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Measuring Health Outcomes: The Difference Between Indicators and Outcomes

measuring health outcomes

In both healthcare and healthcare marketing, the actions you take today likely won’t have an immediate impact on patient behavior. It may take several months to see and measure the results of your efforts. Hence, for many, measuring health outcomes can become a challenge. 

What Are Indicators? 

Not all results take several months to gestate. As digital communication between patients and providers continues to grow, there are some early-read metrics, like open rate and click-through rate, you can analyze soon after you send a message. We at PatientBond value these measurements because they show actions taken. 

When looking at these numbers, though, it’s important to remember that they are only indicators. That doesn’t mean there isn’t a relationship to an actual measurable outcome — just that the relationship may vary. 

Indicators in Action

Let’s look at an example. PatientBond conducted a test to find the most effective way to encourage patients to get a hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c) screening and determine their risk of developing diabetes. We created five different versions of the same email and five versions of the same text message, using insights from our proven and proprietary psychographic segmentation model. For a control group, we used the one-size-fits-all messaging that was currently being used by the healthplan. 

All six groups had open rates of 23-25%. Overall, this is fairly high, but there were no meaningful differences between the test and control groups.

The click-through rates for the segment-based messages, however, were between 5 and 8 times higher than the control group. This metric would indicate that more people were probably getting their HbA1c checked.

So we could better understand the people who were opening the emails, each PatientBond message also included an embedded button the patient could click to share more information with us. These additional options were:

  • I have had my HbA1c tested in the last 3 months.
  • I do not know my HbA1c and am willing to schedule an appointment with my primary care physician (PCP).
  • I would like help scheduling an appointment.

If a person chose the first option, they were led to a claims review. If they chose the second and third option, then their doctor knew they needed help and could follow up directly. 

After reviewing the data, PatientBond found that “I have had my A1c tested in the last 3 months” accounted for 75% of clicks. That means only 25% of recipients selected option two or option three. This number is lower than expected and may disappoint providers whose main goal is to improve health outcomes. 

There’s good news, though. About 60% of the people who clicked through the email also clicked one of the three additional information options. In the text message test, a majority of the click-throughs were on those additional options, as well. These clicks count as an action taken. 

In summary, open rate was the same between the two groups. The PatientBond click-through rate was 5 to 8 times higher, but the majority of those also selected “I have had my A1C checked in the last 3 months.” Still, the indicators would suggest that PatientBond’s psychographic messaging worked. After all, PatientBond had 1189 more claims from the email version and an incremental 760 from the text version.

The lesson here is open rates, click-through rates and the number of patients who take a particular action are all viable indicators to success. At the end of the day, though, we want to see the outcome. So, the question remains: did more people get a claim and have their HbA1c checked?

Because most of the people who opened PatientBond’s messages selected that they had already had their HbA1c checked, the high number of click-throughs gave a false indication. After all, 75% of the people who opened that email didn’t need to be checked again. Even though their open rates were 5 to 8 times higher than the control group, if they were mostly opened by people who didn’t need the service, it might not have made a difference in their health outcomes.

In an example like this where you’re trying to bring people back into your practice and generate more revenue, you have to consider your ROI. Did this initiative pay off once you subtract the associated costs? Did it help you reach a level you can call a success? Ask yourself these questions before crafting your next patient communication or marketing campaign.

For more on psychographic segmentation and how it can be used to improve health outcomes and amplify engagement, download our whitepaper

How Psychographic Segmentation & Digital Engagement Improve Health Outcomes



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