Measure for Measure - Marketing Metrics for the NHS

nhs-white-paper-matrketing-Whilst many parts of the NHS already collect statistical data for performance measurement, strategic marketing is a relatively new concept to the NHS. It can most accurately be described as ‘service delivery’; something the NHS has always done. However, with the introduction of competition through ‘patient choice’, especially between secondary and tertiary care trusts, there is a need for strategic marketing to ensure that patients and income are attracted.

In primary care the marketing focus lies primarily on ‘social marketing’ – encouraging us all to lead more healthy lives, thus saving the NHS money. However, with the planned introduction of more competition in this market, strategic marketing is required here too.

As a result, there have been calls for useful metrics to measure marketing effectiveness in the NHS.

The NHS already has strict accounting practices where metrics are used and some of these can be used for marketing. The availability of detailed patient referral data from Dr Foster, a healthcare information company, allows a number of useful metrics on market share to be calculated and used relatively easily. However, where marketing is measured, it is not always consistent; there is no clear view on exactly what needs to be measured; what metrics should be used, and the risks, assumptions and incorrect conclusions that can emerge from the well-meant application of metrics.

In response, particular metrics need to be chosen for their relevance. These metrics then need to be communicated internally, and the data and information that is gained needs to be fed back into future strategy. The risks of metrics also need to be considered – there is a danger of measuring too much, and not being able to draw insights due to an abundance of data.

As previously discussed in our first paper on marketing in the NHSi, marketing continues to be somewhat misunderstood and underestimated in the NHS, with misconceptions ranging from the belief that it is purely a promotional, tactical part of business, to the view that ‘every pound spent on marketing is a pound not spent on patients’. However, this situation is rapidly changing and there is clear growth in the role of marketing; from its basic ‘drive to a service’ role, through to the complex (and near-real time) feedback of diagnostic data evaluation; both in planned and unplanned settings. By the end of 2009 it is expected that every hospital in England will have at least trialled a patient experience collection and response system.

With more rigorous use of measurement, the value of marketing to the NHS can be proved as an income earner, cost-saver and value creator – not a cost to the system.  

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