Sunday, December 14, 2014

What’s going to happen in 2015 with and to healthcare marketing?

That time of the year is upon us where predictions of things to come become all the rage. Prognostications, crystal balls, and ominous calls for the end of the world as we know it will continue to some degree.  

Continuation of hospital bankruptcies and closures, mergers, affiliations, disruptive innovations, healthcare consumerism, mHealth, and entrants of non- traditional healthcare providers, will continue unabated pushing hospitals and health system further down the food chain, threatening their very survival.

Okay, so I was just Captain Obvious and that’s what we all know the future holds. Now that being said, these trend continuations from 2014 don’t necessarily mean that hospitals and health systems will adapt. 

Will healthcare marketing in 2015 really be any different than the last 30 years? Probably not, but to survive the changes coming in 2015, that will only increase in velocity and intensity,  there are strategies and tactics that  healthcare marketing need to  embrace for growth and survival, by leading change in their respective healthcare enterprises.

Remember that growth is good. If the healthcare enterprise is not growing but circling the wagons, like so many do, then last one out turn the lights off. Here the trends and challenges as I see them for 2015 in healthcare marketing.

1.     Healthcare consumerism.  That means brand positioning, experience, consumer health needs, price and quality transparency is the answer. It’s the only way to respond should the healthcare enterprise desire growth and success.
2.     Retail medicine.  That has taken a major turn with the introduction of some basic primary care services beyond the sore throat, cold or flu. Especially with a tele-health presence, physicians are now able to consult real time. It is more convenient to the healthcare consumer, faster and cheaper then hospital based services. From a market perspective, the healthcare enterprise needs to respond in the same fashion by making the services of the healthcare enterprise more desirable, priced appropriately and consumer need focused than hospital focused. Beat Walgreens and others at their own game.
3.     Social media. Its use will accelerate and grow in influence during the healthcare consumer selection process. At a minimum Facebook, Twitter, Yelp and Instagram are the vehicles of choice for the novice organization. One to engage and dialogue. One to enhance the experience. One to mange reputation. One to tell a visual story.
4.     Price wars. They are coming considering that the healthcare consumer now pays one-third of the cost of care. Look for opportunities to lower prices and provide better care as a loss leader, for the more costly and profitable healthcare enterprise services. Capture the healthcare consumer by engagement, build the relationship and drive loyalty.
5.     Content marketing. The story is important and it’s how you influence the influencers. In markets that are undifferentiated, it’s the way to differentiate not on clinical programs and services which all competitors have but on the story.  The story is different from all others and can be used efficiently and effectively to drive engagement, awareness and choice. Content that is changed timely, appropriate and fresh. Content is not some of the time, but all of the time.
6.     Innovation. Non-traditional entrants into the market will drive further change the cost and delivery of healthcare services, placing the healthcare enterprise at a competitive disadvantage.  The only way to anticipate that is using market research to discover and understanding the unmet needs of the healthcare consumer. Then design the offerings at competitive prices, convenient and engaging before someone else does.  That means changing the business development aspect from an internal inwardly focused process to an external market focus.
7.     Redistribution of marketing resources. Resource will move from traditional print and electronic, to online with native advertising, social media platforms, email, and blogging and to mobile. That is where the audience is.
8.     MHealth.  Consumers love it. Providers generally hate it. Venture capital private equity firms are pouring billions into it.  Look for more innovation and acceptance that will drive the healthcare consumer further from the hospitals and hospital based services.   Healthcare enterprises will get on the bandwagon, hopefully before it’s too late in their markets.
9.    Healthcare consumer engagement will move beyond emails, wellness programs of little value and repeating what the healthcare enterprise has always done, to dialogue and exchange of information in a manner and method that the healthcare consumer desires. 
10.  Focus on growth.  This isn’t the build it and they will come growth, but growth that is  based relationships, manages experience and expectations and manages the demands of the healthcare consumer to the right setting of care, at the right time, for the right cost.

These are what I see as the 10 most important healthcare marketing changes and challenges for 2015. 

One may notice that the lines are blurring from what can be viewed traditionally as a healthcare enterprise operational focus, to a market driven focus. And that is the biggest marketing challenge.

Funny how that happens in a consumer driven semi-retail healthcare market. Best of luck.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

What about moving healthcare marketing to social media, SEO & content marketing?

It’s well documented that the healthcare consumer’s use of online, mobile and social media, has been steadily increasing for a few years now. Even though the growth has been nearly exponential across all  age groups in adaption and use of the new channels, hospitals have slowly adapted to effective utilization of the new marketing channels.  Back in 2010, the American Hospital Association found that only 21 percent of hospitals were using social media in some form, most notably Facebook and Twitter.  

In a recent report by Griffis HM, Kilaru AS, Werner RM, Asch DA, Hershey JC, Hill S, Ha YP, Sellers A, Mahoney K, Merchant RM, Use of Social Media Across US Hospitals: Descriptive Analysis of Adoption and Utilization J Med Internet Res 2014 it was found that 50.4 percent of hospitals were using social media platforms of Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare and Yelp.  Slow adoption at best, finding that 41.6 percent of hospitals still do not have a social media presence in 2014 is concerning.

