Thursday, September 16, 2010

Marketing Accountable Care Organizations

Entering the new world of healthcare where quality and accountability are drivers to reduce cost, how do you market an Accountable Care Organization (ACO)? Especially as healthcare providers, namely doctors and hospitals, must compete on outcome transparency, quality and cost. A triple threat and uncharted territory. Outcomes data will be the driver and available to the consumer to make an informed choice. A monumental shift in the market place of who controls the information.

Anybody seen the new United Health commercials? They are already touting call us, we can send you to the best doctors. Anywhere in the country. Organizations that control the data, control the market and control the price.

So for those doctors and hospitals looking at ACOs, better get your track shoes on. The big insurers are already moving forward with physician groups and pilot programs to test the concept.

In the end, I believe that insurers will control ACOs by the simple fact that they have the data. They already know which doctors practice the best quality and most efficient medicine. The insurers already know which hospitals provide the most cost-effective and quality-driven care. All because they control the claims data. Insurers analyze, predict and can move much faster than others can. Stockholders demand it. So, while tax-exempt organizations engage in their annual lets build consensus before we can move forward on the idea, you are already late to the market and at a decided disadvantage.

Besides, I wonder if ACOs really pass the smell test of what Clinton tried to do in the1990s? And that failed. Maybe what we really have is the same attempt re-branded for 2010?

Marketing Accountable Care Organizations

Brand. Quality. Data transparency. Service. Price.

Your message needs to be clear and concise, echoing the ACOs brand promise and the value that you bring though your ACO to the consumer or the insurer. Focus on outcomes not high-tech or "touchy-feelly". Consumers are too sophisticated for such a simple message.

How you position your ACO vies a vie others is critical and you get one shot. You need to do it right. Remember, you can only take one of three positions in the market, superior, equivalent or inferior. The initial positioning of your brand is one of the most critical tasks you face. With an informed consumer bearing more of the cost, you have one shot to get it right. No do overs anymore.

Co-brand you member materials with insurers for members to educate and inform abut your ACO. Same with self-funded employers. Go to employers work site to reach employees.

Create a separate web site and social media strategy for the ACO and co-brand where possible, have everything online for patient education materials to forms and payment mechanisms.

Need an easy to read and understand dashboard that reports on quality measures for consumers, insurers and employers.

Commit to excellence in customer service and create a Voice of the Customer program to establish and maintain a continuous feedback loop with your key customers. This is not lip service; this is real change. Failure to do so will label you as inferior. Poor customer service is no longer acceptable.

Keep in constant communication with your members. Email is best. Use video emails and always , always have a call-to-action message.

Create a loyalty program. This is not a taboo and except for government program beneficiaries in Medicare and Medicaid or other government funded programs. You can create a loyalty program. Fact is not all patients are the same so you might as well take advantage of it before others do. It can be a powerful differentiators. Step out and be creative.

There is more you can do, but know this should keep you pretty busy.

More news:

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Michael Krivich is Fellow, American College of Healthcare Executives and a Professional Certified Marketer, American Marketing Association and can be reached at or 815-293-1471 for consulting services in strategic marketing, media relations and interim marketing executive leadership assignments. Huthwaite SPIN selling trained and a Miller Heiman Strategic Selling alumni, both highly respected and successful international sales training organizations , I can lead your organization though the challenge of integrating sales and marketing.

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