Much has changed in 2010. One could say a titanic shift that has created a tsunami that is in its early stages of being felt. With that in mind, it begs the question of what is, or will be the role of healthcare marketing going forward?
Healthcare reform simply will not be repealed. Adjustments will be made and the legal challenges will continue to be filed for several years, but overall repeal is a distant dream of the far conservative right. Despite the public pronouncements, a significant amount of money in the billions of dollars in future revenue and earnings is at stake for all the players to allow for regression.
In a time where the majority of individuals and families have some form of health insurance, I believe that marketing will have a role to play that is much different and more important than today. In an age of healthcare consumerism with patients controlling their health information, (and yes individual health information is the property of the patient, not of the doctor, not of the hospital, not of any healthcare provider), marketing needs to take on a significant role in the life of the healthcare organization beyond the traditional communication activities.
Marketing healthcare organizations contrary to a popular myth, is not any different from what occurs in other industries. It is similar to the conceptual myth of not-for-profits. There is no such thing as a not-for-profit. There are legally defined tax-exempt organizations, but no not-for-profits. I digress, for that is a topic for another day.
Many of the traditional marketing activities will continue as well as the new social media and online marketing. Those won't go away, but will become more highly integrated, brand strengthening and value driven across service lines.
Understand that I am not talking about pharma, medical device manufacturers, insurance companies, suppliers and retailers moving into the healthcare space. They get it. They understand the power and importance of marketing. This is for all the other healthcare providers that are still trying to operate like its 1990.
The Expanded Healthcare Marketing Role:
Moving from the manager or director level to the VP senior manger level. Marketing is strategy first, tactics second. The voice of marketing should reflect the voice of your customers and not be a second thought. Your future programs and services will be determined by the needs of the market, not your gut feeling. You cannot become a customer-driven or market-driven organization if the skills and experiences of marketing is not at the leadership table.
Managing the Patient Experience
Managing the patient experience. If anyone is prepared to understand and mange the patient experience across the organization it's marketing. Hospitals in particular are making the mistake of putting operations in charge of patient experience. This is an oxymoron really. For the most part Ops can't get a discharge process together in less than 3 or 4 hours. How can you expect them to manage the patient experience? Patient experience means just that- understanding what that patient experiences is at all touch points. And then changing or managing that experience to its fullest potential for the benefit of the patient and the organization. Patient experience is an integrating process across the entire organization internally and externally. One organization to the patient, one patient to the organization. It is not simply another quality program or flavor of the day.
Understanding and Executing Demand Management
The hospital is no longer the center of the healthcare universe. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) is designed to keep people out of the hospital. You can actually see a hospital admission as a defect in the process of care. Marketing needs to understand what the demand for healthcare services will be, when they will be needed and manage that demand making sure that the hospital or health system has the right resources, in the right place, at the right time to meet demand. Gone are the days where marketing departments will be driving demand to fill hospital beds. They will drive demand to the appropriate place and location of service.
Becoming a Revenue Marketer and Having Revenue Accountability
Return on Marketing Investment (ROMI) is necessary for anything marketing accomplishes, traditionally, socially or online. Marketers in healthcare organizations need to become revenue producers, not resource consumers that show little value beyond, it looks nice. In fact, marketing should have P&L as well as an SG&A accountability for many of the products and services being offered by a healthcare organization.
Marketing the Manager of Change
Who better in an organization than for marketing to manage the healthcare organizations transformation from an inward-focused it's all about me, to an outward-focused market and consumer driven organization? Open to much debate, this is probably the most controversial look at the expanding role of marketing. Individual who have looked internally at their organizations all of their careers, do not necessarily have the skills, training or abilities to change an organization 180 degrees. And that is the type of change we are talking about here.
The future of healthcare holds great challenges and opportunities. Time for proactive change instead of reactive change. Clocks ticking and you're being left behind.
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Michael Krivich is a senior healthcare marketing executive and internationally followed healthcare marketing blogger read daily in over 20 countries around the world. A Fellow, American College of Healthcare Executives as well as a Professional Certified Marketer, American Marketing Association, he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 815-293-1471 for hiring as your senior marketing executive , for interim assignments in all aspects of healthcare marketing whether it be strategic or tactical market planning, rebuilding and revitalizing your existing marketing operation, integration of sales and marketing teams, media relations or service line revitalizations. 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.