Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Are You Ready for Patient Engagement in 2012?

It has been a most interesting year of change for healthcare in 2011. Medical Homes, final regulations on ACOs, patient- centered or centric care focus, payment models beginning to move from production of care to payment for quality care and at least in some places, a growing understanding of the importance of healthcare marketing and branding. But, none of this will be successful unless you have an engaged patient.

In anticipation of still more change and continued progression to a fully reformed healthcare model, (regardless of what the Supreme Court of the United Sates rules), healthcare will never be the same. And it hinges in large part, on an engaged patient. Engaged in diagnosis and treatment. Engaged in wellness. Engaged in health plan selection. Engaged like they have never been before.

As you set your strategic marketing plans and tactical budgets for 2012, a key component is how you will begin to engage the patient, aka healthcare consumer. And it's not just wellness programs, seminars, community events or material copied on bright neon paper. It takes strategy, commitment and learning.

Here are nine strategies you need to employ:

1. Integrate your engagement solutions. That means information is delivered seamlessly to patients, so that they can interact with you any way they want, when they want too.

2. Marketing should be using both push and pull messaging. Messaging needs to be relevant to the patient at the point in time that they need it. Personalized, customized, aware of the cultural heritage and influences tailored to them.

3. Patient incentives and motivational techniques will be needed to keep patient engaged. That doesn't mean cash. Look to the gaming industry for gaming technology and gaming prediction, for ways to engage without cash. Be creative. Look outside healthcare for ideas, tools and techniques to engage. After all, patients are people too.

4.Create a sense of community. You have to compete for patients, especially if you are forming an ACO or employing physicians. You need to feed the beast. You have to get into the inner circle of your audiences and become the trusted advisor. It's not just about loyalty. You need to shape patient behaviors to the point where they will recommend you.

5. Know your audience and with who you are speaking too. This is really back-to-basics CRM understanding. Gender, age, integration of risk assessments, culture etc. You cannot engage the patient unless you are intimately knowledgeable about them, their needs and how to tailor the information they need to engage them.

6. Test and measure. This is no time to be reactive. You have to know how to approach patients and engage them, You don't have the answers. The only way to can figure out if it's working is to test and measure in a very methodical way.

7. Fast Failure. We live in a world of technology and you need to run a multifaceted, highly integrated campaign. With web, text messaging, mobile messaging, QR codes etc, if you structure it appropriately, and this is a big and, you are testing and measuring, you will know if it's working or not. If your marketing model is not working, get out. Get out quickly and allocate those resources elsewhere. Failure is successful because you learn from it. Fail fast.

8. Know the influence of the patients culture on behavior to engage them. You need to know who the individual is culturally, their affinity groups, and religious beliefs to name just a few items, beyond gender and age.

9. Time it right and add value. If you health messaging is not resonating with the patient when they receive it, then you have lost them. Communicate relevant messages to a committed patient right before healthcare decisions are made. That means knowing the patient like you have never known them in the past. For example, a patient or healthcare consumer, going to a restaurant to eat, or a supermarket to purchase groceries, means sending them health messages at that time, in order to enable them to make the right food choices. It's not impossible.

You are moving patients from passive healthcare participants to active healthcare participants. That's why you engage them. Time to get started.

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Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Are You Improving the Physician Experience to Increase Volume and Revenue?

Any number of healthcare organizations are looking to increase admissions to drive revenue and volume by physicians. Some providers are returning to the days of employing physicians, and that seems to be making a big comeback for health systems ACO development.

Anyhow, sales staffs are popping up all over like weeds-in-a-field, complete with goals and objectives, territories and sales quotas for specific docs, along identified disease-states. In most cases, they are managed by people who have never sold anything in their life. The first time the sales person comes back to the organization with, "This needs to change" request, it all breaks down, because nobody internally wants to really change anything. Besides, with all the Stark considerations, we really can't do too much anyway.

What's wrong with this picture?

If you are really serious about growing revenue and volume, you must, not need too, you must, make changes in the physician experience in your organization. No matter that the healthcare consumer is in the beginning stages of learning how to be empowered. No matter that the payment model is changing from a production-based, to a quality-based. No matter, that you are employing physicians. If you want to grow volume and revenue, you need to change the physician experience with your healthcare organization.

Face it. Nothing happens unless you have a physicians order. No test. No surgery. No home health care. No specialty drug. No nothing.

To increase volume and revenue in this economy, where patients are putting off or delaying healthcare diagnosis and treatments, you need to break the mold. What will bring you the greatest Return on Marketing Investment (ROMI), running ads that tell consumers are how great you are because you just got an award? Which as a side note, research is now showing the consumer doesn't believe then anyway. Or, focusing considerable time, resources and energy on improving the physician experience across your entire organizational touch-points?

Its about their experience in admitting, treating and referring patients to your emergency room, hospital, pharmacy, surgical center or a home care agency, to name a few of the providers docs deal with on a daily basis. How easy is it for them to practice medicine in your facility? How many complaints do they get from their patients about you? How do you lessen the hassle factor for them to do what they want? Namely, practice medicine. Everyone is out there with the send to me, me, me, message.

