Sunday, August 13, 2017

It’s the Hospital Quality Award Season. Is the Insured Consumer Listening?

Or as I like to call it, it is the silly season of meaningless hospital marketing.

Like the back-to-school physical ads, hospitals and health systems are touting their newly minted quality jewel or consecutive awarding in clinical categories for two or more years. The quality award in and of itself is an accomplishment at some level. But, when these awards are the result of a black box that no one knows how the data is analyzed, besides the awarding organization, do these quality awards make any difference to the insured consumer.

And when there is no context outside of the award seal in the advertising or on the website on what the awards mean for the insured consumer, what’s the point?  Is this just wow look at us? Or maybe a checkbox for senior management, the Board of Directors and physicians in what they consider to be good marketing?

It also flies in the face of the publicly available data, that for the most part, shows the award winners with overall only average medical care at best, overpriced and just average satisfaction. Not great. Not bad. Just average.

A little cognitive dissonance for the insured consumer?

But beyond the obvious campaigning, what I fail to see is how health systems or hospital awardees are communicating in any meaningful way what those quality awards mean to the insured consumer. As I have written in the past, what is the value of that information to the insured consumer? A nice representation of the actual award and saying are in the top 5 percent nationally in (insert disease here) leaves it kind of lacking, especially when other hospitals you compete against are making the same claim.

Wasted Opportunity

The campaigning I see in its current form treats the insured consumer like they are some idiot.   It also reinforces what the healthcare industry has been crying about that healthcare is more complicated than a 5-star rating.  An inadvertent consequence nonetheless, you are creating the simplistic 5-star rating system yourself by how you are all campaigning the quality award.  Be careful what you ask for because you just might get it.

It’s not about value not to you, but to the insured consumer. Instead of taking the opportunity to make the award meaningful with value and context to the insured consumer, hospitals and health systems take the easy way out and puff out our chest to say look at me.

Leveraging the Opportunity

The networked patient is one who is hungry for information.  And patients are networked today more so than at any other time in the history of healthcare. The future will only make it more so.  So why not get ahead of the curve and start making your ads and marketing communications pieces more value driven and providing healthcare solutions to the consumer?

Explain what that award means to the consumer.  Define the value. Show how it separates you from all the others. Communicate how it reinforces your brand and brand promise. Use the award to create trust. Define the award experience in the patient’s terms. Just don't throw it out there and say we are in the top 5 percent or whatever.  That is not meaningful to anyone.  In an age of outcomes transparency, quality accountability, and consumer choice, those ads sorely fail.

I am an insured consumer and your award ad claiming greatness in all things medical is meaningless.

Can you hear me now?

Michael is a healthcare marketing business, marketing, and communications strategist and thought leader.  As an internationally followed healthcare marketing strategy blogger, his blog, Healthcare Marketing Matters receives over 20,000 page views a month and read in 52 countries.  He is a Fellow, American College of Healthcare Executives, Professional Certified Marketer, American Marketing Association and HubSpot Academy- Email Marketing, Inbound Marketing & Inbound Sales Certified. Post opinions are my own.

For more topics and thought leading discussions like this, join his group, Healthcare Marketing Leaders For Change, a LinkedIn Professional Group. 

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Nine Strategies in Engagement & Experience for the New Reality Demanded by the Insured Consumer & Patient.

It’s the consumer demand for the Amazon experience that is beginning to drive expectations and experience in health care.  Secondary to the headline question is, are healthcare providers prepared for that new marketing reality?

Like anything in life and business, some are, but the majority is not.   But be that as it may, it would seem that healthcare consumer or patient engagement is not a part-time or some of the time activity comprised of hit or miss events.  My goodness, there are over 147 engagement and experience touchpoints with the insured consumer and patient with the hospital or health system. So when all of the interruptive outbound marketing that goes on with silly messaging of we have the best doctors, our nurses care more, etc., no wonder the insured consumer and patient roll their eyes during the engagement and experience process when reality meets fantasy. 

What engagement should be viewed as is the opportunity to create, foster, and nourish a one-on-one relationship that is enduring with those individuals and families.  

A scary proposition for some healthcare organizations as it means being accountable and responsible to those you serve and meeting their needs by delivering on the brand promise day-in and day out
.    
After all, healthcare is a $2.8 trillion dollars business, and the competition from traditional and nontraditional providers will only get more intense. The healthcare consumers will spend more than $350 billion out-of-pocket for insurance premiums, co-pays, and deductibles.   Providers that can engage will become the go to destinations for healthcare that will not only survive the storm but prosper as well.

