Saturday, September 13, 2014

How can the hospital dominate the five healthcare markets?

As the reformation of healthcare continues unabated, a hospital or health system has only five primary markets.  Of course, there are the submarkets within these markets but it’s still only five: Commercial; Exchanges; Medicare; Medicaid; and Uninsured.

The new dynamic added to this change is the evolution of the broader healthcare market into a consumer-centric, semi-retail market existing in a multitude of reimbursement schemes, each nuanced for a different market segment. Leading to the question, have you identified from a marketing perspective immediate actions to improve market position and revenue generation? 

This isn't about massive advertising campaigns, gimmicks, wellness programs, etc. It’s more about getting the basics right, understanding who pays for what and how that is combined with the needs of your healthcare consumers. This isn’t only about driving demand in some cases, but managing demand by moving the healthcare consumer to the right setting, which may not be the hospital or a hospital based outpatient service. In some circumstances it may even mean de-marketing certain services.

Very quickly then, here are seven ways to improve your market position, generate revenue and dominate categories of service.

1.  Brand and competitive position.
Consumers and patients are ready for convenient technology-enabled access to care. Healthcare providers that are capable of identifying their needs and how they want their healthcare needs meet though technology focused on them will gain new patients and the next-generation of physicians.  It's not a crime to use text messaging to send people information or confirmations about appointments, health reminders, or use QR codes to link to specific education or health offers.

2. Engage existing customers and patients.
An individual is only a patient 1/3rd of the time they come in contact with you.  That is during the diagnosis, treatment and recovery phase.  Pre and post this experience, they are a healthcare consumer not a patient.  So why then is it the only time one chooses to meaningfully engage them is during the period when they are a patient?  This lack of focus or tactical engagement execution doesn’t make a lot of sense as consumer and patient engagement is about all of the time activity, not just some of the time.  Engaging the healthcare consumer on a continuous basis builds loyalty and importantly keeps them in network, which has some pretty significant financial ramifications in a risk-based reimbursement model.

3. Engage the physicians.
No matter the payment model the hospital or health system still needs a physician or physician extender’s order to get anything done in a healthcare setting. That means engaging physicians in meaningful ways, using the methods, technology and systems that will make their life easier, improve their productivity and protect or increase their income. An effective and efficient physician has more to do with the impact of cost and quality in the hospital than any other factor.

4. Focus on the physician experience.
How hard is it for a physician or physician extender to practice medicine in your organization?  Have you looked at the hassle factor that physician’s encounter when they try to get things done in the hospital setting?  Understand how the physician experiences your organization at every touch-point they encounter the hospital. Understand their experiences overall from beginning to end, not just in an isolated segment. Fix what is broken, keep what is working. The more satisfying the experience, the better you will do financially.

5. Focus on the consumer/patient experience.
A healthcare provider's ability to deliver an experience that sets it apart in the eyes of its patients and potential patients from its competitors - traditional and non-traditional - serves to increase their loyalty to the brand. One needs to actively manage the customer experience in totality by understanding the customer's point of view.  That is, all touch points internally and externally that a customer/patient comes in contact with which in turn creates the experience. Exceptional experience means gains in market share, brand awareness, and revenue.

6. Embrace retail healthcare.
Traditional ways of delivering healthcare will go by the wayside in many cases.  Price convenience, access and outcomes are the drivers in retail healthcare.  Find the need, understand the consumer’s behavior drivers, design offering around the consumer not the hospital in a convenient location and price it appropriately. If you can't compete in this way market position, share and revenue will erode.

7. Turn to social media and networks to engage, manage the experience and drive adherence. As healthcare continues the evolution to a healthcare consumer dominated semi-retail environment, social networking is a healthcare marketing channel that is underutilized and underperforms today, but holds great potential to improve engagement, experience and adherence. And that takes healthcare marketing leadership, executive vision and meaningful action.

Seven step to achieve market and revenue growth in an evolving healthcare market place. Not an impossible task, but one that does require focus and a willingness to break from the past.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

What will you say when the media comes knocking about hospital prices?

In two article in the past week, and one of them written by a physician in the Wall Street Journal on September 4th , Healthcare and the $20,000 bill, WSJ op-ed September 4, 2014 , Eric Michael David, MD hospital prices came to the forefront. And it wasn’t alerting.  That was followed by Molly Gamble in Becker’s Hospital Review with The easiest way to make a Hospital CEO squirm, Molly Gamble,  Becker’s Hospital Review  jumping off from the WSJ article with additional information.

The headline question is one that hospitals and health systems can no longer ignore with pejorative and condescending answers, or even silence to the questions of hospital prices. When physicians turn on those organizations it moves from a healthcare consumer complaint to PR crisis.

Hide the head in sand and pretend it’s all just going away, but guess what- it’s not.  And it is maybe like one step away from a hospital or health system public relations crisis.

If you haven’t read the WSJ article, I recommend that you read it.  It’s a classic example of how not to handle the pricing issue. Doesn’t matter if it’s a physician, the media or a healthcare consumer that is calling for they are all equally important.

