Mastering Healthcare Audience Segments for Enhanced Marketing Outcomes

Employing healthcare audience segments plays a pivotal role in revolutionizing marketing strategies and, in turn, elevating the standard of patient care. Audience segmentation allows healthcare providers to tailor their messages to specific demographic groups so that campaign messaging, channels, and tactics resonate with the intended audience. Such personalization fosters a stronger connection and encourages patient engagement.

Below, Adfire Health outlines how healthcare audience segmentation enables healthcare organizations to understand the diverse needs, preferences, and concerns of diverse HCP and patient populations. By tailoring their marketing strategies to meet the unique needs of diverse populations, healthcare organizations can optimize the effectiveness of their outreach, ensuring that resources are efficiently allocated to where they are most required.

Key Takeaways

  • Healthcare audience segmentation refers to categorizing a broad target audience of patient or HCP populations into smaller, more defined groups based on certain factors or characteristics. Segmentation enables healthcare organizations to customize marketing strategies to meet target audiences’ needs and preferences.
  • Segmenting healthcare audiences leads to improved patient outcomes and satisfaction, enhanced HCP communication, and a higher return on investment for organizations.
  • HCPs can be segmented by license, specialty, practice, and prescribing behavior.
  • Organizations can collect and analyze patient data while complying with HIPAA regulations using techniques like modeled claims analysis, behavioral browsing patterns, seed URL analysis, keyword targeting, and location-based targeting.

Understanding the Basics of Healthcare Segmentation

Healthcare audience segmentation categorizes a broad target audience into smaller, more defined groups based on certain factors or characteristics. Segmentation enables healthcare organizations to tailor their marketing strategies and optimize resources to better meet the specific needs, preferences, and behaviors of each identified group and helps to identify new market opportunities. In turn, marketers will see better engagement and more conversions.

The healthcare industry primarily comprises two key segments: patients and healthcare professionals (HCPs). HCPs can be further differentiated by various criteria, including their license type, specialty, the nature of their practice, and prescribing habits. In segmenting patient populations, marketers often utilize a range of categories, such as demographics (including age, gender, income, and education level), psychographics (encompassing lifestyle choices, values, and attitudes), geographic location, overall health status, or the presence of specific medical conditions.

The Benefits of Healthcare Audience Segmentation

Yields a Higher Marketing ROI

Healthcare audience segmentation leads to higher engagements and conversions because data-driven campaigns reach specific groups within a broader target audience. These groups are categorized based on specific criteria, such as demographic data. They are, therefore, more likely to be interested in and engage with the advertised services or products that appeal to those criteria. Targeted campaigns distribute marketing resources and budgets more efficiently, saving costs while yielding a higher return on investment due to increased engagement. 

Strengthens HCP Communication

Audience segmentation aids healthcare organizations in communicating more effectively with HCPs by allowing for tailored messages and strategies that resonate with specific interests, needs, and specialties. This targeted approach makes communication relevant and valuable, addressing the unique concerns, clinical interests, and professional development needs of each HCP segment.

For instance, segmentation enables organizations to differentiate their messaging for primary care physicians versus specialists, focusing on the most pertinent information, research updates, and treatment innovations relevant to each group’s practice area. It also facilitates the delivery of customized educational content, product updates, and industry news, enhancing engagement and collaboration.

By aligning communication efforts with the preferences and requirements of distinct HCP audiences, healthcare organizations can foster stronger relationships, improve information dissemination, and ultimately support better patient care outcomes.

Improves Patient Care & Satisfaction

Audience segmentation empowers healthcare organizations to deliver highly personalized and impactful care, significantly improving patient outcomes and satisfaction levels. Leveraging HIPAA-compliant, de-identified patient data allows a profound understanding of patient demographics, online behaviors, medical histories, and communication preferences. This strategic approach guarantees that patients predisposed to specific health conditions are provided with pertinent, timely information to manage their well-being better.

Creating Effective Segments for Healthcare Professionals (HCPs)

HCP audience segmentation helps to determine the right target audience for specific marketing objectives, identify the best marketing tactics for particular categories of healthcare providers, and allocate marketing resources more efficiently.1 Filtering down the target audience for campaigns can increase ad engagement because the highly targeted audience will find the ad more valuable.

