Nebraska Hospital Finds Healthy ROI on Back End

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Back-end processes may be the boring part of a marketing campaign, but as a Nebraska hospital learned, hidden profits often can be found in the trenches of call centers and databases.


Nebraska Medical Center, Omaha, NE, brought in healthcare teleservices specialist The Beryl Companies to outsource its call center functions and get help with the database systems it needed to track ROI. Now, marketing executives at the hospital say the call center makes money, and they have the numbers to prove it.


Using database and tracking technology, Nebraska Medical Center can determine how much its call center contributes to the bottom line. People who called the hospital contributed $2 million in profit in 2004 and $1.4 million so far this year.


The focus on the back end of the marketing process was born in a rebranding campaign begun in 2003. Created in a merger of two hospitals in 1997, Nebraska Medical Center originally was known as the Nebraska Health System. Five years later, the hospital system found that its identity wasn't resonating and decided a new brand was needed. It started a marketing effort complete with typical mass media channels including print, TV, radio and outdoor, as well as direct mail.


"We said, 'We've got to fix this,'" said Leslie McAllister, marketing manager at Nebraska Medical Center. "We can't put more money behind 'Nebraska Health System.' It's not the kind of moniker that's going to carry you very far."


Ads in the campaign included a slogan: "Serious Medicine. Extraordinary Care." Many carried a toll-free number for the hospital.


Until that point, Nebraska Medical Center relied on switchboard operators to handle incoming calls. But the operators had no way to capture data from callers, so the medical center sought a teleservices outsourcer, McAllister said.


Using Beryl's call center and database capabilities, the medical center could measure call center activity in reaction to the campaign, and thus justify marketing costs to executives, she said. In addition, over time it can see which marketing tactics were more successful.


"Without any history, you can't set any benchmarks," she said. "Now we can do that."


In general, hospitals have trailed other industries in analyzing ROI, but that is changing, said Ellen Faw, director of client strategy and development at The Beryl Companies, Bedford, TX. However, Nebraska Medical Center has pushed past typical database strategies used by hospitals and is looking for more sophisticated uses of databases.


For example, the medical center measures actual profit contributed by consumers who contact the call center, said John Williams, manager of planning, research and ROI at Nebraska Medical Center. In its calculations, it factors the cost of providing services to consumers as well as discounts it provides some health insurers with which it has service contracts.


The medical center also measures profit contributions based on customer segment. For example, the hospital found that of the $2 million in profit the call center contributed in 2004, $1.2 million came from consumers who had visited the medical center fewer than three years ago. New customers generated $434,000, and patients who had not been at the center for more than three years generated $263,000.


The medical center also is looking at caller activity based on strategic service lines, Williams said. Part of the branding campaign was to promote the medical center's neurology, heart and cancer centers.


Now Nebraska Medical Center is looking at ways to integrate its caller database with its patient database, Williams said, while being careful to follow HIPAA guidelines, which regulate medical privacy.


Scott Hovanyetz covers telemarketing, production and printing and direct response TV marketing for DM News and DMNews.com. To keep up with the latest developments in these areas, subscribe to our daily and weekly e-mail newsletters by visiting www.dmnews.com/newsletters
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