ty of life to suc­ceed.” As part of her role, Pruce is focused on

Van­der­bilt Health Affil­i­at­ed Net­work (VHAN) and the care trans­for­ma­tion ini­tia­tives at VUMC. This trans­for­ma­tion is a strate­gic pri­or­i­ty for the orga­ni­za­tion, as it is for health sys­tems and provider orga­ni­za­tions across the coun­try. In 2012, it became a found­ing mem­ber of the VHAN, which has worked with VUMC and 13 health sys­tems, 680 hos­pi­tals, 400 prac­tices and 6,700 providers across the mid-south region to col­lab­o­rate and improve the cost and qual­i­ty of care.

Michael T. Mod­ic, MD, senior vice pres­i­dent of pop­u­la­tion health and pro­fes­sor of radi­ol­o­gy and radi­o­log­i­cal sci­ences at VUMC, also believes that the cur­rent health­care mod­el, which large­ly ties rev­enue to spe­cif­ic pro­ce­dures and treat­ments, is out­dat­ed and does lit­tle to ensure patients are liv­ing health­i­er lives.

“Tra­di­tion­al vol­ume-dri­ven health care is based on patient vis­its and ser­vices, where­as pop­u­la­tion health is real­ly designed to man­age patients over time,” Dr. Mod­ic says. “Pop­u­la­tion health ini­tia­tives focus on the entire con­tin­u­um of care rather than an iso­lat­ed event or procedure.”

Collaboration Is Critical

Both Pruce and Dr. Mod­ic believe that col­lab­o­ra­tion between physi­cians, mar­keters and orga­ni­za­tion­al lead­er­ship is vital to the suc­cess of pop­u­la­tion health man­age­ment strate­gies. As col­leagues who have col­lab­o­rat­ed across orga­ni­za­tions, they know the impor­tance of strong com­mu­ni­ca­tion and buy-in from mul­ti­ple stakeholders.

“Lead­er­ship has to dri­ve these ini­tia­tives,” Dr. Mod­ic says. “They help make the case to the rest of the orga­ni­za­tion, so they need to under­stand the mes­sage behind pop­u­la­tion health. This mes­sage has to be deliv­ered in the right fash­ion to indi­vid­ual play­ers with­in your orga­ni­za­tion, or else it may not take off.”

“Sim­i­lar to a tra­di­tion­al mar­ket­ing cam­paign, you have to tar­get mul­ti­ple audi­ences, includ­ing the providers and prac­tices deliv­er­ing the care, the employ­ers that are car­ry­ing the finan­cial bur­den, and the patients receiv­ing the care,” Pruce says. “Mar­keters are spe­cial­ly equipped to gath­er data on con­sump­tion, aware­ness, engage­ment and adop­tion, which can help us cre­ate a prod­uct or ser­vice line that the mar­ket will actu­al­ly use.”

These ser­vices should not only be clin­i­cal­ly sound, but also appeal­ing to the marketplace.

“The core skills and attrib­ut­es of mar­keters work real­ly well when try­ing to get pop­u­la­tion health ini­tia­tives off the ground, because you’re sell­ing a new idea to peo­ple both inside and out­side of your orga­ni­za­tion,” Pruce says. “A large part of it is tak­ing our tra­di­tion­al mar­ket­ing and com­mu­ni­ca­tions strate­gies and deploy­ing them in non­tra­di­tion­al ways.”

Leading the Way with Care Paths

Mar­keters are nor­mal­ly steeped in a world of data, sta­tis­tics, iter­a­tive think­ing and adap­tive action, all of which are vital when launch­ing pop­u­la­tion health man­age­ment strate­gies, as well as when improv­ing and build­ing upon them. Dr. Mod­ic appre­ci­ates the type of think­ing that mar­keters bring to the table and is lever­ag­ing it well as a mul­ti­dis­ci­pli­nary team of health­care experts works to devel­op the care paths ini­tia­tive at VHAN.

