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Improve the Patient Experience with Customer Data Platforms

, | March 3, 2023 | By
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by Dr. Rob Nelson –

If you are in the Healthcare and Life Sciences industries and having been seeing and hearing the buzz about Customer Data Platforms (CDPs) or you just have a strong focus on the customer-patient and how to improve their overall experience and want to know more, you are in luck.  In my September e-book Beyond the Buzz. Do you need a Customer Data Platform, I discuss aspects about CDPs and their opportunities and use across many industries.

CDPs are indeed an “emerging tech” and the customization of CDPs specific to healthcare is still early. While there has been explosion of CDP vendors and big system vendors like Microsoft also launch their versions of CDPs, the focus on healthcare is more limited – but starting to gain traction.

What’s all this buzz about Customer Data Platforms in healthcare and life sciences anyway?

At their core, Customer Data Platforms are intended to help improve business outcomes and to deliver better brand experiences, and in non-profits, to optimize fundraising. So, what about Healthcare?

Healthcare and Life Sciences industries are dynamic and rapidly evolving – particularly amid the pandemic.  As is the case in other industries, the target of customer 360 or “patient-member golden record” is not new. With the rise of digital health, telemedicine, retail healthcare and consumerism, healthcare marketers have been clamoring more than ever for a 360-degree view of the patient or member as well as data and workflows they can control at the push of button – not an IT ticket request.

Later in this blog, I’ve highlighted a handful of real-world case studies about how a unified customer data platform is enabling true transformation centered on the patient/customer.

When it comes to CDP’s, is Healthcare different?

Well, yes and no. Health systems, other providers and payers all live in the reality that data resides in multiple places: siloed, disconnected, disjointed, and of varied quality.  As pointed out in my e-book on CDPs,

  1. One difference comes to play when we intend to use customer data platforms beyond marketing use cases and apply them to help drive clinical care – that is to say, in the potential inclusion of clinical data.
  2. The other, obvious difference is the essential focus on security ePHI.
  3. Third, some of the ecosystem of the tech stack that a CDP will interact with may be different than other industries.

Aside from these, CDPs look the same across industries.

HCOs (providers and payers), like other types of firms need to capture and learn from data across all touchpoints to create a seamless journey and unified experience. They need the same “unified view” other types of organizations are seeking.  Meeting patient-member expectations requires a more holistic approach that breaks down silos and leverages the latest connected technologies to do so. Many other industries need to do this also.

Since much of care today is provided outside of the hospital, HCOs need to help patients be motivated, active and effective in management of their health. Helping them feel safe and valued is part of that mix – which can be enabled with more personalized care – a critical success factor in helping build loyal relationships.  The healthcare journey has so many touchpoints and “jobs to be done” by the patient-member, from looking for the right provider to setting an appointment to delivering post-acute/op care management. Journey touchpoints are prevalent from the billing and revenue cycle through to long-term care need; all the jobs to be done by a patient and all the jobs to done by the care organization need to be mapped out, understood and then enabled in a holistic way for a positive, seamless and frictionless experience. My e-book on the Customer / Patient CxDNA: A Platform for creating winning outcomes, provides a good framework by which to approach this holistic experience with customer data and AI and analytics in order to provide a consistent and relevant patient experience on a personal level. This important aspect is further highlighted for healthcare in my blog “Winning at patient and customer experience in the world of healthcare unchained ” and in my blog “The New Imperative: Incredible Customer Experience – Using Customer xDNA to get there faster

So, what is CDP for Healthcare anyway?

The idea is that a CDP can help address and accelerate your efforts by providing the Healthcare Marketer’s “Holy Grail” of customer data management: a platform designed both to ingest and unify structured and unstructured data from any number of sources. The CDP then creates a single view of the patient-member record to provide a more holistic view.  This view will enable many different opportunities, in particular, the ability to apply advanced analytics and machine learning to obtain actionable insights and predictive models to help improve delivery of service, marketing, and communications.

Thus, CDPs have the potential to not only solve some of these current healthcare-specific challenges around data management and meaningful analysis but also to provide an enterprise platform built to help organizations navigate growing concerns around issues like value-based care as well as new ways of engaging such as through voice search and apps, chatbots, real-time personalization, medical device data, and beyond.

A patient-member’s healthcare journey involves a complex network of interaction via numerous encounters with healthcare institution staff, digital services, and information. These interactions and transactions are typically stored in disparate IT systems—with protected clinical data stored in one system, and payment, registrations, and marketing contacts residing in separate and unconnected systems. This siloed approach often results in a lack of understanding of the patient’s interactions with the organization; this results in an unclear view of the patient-member journey.

It is no secret that, from a patient-member perspective, navigating the healthcare system can be a challenge. A single person is likely to engage and experience their healthcare organization in very many ways. For example, a patient-member may look up a treatment on the hospital app or website, attend an educational event, and visit their doctor and care team for the same topic. But, from the Healthcare Organization perspective, nothing ties these experiences together. This lack of continuity can result in a highly fragmented patient-member experience. Customer data platforms unify patient data, eliminate data siloes, and provide healthcare organizations a secure foundation for orchestrating improved patient journeys and achieving better outcomes. They can also help deliver timely information and tools to help patient-members along their way.

