How to fill the black hole in the patient experience

Monitoring patient behaviour online through appropriate data collection and effective data use, filling the black hole, enhances patient experience and leads to increased conversion rates for the provider.

There is a black hole in healthcare, and very often this black hole can be vast. It can be filled with things that have not yet even been thought of. It is a kind of Rumsfeldian equation – ‘we don’t know what we don’t know’, and that’s a problem.

In the past, the patient experience was relatively straightforward. The patient would experience symptoms and would go to a doctor. The doctor would make a diagnosis or make a referral. The patient would be presented with a range of treatment options, would evaluate the options, and would then go into condition management, where there is a chance that the patient might assess other brands and eventually switch.

The digital model has turned this on its head. There is a much wider conversation happening and there are much more opportunities to engage.

Now when the patient experiences symptoms, the first thing they do is go online and start Googling. They will start checking providers themselves. Right from the start, the patient is more proactive and empowered.

In the past treatment options and the evaluation of options might have happened with friends and family – now it is happening online, with forums and communities. A much wider conversation.

During condition management there are assessments of other brands happening all the time. Data is flowing in from apps and wearables.

The problem that this new digital model raises for providers is that they are often not present in this discourse. For many, there is a black hole.

Focusing on the middle section of the treatment journey, between diagnosis and actual condition management, is a start towards resolving the black hole in the patient experience. This period is often characterised by long decision times in which the patient disappears. There are multiple stakeholders involved and complex patient journeys. There are decisions and changes of circumstances that are inherently beyond the control of the providers. The main point here, is that this is the patient’s experience, not that of the healthcare providers.

Providers need to develop more of an understanding about what is actually happening in the patient experience, and develop ways of gathering knowledge.

Data such as condition, name and address is captured right at the start of the process, however in order to be present in the long cycle between diagnosis and condition management, this data needs to be enriched. It is necessary to be a lot more relevant to the conversation. This can be achieved through:

  • Web behaviour (IP address)
  • Email behaviour
  • Known processes and appropriate content
  • Wearables and MedTech data
  • Patient feedback

Scenario 1 – type 1 diabetes

The time between making an enquiry about getting an insulin pump and getting a pump granted and manufacturer chosen can be 12 months, creating a massive black hole in the middle. Once the initial data has been collected, for example whether the enquirer is the patient or a parent, whether they are using a competitor’s pump or that they are on multiple daily injections, it is possible to engage the patient a bit more during that 12-month process. The aim being that when it does come down to choosing a pump manufacturer, they choose that particular company’s pump over a competitor’s.

Knowledge from a website enquiry that a patient is using a competitor’s pump can be used to send out an email with a brochure comparing ‘Our pump vs Your existing pump’, followed by a ‘Guide to switching pumps’. A web visit can indicate that a patient is nearly ready and information on ‘Preparing for a pump’ can be despatched. Finally, once the patient has chosen the pump manufacturer, the wearable and app can deliver appropriate content - what to do with a blood glucose high, for example.

Scenario 2 – choosing a private hospital

When choosing a private hospital, the time scale between diagnosis and condition management is naturally more compressed than the previous example, say for the purposes of this discussion, a month. In that month, following diagnosis and online enquiry, people tend to disappear – they go offline, they make decisions and they have conversations with other people.

Again, the key is to use the initial data and start enriching that data to get more of a picture of what is happening and be more relevant in the patient journey.

For example, an initial ‘Thank you. Here’s a guide to our hospital’ could be sent out, followed by ‘Meet our team’. Then a web visit may start to indicate the level of interest, because decisions are being made in the background. ‘A guide to going private’ may then be appropriate and, once a decision has been made, a follow-up email starts to enrich that data.

Once the data has been enriched, the customer is more likely to return because they have been provided with relevant content.

So, the three things to consider are:

  • Data you already have
  • Data you have earned
  • Your knowledge of the process

Earned data

Using the example of the insulin pump, web behaviour can lead to greater knowledge of where the customer is in the cycle. For example, if someone clicks on ‘New to insulin pumps’ it gives an indicator that they are not on a pump already. But it is just one indication. If they are then taken a step down the journey, and another step, and three pages down that particular journey there is already a sign that they are new to insulin pumps, then that data can be fed into a CRM (customer relationship management) system.

All such information can enrich the initial data gathered, and this enriched data can then be used to develop the entire journey, sending content throughout the 12-month period.

Data fills the black hole

Appropriate data collection is essential for beginning the process of filling the black hole, but effective data use is also crucial.

Using one  of the 101 automation platforms available, such as HubSpot, Pardot, Marketing Cloud and SharpSpring, it is important to automate tracking of web events and to automate the updating of records, going on to make sure that this automated content is personalised, so that it is relevant to the patient at the right time.

By improving the data in the middle of the patient experience and making sure that there are no black holes, conversion rates inevitably increase.

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How to fill the black hole in the patient experience



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