“At Van­der­bilt Health, mar­keters are involved
with care paths from start to fin­ish. That
includes the strat­e­gy, con­cept and deliv­ery of
the actu­al prod­uct, as well as the design and
devel­op­ment of the cam­paign to build
aware­ness and adop­tion of it.”
— Megan Pruce, Vice Pres­i­dent of Strate­gic Mar­ket­ing
at Van­der­bilt Uni­ver­si­ty Med­ical Center

Care paths are a strat­e­gy that has been adopt­ed by a hand­ful of lead­ing health sys­tems over the past few years in an effort to stan­dard­ize the approach to care at the care­giv­er lev­el for com­mon con­di­tions like dia­betes, low back pain, ortho­pe­dics and oth­ers that see high vari­abil­i­ty in care process and outcomes.

“A crit­i­cal com­po­nent to build­ing out a care path is estab­lish­ing a cul­tur­al change with­in your orga­ni­za­tion,” Dr. Mod­ic says. “This change hap­pens when you bring a mul­ti­dis­ci­pli­nary team togeth­er to take evi­dence-based lit­er­a­ture and come up with a prod­uct or ser­vice line that tru­ly belongs to the team. When that hap­pens, you’re more like­ly to deploy it and employ it.”

These care paths are based on best prac­tices in man­u­fac­tur­ing and retail and pro­vide struc­ture and pro­to­col for treat­ing cer­tain con­di­tions. Care paths help reduce unnec­es­sary vari­a­tion and are embed­ded in elec­tron­ic med­ical record sys­tems. This last step helps mar­keters and physi­cians gath­er data for con­tin­u­al improvement.

“Man­u­fac­tur­ers are obsessed with qual­i­ty, safe­ty, stan­dard­iza­tion and cost, and those are the same orga­ni­za­tion­al attrib­ut­es that a health­care sys­tem should obsess about, too,” Dr. Mod­ic says. “In addi­tion to best prac­tices and stan­dard­iza­tion, one must also appre­ci­ate atti­tu­di­nal and behav­ioral aspects of patient pop­u­la­tion stratification—and that should be a sweet spot for the mar­ket­ing input.”

The iter­a­tive care path project at VHAN is cur­rent­ly in its first wave. While inter­nal col­lab­o­ra­tion is a vital com­po­nent, the orga­ni­za­tion has also relied on exter­nal col­lab­o­ra­tion to get the ini­tia­tive off the ground.

“True North Cus­tom is help­ing us devel­op the con­tent prod­uct, which con­tains peer-reviewed evi­dence and data to sup­port the care paths,” Pruce says. “From there, we can dig­i­tize the con­tent to become more inter­ac­tive and start gath­er­ing met­rics for improvement.”

“Prob­a­bly the most impor­tant aspect
of build­ing these ini­tia­tives is get­ting
the entire team to come togeth­er. That’s
physi­cians, mar­keters and lead­er­ship.
Once you under­stand, you can work togeth­er.”
— Michael T. Mod­ic, MD, Senior Vice Pres­i­dent of
Pop­u­la­tion Health and Pro­fes­sor of Radi­ol­o­gy
and Radi­o­log­i­cal Sci­ences at Van­der­bilt Uni­ver­si­ty
Med­ical Center

Look­ing into the future, the True North team is excit­ed to see how Dr. Mod­ic, Pruce and the rest of the VHAN team dri­ve adop­tion across their series of care paths and work to imple­ment patient-fac­ing edu­ca­tion resources and oth­er com­ple­men­tary strate­gies. Ide­al­ly, efforts like this will dri­ve bet­ter out­comes for patient pop­u­la­tions, improve the health­care expe­ri­ence for patients, fam­i­lies and providers, and decrease health­care costs across VHAN and oth­er sys­tems around the country.

