Sunday, December 9, 2012

Where does healthcare marketing go from here?

If you think because reform and the Affordable Care Act that marketing is just an unnecessary expense and you don’t need to invest resources, then you are in for a rude awakening. In the coming days, weeks, months and years ahead, marketing will become as important a department in healthcare organizations as another other department.

Here are the 10 market factors impacting why you need an “A” level marketing operation. Now.

1. Brand. Your healthcare brand will take more of a front and center stage in the new healthcare environment. It’s not just the logo or how displayed. It’s now about what your brand stands for, your brand promise and how you deliver on that each and every day in every encounter. Do you even know what your brand promise is?

2. Competition. Here it comes on a lot of different levels. On price. On outcomes. On organizational transparency. On patient experience. Long gone are the days of build it and they will come. Also gone are the days when you could get way with talking about private rooms, internet access, HD TVs, or how you are such wonderful people because you care. Patients, consumer’s employers and others are demanding information along meaningful attributes.

3. Patient experience. Still a top concern of senior leadership, patient experience across all touch-points needs to be improved. Not just the single clinical service un-integrated internal focus that most healthcare organizations take. Patient experience is about the totality and only improving one aspect of that experience leaves you vulnerable in other areas. It’s also about market research in understanding every detail and facet of that experience from the patient’s viewpoint, not yours. And that only comes from talking to your healthcares consumers.

4. Patient engagement. Different than experience, engagement is about actually developing a meaningful relationship with your healthcare consumers to build loyalty, change health behaviors and keep them from going out of network in a risk-sharing arrangement like an ACO to receive care. How do you expect to engage patients when you still send information “To our neighbors at” direct mail?

5. Demand management. 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.

6. The networked healthcare consumer. The networked healthcare consumer is someone who has an intense curiosity about their health condition, expects to have an active role in making healthcare decisions and this is most important, they want control of their health information. They actively use the internet, social media , blogs, web site, apps and seek out others. They read and study about their health condition. They ask questions and will seek out alternatives. They look at providers from a quality standpoint and make judgments based on outcomes information. They want an answer to their own needs. The patient is asking what is their ROI by using you?

7. Physician Optimization and Integration. Marketing? Really? While you focus on integrating the newly employed physician or group practice and making them or keeping them profitable, how are you integrating them culturally into your healthcare system? Scant attention is devoted to such matters, but they are not trivial by any means. Culture is important and marketing should be playing a leading role in that acculturation process. Besides, you still have to work to continuously build the practice, so marketing better be there leading that effort. I have seen the physician practice operations consultants say they are strategic marketers and can do that. The great majority are clueless about marketing strategy and confuse strategy with tactics. Keep them in operations and out of marketing.

8. Marketing Strategy. Strategy and effective marketing operations is everything today in healthcare marketing. And if you have a bad strategy or no strategy, combined with marketing operational deficiencies, then no amount of tactical execution will overcome ineptitude. If you don't have a good strategy, any old road will get you to where you want to go, with significant inefficient resources utilization in cost, human capital and loss of return. Some of the verticals in the healthcare industry, are notorious for no strategy and just plain bad marketing operations, following the herd and just keeping the internal audience happy with what they want.

9. Return on Marketing Investment. No longer a nice to have, its a got to have. Unless you are measuring the outcomes of your marketing efforts along the dimensions of financial indicators, market share, brand, satisfaction, experience, brand, and its impact on organizational profitability, then why are you doing marketing "things". Marketing accountability is no different than accountability for any other part of your organization. And oh by the way, that accountability doesn't mean nice shiny marketing awards.

10. Marketing leadership. It's is time for marketing to get back to the leadership table. The healthcare marketing leader needed today must have a clear understanding of healthcare, clinical and business operations, as well as the business and financial plan. The healthcare marketing leader should be able to articulate those plans and integrate them into the strategic marketing plan of the organization. They should be able to step in and hold their own in discussions with CEOs, COO, CFOs and Boards. And that means holding those discussions in their terms. That requires a broad and deep understanding of healthcare operations to supplement your marketing education and experience.

You have a lot of work to do. No time like the present to start.

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.

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