Providers now live in a retail medical market.  Though others will tell you that it’s all about experience, that’s just cover for the old ways of doing business and telling you what you want to hear.  It’s now about four dimensions-, price, outcomes, engagement, and experience.  Focusing only on experience with your marketing communications and campaigns is a prescription for failure.

So what to do?

Here are nine engagement strategies you need to employ:

1. Integrate your engagement solutions. That means information is delivered seamlessly so that the health care consumer can interact with you any way they want when they want too. 

2.  Marketing should be using both push and pull messaging.  Messaging needs to be relevant to the audiences at the point in time it’s needed that is personalized, customized, and aware of the cultural heritage and influences tailored to them.

3. Incentives and motivational techniques will be necessary to keep patient engaged. That doesn't mean cash. Look to the gaming industry for gaming technology and gaming prediction for ways to participate without money. Be creative.  Look outside healthcare for ideas, tools, and techniques to engage. 

4. Create a sense of community.  You have to compete, and one needs to feed the beast. The hospital has not yet tipped to be a cost center from a revenue center. That day will come but not for a while yet.  Get into the inner circle of the audience and become the trusted advisor. It's not just about loyalty. Shape the behaviors to the point where they will recommend unconditionally.

5. Know the audience and with whom one is speaking too. This is back-to-basics CRM understanding the gender, age, integration of risk assessments, culture, etc.  One cannot engage the insured consumer or patient unless there is intimate knowledge about them, their needs and how to tailor the information.

6. Test and measure. No time to be reactive in approaching and engaging.  The only way to can figure out if it's working is to test and measure in a very methodical way.

7. Use technology.  We live in a world of technology, and you need to run a multifaceted, highly integrated campaign. With social media, smartphones, web, text messaging, mobile messaging, etc., eighty percent of consumers want the option of interacting with a healthcare provider via their smartphones. Forty-one percent of healthcare consumers use social media to make vendor choices.   The healthcare consumer and patient are inviting healthcare organizations to engage them all the time.

8. Know the influence of culture on behavior to engage.

9. Time it right, and add value.  If you health messaging is not resonating with the healthcare consumer or patient when they receive it, then one has lost them. Communicate relevant messages to a committed patient right before healthcare decisions are made. before.

If you can come to grips with the market reality that a hospital is needed for three things -emergency care, intensive care, and treatment for complex acute medical conditions, then you’d get away from the nonsense that is senior leadership driven that goes in hospital marketing today. Focus on engagement and experience so your more than three things to the insured consumer or patient.

Can you hear me now?


That's why you engage all of the time.  

Monday, July 24, 2017

Patient Experience, Experience Touch-Points, and Hospital Marketing- Time to Connect the Dots?

In my quest to fundamentally change hospital marketing and make it more responsive to the needs of the insured consumer and physicians, hospital marketers are missing a valuable opportunity.  A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a post about major health systems marketing failure. So this post in a roundabout way continues that theme.  Which as an insured consumer using one of that systems hospitals for 22 years experienced a major marketing failure on their part due to lack of a CRM and understanding the data of who the customer is and how they use the system.

There are over 147 touch-points in an individual’s interaction with a hospital. That means that there are 147 instances of where the patient experience is influenced. Those 147 touch-points in the patient experience can also be marketing opportunities to get people to opt-in to various marketing activities and receiving emails.

Oh, but that assumes that the hospital or health system understands the patient journey in deciding. Understands the patient experience and knows which touch-points can be influenced.  That kind of detail data combined with permission based marketing activities fundamentally and strategically changes the commercialization of the hospital or health system.    

Okay, let’s be honest now, how many of you hospital and health system marketers have this kind of data and view of the patient and insured consumers?

That’s what I thought.   You just don’t have the marketing systems i.e. CRM or marketing automation to understand who the insured consumer and patient is, let alone send them meaningful individualized content with the right information at the right time, in the right format, in the delivery channel they desire.

Very quickly then, here are eight ways to tie together patient experience, experience touch-points and marketing to improve your market position, generate revenue and dominate categories of service.  

1.       It starts with a CRM, marketing automation and data. Here it is folks. None of what I have written about is possible unless marketing has a CRM with real data, continually analyzes the data for clues on the individual levels and has marketing automation platform to take advantage of those data findings. If you don’t have a CRM or marketing automation, then move along, you are not ready for this at all.   

2.        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 met through 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.  

3.        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 engage them meaningfully 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 a 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 the network, which has some pretty significant financial ramifications in a risk-based reimbursement model.  