It’s also important to spot trends when segmenting healthcare audiences.2 For instance, some specialties may be more inclined to engage with an ad if it incorporates specific keywords or references certain procedures or treatments. Such insights can help guide your marketing strategies to manage resources effectively.

HCPs can be segmented by criteria1 such as:

  • Demographics data (e.g., age, gender, and location)
  • License type
  • Practice type
  • Prescribing Behavior
  • Purchasing Behavior
  • Various communication channels they use
  • Company size and number of patients

By segmenting HCPs, marketers can gather data on specific HCPs and then use the data to construct healthcare-segmented audience profiles, outlining key characteristics, preferences, and challenges. These personas help tailor marketing strategies and educational content to meet each segment’s interests and increase engagement.

Understanding HCP Segments

License Type

To engage HCPs with specific license types, identify licenses relevant to healthcare professionals in your target area (doctors, nurses, pharmacists, specialists, etc.). Licenses can then be categorized based on criteria such as similarities in education, training, and scope of practice to develop detailed personas for each license type. Once data on targeted healthcare professionals is collected from sources such as healthcare organizations, licensing boards, and professional associations, marketers can tailor marketing and communications strategies to reflect the target audience’s pain points.


Segmenting by specialty can help create more targeted campaigns, and this strategy can also help marketers gain insight into the demographics within each specialty3, such as gender, age, income level, or healthcare setting. Like with license types, identify relevant healthcare specialties and group similar specialties based on shared characteristics, patient populations, or medical approaches. Examples of medical specialties include Internal Medicine, Pediatrics, Family Medicine, OB/GYN, and more.

Collect data on healthcare professionals, including their specialty, through sources such as professional registries, healthcare institutions, or specialty-specific organizations. Once data is collected, marketers can define criteria for segmenting based on specialty, such as types of procedures performed, patient demographics, or specific treatment modalities. It’s also helpful to incorporate demographic information such as age, gender, and location to refine segments further. Then, develop detailed profiles to showcase distinct characteristics within each specialty, such as key challenges and recent advancements.

Practice Type

Marketers can create comprehensive, data-driven profiles on specific medical practices by segmenting healthcare professionals by practice type. Practice types can be categorized based on specialization, patient population focus, healthcare setting, and location. Data can be collected from healthcare databases, professional associations, medical directories, digital tools like electronic health records, surveys and interviews with HCPs, and geographic information systems. You can also research referral patterns and collaboration networks among HCPs to gain insight into their interactions with other HCPs and healthcare institutions.

Prescribing Behavior

HCPs can be segmented based on their prescribing behavior by analyzing factors such as therapeutic areas, prescription patterns, and treatment patterns. For instance, understanding therapeutic areas in which HCPs are most active is essential because some physicians may focus on specific medical conditions or specialties. Their expertise and patient demographics may influence their prescribing behavior.

Another area of focus for prescribing behavior is gaining insight into their clinical decision-making process. Marketers can categorize HCPs by prescription volume and frequency. Are certain providers prescribing more or less? It’s important to distinguish because high prescribers can be targeted differently from low prescribers, as their motivations and needs could vary significantly.

Moreover, providers can be grouped based on whether they prefer to prescribe first-line treatments or are more likely to explore second-line or alternative options. They can also be cataloged based on their willingness to adopt new therapies or medications, as these prescribing behaviors can offer more insight into how open or conservative they may be in endorsing new treatments.

Case Studies Highlights Increasing Engagement for Segmented HCP Audiences

Engaging Neurologists Successfully

Adfire Health’s pharmaceutical brand client was looking for a neurology advertising partner to inform neurologists about the efficacy of their drug in treating chronic neurological sleeping disorders. The company wanted to reduce the cost per qualified action (CPQA) to fill out forms on its website while increasing reach.

With Adfire Health’s proprietary database, Thumbprint™, and programmatic technology, Adfire Health directly targeted neurologists through segmentation based on license type, prescribing behavior, demographics, and location. Adfire Health was able to bid on media inventory that would generate quality Neurologist impressions and give exposure to this pharma brand’s campaign.

By strategically reaching neurologists and implementing tailored solutions, Adfire Health met and exceeded client expectations, achieving a more favorable CPQA at $32, compared to $60 and $100 from other vendors. The campaign also reached an impressive 215K patients, calculated by analyzing the numbers of neurologists reached and comparing it to claims data showing prescribing behaviors.

