How one hospital marketing leader is harnessing the power of data to make better marketing decisions
In this episode of the Core Exchange, Miranda Greenwold, director of marketing and community relations at Black River Memorial Hospital in Wisconsin, and president of the Wisconsin Healthcare Public Relations and Marketing Society, joins Laila Waggoner, Core Health’s senior healthcare strategist, for a conversation about data-driven healthcare marketing. Miranda shares how she collaborated with her business intelligence colleague to build a dashboard for easier access to the organization’s data, how marketing uses that data to make better decisions about marketing campaigns and content, and how data and insights have helped marketing build confidence, establish credibility and drive growth for the organization.
You can listen to the podcast episode using the player embedded below, or you can read a full transcript below. Be sure to subscribe to Core Exchange on Apple Podcasts.
Laila Waggoner: Welcome to the Core Exchange, a podcast for healthcare marketers. I'm Laila Waggoner, senior healthcare strategist with Core Health, Core Creative’s specialized healthcare marketing practice. We are so pleased to have Miranda Greenwold with us today to talk about using data to make better healthcare marketing decisions. Miranda is director of marketing and community relations at Black River Memorial Hospital in Wisconsin, and also serves as president of the Wisconsin Healthcare Public Relations and Marketing Society.
Miranda, welcome to the Core Exchange.
Miranda Greenwold: Hi, thank you.
Laila Waggoner: So for those who aren't familiar with you and your organization, could you tell us just a little bit about yourself and your background and about Black River Memorial Hospital?
Miranda Greenwold: Absolutely. So Black River Memorial Hospital is a 25-bed critical access hospital located in Black River Falls. So we're a rural facility. However, we offer a wide variety of service lines all the way from infusion and chemotherapy, obstetrics, orthopedics, general surgery, emergency department. We have our own primary care clinic and a lot of things in between. So we're a small but mighty facility and we have very high patient satisfaction ratings, which we're very proud of. We have a very strong team; we all act like family, and really support each other, both personally and professionally. This role was my first stint in healthcare. So it was great to enter a culture where we're very supportive of each other personally and professionally, because I had a pretty steep learning curve. I joined the hospital the day before COVID hit and my role serves as the public information officer.
So on my second day of orientation, I was told, "Well you're on." So I went into incident command and I was responsible for deploying and developing the strategy both internally and externally for communicating all the changes in information related to the COVID pandemic in our communities. So yeah, very steep learning curve, but it's been an amazing place to learn. Before I joined the hospital here, I was the marketing and communications manager for the La Crosse Regional Airport in La Crosse, Wisconsin. And then before that I was a major gift officer at UW La Crosse and then also at my Alma Mater, which is Marian University in Fond du Lac. So some higher education fundraising, did some marketing stuff along the way with that, also taught some college classes at UWL in international relations. I have my master's in international relations, so that's a fun fact, but yeah, so I've dabbled in quite a bit. But I love healthcare marketing. It's amazing to know that we make a difference in the work that we do. So it's very rewarding.
Laila Waggoner: That is for sure. And wow. What an entry you had into healthcare marketing. It's challenging in a lot of ways without a pandemic to have to deal with, but on day two, boy ... yeah I'm sure that could be a whole other conversation. We'll have you back. Maybe we'll have you back
Miranda Greenwold: Anytime.
Laila Waggoner: But the reason we wanted to invite you today is that I had a chance to hear you present at the WHPRMS spring conference, virtual conference, and the presentation that you made really hit close to home. For me, my background is in strategy and working a lot with healthcare organizations of all different sizes, all different stripes across the country, on the marketing strategy side. So really what you talked about and what we wanted to talk about today is using data to make better healthcare marketing decisions. And I'm curious first, before we dive into that, I'm wondering, you mentioned some of the roles that you've had prior to joining Black River and prior to getting into healthcare, how has that background influenced the way that you've approached your role now that you're in the healthcare marketing field?
Miranda Greenwold: Sure. It's a good question. I mean, I've really come to learn that there's a lot of similarities in pretty much every industry in the sense of, you have your core customer, those that you're trying to market to or those that you're trying to influence or reach and the way the language that we use of course is different, but the approach is a lot of the same. So just making sure that you take time to understand who your audience is, and what are you trying to communicate? What type of feelings do you want to evoke with those individuals once you connect with them? In my role as a major gift officer, it wasn't a true marketing role in the traditional sense, but it was very much relationship building. It was very much getting to know what that individual's aspirations and passions were when it came to their philanthropic goals.
