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Data Visualization - Let Data Lead Your Marketing


An article by Marc Oestreich from the September/October issue of HBMA Billing.

"Data is what distinguishes the dilettante from the artist." Those sage words from George Higgins are true in nearly every profession in this world, but are often forgotten where they are needed most. In business-to-business marketing, data drives the sale more than advertising, glossy leave-behinds, or nifty websites could ever do. However, in a world popping at the seams with data – and a health profession well past that – if you cannot make that data talk, you cannot win sales.



As most anyone in the healthcare industry – or anyone who has seen a bill recently – will tell you, medical costs are exploding. New laws and regulations just pile onto an existing jungle of red tape and bureaucracy. As each new law is passed, the burden for medical providers grows more and more cumbersome as they try to navigate through the mess.

Electronic health records (EHRs) have promised myriad efficiencies but training, familiarity with working on these systems, etc., have created inefficiencies and slowdowns in practices. It is these same inefficiencies that make the billing community as necessary as it is; and today, medical billing professionals are as valuable as ever before.

So, how do we convey this value? How can we best inform medical providers of the costs and inefficiencies that their businesses are experiencing? Most of our systems and information are computerized, and because we have data beyond our wildest imagination as a result, we can leverage that data. We can illustrate how our businesses are doing, how much they could improve, how our competitors compare, and how the industry in general is faring. We can let the data do our marketing, if you will.

We are in a renaissance of data. Sometimes known as "Big Data," an entire industry has sprung up around using and understanding the data we produce. Governments produce copious volumes of publicly available information and private companies churn it out daily. Indeed, many organizations are allowing total access to their data for anyone to manipulate and use via application programming interfaces (APIs).

Websites like and give us access to hundreds upon hundreds of APIs and thousands of sets of data. Anything from your school's attendance records to your client's filled-bed ratio are out there for the taking, but as Eric Clapton so eloquently croons, "It's in the way that you use it."



That data is out there – you have some of it and the rest is publicly available. Data immediately conveys a sense of scholarliness and trust to your clients. It shows that you have done your homework. Now, let us put it to work.

I have talked before about how your digital marketing needs to be "baked into" your website. We can use this data in a variety of ways to make you stand out amongst your competitors. We can do things as simple as creating an interactive calculator to show the average savings that you have realized for your clients over the past year. Or, how about a calculator that shows what they could be saving, based on the general size and parameters of their business, as compared to other companies of their size?

Another more costly solution might be to create a piece of custom software that enables your clients to track their own data. Using a private dashboard, your clients could log into a web portal that gives them real time illustrations of their cost savings and ROI. Industry averages and your logged hours come together to produce graphs and charts illustrating how much more efficient you are than your competitors or other methods of billing.

Let's not forget the robustness of the dataset with which we are working. You could offer your clients something simple like the times of day where inaccurate billings are most common, the clients most prone to it, or the codes most associated with errors. You could utilize public Medicare statistics to compare the billings of your clients versus the average Medicare biller. The sky is the limit when it comes to the possibilities afforded to you by the use of data. You are only limited by your imagination.



Presentation is everything. Remember, we are the artists, not dilettantes. These days, data is presented through infographic designers. Check out the work of Column Five Media or GOOD.IS magazine. Having the data and its purpose in mind is only part of the battle – presentation is what wins.

Infographics are currently all the rage and they are relatively cost-effective marketing tools that can be turned around in a short amount of time. They are used in the pages of glossy magazines, on websites across the Internet, and by political operations like the current presidential campaigns. Using them, we visualize data in a fun and colorful way that makes it easier for the consumer to understand just how data compares amongst other data points.

How can you use infographics in your marketing campaign? Create a series of custom graphical assets. Maybe you could find an interesting way to visualize inefficiencies in the medical system (the ones your company solves, of course). Maybe use one to create a visual of your billing process with data at each point illustrating its purpose.

There are plenty of data points you could show, depending on what point you are trying to make. The point is, you are once again baking in your marketing and making sure that your clients, or potential clients, remember that you can provide innovative solutions to help them better understand their businesses. If you provide a simpler way for medical professionals to do business, and help them understand the complexity of their business at the same time, you have created a winning formula that will help you and your clients succeed.


Marc Oestreich has been passionate about human behavior as long as he can remember. As an undergrad at Indiana University that meant researching consumer behavior and human-computer interaction. As a graduate student at Purdue University it meant doing novel research on human decision-making. Alongside his studies, Marc worked as a usability specialist and site architect at several web firms. After finishing at Purdue, Marc began working as a freelance journalist and landed a job full-time at a political think-tank where he was soon put in charge of all digital marketing. He is now the director of marketing at Golden Tech, a medium-sized tech firm.

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