Further, contemporary data strategies need to be robust and flexible to meet ever-evolving needs amid changing regulations and privacy preferences. It is essential for Healthcare and Life Science firms to deliver positive, trusted, frictionless, smooth, experiences and relevant content.

Again, two specific aspects of a CDP stand out aside from marketing workflows and automation etc.

  1. Enable data ingestion and integration
    Consolidate multiple functions and disparate consumer information in one place.
  2. Unify customer-patient-member data
    Process patient / customer data at the person level. Patient / Customer 360

Further, for healthcare marketing teams, a third key potential benefit is to establish control of the flow of data, not through IT/development resources but through the marketing/web analytics teams.


Beyond the buzz, do you need a Customer Data Platform

Customer Data Platforms (CDPs) are the buzz these days. But, are CDPs the panacea for customer data to drive marketing effectiveness? This eBook provides an essential primer on the topic while providing insight and recommended actions for anyone exploring the use of CDPs.

Read the eBook


Opportunities and drivers. Why a Customer Data Platform Now?

Healthcare Consumer and Increased Expectations

Thanks to my former employer, Amazon, and others, consumer demand continues to grow for more personalized, seamless, frictionless interactions from the firms and brands they choose – healthcare included. Think now of the world of telehealth and retail (e.g. Minute Clinic, Clinics, WalMart and Target where our consumer retail and healthcare worlds truly merge).

It is clear that HCOs need to pay more attention to data and innovation. And, with ever-expanding value-based care models, there is also the added need to measure and establish more accountability in process and technology than ever before for the patient-member. Broader consumer trends and experience have fundamentally transformed healthcare. This increased consumerism means that HCOs must put the patient-member’s needs, interests, and preferences first. It also means transforming marketing capabilities and campaigns for more personalized engagement and communication. HCOs are also concerned with improving the efficiency and effectiveness of care for entire populations. A unified customer view is essential to this effort.

Opportunities made possible with advanced data science, AI and ML

Beyond the consumerism trends and rise of customer data, data, artificial intelligence, and emerging tech are fueling digital transformation, customer engagement, insight, seamless, and frictionless patient experiences. Data is the fuel that can make customer engagement, marketing and patient experience dreams come true. Yet, most organizations are already behind in their data management capabilities and strategies.  In healthcare, there is an extra challenge due to the unique data created around every healthcare interaction before, during, and after any patient visit. I discuss data and the opportunities around AI a bit more in The Sentient Enterprise and Business at the Speed of now.

AI and ML models generally work best when applied to larger datasets – especially if deep learning techniques are used although many insights can be gleaned from smaller sets or techniques other than deep learning. However, the fullest-potential, more sophisticated analytics from larger datasets can help understand subtleties in customer preferences. These insights can help understand patient-member communication channel preferences, personalize website content and other key considerations.

Beyond marketing, data science also enables HCOs to extend unified patient-member efforts across the organization to improve overall patient experience and patient engagement. And, while CDPs are the packaged software platforms that finally bring Martech up-to-date with the modern, data-focused approach to customer insights, they can even help drive clinical outcomes such as enabling earlier intervention points for certain conditions to avoid re-admissions and to determine which services and types of support, care management, and more can be used to optimize outcomes.  This is also where a unified customer view can be invaluable.

How is CDP ‘Different” than other Martech and data management platforms?

A more detailed comparison of CDPs versus other Martech options and other customer data management assets like data lakes, warehouses and data management platforms is provided in the aforementioned CDP ebook<link>. I also provide a view on some of the pros and cons of a packaged solution vs. a more customized approach with a Trusted Data Foundation, Data Pipeline etc. Although a CDP can be very similar to other Martech solutions on the surface, they are designed for different purposes. It is worth taking a good look at the major differences.

Why choose a CDP for Healthcare?

Healthcare organizations obviously collect a myriad of data (volume and variety) stored in disparate and unconnected systems. This includes patient-member data that can be put into a unified view of health records, past interactions, and communication preferences that can be used to empower front-line support and care teams to provide better care and an optimal experience for patients. By unifying that customer data and enabling better marketing, service, and communications capabilities, CDPs can help improve

  1. the healthcare journey through secure and connected patient experiences
  2. the relationship, loyalty with patients, customers, and members
  3. marketing effectiveness and ROI.

A CDP solution can be used to enable a scalable, flexible, highly secure, HIPAA-compliant data foundation across silos, marketing, and clinical data, as well as a unified view of every touchpoint the patient -consumer has had, from initial contact to the inpatient care received, to the follow-up interactions with the patient-member and their family after release.  This new and unified insight enables enhanced relationship-building moments and experience by helping address important insights such as:

  • The last service accessed before their visit
  • The patient population segments to which they belong
  • The hospital services they have been interested in lately
  • A view into their patient-member journey – where they are
  • The patient-member digital footprint – where they have visited on websites and social media
  • The patient-member’s social and advertisement engagement

A good example is that a CDP can provide the ability to bring together anonymous web browsing history and a form fill from a Facebook advertisement. This insight can be put to use to personalize the patient-member experience. For example, when the patient calls to schedule their dermatology evaluation they’ve been considering, the patient-member contact center can identify them as well as the transactions and activities that have led up to their call. This can enable a much more personal, seamless experience for the patient-member which can help drive loyalty and consumption.

