EHR Data Marketing Plan—the Whys and Hows for Your Medical Practice

Posted on 21 Feb, 2018 |comments_icon 0|By Elizabeth

There’s a big benefit to your EHR you may be missing: it’s a marketing powerhouse. The information contained within your EHR has a monetary value.

Marketing and business strategy expert Dr. John McDaniel urges physicians to go beyond the everyday user experience and capitalize on the wealth of data available about their patient base—so that they can grow their practice.

Let us help you learn how to harness your EHR’s marketing power and get great results.

Every Practice’s Secret Marketing Weapon: The EHR

There one benefit of your EHR that you might not be taking advantage of: it’s a marketing powerhouse. The data housed in your EHR has great monetary value, Dr. John McDaniel told the State Energy Conservation Office (SECO) 2016 Conference attendees.

The practice marketing and business strategy expert urges physicians to go beyond the everyday user experience of the EHR and capitalize on the wealth of data available about their patient base and practice.

What’s so valuable about the data in my EHR?

That question is more complicated than it first may seem because each system’s reporting abilities vary, says McDaniel.

But most EHRs contain three types of useful data that answer three kinds of questions essential to your practice building efforts:

Demographics: This type of data answers the question: Who are your patients? Aside from basic stats like name, age, address, gender, and insurance, there also might be metrics like their friends and family members, employers, hobbies, and referral sources.

Clinical Data: Clinical data answers questions like: Why are your patients there? What’s going on with your patients’ health, what concerns them, and how you are treating them? This type of data also includes exam findings, medical histories, procedures, vision correction modes, appointment history, and much more.

Why are these types of data so important?

Demographic, Clinical, and Practice-Level data help your practice perform internal marketing, the lifeblood of your practice. Yes, new patients are essential to your survival. But attracting new patients is also expensive. In fact, it takes more than five times the resources to replace an established patient with a new one, notes McDaniel.

Internal marketing, on the other hand, is the easiest to manipulate. This type of marketing gets results and offers the biggest bang for your buck. And remember, if your internal marketing isn’t up to par, the new patients you bring in may not become loyal customers. There is no faster way to burn through your marketing dollars than by attracting one-time patients. The trick is to use internal marketing to keep the patients you already have.

Hidden gem: Your recall system and other internal marketing tactics needs to be as good as it possibly can be, and it needs to be well defined with scripts, assignment of specific roles, and accountability, advises McDaniel. “It’s clear that [practices] need to win here,” he says. And the more you segment your internal marketing, the more successful your marketing becomes.

This is where all that data comes in. Once you can quantify who your patients are (demographic), why they’re visiting your office (clinical), and what you’re doing to them while they’re there (practice-level), you’ll begin to see opportunities. Looking at that data will also help you see gaps in your client base, and discover how to better target your external marketing to fill those gaps. Overall, you’ll be able to make data-driven decisions and better direct your marketing dollars, increasing your ROI.

After you realize that your EHR collects useful data that you can use to improve your marketing efforts, and you begin to look at that data, the next step is to narrow down all of that data to get the info that’s most useful for your individual practice’s marketing needs.

Remember: The quality of data you can extract from your EHR is only as good as the data you enter into it. If you’re not collecting many types of data about your patients, this is your wake-up call.

First, figure out what data is most important to collect and make a concentrated focus to do so, emphasizes McDaniel.

Ask yourself questions like:

  • What data are you not consistently collecting?
  • Is there any potential value in collecting it?
  • What is the cost in collecting it?

Tip: You might consider creating a data map for your system. This is a list of all the data points you can enter for each patient and for your practice. Can’t find it? Ask your EHR vendor; they should be able to provide it, either free or for a fee (depending on your contract).

Next, develop protocols for collecting the desired data, along with checks for verifying that it’s actually being collected. Make sure your staff is on board, your schedulers, to intake staff, techs, and more.

Example: When a new patient calls your office to make an appointment, have your scheduler ask “How did you hear about us?” They may have to follow up with specific questions to coax from the caller the name of a publication (if an advertisement prompted the call), or the name of a referring patient (if a friend or family member recommended your practice).

Make the Data Work for You

The amount of EHR data you can collect and the number of reports you can run can be overwhelming. Start with a question or assumption, McDaniel advises. Do this for your variables where you have an interest, but not too many at first.

Example: A simple question to begin your EHR marketing efforts is: “How many of our patients learned about us from our social media pages?” McDaniel says, “The biggest hurdle for most people is working with the software to generate the reports/data you want it to spit out. Best advice I can give you is to work with the vendors.”

Use McDaniel’s 4-step Data Analysis Process Below:

Step #1: Describe.

You need to know what you want to do with the data before you figure out how to do it. This goes back to determining your simple question or assumption from the above section. Failure to plan what you want to measure ahead of time ensures that you’ll either lack the data, or lack reasonable access to the data, says McDaniel. Start simple with single items to see how they look. Think about variables like the age of your patients, or the number with insurance coverage and number without.

Step #2: Understand.

Once you get your feet wet with collecting data about one item you want to measure, you can start to combine variables to get more interesting and detailed answers about your practice. The EHR data will help you create specific patient groups that you can market to and track.

Example: You could segment your patients that are myopic, wear contact lenses, and are over age 42; then, send them a reminder or promo card for back up glasses.

Step #3: Predict.

This is the stage during which you’ll plan marketing campaigns based on your interpretation of the data uncovered in steps 1 and 2. Accurate predictions of what will and won’t work come from repeated data extraction and analysis, says McDaniel.

But, he cautions against a few caveats:

  • Be very selective about what variables you routinely look at. Limit the number of combined variables to no more than 10.
  • Ensure you’re looking at the exact same variables every time. Changing even one can skew your results significantly.
  • You need to look at your data less frequently than you think. Monthly reviews of your data convenient, but often too short to be useful. To get the most reliable and valid data sets, limit your data reviews to a quarterly basis.


Step #4: Control.

When you control your data, you’ll be able to introduce interventions with an eye towards the direction and amount of impact on the results, according to McDaniel. Not surprisingly, this takes the longest time to achieve. “Marketing works, and it works very well—over time,” he says. “Marketing segmentation and targeting priorities [are areas] where the game has changed drastically.”


Digging Just Enough

When it comes to extracting and interpreting your EHR data, your marketing options are almost limitless. That means it’s also easy to get overwhelmed by all your options. McDaniel recommends starting small and simple.


Here are some ideas to get you started:


  • Check on medication side effects: Find out which patients take medications that increase the risk of symptoms that you can help treat. If they have not had a comprehensive exam in over a year, invite them in.
  • Recommend new products and offerings: Find out which patients of the appropriate age group have never tried certain offerings or products, like cosmetic procedures, supplements, etc. Market to them.


Work It: If you find that a significant number of patients share the same employer, it’s worth touching base with that employer once a year to find out whether they’ll still offer a plan that includes you.

Learn More

Equip yourself to leverage your data for financial growth with TCI’s Unleash Your EHR’s Superpowers. Pick up your copy today.



Elizabeth works on an array of projects at TCI, researching and writing about modern reimbursement challenges. Since joining TCI in 2017, she has also covered the nuts and bolts of cybersecurity, compliance with federal laws, and how to tap into the advantages of telehealth services.

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