Creating Effective Segments for Patients/Consumers

Patient segmentation allows organizations to classify patients using distinct criteria, enabling the customization of engagement approaches and care plans. By organizing patients into groups based on shared preferences, online behaviors, medical histories, and demographics, healthcare providers can achieve improved health outcomes and elevate patient satisfaction. HCPs can implement targeted, personalized interventions precisely when needed. Additionally, by adopting more innovative and privacy-aware strategies, marketers can conduct campaigns more efficiently, facilitating effective and respectful connections between patients and healthcare services.

Identifying Key Characteristics

Modeled Claims Analysis

Modeled claims targeting permits healthcare marketers to build audiences from millions of de-identified patient profiles and identify trends with diagnosis, prescriptions, procedural codes, and healthcare provider information collected from medical interactions, billing records, and insurance data. Modeled claims analysis is most useful when promoting products or services undergoing extensive testing or clinical trials and when the product or service’s benefits can be quantitatively demonstrated through statistical models or data-driven results.

To comply with privacy regulations, de-anonymize a proportion of probable patients and merge them with another anonymous population to ensure 50% anonymity within the data pool. For instance, if the total population of patients with a condition is half a million, an additional half a million non-affected individuals should be integrated to anonymize the patient data. This process involves categorizing audiences by healthcare provider specialty levels using ICD 10 and CPT codes. To further enhance targeting, amalgamate modeled claims data with top decile prescribing HCP data.

Behavioral Targeting & Seed URL Targeting

Behavioral targeting captures interest data from users’ browsing habits, such as search terms of conditions and side effects, websites visited, and purchases made. With real-time data, you can build a target audience profile that is more likely to engage with and purchase a product if they search related terms and websites. Marketers can gather this information by looking up specific keywords based on intents provided by demand-side platforms (DSP), which then populates data associated with particular demographics.

Seed URL targeting uses a seed list of URLs to create look-alike consumer profiles. Advanced data science can match a seed list of URLs to contextually similar websites in the network. This list can be used to generate an audience of users who visited those websites in the past 30 days. For example, suppose you have a list of the top five or ten websites with competitors or similar sites. In that case, marketers can see and create behaviors and different demographic profiles based on consumers who visit those websites.

Contextual Targeting

Contextual targeting represents a nuanced approach that aligns advertisements with the content of the web pages that potential patients are viewing. Instead of relying on search queries, contextual targeting examines the themes and keywords within a page’s content to place relevant healthcare ads. This could mean putting a heart health supplement advertisement on a blog about cardiovascular fitness, ensuring the message reaches an audience already engaged with related subject matter.

Contextual targeting is particularly appealing in the healthcare sector for its ability to deliver pertinent messages without relying on personal search history, respecting user privacy, and aligning with the growing demand for data protection.

Location-Based Targeting

Location-based targeting allows marketers to customize their messaging to be more relevant to a target audience and offer a personalized experience based on physical location. This data can be gathered through GPS, IP addresses, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth technologies. This approach becomes critical for reaching specific local audiences, aligning the marketed offerings with regional needs, and adapting messaging to local regulations or health concerns.

Leveraging Technology for Insight

Artificial intelligence (AI)4 has transformed how healthcare organizations identify and segment patient populations to personalize engagement strategies. Machine learning algorithms use statistical models to segment patients based on various predictors such as demographics, interests, and online behaviors. These AI programs can collect and evaluate patient data from patient feedback, electronic health records, and internet browsing behavior (e.g., finding patients searching for information on a specific medical issue).

AI programs can also use predictive analysis to anticipate distinct patient populations’ healthcare preferences and needs. Predictive analysis relies on patient data, statistical algorithms, and machine-learning tactics to help healthcare organizations recognize patterns and trends in patient behavior. HCPs can then allocate resources more efficiently to determine which patient profiles benefit from specific focused interventions.

Ethical Considerations & Best Practices in Healthcare Segmentation

Adhering to privacy compliance regulations is paramount when segmenting healthcare audiences and collecting and evaluating patient data. Healthcare organizations must balance protecting patients’ data and using it to garner significant insights to personalize and improve patient care.

