Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Eight Strategic Imperatives for Hospital Marketers in 2021

Image by Michal Jarmoluk from Pixabay.

We are on the 12th day of 2021, and already, the signs are apparent it will be another challenging year for hospital marketers. One could hope for improvement, but the confluence of external events, price transparency, and changes in healthcare delivery poses exciting challenges. The tried-and-true traditional ways of approaching the physician and patient market are no longer sufficient.

As hard as it is externally, hospital marketers, in many cases, still face the daunting task of driving revenue and building the hospital brand with diminished budgets.  The marketer's glass is either half full or half empty depending on your perspective. I prefer to see the glass full of tremendous opportunity.

The choice can be boiled down to; you can either surf the wave of change or let it wipe you out by marketing in your historical approaches and channels.  

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

With that in mind, here are eight strategic trends that hospital marketers should be focusing on in 2021. 

1.       COVID-19 will be around for a long time, and its impact will not go away anytime soon. Even with a vaccine, high unemployment will remain. In some cases, the patient's ability to pay for care will still be challenging, if not impossible. Patient fear still reigns supreme in deciding when and where to seek care. Hospital marketers will need to pivot to long-term growth strategies, brand reputation, demand generation options for multiple locations for care, brand awareness, public relations, and patient engagement. 

2.       Communication and engagement are essential. If not already, that means the hospital must be the trusted, credible source for health information and perspective, pandemic or not. It is time to humanize your communications. It is no longer about medical service, technology or building, and other features. Your communications now need to be engaging, informative, compassionate, trustworthy, and useful. 

3.       Patient experience is job number 1. Every single touchpoint in the patient experience needs to be revisited and addressed. The added urgency besides the pandemic is as of January 1; patients can now search the hospital's website for the prices of 200 common procedures. Price transparency and hospital medical service shopping have been introduced. While it will take a while for patients to figure it out, it will impact future utilization.  It is not the patients' role or responsibility to figure it all out. That is your job. That requires high-level communication and an easily navigable experience. 

Areas of focus are appointment scheduling and availability, procedures for in-person or telehealth options, elective and non-elective procedures, safety procedures and requirements, and general information. To optimize the patient experience, update your website content and navigation, revisit your call automation and routing system, personalize email and text messaging, provide an excellent mobile app experience, and update your business listings. 

4.       Focus on your brand reputation. If people have the feeling that you place profit over people, they will lose trust in the hospital. What you say and do will have a higher level of scrutiny in the coming year than ever before. No one expects you to stop advertising, but they want you to get it right.  

Areas of focus include 1) authority – how credible are you and the information you provide.  2)Transparency - it's time to stop omitting details. If things have changed, you have to be honest and inform on any issue, the who, what, where, and why. Omitting details or essential information builds distrust. 3) Reputation management- what is your program to generate positive patient reviews and address negative reviews? How are you optimizing the patients' digital experience to add to the hospital brand, not detract? 4) Public relations- don't turn it off; that is the worst thing you can do. But the time has come to change from throwing to the press release for a new medical staff member, award, or service. It is time to focus your PR on the good the hospital is doing in the community and the causes you are supporting. 5) Community engagement – with patients turning to healthcare organizations for safe, credible, and useful medical information, turn this into becoming the moderator for your communities in forums with medical professionals. Control the discussion and narrative. 

5.       Evolve your investment and spend on SEO and content marketing. The conversation is not what we are spending, but how is the patient using SEO and the desire for high-quality content changed?  How are your SEO and content spend best supporting the patient as they search for information? Patient searching hasn't gone away. Neither has the patient need for high-quality content. What has changed is how they search, such as voice using Echo and Alexa, for example, and what topics they are searching. 

6.       Telemedicine is not going away. Now is the time for hospital marketers to build demand for telemedicine services. The framework needs to be built now how telemedicine fits into the hospitals' overall services to look seamless to the patient. It is a focused brand awareness building. Telehealth is a different animal than the brick and mortar medical-based service. Telemedicine is, by nature, a virtual experience. The requirement focuses on the patient experience and engagement that is user-friendly, easy to use, and accessible. Build a telemedicine hub website that consolidates all the hospital's telehealth services in one place so that the user experience can be consistent and managed. It's just not another service that is an indistinguishable section of the existing hospital website. Telemedicine is a different high-tech animal that is the future of health care; when combined with wearable healthcare tech, it will only grow in importance. Make is it so. 