And was there an opportunity to connect those goals with the students at UWL or the scholarship programs at Marian. So I really just learned that there's never really a black and white answer to anything for the most part. That's part of why I like data, because sometimes it is a little bit more black and white, but everything else we do, there's so much complexity to it. And there's so many layers and in a way I think it's a great opportunity. Our world never seems boring. It's always changing. There's always new things to learn and that's been the same in every industry that I worked in. So just being resilient to change and being a fast learner to learn the lingo and learn the nuances of that particular customer is of course really important. But yeah, I think just being resilient to change and understanding that there's rarely a black and white answer.
Laila Waggoner: Yeah, that's so true. So I know that most hospitals and health systems are really never lacking in data. There's data to be had, but so often what we've seen is that there's a struggle or a challenge for marketers to translate that data into insights that can actually help that marketing process. And I'm really curious from your perspective when you came in, of course, having first dealt with the immediate challenge at hand with COVID, but once you were able to get into thinking about how you wanted to market the hospital and its services, what kinds of data have you found to be most important to incorporate into your planning? Maybe we'll just start with that.
Miranda Greenwold: Sure. So in the traditional campaign sense, of course, the demographic data was always the most valuable. Trying to build personas around the type of patient that we were trying to reach for a particular campaign, instead of just taking the general demographics for the state of Wisconsin, or even for our county, obviously as a hospital, that's on the interstate, we serve patients from far and wide and our service area even locally is greater than just our county. We're the only hospital in Jackson County and a little bit beyond as well. So the demographic data that we had specifically for our patients was helpful because then we knew that the decisions that we were making were reflected off of our patients, the patients that we were seeing and serving and or those that we wanted to see and serve. And so, I mean, that's a very I think basic in the marketing world, but where we found that the niche in that data was more so when we were deciding on content for our Momentum magazine, for our online blog, for even our weekly update, which is our communication to all of our staff.
So what we've been able to do is, we built a marketing dashboard that really features a lot of the diagnosis codes on what we're seeing in our emergency department, in our clinic, in our infusion center. And so I could take a look at that dashboard and I could look historically to say, in May of last year, what were the top three diagnoses that we saw in our emergency room? Maybe it was chest pain and cough and laceration or something to that effect. So then if we're planning on a magazine, that's going to go out that month. We can build content off of what we know that our patients are being seen in our facilities for. So it really gave us a clear roadmap and it eliminated the guessing game of, "Well, I think this is important. I think we see patients that struggle with this."
But this allowed us to be able to say, "Yes, we know for sure that this is what our patients are currently facing." So it also gave us a good idea too, as for example, we typically, which a lot of rural facilities struggle with this, is the best use of the clinic versus the emergency room. And there's a lot of folks that utilize the emergency room in a not very appropriate way in the sense of utilization of resources. And so we were able to look at the diagnosis codes that were in our emergency department in the last six months. And we could maybe say that out of the top 50, 30 of them, we could have very easily seen in our clinic. So that then allowed for a communication and community education opportunity to say, "If you're struggling with X, Y, and Z, the top three things that we are seeing in our ED during this time that could be seen in our clinic, come and be seen in our clinic for a lot more of an affordable price."
It gave us a really clear roadmap to when we were reaching out to the community and providing this education, instead of just saying, the clinic provides a much more affordable rate for these types of things and provide a long list of 50 different things, that's not very digestible to a person who's busy and seeing the content in passing, that we could really focus on explicitly calling out three things, which we knew were the most common things that people were being seen for in the ED inappropriately. So it's those sorts of things that have been incredibly insightful.
Laila Waggoner: Yeah. Yeah. I mean, it's all data, like we said, that exists, it's there. Every hospital's collecting that data, but it’s always been surprising to me how rarely it actually gets used. So talk to me a little bit, and I know you talked about this in your presentation, about the process that you went through and who you worked with and how you were able to get this dashboard developed and be able to access the data that could really help inform your various marketing initiatives.
