Saturday, November 22, 2014

Can gamification improve patient engagement and experience?

One of the great challenges in healthcare is the engagement of the patient in lasting and meaningful ways, as well as improvement in the patient experience. Uncharted territory really and the old ways of doing things just won’t cut it.   New market realities and the rising of healthcare consumerism demand new innovation and thought. 

Gamification is not a new topic in marketing. It's been out there for a long time and used successfully by businesses to attract, retain and build the loyalty of its customers to the brand. Sometimes I do hear- "but we are healthcare, taking care of people in complex and mysterious ways that they can never understand and this isn't a game".  Correct it’s not a game, but how you engage the patient and improve the experience is closely related. And my opinion is that you can't do one without the other. Look at this through the eye glass of a new linkage between engagement and experience.

If the goal is to engage the healthcare consumer, aka the patient, to stay in network, to improve health, to be personally responsible for health, then gamification is an option. This isn't about creating negative disincentives that have been tried in the past.  Those messages of it will it will cost you more if you go out of network; you pay a penalty for non-compliance; it shortens your life kind of actions and messages if you don't do this. 

The point is one has to create a healthcare consumer that is highly motivated to act, or comply in a way that meets the goals of the healthcare organization in engaging and improving the experience.

So how does this happen?

It starts with game mechanics. Game mechanics is really the actions, tactics, mechanisms and motivational elements used to create an engaging and compelling experience for the healthcare consumer.  It's about how you design your engagement and experience strategies and tactics that keep the healthcare consumer engaged at all levels contributing to a positive experience.  

In game dynamics the healthcare enterprise taps into the motivations that result as part of the game experience driving continued participation by the healthcare consumer. The healthcare enterprise can't have effective game dynamics unless there is an understanding of what motivates the healthcare consumer. This understanding is based on the behavioral data from research that has to be conducted.

The choice of gaming tactics is an important decision. If one does not understand what motivates the healthcare consumer and how to trigger those motivations, then how can you design the game mechanics?  Do the research.

Put game mechanics and game dynamics together in the right way and you can engage the patient and improve the experience. Gamification can be a very powerful tool in marketing the healthcare enterprise.

Think about this application to healthcare at the next time you fly your favorite airline, go to a shoppers club or pull out your rewards card for something.   

Even Walgreens has this figured out.

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?