7.       Focus on and lean into innovative services.  Advances in technology such as medical AI, chatbots, medical care apps, curbside care, and other innovation come at you and the patient faster than you can shake a stick. The trick is to market these innovations, and the value and benefit to the patient, not features focused, but how to address and manage the experience. 

8.       Improve user's digital experience. The challenge is to create an exceptional digital experience no matter the user's skill level or digital literacy. How fast does your website load? Is information easily found? Can a person searching via mobile devices make an appointment or access a service? Can they log into the patient portal?  Using the Google Analytics dashboard, review the user experience data to tell you how people are using your website? What are the entry pages where are people using to access the site? How sticky is your website? Are people staying or dropping as soon as they find what they need, if at all, etc. Understand the bottlenecks, search patterns, and where the user experience fails and improve.

Image by Pixels from Pixabay

The year 2021 will be another challenging effort, with seismic changes lasting well into the future, not just the foreseeable future.  Ride the wave of change and own it. Focus all actions on the patient for success now and well into the future.

Michael is a healthcare business, marketing, communications strategist, and thought leader. As an internationally followed healthcare strategy blogger, his blog, Healthcare Marketing Matters, is read in 52 countries and is listed on the 100 Top Healthcare Marketing Blogs & Websites ranked at No. 3 on the list by Feedspot.com. Michael is a Life Fellow, American College of Healthcare Executives. An expert in healthcare marketing strategy, digital marketing, and social media, Michael is in the top 10 percent of social media experts nationwide and is considered an established influencer. For inquiries regarding strategic consulting engagements, you can email me at michael@themichaeljgroup.com. 

Connect with me on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Tumblr, Instagram, Pinterest, TikTok, Flipboard, and Triller.

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

The opinions expressed are my own.

Tuesday, January 5, 2021

When Patients Begin Searching for Hospital Price Information, what is Your Response?

Beginning on January 1, 2021, patients should be able to search a hospital or health system website for the prices on 200 standard procedures. Mandated by CMS in 2020, the purpose was to provide a measure of price transparency for patients and consumers when seeking medical care.

Image by Niek Verlaan from Pixabay 

What happened?

In randomly searching the internet on hospitals and health systems websites for pricing information, I found a confusing maze of information.  In all cases, the ability to find and search the information was difficult at best. I know my way around a website, search terms, and the internet as a healthcare provider and vendor marketing professional.  If I have difficulty finding, searching, and using the information to decide, how is a consumer or patient?

Kudos to any hospital or health system that provided an experience that made the information easily accessible, searchable, and user-friendly.

I am sure that over time with prodding from CMS, the ability for a patient to search for a hospital or health systems website for pricing information on 200 standard procedures will improve and be easier to find, more user-friendly, with a better user experience.

Price transparency and a good user experience is not a question of if but when.

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

How is the healthcare organization preparing for the eventuality?

In answering the question, there are four strategic dimensions for managing the patient's price search for consideration. 

1.       Marketing Plan - How are you positioning the hospital and the newly available price and shoppable services information in the market, i.e., what the detailed marketing plan? 

2.       Engagement Plan - What are your key messages that need to be delivered to patients and the community? What channels- digital, social, and traditional will be used to provide the key messages? 

3.       Experience Plan - What are the training programs and Q&As created to equip the employees who will most likely face questions from patients and the community regarding your prices and shoppable services? 

4.       Crisis Communications Plan -What are the talking points you will use to defend higher prices in services than your competitors? What are your talking points when you decide to raise your lower process to those of a competitor?

These four dimensions of the patient price information puzzle are not an afterthought. They should foster a much-needed critical strategy discussion and tactical marketing execution in the age of price transparency.  As much as we would like, patient pricing information cannot be left to the "we'll deal with this if any questions come up" strategy, because we made it so difficult to find and use.  Pricing and shoppable service information is becoming a strategic imperative that is an essential part of the organizational, business, financial, marketing, patient engagement, and experience plans.