Miranda Greenwold: Sure. So I will give a little bit more insight as to what's all in the dashboard, because that may help a little bit. So we have, obviously, a demographics page. We also then have our diagnosis code page, which again, I can sort by department, by time of year, over a certain period of time, we also have a chart onto the number of new patients, the time of day that most of our patients are here, the day of the week that we're seeing the most patients, trends in patient volumes, which I can narrow down depending on a particular campaign that we have going on during that time. So there's a lot of that type of data as well. So the process that we went through is we partnered with our BI department, which in all transparency, we have an extremely smart man in our BI department that was really instrumental in getting this built.
So I understand that not every facility is fortunate enough to have someone like that, but there's a lot of easy reports that you can ask your BI department to generate for you to help you down this path of using this type of data. So there's a way that you can pare it down to as basic as possible to make it easy for your BI department to help you. But again, we sat down with our BI department and just talked about what types of decisions did we need help making? Where was that opportunity that we could try to solve? Where were there gaps? And then they were then able to use their expertise to say, "Oh, we have a data point for that. Oh, we're already collecting that. That would be an easy thing for us to pull."
And so at the time when we started it, we didn't even really know what we didn't know. we didn't know what type of data that we were even really collecting. So that was a learning experience in and of itself. But then once we talked through and decided and made some ideas as to what we could include, then our BI department put in the work to build the dashboard and then obviously we utilized it and then they updated on a regular basis. So yeah, we partnered with our BI department and they were very instrumental in helping us.
Laila Waggoner: Yeah. So for our listeners who may not know what BI references, I think this depends on the organization and what they call it, business intelligence-
Miranda Greenwold: Business intelligence, or under information technology, IT, anything like that. Yep.
Laila Waggoner: Yeah. In some organizations that I've worked with, it's called decision support, sometimes it lives within the finance organization. And so I think that the key here for our listeners is to think about who has access to the data, and for a smaller organization that might be really centralized, but for a large organization, you may need to think about a few different people who have to be around the table, but getting those folks together. And like you said, Miranda, I think stopping as a marketing function to really think about what kinds of information would be helpful and useful to you, and then sitting down with the folks who might have access to that information and then being able to compare notes about, "Well, we already have that or, oh we pull a report like this, what if we were to modify it like this" and then really thinking about how to share that information. I think it's yet another example of how collaboration can really improve everything for an organization and not just trying to solve it within a marketing function.
Miranda Greenwold: Right. Absolutely. And it was amazing how fast the ideas multiplied, the more we had conversations with them. First it started off with, it'd be great to have demographic information, then it was, oh, these diagnosis codes, we could do this and that, and these zip codes, we could do this and that. And so the more we did it, the more the ideas flowed, which was really energizing for us. So that was cool to be a part of. And it was great for our business intelligence department too to be a part of a project that they could work to help to implement and then they could see it actually being put to application and making a difference in our community.
Laila Waggoner: Yeah, that's just awesome. I'm curious what you would call the key elements of your success. So you've been able to access this information, put it into a dashboard, how regularly are you looking at it? What are the things that really make a difference, or if somebody's wanting to do something similar, what should they be putting out there as their goal posts?
Miranda Greenwold: Sure. I think similar to what you said, what's really helped to hard wire it, is to make sure that you're looking at the dashboard at least once a week because it's great to go through the process of building it and you have all these great ideas, but then if it just sits out there and you're not using it, that's obviously not going to be helpful for you, but also not falling into the trap of, "Well last time I looked at the dashboard, this was our top diagnosis code." So then you just stick to that thought and you're making decisions based off of it.
But if you're not going back and validating that continues to be the top diagnosis code, then you're not really doing the dashboard justice. So yes, it's checking it regularly. And also just always keeping it top of mind to think, is there a data point available that we can use to help make this decision? Or we're making a decision on content we can put in our annual report, is there data that we have out there that we can help decide? So just always asking yourself that question and keeping it top of mind has been really instrumental in hard wiring it for our department.
Laila Waggoner: Yeah. I'm curious, what reaction you got to this as you implemented it and I'm sure there were opportunities to bring that to leadership and share a new approach, or were you able to even use that information to help get funding or support for various initiatives that you might not otherwise have been able to?
Miranda Greenwold: Sure. So, yes. I mean, it's definitely been very well received and it's been a partnership that our organization has celebrated that from the top down, so that's been really great to be a part of, but it's been also very interesting to then use this data to help support the senior leaders in making growth decisions as well. So for example, we never really knew or took time to learn before, truly our demographics, where are our patients coming from? And so through this dashboard, we were able to see that there was a pocket of zip codes in the Chicagoland area that we were serving patients that had addresses from these zip codes. And as we dug a little bit deeper, we live in a little more of a touristy area, lots of camping, a lot of outdoor recreation.