Ethical implications in patient segmentation can include significant issues such as invasion of privacy, data breaches, and using demographic data to exclude or discriminate against specific groups. For example, organizations can’t collect patient data without their explicit consent. Advertisers also can’t share data that can be considered protected health information that identifies individuals, such as their social security number or individual treatment plans. Otherwise, this would violate their privacy rights according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)’ HIPAA Privacy Rule.5

Best Data Privacy & Compliance Practices in Healthcare Segmentation

Anonymize Data

Use marketing tactics such as modeled claims analysis to anonymize and protect patients’ privacy. Anonymizing patient data helps prevent individual patient identification and lowers the risk of potential harm due to unauthorized access or data leaks.6

Be Transparent

Maintain transparency with patients by asking for written consent before collecting personal data. Explain how the data will be used for segmentation and the benefits of data collection and analysis for healthcare audience segmentation.6

Conduct Regular Audits

Healthcare organizations can build trust with their audiences by implementing robust data compliance protocols. Conduct frequent audits of healthcare segmentation practices to determine if they comply with federal privacy and compliance regulations. Pinpointing security gaps early on can help organizations avoid mishandling sensitive data.6

Utilizing Programmatic Advertising in Healthcare Segmentation

Programmatic advertising technology uses data and algorithms to make real-time ad-buying decisions, allowing advertisers to target specific healthcare segments successfully. Advertisers can use programmatic advertising data, including demographic, behavioral, geographic, and contextual information, to segment audiences based on criteria such as age, gender, location, interests, and online behavior. Further, this data can create detailed user profiles by analyzing data from cookies, social media, and other online activities. These profiles help understand user preferences and behavior, allowing for more accurate targeting.

Programmatic advertising also helps advertisers reach the right audience across devices with the right message at the right time. Through real-time bidding, advertisers bid on impressions based on the audience segments they want to target. As a result, ads are displayed to specific users instantaneously when they search certain keywords.

Moreover, programmatic advertising permits healthcare organizations to target users based on their online behavior, such as their browsing history, search queries, and the websites they visit, facilitating personalized and contextually relevant ad delivery.

Measuring Success and Optimizing Campaigns

Programmatic advertising technology offers a sophisticated approach to healthcare audience segmentation, and tracking metrics such as return on investment is essential for optimizing campaigns, measuring success, and ensuring compliance. Advertisers must leverage data insights to refine marketing strategies and deliver meaningful, targeted messages to healthcare audiences.

For instance, measuring the ROI of a programmatic ad campaign helps organizations determine the efficacy of their ad spend and adjust strategies accordingly. Other metrics, such as click-through and conversation rates, help advertisers understand which keywords, messaging, creatives, or channels resonate most with audiences.

Unlock the Benefits of Healthcare Audience Segments

Reaching your target healthcare audience in the competitive healthcare and pharmaceutical industries requires strategically implementing healthcare audience segmentation to improve campaign performance. Understanding how patients and HCPs can be categorized and targeted helps manage marketing resources and ultimately leads to a higher quality of patient care due to personalized tactics. Learn how Adfire Health can help your organization target your ideal audiences using healthcare audience segments.

At Adfire Health, we work with healthcare marketers to create optimized, highly effective, data-based digital engagement strategies. With Thumbprint™, our segmented data ecosystem of over 8.2 million healthcare professionals, we can offer direct access to healthcare professionals nationwide.

We bring our years of hands-on experience to every new campaign and work with you to get the best results possible. Contact us to learn more about what we can do for your business.


  1. Mastering healthcare professional (HCP) segmentation for pharma. (2023, November 13). Platforce.
  2. Audience segmentation: Four things every healthcare marketer needs to know. (2019, December 6). Wolters Kluwer.
  3. Quarles, R. (2022, July 19). HCP marketing, part 1: Understanding HCP segmentation for targeting and messaging. GlassCanopy.
  4. AI and healthcare marketing. (2024, February 14). MarTech Series.
  5. Mina, R. (2023, February 14). What is PHI? Ending the confusion. Freshpaint.
  6. Ethical considerations: Balancing ethical concerns and customer segmentation challenges. (2023, December 12). FasterCapital.–Balancing-Ethical-Concerns-and-Customer-Segmentation-Challenges.html

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