If it's not, then don't talk about how patient or consumer-focused you are; either walk the talk or don't talk.

Michael is a healthcare business, marketing, communications strategist, and thought leader. As an internationally followed healthcare strategy blogger, his blog, Healthcare Marketing Matters, is read in 52 countries and is listed on the 100 Top Healthcare Marketing Blogs & Websites ranked at No. 3 on the list by Feedspot.com. Michael is a Life Fellow, American College of Healthcare Executives. An expert in healthcare marketing strategy, digital marketing, and social media, Michael is in the top 10 percent of social media experts nationwide and is considered an established influencer. For inquiries regarding strategic consulting engagements, you can email me at michael@themichaeljgroup.com. 

Connect with me on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Tumblr, Instagram, Pinterest, TikTok, Flipboard, and Triller.

Signup for the e-newsletter Healthcare Marketing Daily and have the latest healthcare marketing and business news for providers and vendors delivered right to your mailbox daily. Add your email address in the signup on the sidebar.

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

The opinions expressed are my own.

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

The Best of Healthcare Marketing Matters from 2020

Image by Tumisu from Pixabay

What a year 2020 has been, from the Coronavirus pandemic to the election and everything in between.

The response by hospitals and health systems across the country to the pandemic has been excellent. In an industry not known for rapid innovation and adoption of new ways to deliver care, the pandemic showed just how resourceful the leaders, doctors, and nurses changed their organizations to meet the need of patients, the community, and face the threat head-on.

Kudos to everyone for the countless lives saved. Remember those doctors, nurses, first responders, and other healthcare workers who lost their lives serving others.

As some of you may know, I write another blog, Perceptions, Observations, and Musings of an Old Man, since 2019. Writing two blogs takes its toll and is not easy. I am wimping out for the last two weeks of 2020 and giving you the best of Healthcare Marketing Matters blog posts from 2020. The best blog posts' criteria are the number of views, ranked highest to lowest with 1,000 views and above being the lowest.

Your readership humbles me. I am amazed that people worldwide thought about what I was writing was worth them taking time from their day and spend it with me.  When I started Healthcare Marketing Matters, back in February 2007, I never thought it would grow from a few hundred monthly views to being read in 52 nations with slightly over 12,000 views per month.

The best I can do is to say thank you for reading. I am humbled and grateful, and I am looking forward to sharing more strategic thought and considerations with you in 2021.

Stay safe. Mask up. Get vaccinated.

1) Hospital Grassroots Marketing- Seven Ideas to Lead the Community Out of the Pandemic -https://bit.ly/2P63kK1  – published July 28th - 2,205 views.

2) What is the Ongoing Role of The Hospital in a Public Health Crisis? https://bit.ly/2E5BHP0 - published July 21st – 2,122 views.

3) Lessons from the SARS-CoV-2 Pandemic, Are You Ready for a Chief Engagement Officer? https://bit.ly/2AvJLqW - published - June 15th – 1,923 views.

4) Hospital Community Leadership for Ongoing SARS-CoV-2 Information. The Time is Now. https://bit.ly/302LhJG - published July 13th – 1,908 views.

5) How Will You Manage the Hospital Patient Experience Post COVID-19? https://bit.ly/2Wp1YND - published May 4th – 1,879 views.

6) "Hey Siri, Alexa, I Think I May be Coronavirus Sick. Who Should I Call?"  https://bit.ly/3g7JDwF - published June 29th – 1,850 views.

7) Because of COVID-19, Continuous Ongoing Patient Engagement is the New Reality https://bit.ly/2AwRLaW - published July 6th – 1,839 views.

8) How Are You Reengaging Patients Post COVID-19? https://bit.ly/2NiVUlx - published June 22nd – 1,830 views.

9)  Hospitals Need to Rebuild Trust, Not Send Pre-Pandemic Marketing Messages https://bit.ly/2YSqwBx – published May 11th – 1,781 views.

