Saturday, November 15, 2014

Is patient experience management more than a single touch point focus?

Customer Experience Management (CEM) first appeared  13 years ago in an article published by the Harvard Business Review authored by Pine and Gilmore. The concept proposes that by managing the entirety of the customer experience from first contact to purchase or use, that  you can move a customer from satisfied to loyal, and then from loyal to brand advocate by actively managing the experience. It is based on thoroughly understanding the customer. Essentially a beginning to end management of the chain of events that an individual experiences. Since that time CEM has grown and evolved to become an important business requirement.

This is a critically important topic for healthcare, especially in engagement activities. It is taking a consumer centric or patient centric viewpoint, that is all about the individual. It’s no longer about the healthcare enterprise at a single clinical service or entry point into the care system. Why? 

Two-thirds of an individual's interaction with a healthcare provider is as a customer pre and post treatment.  Only one-third of their encounter with you is as a patient during treatment.

A healthcare provider's ability to deliver an experience that sets it apart in the eyes of its payers, physicians and consumers/patients, from its competitors both traditional and non-traditional, serves to increase their in-network utilization of medical services and loyalty to the healthcare brand. Effective patient experience management not only reduces cost, but captures revenue as well, that could have been lost to out-of-network providers.

Marketing has an important role and it’s just not to make things look pretty. I know that most experience improvement efforts are clinically driven and not necessarily holistic in nature, that enhances the total healthcare enterprise experience.  But for the sake of the conversation, think about this for a moment, who or what department has more contact with the healthcare consumer or even the patient for the matter? 

Its marketing isn’t it?  Think about this statement. From the web site, call center, campaigns, social media, events, wellness programs and all the other marketing channels, the marketing department is constantly in touch with the healthcare consumer and patient.  And if they are establishing and managing the relationship correctly, then marketing should be involved and dare I say, leading the experience improvement process, as they should have a total understanding the customer's point of view.  That is, all touch points internally and externally that a customer comes in contact with which in turn creates the experience.  

With the dynamic change in healthcare evolving into a dynamic semi retail consumer  focus, experience management goes hand in hand with engagement.

It's time we started to focus on the totality of the healthcare consumer experience, their needs and expectations to grow profitably. Marketing needs to be involved beyond making things look pretty.  Growth is good.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Looking for a market edge? Why not a bundled care & pricing campaign?

The healthcare consumer is now paying one-third of the cost of their care.  They also exhibit consumeristic shopping behaviors when selecting health plans in the exchanges.  Over the past couple of years, poll after poll finds that consumers like bundled care. With all the price and outcomes data now available to the healthcare consumer, it would seem to offer an opportunity to leverage consumer market interest and preference for a revenue opportunity.

What I don’t see is any innovative marketing by hospitals and health systems around bundled care and pricing, aimed at the healthcare consumers. The finance people are negotiating those deals with payers and employers to an extent and that is necessary. But really, is that just doing business the same old way that the healthcare enterprise has always done, while missing the market shift to a semi-retail consumer-centric business model?  

True that not all care can be neatly bundled into a healthcare consumer friendly package, but a lot of it can. And if the healthcare enterprise wants grow and thrive in a consumer-centric healthcare model, then that means marketing innovation to reach the healthcare consumers.

Being first in the market with this type of marketing effort makes the healthcare enterprise a market leader not a market follower.  In a copy cat industry, other healthcare enterprises will launch their bundled care and pricing effort, and differentiation will be lost. It always happens.  Being first does give one some blue ocean to swim in before it becomes a purple, then red ocean of crowded competitors.

First one to the market place wins the perception battle, increases brand awareness and beings to move the market away from the confusing discussion and focus on hospital price, while clarifying for the healthcare consumer their choices.

As a marketing leader, one will have to do the homework, work closely with finance and sell the plan. This calls for healthcare marketing to begin the transition to become revenue marketers.

As I have written before, the new market drivers for hospitals in an evolving consumer-centric market are price, outcomes and experience.  Bundled care can deliver on all three market dimensions.

Nobody said this was ever going to be easy. And growth is good.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Are you influencing the influencer's?

All health care is local. Major events such as the Affordable Care Act, state regulatory action and new or experimental payment methodologies change the game on a regular basis. But in the end, it still comes down to medical care delivered in the physician’s office, the local hospital and other nearby settings. Places where the healthcare consumer forms opinions and then shares in a variety of ways.

Even with all the market uncertainty, the growing consumerism, data transparency driven by third parties along price and outcomes, retail innovation and non-traditional competition, health care is still a game of influence.   Often overlooked in healthcare, influencer's have the ability to sway public and individual opinion to the betterment or determent of the organization. 

So how can a hospital or health system influence the influencers?

It’s not about emailing the top 50 twitter people in your market; though social media is important.

It’s not about the blogger with the biggest audience; though a highly followed blogger can’t be ignored.

What it is about is identifying who the influencer's are in your market, and building long term relationships. It’s like making a friend. Would one make a friend just by tweeting or commenting in a Facebook post or reading a blog? No magic bag of tricks here.  It takes hard work but the payoff can be measured in years.

