EMR mining unlocks personalized healthcare marketing

The "automation of data" through EMRs, physician referrals and other sources is opening the door for targeted marketing, similar to techniques used by websites such as Amazon.com, to make its way into the healthcare sector. In other words, based on your recent purchase of Product A (a car, a telephone, a widget), you may be interested in Product B (tires, an extension cord, a widget adapter); likewise, based on your recent hospital visit for heart disease or a broken leg, you may be interested in a new heart-assessment test or a walking boot.

Customer relationship management (CRM) software--offered by companies like Atlanta-based ALT-Invest--actually brings the concept to life, reports American Medical News. Until now, most CRM in healthcare has been geared toward physicians and other healthcare professionals. But with the growing number of organizations employing EMRs, patient data is becoming easier than ever to access and mine. HIPAA does allow patient-specific data to be used for marketing purposes in limited instances.

"Anything we can do to stay in touch with our patients and keep them informed is certainly positive," Dr. James Lengemann of the Naperville, Ill.-based Edward Medical Group tells AMNews. The affiliated Edward Hospital & Health Services uses CRM technology that encourages patients to sign up for a personalized URL with the hospital's website. Patients who register receive messages specific to their needs in the form of web advertisements and emails based on data pulled from the medical history contained in their EMRs.

"Tailored patient education and reminders about screenings are exciting tools that help keep healthcare top-of-mind and give us the chance to identify serious or life-threatening conditions," Lengemann says. 

Still, Josh Sweeney, ALT-Invest's CEO, knows that not all patients are keen on the idea of their personal health information being used for marketing purposes, emphasizing that trust is the key to continuing such a practice. "Most people have a certain amount of leeway that they give for people to make mistakes in general environments, but not with their personal healthcare knowledge," Sweeney says. "They don't allow many mistakes in that area, if any." 

To learn more:
- read this American Medical News piece

Neil Versel contributed to this article.