Now that the election is over and the course is more clearly outlined for implementation of the provisions of the Affordable Care Act, you need to start thinking about demand management heading to 2014. Not demand generation, but demand management.
The role of healthcare marketing departments for the most part has been demand generation. Put "heads in the beds" and get paid for the production of care. Now, with a potential 40 million plus healthcare consumers having some type of insurance, the pent-up demand for healthcare services will be unleashed. That's good from the standpoint of the market in meeting the needs of healthcare consumers, but bad from the market standpoint of insufficient capacity to meet that demand.
Healthcare marketing departments are going to have to learn how to manage demand and move that demand for service to the appropriate care setting and medical practitioner. Market some services and de-market others.
And that is not an easy thing to do, because believe it or not, you are still going to have some demand generation but it will be very different that today. Not everyone will be in an ACO or medical home. Not everyone will be in Medicare or Medicaid. Not everyone will have employer sponsored insurance. Some will buy insurance in the insurance exchanges. Some may not even have insurance at all.
So while you are learning to more effectively to mange service demand in an environment of insufficient capacity with a healthcare consumer and patient who may be facing long waits to receive care, you will be generating demand for some healthcare consumers.
The demand generation part will come from targeting those individuals who have the means to pay privately and go outside of the normal channels to receive care. Private individuals who don't want to wait. American's hate to wait in queues anyway. Its cultural thing here. Have long waits for something or even rationing it, and people always find a way to get around it. So, healthcare marketers need to take advantage and attract those "private payers". It's not being mean or cruel, it is just a fact of life. But not every healthcare provider will be able to accomplish that feat.
Most healthcare organizations really aren't ready for the sophisticated marketing they will need to employ to manage demand. It's not a flip of the switch from marketing "things look pretty" and having a nice facebook page or web site, to understanding the complexity of the healthcare consumer and the demand for healthcare services. It takes a while to build that capacity. Your hardest decision may be understanding that you may not have the marketing operation resources, capital and human in place to get the job done. Its senior leadership admitting they don't know really all that much about marketing. And elevating marketing to the senior management table to bring that expertise.
Welcome to the new reality of healthcare marketing where demand management trumps making things look pretty and being an afterthought.
Michael Krivich is an internationally followed healthcare marketing blogger with over 5,000 monthly pages views in over 52 countries worldwide on Healthcare Marketing Matters. 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. Like us on facebook at the michael J group.