Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Have You Made Your Healthcare Marketing Resolutions for 2012?

New Year's Resolutions, for the most part, play an important role in most everyone's life. To lose weight. Live life more fully. Be a better husband, wife, or significant other etc. Value more what we have in our family and friends. And many more that I have missed. But have you ever considered New Year' Resolutions as a part of your business and managerial life?

So my last Healthcare Marketing Matters blog for 2012, is about New Year Marketing Resolutions. My own Top 10 list to get things started. What are yours?

10. Educate my organization about the value of my department and work. I will lead and prove my departments ROI.

9. Continue to scan other industries for their marketing successes. I will learn about them, adapt them to my industry, and implement successfully.

8. Expand my marketing education through webinars, seminars and conferences. There is always something new on the horizon to learn.

7. Integrate traditional, online and social marketing strategies. All are complementary to one another and drive multiple successes.

6. Innovate, discover the needs of my customers and drive consistent brand messaging.

5. Foster a spirit of and demand marketing excellence in my department. Good enough is not good enough. I owe nothing less to my organization and my customers.

4. Create brand zealots, and show what the brand promise, brand reputation and brand equity mean to my organization in revenue terms.

3. Stop using the words "unique", "state-of-the-art", and anything that is considered "buzz word" terminology in my marketing communications. Unique can be duplicated easily. State-of-the-art refers to yesterday's systems as things change so fast. Buzz words quickly fall out of favor.

2. Bridge the divide between sales and marketing and in doing so, together we will drive value, customer satisfaction and create customer evangelists all the while reaching new revenue heights.

1. Serve and be humble, for working in healthcare is a privilege, not a right.

Finally. I would like to thank everyone that read these posts over the past year. Your comments, suggestion and readership is very much appreciated. Healthcare Marketing Matters is now read monthly in 52 countries around the world. Maybe we aren't as different as we may all like to think when it comes to healthcare.

Happy New Year Everyone. Have a healthy, safe and prosperous year.

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Wednesday, December 21, 2011

How Do You Handle a PR Crisis Communications Event?

Sometimes, another organizations PR missteps, are an opportunity to learn how not to handle a PR crisis. Just ask the Chicago Bears, who historically have mishandled every PR crisis of the last 10 years, including the one the week of December 12. Yes that right, this one went on for a whole week, because they messed up right from the beginning.

Is your response to dive for under the desk? Do you send out poorly prepared underlings, to face reporters and the public? Does leadership, make proud pronouncements at the outset, that could come back to haunt you because at this point, you just don't know? Do you react as an arrogant organization with the, "How dare you question us response"? Do you think that it can never happen to you? Do you have a crisis communications plan in place?

Every healthcare organizations will face a PR crisis.

How you handle the communications, will determine the amount of brand damage, and length of time people remember. In this age of social media and the Internet, there is no, "We just need to wait 3 days to weather the storm", anymore.

Many times organizations respond with:
Lack of organizational understanding of the need to handle a situation as crisis communications;
Different, conflicting senior management messages;
Testy responses to questions;
Lack of preparation by speakers in understanding the seriousness of the communication;
Poor speaker body language;
No overriding organizational message;
Organizational arrogance;
Lost messaging opportunity ;
Appearance of blaming others;
The organization appearing not accountable;
The organization furthering to anger the media;
No response at all with the "it's just a three day story and will go away";
Sending out unprepared underlings to face the media;

Is it not true that any press is good press! Every day, someone somewhere faces a crisis communications issue which is handled poorly. Just look at the Chicago Bears for the past week. You need to learn from others and be prepared.

It's not hard, and should be part of your marketing strategy for 2012, as a separate communications plan. By following these planning guides, you can weather any storm, limit reputation, revenue and ultimately brand image damage.

Understand the nature of the situation;
Be transparent;
Be proactive in how you intend to address the situation;
Limit the amount of time senior leaders i.e. the CEO or president speak;
Make sure everyone has the same message and is on board;
Develop strong organizational messaging of care and concern;
Don’t scapegoat, blame others or give the appearance of blaming others;
Don’t tell people things will change when things are not changing;
Practice, practice, practice;
Bring in an outside PR firm for another viewpoint;
Understand that your reputation is built up over a long time and can be destroyed in a few short minutes;
Remember that it is not just a three day story;
Watch your body language;
Know your facts about past performance, reporters will be prepared;
Learn from others;
Each year engage in a day of media training for executives. Dealing with the media is a learned skill that the majority of executives do not have. It is not as easy as it looks.

Most importantly, engage the media all the time all year round. Why? Because, media relations is a year round activity. Not just when you have a problem. By establishing positive media relations with the good you do, you won't necessarily be cut any slack in a bad situation, but you will get the opportunity to tell your side. You won't if you don't have good media relations already in place.