Here is what an organization needs to do to be ready for the negative PR:

1.       Admit one can’t win this argument. Develop, refine and have in place a media plan from the point of limiting the damage to your hospital brand and reputation as much as possible.
2.       In preplanning understand the hospital or health system pricing compared to area competitors.  Don’t compare to hospitals or health systems across the country.
3.       Be prepared to explain up coding. Matter of fact this is probably a good time to start reviewing your coding and billing practices to make sure that all applicable regulations are being followed before you add some charges like the trauma team.
4.       Don’t send out the billing manager or director of Finance out to answer media questions.
5.       Prepare Q&As and practice.
6.       Don’t answer it’s all the insurers fault. We don’t really charge those prices. The consumer will never understand because it’s so complicated.
7.       Never ever reference the charge master.
8.       When a clear billing mistake has been made, admit, rectify and apologize.
9.       Have the CEO briefed, media trained and ready to face the press.
10.   Answers to questions that come off as pejorative, condescending or arrogant are unacceptable.
11.   Treat this as a full blown PR communications crisis. Failure to do so will lead to mistakes and making it worse not better.

Pray it doesn’t happen that the pricing issue is raised by someone who knows what they are talking about. The hospital or health system can’t win this one, but limit the damage to reputation and brand you can.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Will healthcare marketing change with big data availability?

With the treasure trove of information available by applying big data analytics to the practice of healthcare marketing beyond traditional market research and surveys, is a new era of healthcare marketing getting ready to explode upon the industry?

Or, will the use of big data send healthcare organizations to ligation hell because some data was misused,  HIPAA was violated or patients just don't like the idea of marketers have access to data no matter how confidential, and the security steps taken to keep it that way?

Now that Walgreens and other non-traditional providers of healthcare services are expanding and taking a retail approach which is driven by big data, hospitals and health systems as well as others need to start paying attention, and looking at their healthcare services from a big data standpoint. That means analysis by taking big data chunks, down to smaller chunks of data looking for trends and insights into healthcare consumer’s behavior. 

And if you are going to manage population health and develop effective messaging on an individualized basis, then look to big data. Going away are the days of generic messaging, as we enter an age where individualization of messaging is key.

The healthcare consumer will use may use healthcare services in pretty novel ways going forward.  And that will become apparent in the data. It's not all about the hospital any longer. It’s about the business of healthcare, not hospital care.

If one desires the healthcare consumer to make "healthy choices"? If an organization wants the health care consumers to stay in network, then look at the data.  If the goal is to just even have the healthcare consumer to pay attention, then analyze the data to develop those mass customization messages that appear individualized, targeted at the health care consumer.

So while the analysis of the clinical and administrative data moves forward for population health management, take a step back and think what that means for the healthcare consumer.   They are people too. Not just clinical values.  Not just whether or not they are going in or out of network. Think how marketing can assist in all of the above.  And it's not making things sound good, read well or look pretty.

Don't use big data in your marketing and one will be scratching their head wondering what happened when that healthcare consumer train barrels past.

Big data is making healthcare marketing measurable and impactful.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

What business is the hospital in for marketing to the healthcare consumer?

In the past few weeks, a lot of writing and discussion around the market competitive aspects of  innovation, price, quality and access pressures that hospitals are under, from non-traditional healthcare market entrants has taken place. It’s easy to say look out, wake up, pay attention, etc., and discuss the pros, cons and implications. 

What does it all mean?

We do know for instance, that at some point the hospital will tip from being a revenue center to a cost center. We know that as the sophistication of the healthcare consumer grows, they will be more demanding about the value they receive for their healthcare dollar. We know that the hospital or health system is already, or will be engaging in population health management. We know as unsettling as it is, there will be new non-traditional entrants into the healthcare economy that will place intense competitive pressures- price, access, convenience, quality and speed on the hospital. It could even be considered that the big box hospital is a dinosaur, doomed to extinction only to be replaced by smaller, highly focused, cost effective and efficient places of care with better outcomes.

I postulate for your consideration then, the following question to answer and manage the velocity of change seen and unseen from a marketing perspective.

What business is the hospital in?

That is not an easy question to answer. Like the railroads of the past that went though massive change before realizing that they were in the transportation business not the railroad business, many hospitals and health systems face the those same challenges. Can one answer whether or not their organization is in the hospital business or the healthcare business? And I am not writing esoterically here and it’s not so simple a question.

Please don’t answer the question with the dismissive of course we are in the healthcare business. At which point I say prove it.  And the bet is that it’s just lip service, for at the end of the day one is in the hospital business, because everything is about the hospital and what that hospital does, not the healthcare consumer.

For when one is in the healthcare business, the healthcare consumer is your focus. Their needs understood like never before. Creativity applied to the development and delivery of the healthcare services. Being in the healthcare business in a time of great never going back change, means being innovative and externally focused on what brings real value. It means not doing something because someone thought it’s a good idea, or will make the Board and physician happy.  

It also means that being in the healthcare business takes the shackles off of the inherent limitations of being in the hospital business. Hospitals are not innovative healthcare consumer friendly places and never will be. Healthcare business companies are focused on the needs of the mark, healthcare consumers and value, wherever that may lie, not just what can be delivered within four walls.

The choice is clear.  Are you in the hospital business or the healthcare business?   And if it’s the healthcare business then time for the radical organizational makeover to prove it.