The die is cast and the way forward never more clear. Value-based payment, physician integration, bundled payments, population health, demand management, ACOs, P4P structures evolving and leading the transformation of healthcare as we know it. All of which is followed by the slow and painful demise of fee-for-service payments. Enter now into the reality of healthcare where quality, accountability, reduced care fragmentation, value for the price paid and innovation are king.
And with great change comes great opportunity.
How do you market in a time of upheaval and charge? Especially as healthcare providers must compete on outcome transparency, quality and cost. A triple threat and uncharted territory. Outcomes data will be the driver and available to the consumer to make an informed choice. A monumental shift in the market place of who controls the information. What worked in the past won't work tomorrow.
Your message needs to be clear and concise, echoing your brand promise and the value that you bring though your care system to the consumer or the insurer. Focus on outcomes not high-tech or touchy- feely. Consumers are too sophisticated for such a simple message.
How you position yourself a vie others is critical and you get one shot. You need to do it right. Remember, you can only take one of three positions in the market, superior, equivalent or inferior. The initial positioning of your brand is one of the most critical tasks you face. With an informed consumer bearing more of the cost, you have one shot to get it right. No do over's anymore.
Make sure your brand name and logo is consistent throughout the organization. Commit to excellence in customer service and create a Voice of the Customer program to establish and maintain a continuous feedback loop with your key customers. This is not lip service; this is real change. Failure to do so will label you as inferior. Poor customer service is no longer acceptable.
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.
Use patient testimonials in everything you do and physician testimonials for everything related to referring physicians. Make sure your docs are doing their part in outreach to other physicians and getting medical information and the patient returned to the primary care doc as quickly as possible.
Understand from the patients and family's viewpoint the entire customer experience from beginning to end and make sure that execution is flawless. Out-service the other hospitals and clinics. Shortened waiting time, faster results, technology you have etc. The object is to turn patients as much as possible into customer evangelists. Word-of-mouth referrals but you can only do that through service experience. I did series of posts on Customer Experience Management, read those they should help
Out price where you can the other hospitals for the insurance payers. Lock down the network, make sure you accept all the plans that your patient and referring docs accept. Make sure in your materials that you list all of the insurance plans you accept. Work the payers to set yourself up as the preferred provider. And make a big deal of that. Get the payers and insurance companies to do some heavy lifting for you by getting them to let their members know you are a preferred provider.
One area that is greatly lacking in healthcare marketing, is an intelligent dialogue on your outcomes with your audiences. Payors', pharma and medical device, have recognized this and are leading in the use of quality and outcomes data to drive decision-making. It is time for the rest of the healthcare industry to catch up.
Use outcome data where you have it.
Population Health Education
Patient education is a great medium to reinforce your brand, your brand promise and create customer evangelists. But that of course assumes, that you are doing original work in patient education. And not, just throwing together one-page disease information sheets, or using information from associations or pharma. Just because you throw some patient education materials in a box, doesn't mean that you are accomplishing anything. Other than your materials possibly reaching the recycle bin.
This is by no means a knock on any association or pharma materials, for they are great sources of information and advice. They just lack an organizational imprint of who you are, your brand and brand promise, to be able to showcase the breadth and depth of your knowledge and expertise. And that imprint doesn't mean putting your logo on the materials.
Besides the pervasive fear of competitors seeing what you are doing, patient education materials need to be on your web site and in easily accessible and downloadable formats. You can use QR codes in your mobile marketing that take individuals to the patient education section. Reference them in your communications programs. Build a marketing strategy around them to differentiate you from other providers.
Hold wellness classes and seminars on topics that people want to learn about, even use the Internet to do doctor led webcast.
Direct mail, it still works.
In advertisements, make sure that there is a photo of the physicians for the service and patient testimonials about that doctors care and treatment. Use outcomes data.
Advertise that you are more than just a hospital, but a comprehensive healthcare center that does many things.
Set your docs up as expert subject matter content experts for local print and electronic news outlets. It never hurts, crank out press releases when you can.
Make sure your employees deliver an very high level of customer/patient service. Look at your patient satisfaction scores and see where you can improve.
Work with your admitting physicians to make it as easy as possible for them to admit patients to your hospital or seek treatment for outpatient services such as lab, ex-ray etc.
Use Social Media
Don't forget social media and how powerful a medium it is to create customer evangelists.
Keep in constant communication with your patients/consumers/members. Use all the tools available. You are only limited by your imagination. Facebook, twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn etc. People are wired today and expecting the same of you. Integrate social media in all that you do.
Make sure your web site is user friendly and easy to scheduled appointments or pay bills and contain wellness information.
Create a loyalty program. This is not a taboo and except for government program beneficiaries in Medicare and Medicaid or other government funded programs. You can create a loyalty program. Fact is not all patients are the same so you might as well take advantage of it before others do. It can be a powerful differentiator. Step out and be creative.
Understanding and Execute Demand Management
The hospital is no longer the center of the healthcare universe. 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. The days are rapidly slipping away where marketing will be driving demand to fill hospital beds. You will drive demand to the appropriate place and location of service, at a price the market is willing to pay.
Live long and prosper.
Michael Krivich is an internationally followed healthcare marketing blogger with over 4,000 monthly pages views in over 52 countries worldwide. He is founder of the michael J group, a healthcare marketing consultancy dedicated to creating value through strategic marketing for hospitals and health system regardless of payment mechanism, either fee-for-service or value-based to increase market-share, revenue , brand and demonstrate actual return on marketing investment. Michael is a Fellow, American College of Healthcare Executives and a Professional Certified Marketer, American Marketing Association.