Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Is the Healthcare Consumer Ignorant?

It's the kind of question that pauses one for a minute or two. How this question came about was in response to a post of mine a few weeks ago, regarding pricing at Urgent Care Centers and the $500 Band- Aid. In comments on a couple of LinkedIn groups, a few healthcare executives called consumers ignorant.

Really.

From a marketing perspective, that is a most interesting characterization of a healthcare consumer. And a dangerous belief to hold about one segment of your audience.

Ignorant.

I don't think so. Informed. Connected. Questioning. Seeking. Paying. Shopping. These words describe the healthcare consumer of today. A consumer who is awakening and demanding a voice in diagnosis and treatment options. After all, isn't that one of the major premises for healthcare reform, and CMSs' one opening statement in the proposed ACO regulations?

In ignorance there is opportunity.

So if you really believe that the healthcare consumer is ignorant, then what are you doing to change that to create an informed consumer? How are you interacting and building you organizational brand to change the healthcare consumers from ignorant to informed? Or, are you just happy to keep them that way, so those "pesky " informed consumers don't question your pricing, decision- making and quality?

Healthcare is changing from a provider-directed and dominated model to a consumer-driven model. And that means people will be informed. They will be involved. They will make quality and pricing decisions. They will play a very strong part in utilization decisions. The healthcare consumer is far from ignorant.

With a little work, they could actually put together their own price-affordable healthcare delivery network and never set foot in a hospital, or hospital-owned setting for care. Obviously, there will be those situations requiring major surgery or trauma care, for which a hospital is the most appropriate setting. But for the rest of it, doubtful.

So, don't be surprised in the future if a healthcare consumer-driven web site shows up that points the healthcare consumers to lower-cost providers for care. Your opportunity is to become that low cost provider, taking advantage of consumer shopping behavior though innovative, cost-effective programs and services.

For health plans and insurance companies, your opportunity is to educate your plan members about providers who have lower prices for services you are paying for, and giving consumers the option to seek lower-cost providers. You could also create loyalty and incentive programs for consumers to avail themselves of lower cost setting for care.

Just because its low cost, doesn't always mean low quality.

After all, almost all diagnosis and treatment can be done in lower-cost settings than a hospital or hospital-owned facility. Get ready for a different future than what you think it will be.

You can continue the conversation with me on:
LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/krivich0707
Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/mkrivich

Michael Krivich is an entrepreneurial healthcare marketing executive and internationally followed healthcare marketing blogger read daily in over 38 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 michael@themichaeljgroup.com or 815-293-1471. Areas of expertise include: brand management; strategic marketing; sales and marketing integration; medical device and specialty pharmacy marketing; physician marketing; product launch; start-up launch and revenue growth; tactical market planning; customer experience management; rebuilding and revitalizing marketing operations; media relations; and service line revitalizations. Mike is Huthwaite SPIN selling trained and a Miller Heiman Strategic Selling alumni.

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