Since influencing the influencers is all about relationship building, it’s about getting them to an event, getting them on the phone, writing a personal email.  Influencing the influencers is pretty traditional stuff really.  Things healthcare marketer’s use to do and still do to a certain extent, but chase the shiny new channel or technique. Its old-fashioned relationship-building applied to a new way of reaching people.

Influencers can assist in recommending insurance plans one is a provider member of in the exchanges. Influencers can recommend hospital friendly physicians.  Influencers can make a great difference and speed up the brand and reputation recover efforts after a major public relations or media disaster. Think Texas Health Presbyterian and Ebola mismanagement.  I hope that in the reputation rebuild efforts that they are using community influencers to make a difference.

The more things change the more they stay the same. Adding an influence the influencers component into your integrated marketing  has the potential to pay some very large long term brand, reputation and revenue impacts.

So who are you influencing?

Saturday, October 25, 2014

How does a hospital or health system recover from a devastating reputation hit?

The Ebola scare that is rampant in communities driven in some cases inaccurate  media and social media reporting by  individuals, has had a significant toll on Texas Health Presbyterian in Dallas, Texas. Its good reputation damaged has resulted in ER utilization, admissions and revenue declining significantly as reported by the Wall Street Journal on October 23, 2014, “Ebola Still Weighs on Texas Hospital”,  by Caitlin McCabe and Christopher Weaver. The CDC sure didn’t help either in this case.

A 26 percent revenue drop is nothing to sneeze at, and one that most healthcare organizations would have a hard time accommodating.

This isn’t a blog post slamming the mismanagement of the public relations during the crisis. It is well documented over three days, how badly the media and public was handled by the shifting inaccurate responses, lack of clear messaging, and strategy on the part of Texas Health Resources. 

The damage is already done and it could take years to regain a good reputation. Now comes the how does a healthcare provider accomplish this no small feat?

This isn’t only about recovering from Ebola; this is really about trust.  Recovering the trust of the doctors. The trust of the paints. The belief of the community. The confidence  of the healthcare consumer. This in my opinion is about rebuilding the solid reputation that the hospital can care for individuals without harming them.  Changing the perception of,  if they can’t take care of an Ebola patient correctly, how are they going to take care of me?

All the awards that Texas Health Resources Presbyterian has received from national organizations about quality of care mean nothing to patients and the healthcare consumer.   Maybe they never really did anyway?

Where to start?

1.       Commit the resources.  This is going to cost some money over a very long period of time. Understand it and get over it.

2.       Do the market research in terms of quantities surveys and focus groups.  The organization needs to understand the attitudes, perceptions  and choice preferences of the healthcare consumer, patient, community and doctors. Don’t assume one knows all of that already.

3.       From the results of the market research develop the strategy first, then build the key messages and plans. The hospital has one shot to get it right and that starts with the right strategy.  My favorite quote comes from Sun Tzu in the Art of War: “Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory; tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.” Strategy first; tactics second to be successful.

4.       Be prepared and budget for doing the research annually to measure the change in perceptions, attitudes and preference choice.  It’s a cost of doing business.

5.       Executive leadership leads and is in front of the community.  No sending the PR person out to answer the media and others. This is the responsibility of the CEO, and on special occasions when needed the Chief Medical Officer or CNO. All others stay away. Media days, community meetings, Q & As. All led by the CEO or CMO.

6.       Become the transparent organization regarding outcomes.  This is probably the most difficult part of this quest but it is absolutely essential. And I do not mean running ads with pretty third party logos bestowing an outcome ward.  I am talking about putting context around the content of the award for the healthcare consumer and patients to understand what it means and why it is important.

7.       Social media is everything here. The healthcare consumer is the new paparazzi. They can help reclaim the reputation of the hospital or they can destroy it in heart beat.  Twitter, facebook, LinkedIn, Tumbler, blogging, the web site, etal and more.  All are useful in the rebuild effort. One can reach more people and delivery more variable messages faster than anything else you can do. So can the hospitals customer evangelists.

8.       Enlist your employees. They are on social media. They are the ambassadors.  Their opinions carry weight.

9.       Events need to be meaningful and genuine. This moves beyond a bunch of employees standing in front of the hospital holding signs that they love their hospitals.  That is contrived, pejorative, and dismissed by the public.   This is all about meaningful action not words. Words and displays of affection at this point in time are empty promises.

10.   One step forward two steps back. Nothing goes smoothly or changes in a short period of time and will take years.  The effort to reclaim the reputation will be affected by everyday events and mistakes. Preventable medical errors when they become public, and they will, may negatively impact the reclamation effort and reinforce the perception that the hospital can’t get it right. 

This too shall pass, but only after some very hard detail work, careful planning and execution. If one messes around thinking one has the answers to fix this it will only get worse. Get professional  help.

Maybe it’s time for the acceptance of the idea that hospitals can't be all things to all people. There are just some diseases that should never even be considered for treatment in a community hospital setting. It is arrogant to think you can do what only a few can accomplish without harming the public safety or the patient.