Nemours Physician Email Campaign Triples Industry Average

True North Custom used strategic testing and tweaking to make Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children’s pediatric orthopedic email campaign a resounding success.

Nemours Chil­dren’s Health Sys­tem is one of the largest inte­grat­ed pedi­atric health sys­tems in the nation. To pro­mote its Ortho­pe­dic Cen­ter at duPont Hos­pi­tal for Chil­dren, Nemours turned to True North Cus­tom for a robust physi­cian email campaign.

Overview and Objectives

Since open­ing its doors in 1940, duPont Hos­pi­tal for Chil­dren has been treat­ing com­plex pedi­atric ortho­pe­dic con­di­tions. Today, the Nemours Ortho­pe­dic Cen­ter team han­dles more than 40,000 out­pa­tients and 6,000 pro­ce­dures each year.
Physi­cians with duPont Hos­pi­tal for Chil­dren have led the way in treat­ing and research­ing pedi­atric ortho­pe­dic con­di­tions for gen­er­a­tions of children.

Nemours turned to True North Cus­tom to height­en aware­ness of their capabilities—both nation­al­ly and inter­na­tion­al­ly. True North Cus­tom cre­at­ed a pro­gram that paired cus­tom con­tent with a tar­get­ed cam­paign designed to enhance:

  • Audi­ence engagement
  • Brand aware­ness
  • Ser­vice line growth
  • Rep­u­ta­tion via U.S. News & World Report Best Hos­pi­tal rankings

Marketing Strategy for a Physician Email Marketing Campaign

After eval­u­at­ing the mar­ket­ing needs of Nemours, True North Cus­tom worked togeth­er with Nemours Mar­ket­ing to devel­op a physi­cian email cam­paign tar­get­ed to pedi­atric ortho­pe­dic sur­geons.  Each email newslet­ter fea­tured the use of inno­v­a­tive sur­gi­cal tech­niques, case stud­ies, research pre­sen­ta­tions, and the appli­ca­tion of cut­ting-edge tech­nol­o­gy to patient care.

Each quar­ter, the email newslet­ter is deployed from the world-renowned Chair­man of the Nemours Ortho­pe­dic Depart­ment with a sin­gle sub­ject line designed to pique inter­est and dri­ve engage­ment. A few days lat­er, the same email is rede­ployed to recip­i­ents who did­n’t open the first email, this time high­light­ing a dif­fer­ent top­ic with­in the newsletter.

By com­par­ing ana­lyt­ics show­ing the dif­fer­ing respons­es to each e‑blast, True North Cus­tom was able to deter­mine what drove physi­cian inter­est and then use that infor­ma­tion to craft future emails in the cam­paign and enhance the user experience.

The result was an email open rate that blew indus­try aver­ages out of the water.


Com­pared with oth­er physi­cian e‑mail cam­paigns that have aver­age open rates of 10–11%, a recent pedi­atric ortho­pe­dic cam­paign for Nemours had an open rate of 31.72%. The cam­paign also exceed­ed the aver­age click-through rate for e‑mails tar­get­ing physicians.



Average Open Rate


Pediatric Orthopedic Campaign Open Rate

True North Cus­tom con­tin­ues to help Nemours Ortho­pe­dic Cen­ter reach pedi­atric ortho­pe­dic sur­geons world­wide with mes­sages that res­onate. As infor­ma­tion and ana­lyt­ics are reviewed after each email, True North Cus­tom presents cam­paign ana­lyt­ics to Nemours with rec­om­men­da­tions for the next email blast.

This work, paired with Nemours’ will­ing­ness to adjust the approach and con­tent on an ongo­ing basis, has cre­at­ed an physi­cian email mar­ket­ing cam­paign that res­onates with that par­tic­u­lar sub­spe­cial­ty group.

Let’s Build Your Content Strategy Together

Find out how we’re help­ing health­care orga­ni­za­tions like yours find, engage and con­vert patients and prospects.

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