10) Hospitals Need to Rebuild Trust, not Send Pre-Pandemic Marketing Messages https://bit.ly/2YSqwBx – published May 11th, 1,781 views.

11) Where are All the Patients? And How do You Get Them Back? https://bit.ly/3feV2L1 – published June 8th – 1,733 views.

12) Hospital Quality Award Season is Here. What Does That Mean During a Pandemic? https://bit.ly/2DvmeaI – published August 3rd – 1,721 views.

13) Hope is Not a Strategy; Leading Patients, Community Through the Flu Season, COVID-19 Reemergence is. https://bit.ly/35uI4an – published September 8th – 1,673 views.

14) With the "New Normal" Courtesy of SARS-CoV2, what is Your Continuous Engagement Strategy? https://bit.ly/3cWZw89 – published May 25th – 1,664 views.

15) The Primary Care Marketing Opportunity https://bit.ly/2Y6gyvX - published April 26th - 1,590 views.

16) News Flash: SARS-CoV-2 has Changed Everything. Hospital Marketing Needs to Change too. https://bit.ly/2WKBI1r - published May 19th – 1,549 views.

17) Have You Completed a Hospital Marketing Department Audit? https://bit.ly/3gNibW1 - published August 11th – 1,547 views.

18) Time for Marketing's Return to the Hospital Leadership Table https://bit.ly/2ZXyM3z - published June 1st – 1,492 views.

19) Digital Stories- the Missing Hospital Marketing Opportunity? https://bit.ly/3aSTuoW - published August 25th – 1,477 views.

20) The New Normal Podcast- Episode 9: Financial Stability of the Healthcare Industry, a Conversation with Michael Krivich https://bit.ly/3daEUtj - published May 28th – 1,431 views.

21) Leveraging Free Social Media Platforms During the COVID-19 Crisis for Communication. https://bit.ly/2wUMQ1Z - published April 5th – 1,374 views.

22.) Four Basic Questions in Are You Ready for Hospital Price Transparency? https://bit.ly/3iPIQlu – published August 18th – 1,366 views.

23) Healthcare Marketing in a Public Health Crisis, Be the Leader https://bit.ly/3avPCt4 - published March 29th - 1,253 views.

24) What is Your COVID-19 Mid-Pandemic Marketing Plan? https://bit.ly/2XNOwoI - published April 19th – 1,216 views.

25) Are You Preparing for Walgreens Entry into Primary Care? https://bit.ly/3hTWmo8 - published September 1st – 1,197 views.

26) Is the Golden Age of Patient and Community Engagement at Hand? https://bit.ly/3b5hg05 - published April 12th – 1,135 views.

27) Hospital COVID-19 Communications Today, Will Impact Future Consumer Decisions https://bit.ly/2QDmyb1 - published March 22nd – 1,031 views.

28) Coronavirus, Your Hospital, and Crisis Communications- Key Principles to Use. http://bit.ly/3aBZXTO - published March 8th – 1,021 views.

Happy holidays, Merry Christmas, and Happy New Year. Best wishes for a safe, healthy, successful, and prosperous 2021.

Image by amorimboitec from Pixabay

Michael is a healthcare business, marketing, communications strategist, and thought leader. As an internationally followed healthcare strategy blogger, his blog, Healthcare Marketing Matters, is read in 52 countries and is listed on the 100 Top Healthcare Marketing Blogs & Websites ranked at No. 3 on the list by Feedspot.com. Michael is a Life Fellow, American College of Healthcare Executives. An expert in healthcare marketing strategy, digital marketing, and social media, Michael is in the top 10 percent of social media experts nationwide and is considered an established influencer. For inquiries regarding strategic consulting engagements, you can email me at michael@themichaeljgroup.com. 

Connect with me on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Tumblr, Instagram, Pinterest, TikTok, Flipboard, and Triller. The opinions expressed are my own.

Signup for the e-newsletter Healthcare Marketing Daily and have the latest healthcare marketing and business news for providers and vendors delivered right to your mailbox daily. Add your email address in the signup on the sidebar.


