Thursday, January 26, 2012

Where is the patient experience and satisfaction in your healthcare marketing?

Patient experience and satisfaction is no longer a nice too have, but a got to have in healthcare. Difficult to achieve and tough to beat once you have it, experience and satisfaction with your medical products, clinical services and processes regardless of the vertical, be it specialty pharmacy, medical device, pharma, hospitals, doctors etc., will drive revenue. Revenue from the standpoint of Pay-for-Performance (P4P) programs and volume from consumers aka patients, selecting you in a very commoditized and provider undifferentiated healthcare market place. As you create your networks, Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs), Medical Homes (MHs) and other yet undefined organizations, you have the opportunity to "get it right" this time.

The healthcare consumer of today, will view your services as: value= f(cost, quality, satisfaction) as compared to the near past where value= f(cost, quality). Value here is the defining moment and is a function of cost, quality and satisfaction with you.

Why is it important?

High levels of experience and satisfaction are a powerful differentiator on your market.

Done correctly, your experience improvement and satisfaction program becomes the ongoing Voice of the Customer (VoC) program to drive real organizational change.

It is a strategic and tactical edge for your brand and your marketing communication efforts.

Think customer evangelization.

Think of the power of a high-quality experience and exemplary satisfaction, and what that can do for your marketing campaigns. What it can do in your effort to differentiate.

The choice is yours. The marketing implications, strategies and tactics are clear. Lead or be left behind.

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Thursday, January 19, 2012

How are you marketing your healthcare services to retired Baby Boomer's?

Heard an interesting statistic the other day, on a commercial no less. So for the discussion lets assume it's true. (Remember those FTC Truth-in-Advertising regulations?) That there are 10,000 people retiring every day. Kind of makes you stop and wonder, how do you reach out to a group that has changed every aspect of life and products as they moved through time? And I think that means that they won't necessarily need healthcare services, until the later years of their retirement. Or at the very least, wanting the ones you offer and the way you offer them today.

So instead of future happy days the docs are busy, the ER is bustling and the beds are filled, it may be more of asking where is everyone?

This group is healthier. Expects product and services to conform to their will and in the way they want them delivered. Expects an exceptional level of service and experience. Expects to be involved in the decision-making process. Values freedom, choices and uses mobile technologies. Does its homework and asks questions.

Which means, your healthcare marketing strategy and tactics probably needs to change.

That means the way you approach markets, the marketing channels you use, the way you communicate, your brand message, your value proposition, the patient experience, reporting on quality that is transparent and useful, as well as being able to listen to what healthcare consumers are telling you and responding accordingly. May even mean changing what healthcare services you offer.

With all the new payment models, combined with diagnostic and treatment alternatives to traditional hospital-based services, in more convenient and experience friendly settings, talking at people isn't doing your healthcare brand any favors. Especially when an aging population is used to choice and having it their way.

So as you think about your healthcare marketing challenges in 2012 and the years ahead, just remember that your audience is changing, expecting more and may even be using you less than at any other time in history.

Which also may mean, that healthcare marketing could be a significant piece of the puzzle that is missing from your business strategy.

After all, both my 89 year old Aunt's are on facebook and LinkedIn.

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Friday, January 13, 2012

Is it time to tell consumers how they can afford your healthcare services?

Two reports came out this week. One about the slow growth of healthcare costs. The other, that people are delaying treatment, not filling prescriptions, nor taking meds etc., for a variety of reasons. Some reasons for this include the economy, loss of employment and health insurance, more high deductible plans, employers moving to defined contribution and so on.

Volume is down. Revenue is down. Marketing scaled back in some cases, or increased, attempting to drive selection and utilization from people who just may not be that interested because simply, they can't afford it.

Don't take me wrong. You have to run marketing campaigns. The economy is slowly turning around and there is a lot of pent up healthcare demand. You have to maintain brand image and awareness. You have to maintain your position in the marketplace.

But, is messaging all the shiny new equipment and facilities, "best docs", awards etc., the way to entice selection, leading to volume and revenue increases?

I don't think so.

If your audience has no interest in you because they can't afford it, then maybe you need to adjust your messaging. Become creative in communicating how people can afford your healthcare services.

That doesn't mean advertising and campaigning that you have all these charity care programs, (it may help you with your State's Attorney General and legislatures hot buttons regarding hospital charity care expenditures) but by being creative and developing alternatives so that individuals can become your healthcare consumer.

Take a look at Walgreens, CVSCaremark and Rite Aid on how they are tackling this issue. Let's get past shall we, the "well, they are drug stores pushing pills so it's different" argument. The point is, is that they have seen the challenges in the marketplace that healthcare consumers are having. They have responded with affordable healthcare solutions. And it's not only pills, it's physical exams, some tests and vaccinations. Specialty pharmacies have answered the bell. So have pharmaceutical manufacturers and others.

As healthcare providers, you need to start messaging solutions to the healthcare consumers health issues. You need to change your focus and attention from the here we are doing great things, to here we are and this is how you can afford these great things. That means new programs, new services, all focused around convenience, assistance with the cost and affordability issues, coupled with real demonstrated quality.

If you want to stop "surviving" and grow revenue and volume, you have to provide affordable healthcare solutions. It's like the old marketing lesson and question about railroads. Are you in the railroad business or the transportation business? Same for hospitals and others. Are you in the hospital business, or the healthcare business? You can't say you're in the healthcare business and only message about the hospital etc.

Today's healthcare market demands that you understand the needs of your consumers and develop those services and programs that allow them to afford you.

Do it now and you will have a customer for life.

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Thursday, January 5, 2012

Where is the data to back up your ad claims?

This isn't hypothetical anymore. For better or for worse, we, as a healthcare marketing professionals, continue to use terminology in our campaigns like best doctors, centered around you, university level healthcare, world class, highest care, etc., all in an effort to differentiate us from the guy down the street. Attempting to create the brand impression that we somehow we are different, without every really saying anything. Except for making a lot of claims.

So now, a savvy healthcare consume, grabs the ad, and walks into your faculty and says, "Show me". "Show me the data that proves the claims that you are making." "Show me the patient satisfaction scores." "Show me the data that proves you provide University level healthcare." "Show me how your outcomes are different from the guy down the street."

Healthcare is entering a new phase in 2012. A phase with the actual implementation of ACOs, Medicare and private. The Supreme Court ruling on the PPACA. Budget reductions and sure to follow Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement reductions. And that is just to name a few.

This also means that as a starter to attract patients, aka the healthcare consumer, you will need more than trite slogans or messaging that make you feel good in your marketing campaigns. You are going to have to talk about outcomes whether you like it or not. And that means having the data available to prove your claims.

Besides, just because you're a Not-for-Profit, doesn't mean that you are not subject to the same Truth-in-Advertising laws and regulations under the Federal Trade Commission like everyone else. And for far too long, many NFP healthcare organizations have gotten away with it.

With the Justice Department taking a more aggressive stance by looking more closely at healthcare mergers and affiliations, your advertising becomes a focal point.

So really, it's time to clean it up. Time to stop viewing healthcare marketing as advertising and making things look pretty. Time to move marketing from the basement to the C-Suite. You're not a cottage industry anymore.

To not do so, is taking financial, brand and image risks that are avoidable.

What will be your reaction to a consumer walking in your doors and holding up that ad and saying, "Show me"?

Welcome to 2012, the year when things really change.

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