So let’s expand the discussion to include SEO and content marketing, as well as shifting marketing resources and focus from traditional marketing channels of print, broadcast, billboard etc., to social media, SEO and content marketing.  In the simplest of terms, it’s all about being where the audience can be found.

Think of it this way:

Taking this a step further, these channels are living, breathing entities.  They have staying power in the market environment, and provide a consistent presence for the healthcare enterprise to be easily found, tell the brand story, engage, influence choice, as well as manage experience.  Can one realistically accomplish this with just a focus on traditional marketing with a sprinkling of social media? Now that being said, I am not throwing traditional marketing under the bus. There is still a place for those marketing channels.

This isn’t innovative thought. It’s really about the exercise of marketing leadership in hospitals and health systems, and leading change.  As written before, healthcare is changing from a provider- dominated build it and they will come model, to a semi-retail healthcare consumer choice model influenced by price, convenience and experience. Those healthcare consumer needs and ways to reach them are being increasingly dominated by non-traditional entrants into healthcare, further pushing the hospital to the bottom of the food chain.

If I were a Vice President of Marketing in a hospital or health system, 60 percent of my direct spend would be on SEO, social media and content marketing. And the staff of the marketing department would reflect the skills and expertise to carry out the tactical execution of that strategy.

Grow the healthcare enterprise brand and revenue through social media, SEO and content marketing.  Growth is good.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Communicating the value of the healthcare enterprise- yes or no?

With healthcare changing so rapidly, is it time to move healthcare marketing beyond "all about us”, to the value and benefit brought to the healthcare consumer.  Unless you are a new provider in the market, features and benefits or vague claims of quality and excellence may be falling on deaf ears.

In today's world, it's about value, benefit, price and convenience to the healthcare consumer.
In today's world, it's about the answering the healthcare consumer’s question of what is my ROI for using you?

In today's world, you need to have a compelling value proposition with messaging that provides clear and understandable benefits to the healthcare consumer.

Enter Value Marketing

Value marketing is making the case to your healthcare consumer how you are solving their medical problem, offering a solution, giving results and even making them happy.   

Value marketing is about a creative exchange between people and organizations in the marketplace.  It is a dynamic transaction that constantly changes based on the needs of the individual compared to what the healthcare organization has to offer.

So instead of talking about what is done every day, talk about what the value and benefit is of what transpires.

Instead of talking about programs and serves that everybody else has, talk about the value and benefits those same programs and services and what they bring to the healthcare consumer, i.e., outcomes, price, experience and convenience.

Instead of saying we have the latest high-tech gizmo, talk about the value and benefit of what that latest greatest high-tech gizmo brings to the healthcare consumer.

Instead of just talking about Healthgrades or 100 Top Hospitals awards for care for example, talk to your healthcare consumer about the value and benefit of that award by putting context around the content.

Instead of talking at your audiences, talk to them.  Talk to them about value and how the healthcare enterprise can solve their health problem by offering value-based solutions to their healthcare needs.

 The healthcare consumer is awakening and demanding more.  More proof.  More value.  More benefit for them, not the healthcare enterprise.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Can gamification improve patient engagement and experience?

One of the great challenges in healthcare is the engagement of the patient in lasting and meaningful ways, as well as improvement in the patient experience. Uncharted territory really and the old ways of doing things just won’t cut it.   New market realities and the rising of healthcare consumerism demand new innovation and thought. 

Gamification is not a new topic in marketing. It's been out there for a long time and used successfully by businesses to attract, retain and build the loyalty of its customers to the brand. Sometimes I do hear- "but we are healthcare, taking care of people in complex and mysterious ways that they can never understand and this isn't a game".  Correct it’s not a game, but how you engage the patient and improve the experience is closely related. And my opinion is that you can't do one without the other. Look at this through the eye glass of a new linkage between engagement and experience.

If the goal is to engage the healthcare consumer, aka the patient, to stay in network, to improve health, to be personally responsible for health, then gamification is an option. This isn't about creating negative disincentives that have been tried in the past.  Those messages of it will it will cost you more if you go out of network; you pay a penalty for non-compliance; it shortens your life kind of actions and messages if you don't do this. 

The point is one has to create a healthcare consumer that is highly motivated to act, or comply in a way that meets the goals of the healthcare organization in engaging and improving the experience.

So how does this happen?

It starts with game mechanics. Game mechanics is really the actions, tactics, mechanisms and motivational elements used to create an engaging and compelling experience for the healthcare consumer.  It's about how you design your engagement and experience strategies and tactics that keep the healthcare consumer engaged at all levels contributing to a positive experience.  

In game dynamics the healthcare enterprise taps into the motivations that result as part of the game experience driving continued participation by the healthcare consumer. The healthcare enterprise can't have effective game dynamics unless there is an understanding of what motivates the healthcare consumer. This understanding is based on the behavioral data from research that has to be conducted.

The choice of gaming tactics is an important decision. If one does not understand what motivates the healthcare consumer and how to trigger those motivations, then how can you design the game mechanics?  Do the research.

Put game mechanics and game dynamics together in the right way and you can engage the patient and improve the experience. Gamification can be a very powerful tool in marketing the healthcare enterprise.

Think about this application to healthcare at the next time you fly your favorite airline, go to a shoppers club or pull out your rewards card for something.   

Even Walgreens has this figured out.