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.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

The Consumers Buying Journey & Hospitals, the Marketing Starting Point

As the provider market for the healthcare consumer continues to consolidate through merger, acquisition, liquidation or disintermediation, there is one clear outcome. Fewer providers mean heightened competition within hospitals or health systems in a bid to stay atop the food chain. With the consumer's growing realization that they need a hospital for only three things, the ER, ICU and medical care for complex acute medical conditions, they are more in control with their physician of the buying process than providers want to admit.

To become part of the consumers choice for healthcare, successful providers will recognize that understanding the healthcare consumer buyers journey is the new way of thinking about marketing, how it impacts growth and can drive the organization in a better direction that is more customer-focused and responsive to their needs.

 Customer Buyer Journey

In this environment, providers are already losing meaningful differentiation. Marketing campaigns for example with messaging that we care more, we have the best facilities, we have the best technology, or better yet, our doctors care more, are meaningless when the data available shows most care is too expensive and average at best.  In essence, all hospitals and health systems do the same thing. How they communicate with little variations on features and benefits across the continuum of care may be different, but still at its most basic level are substantially the same. 

Of course, brand reputation can be a powerful influencer but where some providers struggle is when they don’t have a considerable brand reputation or more than basic customer understanding. Just because you have developed personas doesn’t mean that you fully understand the customer or their buying journey.

Now that being said, this discussion is not for the highly successful hospitals or health systems that are already using buyer’s maps and building customer evangelists along the way. In successful hospitals marketing is highly integrated, and leadership has set the strategy, vision and executes on a nonnegotiable customer-first strategy. But when you find one tell me!

What is the change that is required?

The requirement is to move from an overreliance on features and benefits marketing to an organizational customer focused culture and strategy. The marketing operation becomes highly integrated and shifts to inbound marketing. Marketing’s job is now to provide the right content, at the right time, in the right healthcare context during the customer's buying journey.

Influencing the costumer’s journey is about highly effective marketing.

When hospital marketing understands the buying processes, then marketing becomes far more useful. Marketing moves from putting the heads in the beds or focused on brand or image in the hopes that they are not resources, to a defined process that enhances growth.

Next steps

Creating a buyers map takes time and resources. Let me be clear that this is some heavy lifting needs to happen. No shortcuts are allowed.

There are many different ways to map and a search on the IoT will provide one with all the templates necessary. But at a minimum, the following information is essential to the process and understanding.  Keep a singular focus as one gathers information on the buyer stages of Awareness, Consideration, and Decision. 
1.       Initial moments that lead to the first contact. 
2.       Process steps the buyers take and conversations they engage in to find solutions. 
3.       The flow of the process steps and experiences leading up to purchase. 
4.       Items associated with purchase and consumption.  
5.       Ongoing experience and reactions to the purchase.

After all, if you want to survive, thrive and grow in turbulent shrinking markets, then you must understand the healthcare consumer, aka the patient and the buyer's journey like never before.

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, June 11, 2017

What is wrong with this health systems marketing?

And it’s not a quiz either.

I try extremely hard not to call out individual hospitals or health systems for their lack of understanding of the healthcare consumer, their expectations, needs and for knowing who their patient is.

But sometimes the professional healthcare marketer in me gets the best of me when I receive some marketing material from a health system, through different incarnations, I have used for 22 plus years. That’s right 22 plus years.  Oh, and did I mention that my wife, children, and mother-in-law have used them too?

PH has no idea after 22 years of utilization from being a patient, using the ER, to outpatient testing,  WHO. I. AM.

And here is what set me off. And I can guarantee you that many a healthcare consumer, aka former patient, feels the same way.

The other day, I received a direct mail piece. It was a very nicely done, four-color, a heavy stock paper mailer that looked expensive with an offer for a chance to win a fitbit.  But the catch was if and only if, I will schedule an appointment with one of their most caring primary care physicians for a health checkup.

The marketing issues beyond PH for any number of hospitals and health systems is that if  PH had been paying attention, was being strategic in their marketing and messaging and fully understood who their customer was, they would have never sent me the direct mail piece.

Why, because for 22 years I have had a continuous relationship with a primary care doctor who I see regularly and who has me utilize the health system hospital.  With all due respect to Peter Frampton and Humble Pie, “I don’t need no doctor.” And I don't need any employed physician.

In one fell swoop, PH just told me they have no idea who I am. I know who they are from direct experience and utilization, but they are clueless about me, the healthcare consumer.

And in today’s marketing world of more data that you can beat with a stick, the availability of marketing automation, CRMs, experience mapping, the buyer's journey, AI and social media, that is just unacceptable.

It’s not that hard.

In today’s world of healthcare consumer choice where premiums, deductibles, and copays have the healthcare consumer paying for over one-third of the cost of care, hospitals, and health system marketing needs to be far more strategic, targeted, responsive, data-driven, and healthcare consumer oriented. 

There is no reason, no reason at all, not to understand who your audience is and the relationship that they already have built up with you. Understand what the healthcare consumer needs are, how the experience has been and how to communicate through the right channels with the right message, at the right time to build a mutually beneficial relationship.

For all hospitals and health systems out there in the medical-care land, just remember, that the healthcare consumer only needs you for three things- emergency care, intensive care and care for complex acute medical conditions. We can get all the care we need from our doctors and other providers in a far more cost effective, better experience, more convenient setting with higher quality outcomes than at a hospital or hospital-based outpatient service.

Can you hear the healthcare consumer 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.