Plan now for that crisis communications event, and you will better off as a prepared healthcare organization in 2012.

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Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Will Healthcare Provider Debt Be The Next Financial Crisis?

The other day, I asked the question about hospital and health system debt as being the next financial crisis on several groups on LinkedIn. The response has been a resounding thud. The reason for the question was based on an article in Crain's Chicago Business, Monday, December 5, 2011, "New hospitals building debt", by Kristen Schorsch. It really got me to start considering the broader hospital and healthcare debt question in general, as healthcare continues to change in such dynamic ways.

And I believe that the 800 pound gorilla in the room, locally and nationally, is hospital and other healthcare provider debt.

It is no longer just a question of having an individual AAA rating.

When you view the changes in the healthcare reimbursement from Medicare and Medicaid. Declining admissions. Changes in reimbursement from production-based to quality-based. Payers introducing pricing competition, though user-friendly tools, which allow healthcare consumers to compare price of tests procedures and surgeries, etc., and know their co-pays instantly. Payers and governments not paying for never events. No reimbursement for readmissions. Employers choosing defined contribution models, letting employees choose their plan, incentivizing employees for prescription adherence and wellness and introducing financial penalties for poor health behaviors. The emergence of retail healthcare, retail workplace clinics and insurance. Falling investment income. Declining Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement. It all makes for a very uncertain outlook for healthcare debt repayment.

The biggest change is, that many of these models are designed to keep people out of the hospital.

The hospital is really becoming the last setting for care delivery. Moving from the top of the food chain to the bottom.

And that is just the tip of the iceberg.

When you consider that there are over 600 specialty drugs in the pipeline that treat complex and chronic medical conditions, that will place further volume and revenue pressures on healthcare providers. Adherence to the drugs will keep individuals out of the hospital.

Infused or injected, these drugs can be administer in the home or in an ambulatory infusion center. And specialty pharmacies and infusion centers are popping up like weeds. They will take business from hospitals, health systems and others. They are already doing so.

What do you think would happen, if all the remote medical monitoring capabilities that NASA has developed for the space program and International Space Station, were available to the average person in their home?

Though the truly empowered and involved healthcare consumer is still a few years away, today, a savvy consumer, by spending a little time and effort, can find the lowest cost option for diagnostic testing and treatment. Potentially never setting a foot in a hospital or hospital-based outpatient service for care.

Most healthcare leadership are following the, this is what has worked in the past business development and planning rules. Build a new hospital or replacement hospital; add a new patient bed tower. Develop another clinical service line and so on. Instituting 25-30 key objectives to achieve in a strategic plan. Really?

While healthcare executives and professionals answer the question in a LinkedIn group about what the hospital of the future will look like, lost in the discussion, given the disruptive nature of all these changes, is whether or not the patients will even be available to fill the beds.

In my opinion, the next big financial crisis could be hospital debt.

Has healthcare become "to big to fail"?

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Wednesday, December 7, 2011

What Are Your Customers, Patients, Doctors and Employees Saying?

Customer Generated Media (CGM). It can be a great unknown. It can be helpful. It can be harmful. It can be your best friend, or your worse nightmare. It has the power to influence thousands, if not millions, in this mobile social media aware society we live in. CGM can make your brand the greatest on the earth. It can send you to the ash heap of history.

Anybody can blog.

Anybody can do a video.

Anybody can start a viral email campaign.

Anybody can create a facebook page.

Sorry to say this, but not everyone thinks you doing the great job that you think you are.

If your marketing department is not monitoring CGM and your customer experience from a brand perspective, then you and your specialty pharmacy, payer, hospital, physician practices, or any healthcare organization is at risk. People are not afraid any longer to say things publically.

It means that in the age of the Internet, disgruntled consumers and patients, unhappy employees, media, anybody, can opinionate about their experiences, post photos, interviews and show to the world how good or bad you are.

Anyone with a computer and Internet connection can create CGM. Doesn’t matter if what is written is true or false. The world doesn’t care. And those who read it will believe it.

Look at: Comcastmustdie.com; Ihatedell.net; Technorati.com; Youtube.com; MrConsumer.com, all examples of CGM. And it could be you tomorrow.

If you don’t know what your consumers are saying about you or your competition for that matter, you are losing control of your brand.

You operate in a virtual marketplace where consumers know more than about you than you realize.

You lose in a customer/patient driven fast-break. Disgruntled consumer creates Consumer Generated Media, and is picked up by mass media- print and electronic. You won’t even know what hit you.

Monitor CGM like you do your competitors and you can possibly prevent being a victim, limit potential damage and improve the customer patient experience in the process.

Welcome to the age where customers and patients are the new paparazzi.

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