Monday, December 21, 2020

Welcome to 2021, Where Patients Become Price Buyers- Seven Considerations for Hospitals

 

Image by Engin Akyurt from Pixabay

Patients as buyers are no longer an "it will happen someday," but a market reality come January 1, 2021. Signs are apparent that market power is shifting from the hospitals as the dominant seller controlling the relationship to the patient as the chief buyer. The CMS January 1, 2021 mandate of the 200 searchable standard procedures with prices on the hospital website will allow the patient more control.

In this kind of environment, the patient is king and queen. The hospitals' position in patients' minds will be an amalgamation of expectations and experience along the dimensions of brand, price, quality, experience, and engagement. Why? Because hospitals and health systems have little differentiation.

Image by djedj from Pixabay

A hospital is a hospital, is a hospital.

What value does the hospital or health system bring to physicians and patients? That is the question at hand. And in a buyers' market, it's the only question you can answer successfully. In many ways, a hospital service buyers' market is about the accountability of your offerings' for patients and community regardless of the demographic or market segment they reside.

To respond appropriately to a buyers' market, hospital marketers need to dramatically change their approach and techniques.

Moving forward with seven considerations to respond to a buyer's market

1. Brand and competitive position. Patients are ready for transparency and convenient technology-enabled access to care. Healthcare providers capable of identifying these needs and how they want their healthcare needs met through technology will gain new patients and next-generation 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 meaningfully engage them is during the period when they are a patient? Continuous patient engagement builds loyalty, and more importantly, keeps them in your network, which has some pretty significant financial ramifications in a risk-based reimbursement model.

3. Engage physicians. No matter the payment model, the hospital or health system still needs a physician or physician extender medical 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. Improve 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 physicians encounter when trying to get things done in the hospital setting? Understand how the physician experiences your organization at every touch-point they meet 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 patient experience. A hospital's ability to deliver an experience that sets it apart in the patients' eyes and potential patients from its competitors - traditional and non-traditional - increases their loyalty to the brand. One needs to actively manage the customer experience in totality by understanding the customer's point of view. All touchpoints internally and externally that the patient encounters, which create the experience, need to be actively managed. Exceptional experience means gains in market share, brand awareness, and revenue.

6. Expand retail healthcare. Traditional ways of delivering healthcare are going by the wayside. Think of the hospital system as a distributive computer network. Price convenience, access, and outcomes are the drivers in retail healthcare. Find the need, understand the patient's behavior drivers, design the offering around the patient, not the hospital, in a convenient location, and price it appropriately. Oh, and name it correctly; think will the patient understand what you do from the name and not something opposite. If you can't compete in the market in this way, the last one out can turn off the lights.

7. It's an omnichannel world. With the healthcare consumer living in an omnichannel world, turn to social media and influencer networks to engage, manage the experience, drive loyalty and referrals. As healthcare continues evolving to a consumer dominated transaction in a semi-retail environment, social networking is a healthcare marketing channel that underperforms. Go where the patient is, not where you want them to be.

Seven steps for hospitals to achieve market and revenue growth in the new buyers' market. Not an impossible task, but one that does require focus and a willingness to break from the past.

Welcome to the age of the patient as a buyer.

Michael is a healthcare business, marketing, communications strategist, and thought leader. As an internationally followed healthcare strategy blogger, his blog, Healthcare Marketing Matters, is read in 52 countries and is listed on the 100 Top Healthcare Marketing Blogs & Websites ranked at No. 3 on the list by Feedspot.com. Michael is a Life Fellow, American College of Healthcare Executives. An expert in healthcare marketing strategy, digital marketing, and social media, Michael is in the top 10 percent of social media experts nationwide and is considered an established influencer. For inquiries regarding strategic consulting engagements, you can email me at michael@themichaeljgroup.com. 

Connect with me on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Tumblr, Instagram, Pinterest, TikTok, Flipboard, and Triller. The opinions expressed are my own.

Signup for the e-newsletter Healthcare Marketing Daily and have the latest healthcare marketing and business news for providers and vendors delivered right to your mailbox daily. Add your email address in the signup on the sidebar.