Special Contributor to Silicon Hills News

Robert Fabbio, co-founder of eRelevance, photo by John Davidson

Robert Fabbio, co-founder of eRelevance, photo by John Davidson

Robert Fabbio and his band of seasoned entrepreneurs at eRelevance first envisioned a mobile application that would help doctors better interact with their patients after treatment, but, around this vision, developed a marketing strategy that could make ripples beyond just the healthcare industry.

“When we first started, we were all about a mobile application,“ said Michael Cohen, vice president of marketing. “What we realized is that that’s not always how the world works; an app might not be for everybody.”

Cohen said the team initially wanted to offer healthcare providers a better way to communicate with patients through a digital platform that would simulate some of the doctor-patient conversations that take place during an appointment.

After realizing the application’s potential as an interactive marketing tool, however, Cohen said the company rebranded itself from a patient engagement service into an marketing agency.

“What we found is that if you can engage people around the services of a practice when they’re choosing to have that particular conversation, the more likely it is that they go on to request care for that specific need,” Cohen said.

Because the mobile application, DocWithMe, only tries to engage users after they have selected to find out more about a specific health service, Cohen said the communication that the app fosters is a unique channel that other more traditional marketing solutions have not yet used to the best of its capability.

The company reached out to doctors and healthcare providers in the elective healthcare industry to find out what they were interested in finding out about their patients as well as how they have done in the past to engage former patients. Doing so, Cohen said, helped the agency design content that could best mirror a doctor-patient conversation.

The application, for example, may ask whether the user has recently been on vacation and move onto a conversation about sun damage to the skin. The user can then choose to learn more about offers that deal with treatments for sun damage, engage the subject at a later time or move on to a different topic.

Doctors using the marketing service can offer the mobile application to their patients, who can only use the application after a verification process. He said the interaction that takes place through the platform will not be shared with outside parties, recognizing the private and often sensitive nature of doctor-patient conversations.

“We don’t share what we’re learning about people to other marketing firms, but doctors can use our services to see what types of topics their patients are interested in,” Cohen said.

Though he recognized the importance of making impressions through social media and email notifications -services that the company now offers in addition to the mobile application, Cohen said that the company’s experience shows reaching out to patients through a conversation generated more leads than other channels.

“We’re doing all the creative work, we’re doing all the content as well as the technology to run that content,” Cohen said. “We’re doing all of that for them while they can sit back and focus on giving quality care to their patients.”

As a part of their service, the marketing startup also takes account of how patients are choosing to find out about services, whether they to do so through the agency’s texting service, email notification or social media posts. Doing so, Cohen said, allows their clients to have an easier time reaching out to these patients for future appointments.

Corina Ianculovici, who began using eRelevance’s service a year ago, said the company’s marketing strategy has been a “game changer” for her medispa clinic in New Jersey. Though she said she has yet to see the service generate new leads, Ianculovici said the multichannel approach is great at keeping her current leads active.

“Patient engagement through previous sources we used was ineffective because of the low email opening rate,” Ianculovici said. “Patients were aggravated when we used a text messaging application like CallFire.”

Ianculovici said she has seen higher patient engagement with eRelevance’s mobile application, and said that the company’s social media campaigns have been effective. She said the service has given her clinic a way to engage patients consistently.

Fabbio, the CEO of the company, realizes the service’s strength as a patient engagement platform. He said eRelevance, however, is a company that can take interactive marketing to new level.

“Ultimately what we have built is far more than a patient engagement service,” Fabbio said. “We have essentially built a next generation conversational marketing platform.”

Fabbio said that the agency, which launched in 2013, has closed more than 120 accounts in two quarters of selling. He also told Silicon Hills News that the company has raised about $2.7 million in seed funding, and has grown from its three original founders to 16 employees, mostly to expand its sales team.

The company currently targets elective health care practices in the healthcare industry across the country, a large number of them being medical spa clinics. Its interactive marketing service is offered through 6-month and 12-month contracts.

“We found that plastic surgeons, dermatologists and other health services that provide elective care are constantly looking to generate more leads for business,” Fabbio said.

Fabbio said the company plans on using this same conversational approach to reach different markets both in and outside the healthcare industry. He said with each new industry, the agency will use an application similar to DocWithMe to supplement its marketing campaigns.

“It’s a real basic white label app that is configured to look like as if these doctors or hospital systems have created their own app, so we’ll be able to configure a similar app for different industries,” Fabbio said.

Fabbio said it is still too early to estimate when the company’s expansion into different industries may happen. Tim Smith, one of the founders of the company and its director of products, said the company will be well prepared to adapt to a different market once it is ready to make the move.

“We have the science, we know what model to follow, we have the code and the back end that will run all this,” Smith said. “We just need to adapt the content and adapt the application a little bit and it will work.”

Fabbio, who has more than 25 years experience as an entrepreneur, has created over $1.5 billion in shareholder value at time of exit for the ventures that he has been a part of.

“I think there is great money to be made and great change to be had in the intersection of healthcare and information technology,” Fabbio said. “I have classically been an IT guy, and the ability to bring tech to healthcare is sort of my sweetspot.”