More than your own perceived features and benefits.

Be ready to make changes in how you do things. When your physician liaison, account rep, or insert title here person comes back, and says he or she is finding obstacles that physicians are encountering in admitting or practicing medicine in your organization, be ready to make meaningful changes. If not, you're just wasting your time and money, sending out people to increase volume and revenue from a physician or multispecialty group. Nothing worse than over promising and under delivering.

And really, that's as far as I am going. If you don't know how to do this, then you need to hire me.

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Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Will There be Brand Conflict Between Traditional Healthcare Organizations and an ACO?

Have you considered the question of your brand, or brands, the ACO brand you may create, or as an ACO participant? This is really a much more important question than you may think. For some healthcare organizations, it won't be, as they have a highly developed brand architecture and strategy. For others, that haven't been paying as much attention to their brand architecture and strategy, it will.

I would surmise that large healthcare systems and payers will be ahead of the branding game, and able to seamlessly create and launch an ACO under their current brand umbrella. I think the brand challenge for healthcare systems, will be when they have to contract for services outside of their traditional system.

In those organizations that have more brands under the sun than stars in the galaxy, it will be a challenge supreme. That is what happens when there is no clear marketing leadership in most of these healthcare organizations. If you did the brand market research as well, you would probably find in these organizations, no clear brand recognition and brand confusion in the marketplace.

Creating a brand for your ACO or participation isn't just throwing a name and logo up. Some items you need to consider:

How does the ACO fit into the brand architecture of the organizations?

What will be the ACO brand impact on the existing organization? If you are reducing cost, providing higher quality medical services and better outcomes, you need to consider that impact on other populations served not in the ACO. If they are not recipients of all these ACO benefits in their care, regardless of payment model, you are in for a world of hurt.

Does your brand promise for the ACO fit in with the brand promise for the traditional healthcare organization, outside of the ACO?

Are you a house of brands, needing to create and implement a brand architecture, fixing all those service and clinical program line brands?

What are the resources you have committed to creating the ACO brand, its brand promise, brand value and brand awareness?

Did you consider the need for market research to fully understand you current brand position and how the ACO will make an impact on existing brands? Did you budget for that expense?

Are you ready for the expense of fixing you multiple brands, creating a clear, definable brand architecture and strategy?

Will you create and implement organizationally, a brand manual that everyone is accountable to follow?

Will senior management support marketing in being the "brand police"?

This list isn't all inclusive. But, you have to start somewhere. Sooner rather than later.

On another note, Healthcare Marketing Matters is now read monthly in 49 countries. With some of the request for information and comments I receive, the U.S.A. doesn't have sole ownership of cost and quality issues. Others around the world are facing the same things more or less. And from what I can tell, have been far more successful than us.

Medepage (you can find a link in my notable sites), is an Australian- based international healthcare job search site, has added a blog feed from Healthcare Marketing Matters to its site. Thank you Tony!

With the upcoming Thanksgiving Holiday next week in the U.S., I am not sure if there will be another post. The kids are off high school and the wife took off a couple of days. So maybe it's time to step back and recharge for a few days.

Thanks for reading

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Wednesday, November 9, 2011

How Will You Market Your ACO Solution?

Now that the final rules for ACOs have been released by CMS, it seems that there is more positive interest in the ACO model first proposed under PPACA. The basic premise remains the same, to engage the patient, aka the healthcare consumer, in the care and treatment decision making process. Medicare ACOs remain open networks, meaning that members can go outside the ACO for service.

The marketing challenge before you is to attract members to your ACO, engage and retain them.

You must be prepared to deliver an individualized experience that meets the needs of that patient. A mass customization, of your patient experience process, down to the individual level. One size does not fit all.

In entering the brave new world of ACOs, here are some things that you need to consider for marketing:

1.) Clear and easily stated Value Proposition. Not a mission statement, this is crucial for communications and focusing the message to members, employers, payers, government and community. Not flowery or full of jargon. It's your elevator speech that can be delivered in 30 seconds about your ACO, what you do and the value it brings. Twenty-five words max.

2.) Transparency and Quality dashboards. This is about improving care, using best practices, learning and improving as a system to the individual level, and by engaging the patient. If you do not plan to report back on at least a quarterly basis to your audiences, you will not be successful. You must be prepared to provide individual level utilization and quality patient reports, to engage the person in a meaningful way, to create change health behaviors, foster appropriate utilization of services and reduce costs.