And so a lot of these Chicagoland folks, this was their “up north.” And so we were seeing those patients here in our facility and never really realized it or put the pieces together. And so now we're looking at an idea: is there an orthopedic campaign that we can maybe do within these zip codes in the Chicagoland area promoting, come up north to to get well and promoting having your orthopedic surgery done here and then rehabilitating up north, with themes of relaxation and it just tends to be top of mind when people are here. So those have been the opportunities that we've gleaned from that, that helps the senior leaders make growth decisions and elevates us as a department and the role that we can play in helping to move the organization forward.
Laila Waggoner: Yeah, a hundred percent. And that was the observation that I just wanted to comment on because I think often marketers feel so pressured to just be responsive. There are constantly requests coming in, but this approach and this investment in time and focus really elevates marketing to a strategic function. It really can have a seat at that table, really helping to define opportunities and be part of that conversation. So kudos to you because that's just really, yeah. That's the dream, all marketers want to help support their organization's growth, but to be able to help drive it is pretty exciting. Yeah. That's great.
Miranda Greenwold: And, on the flip side too, it's also created an opportunity to showcase to our staff that we don't just put things out on social media and the content that we choose has a rhyme or reason, and that there is thought behind it. I mean, I'm sure you could probably speak to this more than anybody, but we know that once a billboard gets put up, a lot of people think that that's just it but there are so many hours and strategy and work that put into selecting the right imagery and the right words and the right placement. And so being able to bring some awareness that our staff who maybe aren't that familiar with marketing, can easily digest and see that we're using this data to make these decisions. And it again, just elevates us in their eyes too, which is also the dream.
Laila Waggoner: Absolutely. Yeah. I used to say when I was on the client side when we would present to leadership, we'd say, "You practice evidence-based medicine and we practice evidence-based marketing." It's data-driven decisions. So, you have the quality metrics that you count on for making decisions from an operational standpoint and from a clinical standpoint. And we have those too. So that's really great. Have you blended both internal and external data sources for your dashboard at all? You obviously have your own internal data. Are you bringing in external data from the state or from Medicare or anything like that or is it mostly just your internal data for now?
Miranda Greenwold: At this point it's mostly our internal data. I will say that if I... And maybe I'll recruit the one who built our dashboard and we’ll quit our jobs and build the software and all will be millionaires, but I've always wanted a platform that we could import the data that we have for our organization. We could import the data that we have from the state and Medicare. And we could import our campaign data, our social media data, our website data, and just be able to have everything in one place. But unfortunately we're not there yet, but yeah, mostly the data right now is just our internal. But we spend time on a monthly basis for sure, where we sit down with our team and look at all of our different data points, our internal dashboard, the data from the Wisconsin Hospital Association and our campaign data to really see if there's some insights that we can gain. But yeah, it's a little more time consuming than I would like it to be. But it works for now.
Laila Waggoner: Yeah. But it still works. And the point too is that often your own data is way more up to date than the state data, which is lagging significantly. So it's always good to be able to look back, but more immediate decision making can be driven by your own data. So that's great. Is there anything else about the process that you've undergone or any other aspect of this that you'd like to share with our listeners?
Miranda Greenwold: The only other thing I was thinking is that one note, one change that I've noticed in myself in going through this process and implementing it, is that when we're building campaigns I'm so much more confident going into the campaign that we're going to have great outcomes, and we're going to be able to drive great traffic. Because I know that the decisions that we made was based off of the data and the dashboard versus before again, we were using our best judgment, following our gut to the best of our ability to go into this campaign, just crossing your fingers, that it's going to work and that you're going to get people in the door, but you never really knew. And so this just being able to have the confidence going into the campaigns has made the work a lot less daunting and a lot more manageable to spearhead.
Laila Waggoner: Yeah, that's fantastic. Well, this has been a really great conversation and I really, really appreciate you coming and sharing your perspective and your experience with us Miranda. I really, I think that this is going to be of great interest to a lot of folks out there. So thank you for joining us. A reminder to our listeners, to subscribe to the Core Exchange on Apple Podcasts and sign up for our newsletter at corecreative.health. Thanks again.
Miranda Greenwold: Thank you.