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Is Customer Data Platform the new “Oil” of Data Management to Drive Customer Experience and Marketing Results?

, | July 8, 2021 | By

by Dr. Rob Nelson –

I recently wrote about “Winning at Patient and Customer Experience in the world of Healthcare Unchained: Customer xDNA. Since then, my team and I have had many conversations and engagements with leaders about improving patient and customer experience and driving digital transformation. These discussions always lead to strategic conversations about digital and data and AI strategy. One hot topic these days is that of the Customer Data Platform (CDP). Is it the new “oil” of data management?

What is CDP?

CDP is an integrated customer database managed by marketers that unifies a company’s customer data from marketing, sales, and service channels to enable customer modeling and drive customer experience. In particular, A CDP is a marketing system that unifies a company’s customer data from marketing and other channels. That said, it can become even more operational in nature in the healthcare space – beyond marketing use. CDP lives in an ecosystem of packaged solutions and concepts like Data Management Platforms, CRM, EHR, Practice Management Systems, Enterprise Systems, Digital Experience Platforms, Cloud Compute, advanced analytics/ML/AI, and marketing cloud. It can all get confusing, especially when you consider the different “flavors” of CDP out there.

Old concept, new approach?

Let’s first recognize that the concept of a centralized customer data set is not new. The idea emerges out of enterprise data management fueled by personalization (thanks to my former employer, omnichannel experiences across the patient journey, Big Data, and many, many patient transactions. Add to this real-time intelligent analytics and digital transformation you have seen a rise of various packaged software solutions aimed at and helping solve data access and management issues. Data is the fuel of a digital business, after all. The idea of a “golden customer record” or “Customer 360” isn’t very new; we at RCG have been helping customers with that for probably two decades. What is different now is the intensity of the data and the digital nature of the journey as well as expectations – and capabilities. Omni-channel is on steroids and even more so now in healthcare with telehealth, retail clinics, etc.

My take is that CDP came into existence as a  competitive niche software play because marketers continued to struggle with getting access to the data they need and having tools to execute their campaigns. These solutions targeted gaps in existing offerings out there. As a former Chief Marketing Officer and professor of marketing myself, I get this first-hand challenge. The Marketing and IT relationship have continued to merge and goes through its stress tests. Marketers have struggled to grasp and control data for their purposes and have had to make incessant requests of IT departments to get what they need. In Healthcare, CDP can extend beyond marketing into operations, bringing us back to the concept Customer xDNA. What is also unique in healthcare is that a CDP can consider the customer and the provider organization. If you look at the Customer xDNA framework, you will see the two strands of action (Customer Action / Patient Action and Organizational Action). A considerable part (but not the only part of organizational action) is the delivery of care by providers. The capabilities and tenets of a CDP have the potential to enable this series of jobs to be done more seamlessly, even predictively, in a more personalized and less burdensome way.

CDP is an emerging technology. I would call it a niche point solution around which industry has been created. CDP was first idealized as a concept in 2013, but it started as an industry in 2016.  Since then, there have developed over 130 firms offering CDP – stand-alone, start-up players, and all the enterprise players are getting into the game- some of whom focus solely on healthcare. The CDP global market is estimated, according to Gartner, is expected to grow from USD 2.4 billion in 2020 to USD 10.3 billion by 2025, at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 34.0%.  If anything,  these figures should tell you about the latent and pent-up demand that these packaged software solutions are addressing. Here are some of the pain points that a CDP solution addresses:

  • Data Pain
    • The struggle to utilize the power of data for targeting, prospecting, lack of unified view of the customer, combined data sources, prediction
    • Issues with data accuracy, quality
    • Ability to use data in insights and action
    • Data latency issues
    • Compelling use cases for customer data platforms often depend on or overlap with capabilities in IT systems such as master data management, which contain customer data but are typically managed outside of marketing.
  • Customer (Patient) Data Platform
    • Truly getting to a Customer 360 profile.
    • Enabling Trusted Data Foundation for curated, actionable data
  • Customer (Patient) Recognition can be a crucial issue
    • Matching customers across multiple devices
    • Understanding customer behavior over time
    • Tailoring messaging by persona, channel
    • Successfully driving attribution and conversion events with marketing
    • Improving targeting
    • Providing for customer identity resolution

As you likely well know, customer/patient data is collected from a multitude of healthcare analytics sources, including:

  • Patient Claims data
  • Survey data, such as from the Medicare CAHPS (Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems), Press Gainey, and the Star ratings program
  • Diagnosis data, such as CPT codes or ICD-10 codes
  • Pharmacy information, such as prescriptions
  • Health Information Exchanges (HIEs)
  • Patient portals or patient apps
  • Visit/Appointment data
  • Real-time workflow and journey data
  • Even eCommerce, in some cases as health systems, activate more online purchasing and journey options.

It is clear to everyone that there are many potential benefits from levering the capabilities of a CDP, such as…

Improve the Patient Experience

As highlighted in my article on CxDNA, we need to collect all of this data across different systems through a healthcare data platform to continually put the patient at the very center of what we do – and proactively drive their journey and experience. Also, we need real-time analytics insights to help run our organization. A key goal is to unify around the patient.  The data must be made available to different care teams, and data can also be shared via patient portals. Hence, patients have the opportunity to quickly access relevant information that was not previously available to them.

