Tuesday, February 2, 2016

How can the hospital respond to consumerism?

In the last post, the focus was on the three buckets of engagement that hospitals and health systems need to integrate into the engagement cycle of consumer, patient and brand loyalty. The post of January 25th was the first in the series of three posts regarding what CEOs are searching for solutions or paths to take in addressing those concerns.

This week, we consider steps that can be taken to resolve how the hospitals and health system can respond to and take advantage of the growing consumerism movement in health care.
Health care consumerism is already here.

Healthcare consumerism is no longer an “it will happen someday” issue. The evolution of a consumer-driven market will move slowly and be characterized by what seem to be fits and stops in the progression. The point for hospital leadership is that consumerism requires a fundamental change in the hospital to be responsive to the market.  

It is also imperative for leadership to understand, that being able to respond to consumerism starts now, not when the market flips. 

Changing the hospital to be consumer focused organization is a process.  A very long and grueling process, as lasting organizational change is not easy.  For further information on how to become the consumer-focused organization, please read, “What does a customer-focused hospital or healthcare enterprise look like?”

That fundamental change requires an unwavering commitment to meeting the needs of the consumer and having to market plays a critical role in that process.  Consumerism for the hospital translates into accountability and value along the dimensions of price, quality, engagement, and experience.
It’s really in many ways about market accountability of the hospital to the consumer’s of your offerings regardless of their selection journey or place in the care system.

Moving forward with seven ways to respond to consumerism

1.  Brand and competitive position.
Consumers and patients are ready for transparency and convenient technology-enabled access to care. Healthcare providers that are capable of identifying meeting these needs and how they want their healthcare needs meet through technology focused on them will gain new patients and the next generation of physicians. 

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 engage meaningfully them is during the period when they are a patient?   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.

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. A skilled 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 of an encounter with the hospital. Know the physician experience overall from beginning to end, not just in an isolated segment.

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 manage actively the experience in totality by understanding their point of view.   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 behaviors in play, design offering around them 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 inbound marketing.
Social media and inbound marketing are channels and methods to engage, manage the experience and drive adherence. As healthcare continues the evolution to a healthcare consumer dominated the semi-retail environment, social networking is a healthcare marketing channel that underperforms today but holds great potential to improve engagement, experience, and adherence.

Seven steps for providers to achieve market and revenue growth in a consumer-driven market.  Not an impossible task, but one that does require focus and a willingness to break from the past.

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

Monday, January 25, 2016

Is the hospital pursuing engagement along three buckets?

One of the topics that hospital and health system leadership has on the plate for 2016 and the foreseeable future is a brand, consumerism and engagement. Though ranking lower than other concerns, it’s never the less requires critical business issues understanding with appropriately designed responses for survival in a retail consumer-driven medical market. 

Let’s look at healthcare consumer and patient engagement first this week.

Healthcare consumer or patient engagement is a complex undertaking that cannot be in the pigeon-hole bucket of a simple answer or technological solution.  There is no one size fits all.  But there are three buckets to look at the engagement efforts to put a useful frame of reference of what is needed.  
I think the illustration below conceptualizes the interrelatedness of the challenge.  The complexity of the situation arises given that at any one time, the individual will occupy a different place in the model and moves freely from one to the next and vies verse,  requiring different types and levels of engagement,

Some may argue that provider loyalty does not necessarily fit in the model.  I would argue that from a marketing view related to ACOs, medical homes, network referral and utilization of services, risk and value-based contracts, that engagement failure to produce brand loyalty has significant financial consequences.   Also for one’s consideration, is that today it is possible for a healthcare consumer to put together their network of care and for the most part never step foot on a provider inpatient or outpatient service.

Engagement is a one-on-one relationship building exercise that is continuous regardless of the healthcare consumer or patient’s place in the model. 

And as written before, in today’s consumer-focused retail medical market an individual is only a patient one-third of the time one receives treatment or ongoing care. Pre and post treatment, they are back to being a healthcare consumer where one can build lasting and enduring provider brand loyalty.  And that my friend comes from highly efficient and effective engagement efforts that meet the engagement needs of the individual.

The literature for years now shows the value of an engaged patient which is more compliant in treatment plans, is more highly satisfied, less likely to sue and even when the medical outcome is not optimal, still feel that they have quality medical experience.

I would postulate that in a retail medical market engagement with the external healthcare consumer is just as important as a single focus on internal engagement by the provider.

There is no one size fits all technological solution, techniques or messaging to the approach to the issue of consumer and patient engagement.  It will take multiple solutions and methods based on the need of the healthcare consumer market or individual.

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

Monday, January 18, 2016

Is marketing still a dirty word in some hospitals and health systems?

It seems that when the topic of marketing in hospitals comes up beyond the “making things look pretty” activities, the adverse reaction to marketing involvement from clinicians can be swift.  Now that being said, not all clinicians meaning nurses and doctors are in that category.  Some have a very clear understand of the role and purpose of marketing in the organization.

But for the majority, ask how marketing participates in their respective hospital with patient engagement, experience management, program design, revenue collections or creating the customer –patient-focused hospital, for example, it’s often followed with that quizzical look.  Sometimes that question will also elicit a swift verbal or written rebuttal.