3.) Voice of the Customer (VoC) program. You gave to be in constant contact and monitoring member attitudes, beliefs and reactions to you. VoC. It's all part of the patient experience program and process. These are open networks, if you are not fully and completely customer focused, trouble will ensue and it won't be pretty,

4) Ongoing customer experience management program and process. This isn't just about delivering a exceptional customer service at the point of care. You must identify all customer touch-points, from beginning contact to end point, and mange that experience across all of those touch-points. Here is what a customer experience program looks like:

5.) Highly integrated marketing plans. You will need to integrate your messaging like never before across the traditional, online, mobile and social media platforms. You can't afford not too. You also need a presence in all platforms. One that is sustainable over time through dedicated marketing resource allocation. One shot ads won't work; develop sustainable, integrated campaigns.

6) Comprehensive member communications. Ongoing communications beyond health and wellness tips. Communications that are individualized, engage the patient and are meaningful. They must also be delivered the way that the member wants them, be it on an Ipad, member web portal, email, hard copy etc. One size does not fit all.

7.) White pares and case studies. This is about transparency and quality that is data driven. It's about accountability to your members, payers, employers and physicians. Medical device, pharma and specialty pharmacies have been engaged in white papers and case studies driven by data for years. And it works. But, it will make you uncomfortable if you have never engaged in this type of activity and communication vehicle .

8) Marketing leadership. Marketing especially in most, not all hospitals and health systems, needs to move from the basement and take its seat at the senior management table, reporting directly to the CEO.  Marketing now needs to be seen in hospitals and health systems as a defined, accountable strategy , that is fully integrated into the business plan. That doesn't happen if marketing is not present and engaged in the discussions at the highest possible level.

9.)Return on Marketing Investment (ROMI). In an ACO, there is just no doing things because someone wants them. Every action must be measureable against a defined goal and objective. Every action must have a call to action. Every action must evaluated against a predetermined ROMI. If you are not held accountable and your activities are not measured, then how will you know you were effective and produced result?. What gets measured get done.

10.) Marketing automation systems. Need I say more. Marketing needs these systems to understand markets, track activities and campaigns, as well as produce various marketing reports and dashboards. This really in concept, is no different than financial reporting, clinical reporting, quality reporting systems etc. Capital budgets will have to be allocated to marketing in order to automate marketing functions and planning.

11.) Marketing staff evaluation. This is probably the hardest activity, but few have the level of staff with the expertise and capability, to operate in an ACO environment. You don't know, what you don't know. Clayton Christensen understands and says, " ACOs are a disruptive business model and they must compete for consumers. Providers that are not accountable and transparent will lose, and those that meet patient needs and improve care will win." Your marketing staffing, organizational structures and resources will be to be changed and adjusted in order to meet new market conditions.

Is there more? Yes. But you have to start somewhere. Marketing can't be just an after-thought. Too much is at stake.

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Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Have You Listened to Your Automated Voice Answering Attendant Recently?

How often do you call in from an outside landline or cell phone, to your organization too experience what a customer does when calling? This isn't such a strange question. We all go through the evaluation process, seek the system we believe will reduce our cost, improve response and service, which will hopefully result in less dropped calls, increase customer or patient satisfaction and revenue.

But you know, sometimes we make the system so complicated, that we forget why someone calls us.

For this I have coined Mike's Law: "The smaller the organization, easier to use is the automated answering solution. The larger the organization, the more complex and harder the automated answering solution is to navigate." Use is very different than navigate. One implies simplicity, the other complexity.

Let me give you a couple of examples.

In calling a local hospital when a family member was hospitalized, it was really very straight forward. Dial in, hear the message, dial the extension or room number if you know it, or wait for an attendant to come on the line and assist.

I have found that most of the time you can short circuit the whole thing and just dial 0, get to the live person, and to where you need to be.

Then there is the most complicated system, integrating your existing customer data into the call, because you are a current customer. Then it plays what seems the game of 20 questions, tries to push you entirely to an automated solution to solve your problem, that could be resolved in less than 60 seconds if you could get to a live person.

When you keep trying to get to a live person, that systems automated response, keeps attempting to push you to an automated solution. Even when, I indicated every way that I could, three times (yes three separate calls), that I wanted to talk to a service representative before hanging up. The best part of the encounters was the "voice" telling me, "I can't help you, goodbye".

It was like being in a Monty Python episode.

From a marketing standpoint, your automated answering attendant is an integral touch-point in the customer experience chain. It may even be the first experience that someone has with your organization. But, how many times has marketing been included in selecting the automated answering attendant, beyond, writing the copy for the greeting, options menu and submenus?

Marketing should be involved in nearly every decision you make that effects your customers and patients from an customer/patient experience standpoint.

It's seemingly the rare organization that considers the experience and needs of customers in selecting the system. Its more based on what the needs of the organization and solutions to cost and headcount issues, than what will make the customer experience exceptional.

The moral of the story.

Consider the customer experience and the impact both positive and negative, that your automated answering system will have on a caller. You have a clear choice. You can make a customer evangelist with a great experience, or create a customer with a negative experience and view of your company, no matter what good you have done, simply because, you couldn't answer the phone.

After all, that old land-line technology, which even cell phone users will access is get to you, usually is the start of a positive or negative customer/patient experience.

Which one do you want?

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