Share Data Easily and Securely

Sharing data is the mantra these days (if not reality). CMS (Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services continually press for interoperability and sharing patient data – with care teams and with the patient. But, beyond clinical data interoperability, if we think more along the lines of “Consumer Retail,” we can see the importance of enabling patients (Customers) to access all of their data and information in one place, accomplish tasks, get recommendations, be guided in their journey – beyond just clinical interventions. EMR’s and their patient portals do not provide this, but they are a vital part of the ecosystem for sure. Also, we can’t ignore the extensive requirements for privacy and data standards associated with APIs and how data is connected and shared when giving access both to providers and to patients.  Healthcare organizations  seek to provide the ability to unify data around the patient, then make that data available to providers, caregivers, and patients privately and securely.

A Single Source of Data for Better Engagement

I’d posit that a CDP likely will not be your System of Record. However, it may be a source of data to fuel other needs. But it will be a one-stop-shop for the specified used cases of the CDP. This is one reason that the decision around using a CDP or not is undoubtedly a strategic one as it must consider the users, stakeholders, goals, and current and future ecosystem of technology capabilities. For example, a packaged CDP software can focus more on the marketing objectives  (across marketing, engagement, care) and patient experience or extend more broadly to gain a more comprehensive health record to fully understand who gets the proper care at the right time the right provider. In that case, you create access to data from other providers. All information is readily accessible, so you provide the best possible patient care without overburdening patients.

Understand the Patient Journey

I’ve highlighted the CxDNA platform as a means to address the patient/consumer journey. And, as I mentioned, in the consumer marketing world (which is now healthcare too!), we are rightly obsessed with the “customer journey” and, of course, in healthcare, we have the “patient journey.” I’ve really started to use these terms interchangeably. Many lessons and best practices from the consumer sectors, including retail, can inform a healthcare approach to CDP. Customer (Patient) 360 is where we obtain a long-standing longitudinal record that captures pertinent information in a chronological timeline – transactions, engagement, behavior, including online behaviors, for example. This data can be used for data science and advanced analytics, whether you are focused on engaging and communicating more effectively based on patient preferences or even predicting patient health outcomes.

Increase Patient and Provider Satisfaction

Every healthcare organization has been focused on patient and provider satisfaction for decades. We continue to strive to improve quality, decrease cost and increase accessibility while delighting patient-customers while also supporting our heavily burdened providers who are in short supply. Trusted data that tells the story of a patient is the key to helping everyone be more efficient, effective, and satisfied. In addition, by creating more “connectedness” and “personalization,” we can drive for better engagement, better experiences, better outcomes. Those are reflected in satisfaction scores, star-ratings and retention and loyalty metrics.

Should you find and implement a packaged CDP solution?

To be clear, achieving the benefits mentioned herein – and creating a solution does not require a CDP. Many approaches can be taken. What you do need is a trusted data foundation. Whether to use a CDP is a strategic question and needs to consider your current and planned ecosystem, technology roadmap, and business strategy and objectives. The truth is there are different “types” of CDPs; some focus more on data, others on analytics, and others on marketing campaign capabilities.  The second consideration is that an “off-the-shelf” CDP may not be your best answer, significantly, as existing enterprise players increase their capabilities here and bolster gaps. Your data management problem can start with a Trusted Data Foundation and a Data Refinery. That does not need to be via a CDP. Some CDPs need cleaned and curated data before they can be effective.

On the other hand, a CDP might be a great solution – but which one? The devil is in the details, as they say. And, CDPs are “emerging tech.”

We advise our clients to carefully evaluate the set of features and capabilities a CDP offers vs. the intended use case. This should be understood in the context of a data and analytics management blueprint and digital roadmap/strategy. If you don’t have a digital roadmap and a CxDNA, we suggest you may want to start there. But, as it relates to approaching CDP, remember, a CDP is one of MANY options to address your seeking capabilities. It may be the best option, or it may not. Here are some important considerations:

  • Goals of program and scope
  • What features and capabilities do you need
  • Tech systems that can help achieve
  • Understand patient data management and ecosystem
  • What is the root cause of challenges, inefficiencies?
  • Comparison and options and current tech in place and future roadmap

Some critical next steps include:

  1. Consult stakeholders about adopting a CDP approach: Build vs. Buy (emerging tech)
  2. Inventory capability and skills for marketing/IT to collaborate for data science, customer modeling, data management, and execution
  3. Determine the focus of the CDP effort – type and outcomes
  4. What is the state of segmentation and personas?
  5. What is the status of data, quality, etc.?
  6. Assess the risk of potential approaches?
  7. Consider completing and Patient (Customer) xDNA (CxDNA) roadmap/assessment (depending on the state of persona/segmentation development)
  8. Roadmap and strategic action plan

This is a super exciting time in the world of possible patient data, experience, marketing, and overall engagement. However, a little bit of planning can go a long way to help you set up for success.

I’ll be providing more on this topic to come. So, I’d love to hear your thoughts and questions at