I especially like the “insurance plan makes those choices” argument. Nonsense. It’s just nonsense because payers do not make consumer selections decisions.  A consumer in a health plan has a selection of doctors and hospitals within a network, and can choose to go out of network paying a financial penalty for doing so.  Plus, many plans are beginning to incentivize consumers for choosing the lowest cost option in their network of providers which reduces their out-of-pocket expenses. So please just stop with the managed care nonsense, there is no basis in reality for the statement.

The world that hospitals exist in today is markedly different than even last year.  That won’t go away, and clinicians and doctors cannot change it. Being angry at the question of the role, involvement and effectiveness of marketing in hospitals are self-defeating and, in reality, wastes a valuable organizational asset and resource.

Marketing is not the enemy, and it’s just not about making things look pretty. Especially since in a recent Becker’s Hospital Review story on the top five strategies that are on CEOs desks in 2016, with healthcare consumerism and branding as the number 5 activity.

I also get that for clinicians and others it’s a control issue.  It’s easy to say and believe one knows all that he or she needs to know about the healthcare consumer.  The reality of that belief is that it is pejorative and arrogant.  When marketing becomes involved, that means sharing control and hearing viewpoints and seeing data/analysis of healthcare consumer behavior, preferences, and needs that may very well be the opposite of what one believes or wants to believe.

Changing focus from an internal view to an external view is what marketing accomplishes.  Well, effective marketing for the record.  It is about uncovering unmet market healthcare needs and collaboratively designing solutions to meet those health care needs that are healthcare consumer focused, have an affordable price point that are convenient to the healthcare consumer or patient, not the hospital.

The hospital is nothing more than a cost center in search of a revenue stream. There are only a few things anymore that one needs a hospital for in the provision of care. New entrants, innovations in care and setting delivery, technology, information, drugs, as examples are in the very process of making the big box hospital obsolete.  

Do clinicians and hospitals realize that today, a savvy healthcare consumer or patient could create their care delivery network, and never step foot in a hospital or hospital-based outpatient service for care?

Marketing is not the enemy. Marketing can go a long way in helping the hospital and clinicians understand the nuances of the market to improve the experience, build programs that meet the health care needs of the consumer, build a brand and generate growth and revenue if given the chance.

After all, the number one strategy for 2016 for CEOs is acquisition and merger to grow. Well, guess what? In all my years of healthcare experience, those companies that focus on growth through a single strategy of acquisition to grow are doomed to failure over the long term.

And in that single focus strategy for growth, there are only so many hospitals in a market for merger or acquisition. Sooner or later you run out of acquisition targets, and that is if the Justice Department doesn’t jump in first with an anticompetitive lawsuit to stop the acquisition or merger.
At some point, the hospital has to grow organically. And organic growth won’t be accomplished if marketing is treated as the enemy.

It’s no longer about making things look pretty.

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

Monday, January 11, 2016

Patient engagement or patient relationship, can you have one without the other?

As 2016 comes more into focus, patient engagement and the resultant attention is a growing buzzword in provider circles.  And it seems that the focus is on those technological solutions that purport to deliver patient engagement.  An easy claim to action by senior management in hospitals and health systems that there is some level of patient engagement, by sending out health information, providing discharge instructions,  newsletters, some texts and maybe even a tweet or two.

Some have gone so far with the development of smartphone and tablet apps though a recent Accenture report indicates that less than two percent of patients use the apps developed by hospitals. More on that topic in another post on the failure of hospital developed apps to launch.

So while providers focus on the path of least resistance as they are usually wont to do, patient engagement solutions don’t answer the question of how are clinicians developing a relationship with a patient?

For patient engagement strategies to be meaningful, the necessary ingredient is a relationship with the patient. Contrary to popular belief in hospitals and health systems, they do not have relationships with patients or the healthcare consumer.  More often than not, providers are clueless about who has used them, what their healthcare needs are and how to engage them in meeting those needs.

Patient engagement is about building a one-on-one relationship with the individual. Let me repeat, patient engagement is about relationship building. And that relationship is actively managed to create a win-win situation.

Now that being said, technological solutions are a valuable tool, but unless designed to the healthcare needs of the individual, then they are useless. That doesn’t mean taking generic health information and putting someone's name at the top.

Have you engaged your marketing department to help out here?  I will hang up and wait for the silence on that answer.

In a retail medical market or a provider, it’s about responding to the needs of the healthcare consumer or patient, not what they hospital thinks they need, or what the hospital needs. Patient engagement is the same way, the ability to respond to the healthcare consumers or patient needs how they want it, when they want it, in the way they want the engagement. 

That may mean to reach out and touch someone via the telephone. Others may require video chats. Some will need to be in person or a group. Others will prefer email or texts.  Some may want a PDF of the health information. Others may prefer a link to a web-based library.

The point being is that if the hospital or health system does not have a clear and unbiased understanding of the engagement needs of the individual, with the appropriate and responsive technological solutions, messaging and communication tactics, then the engagement will not be a success. There will be no relationship with the patient or healthcare consumer.

So before the senior management team goes out thinking they know all there is regarding patient engagement or patient relationship building, better get your marketing department involved on many different levels.  The hospital or health system doesn’t know what it doesn’t know about patient engagement or patient relationship building in a consumer driven, retail medical market.

One size does not fit all, and there is no easy button for patient engagement or relationship.

The hospital or health system can’t have one without the other. It’s a two-way street.

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