Thus, this unified view of the patient-member can:

  1. Create a deep understanding of patient-member interactions across digital applications and in-person visits
  2. Build a deep understanding of patient-member interactions across digital applications and in-person visits
  3. Design and deliver personalized patient-member experiences
  4. Acquire new patient-members
  5. Improve contact center experiences
  6. Prevent patient-member coverage lapses

Real-world applications of Customer Data Platforms – Case Examples

Desirable Features and Capabilities that a CDP solution should support and/or enable include.

  1. Real-Time data streaming and management
  2. AI/ML modeling and predictive insight capability
  3. Support for integrations with other systems and data sources (vendor neutrality) to drive budget efficiency, increase technology utilization, and create consistent customer experiences
  4. Data storage, stewardship capabilities and tools
  5. Data governance capabilities and tools
  6. Private cloud or customer data infrastructure that ensure and assist in assuring with strict data privacy and regulatory rules like HIPAA.

A number of well-known healthcare organizations are using CDPs including :

  • CVS Health
  • AstraZeneca
  • Dignity Health
  • Novartis
  • Dayton Children’s Hospital
  • MVP Healthcare
  • Cambria Healthcare Solutions
  • St Josephs’ Health

I’ve compiled a few use cases here of healthcare organizations using a CDP to drive real business outcomes.

Health System Case Study: Personalization

The marketing team wanted to leverage technology that would bring together offline and online data to enable personalization, deeper segmentation, and more efficient targeting. Using a CDP, they were able to unify online and offline data to personalize call-center experiences for patients.

Health Plan Case Study:  Transform Patient/Customer Experience

The marketing and market insights team used customer data available through the CDP to transform the customer experience. They were able to stitch together customer data across 20+ digital properties to provide better customer experiences while ensuring data is secure and meets government healthcare regulations (HIPAA).

Health System Case Study: Enrich Data – Transform Experience

One hospital system uses the insights made possible through the customer data platform to continue improving the patient experience across every channel and touch point, helping transform the end-to-end healthcare journey. They successfully used a CDP strategy and implementation to accomplish data enrichment to drive provisioning of the best possible patient-member experience.

Health System Case Study:  Drive wellness in the community

Another health system is focused on making a positive impact on the health and wellness of the communities it serves by offering more convenient, more supportive, and more personal member experiences. The health system has obtained a universal view of its membership community and has launched its transformation from a healthcare payer into a trusted healthcare liaison. They are able to unify data from multiple sources to create a centralized collaboration platform for 2,000 employees and 700,000 members. Then, leveraging built-in AI and machine learning, they gain a better understanding of patient-members and then deliver proactive care with recommendation on next best actions. The CDP helps build a single view of every patient-member which helps drive better experience overall through more interoperability across providers, partners, members, and employees.

Hospital System Case Study: Clinical and Marketing Visibility to the Patient-Member Journey

One of the top children’s hospitals in the United States, has focused on “going above and beyond in making sure children are well taken care of”. With hundreds of thousands of patient visits per year, each of the resulting interactions with patients and their families is crucial. This hospital, like most, collects and stores a multitude of data in disparate and unconnected systems. They have used a packaged CDP solution to build a scalable, flexible, highly secure, and HIPAA-compliant data foundation—spanning both clinical and marketing information. They have visibility to every touchpoint the patient-member had with the hospital, from initial contact to the inpatient care received, to the follow-up interactions with the patient and their family after release.

A note about security and CDP

Healthcare organizations need to provide assurance that they are guarding against unauthorized access to patient and organizational data. Critical aspects of a CDP solution (off-the-shelf or custom) are ongoing and rigorous monitoring, auditing, and security protocols.  With today’s focus on electronic Personal Health Information (ePHI) amid the threat of cyber-attack, a CDP solution must meet requirements, guidelines, and controls for attestation and examination in accordance with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act (HITECH). Maintaining data privacy and security through various security features and protocols including multi-factor authentication are a given. The most stringent safeguards, rigorous security protocols, ongoing monitoring and auditing must be in place to ensure the customer data passing in and out of the platform is properly and consistently logged.

Custer Data Platform Recommendations for Healthcare Organizations

A healthcare organization needs to start by determining which aspect of the business the CDP will support. These might be marketing programs and/or patient-member service programs.  Is there an organizational desire / intent to unify customer/marketing and clinical data?  If so, the next step is an evaluation of needs by understanding what has been prohibiting marketing and clinical outreach from running successful programs, particularly when it comes to customer data, features, and capabilities of the current Martech stack.

We would love to help you on your customer data journey. Feel free to reach out to me at