4.        Engage the physicians. No matter the payment model the hospital or health system still needs a doctor 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. 

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

6.        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. Actively manage the customer experience in totality by understanding the patient’s point of view.  That is, all touch points internally and externally that a health care consumer/patient comes in contact with which in turn creates the experience. Exceptional experience means gains in market share, brand awareness, and revenue. 

7.        Embrace direct health care. Traditional ways of delivering healthcare will go by the wayside in many cases.  Price convenience, access, and outcomes are the drivers.  Find the need, understand the consumer’s behavior controllers, design offering around the user, 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.   

8.        Turn to social media and networks to engage, manage the experience and drive adherence. As the health care focus crystallizes around a healthy consumer making choices in a semi-retail environment, social networks are an important marketing channel that is underutilized and underperforms today but holds great potential to improve engagement, experience, and adherence.

Best of luck and call me if you need me.

Michael is a healthcare marketing business, marketing, and communications strategist and thought leader.  As an internationally followed healthcare marketing strategy blogger, his blog, Healthcare Marketing Matters receives over 20,000 page views a month and is read in 52 countries.  He is a Fellow, American College of Healthcare Executives, Professional Certified Marketer, American Marketing Association and HubSpot Academy- Email Marketing, Inbound Marketing & Inbound Sales Certified. Post opinions are my own.

For more topics and thought leading discussions like this, join his group, Healthcare Marketing Leaders For Change, a LinkedIn Professional Group. 

Monday, July 10, 2017

Is the smartphone the cure to maintain physician independence?

The healthcare consumer will shell out $345 billion dollars this year for health insurance, co-payments, and deductibles. On top of that, they will spend another $271 billion on health-related items like gyms memberships, weight loss programs, exercise equipment, etc. That's a whopping $626 billion dollars out-of-pocket that are expected to rise for the foreseeable future.

The healthcare consumer and patient are demanding value, price and quality transparency from healthcare providers. Consumers want retail medicine, mHealth, and Telemedicine. All the while healthcare providers focus on market dominance and acquire physician practices to create market heft and then wonder why consumers are cranky?

With all of this happening then, is the smartphone the tool for physician independence? And, can the use of apps, mHealth and telemedicine allow a physician or physician group practice to remain independent?

In both cases, I think the answer is yes, with some pretty large ramifications for healthcare marketing as well.

First let’s reflect on the independent practitioner, primary care group or multi-specialty group.  Here is a story to illustrate my point. 

Some of you may remember a time when there were corner grocery stores.  Little mom and pop operations located in quite neighborhoods before the advent of the big box grocery chains.

Then it appears as if overnight, the big box national and regional grocery chains take over for our food dollar. We all heard the doom, gloom, and prophecy of the demise of those little mom and pop stores. Sure they are gone from the corner in the quiet neighborhood; but guess what, they are still around today and have been for a very long time.  Though the form is different, those little mom and pop operations are now the 7-Elevens, White Hen Pantries and AM-PM Minimarts for example.

Mom and pop operations competing very well against the big box grocery chains on convenience, accessibility, experience, engagement and sometimes even price.

I am not saying that physicians are grocery stores, but the lesson is apparent.  But before everyone calls the independent physician or unaffiliated group practice a thing of the past, one needs to review recent history in other markets for potential lessons of survival.  Technology, innovation and meeting the needs of the healthcare consumer, experience and engagement will keep the independent physician a reality.

The smartphone as the doctor meeting the healthcare needs of the consumer.  All of this driving convenient, accessible, mobile and giving the healthcare consumer or patient a measure of value, price certainty, quality, control, and information.

The use of technology and innovative care practices by physicians, which no doubt requires a change in the business model and some openness, can be the doctor’s friend in countering the advances of hospitals and health systems. In the long run, independent physicians are better for healthcare consumers and patient in care, experience, and engagement.  Besides, no matter the payment system it will still take a doctor’s order to get anything done.

Long live the independent physician.


Michael is a healthcare marketing business, marketing, and communications strategist and thought leader.  As an internationally followed healthcare marketing strategy blogger, his blog, Healthcare Marketing Matters receives over 20,000 page views a month and is read in 52 countries.  He is a Fellow, American College of Healthcare Executives, Professional Certified Marketer, American Marketing Association and HubSpot Academy- Email Marketing, Inbound Marketing & Inbound Sales Certified. Post opinions are my own.


For more topics and thought leading discussions like this, join his group, Healthcare Marketing Leaders For Change, a LinkedIn Professional Group.