Sunday, February 24, 2013

How is the consumerization of healthcare changing your marketing?

As it stacks up in 2013, we will see monumental shifts in the healthcare landscape as healthcare organizations of all types seek ways to not only survive, but thrive. Technological and care delivery innovations, specialty pharmaceuticals, healthcare consumerism and reform are coming together to create the perfect storm. Hospitals who were once at the top of the food chain are now are the bottom swimming upstream to regain top position. Some will make and some won't.

My bet is with those healthcare organizations that recognize the role of the healthcare consumer in all of this and changes their marketing operation, message and resource allocation to engage the healthcare consumer will succeed.

It's a tough balancing act when you have never really had to market too or communicate with the healthcare consumer, aka the patient in meaningful human terms. Terms that grow your brand, build stronger customer connections and answers the question, what's in it for them to use you?

So why should this be on leaderships radar screen, as if they didn't have enough to worry about already?

I can give you five reason why:

1. Retail medicine; 2. Price competition; 3. Healthcare reform; 4.Consumer choice; 5. Social media

I am not going to go into the detail of these five reason, that's a post for another day. And you are all bright people who get it. But these five market shifts are changing how healthcare organizations will do business. And if your marketing is not changing, then what follows are the critical steps you need to take too leverage and move ahead to survive and thrive.

1. Market Research

Do the research on healthcare consumer behavior, what motivates them, how to communicate with them, how they make purchase decisions and price points they are willing to accept. Healthcare consumerism screams for market research. It's about the healthcare consumer, their needs, expectations, experience and engagement. And thinking you know about them is not the same as having the quantitative date that knows them.

2. Business Savvy

Make you healthcare marketing department business savvy. Out with the marketing communications focus, though you still need the marcom talent, in with an understanding of finance, project management, and operations so that the marketing leader can be transformational. Going from saying "we care and provide world-class care" to building brand, engagement and experience as well as measuring that change in real terms requires a deep understanding of the organization on many levels in order to be successful in the market.

3. Resource Commitment

Resource marketing appropriately. Marketing is not free in capital and human terms. And to compete with retail medicine and pricing competition, you are going to have to spend money. Money to engage the healthcare consumer in a meaningful way. Money to improve their experience. Money to build your brand. Money to increase awareness. Presence builds preference.

4. Agility

Be nimble. Be agile. Be quick. Keep repeating that over and over again. Healthcare marketing needs to move from the tried and true to the exceptional, the innovative, the engaged and the motivational. You can't reach the healthcare consumer on an emotional level to make the right choices, treatment and lifestyle decisions as well as purchase decisions in your favor unless you are sufficiently engaged. And purchase decisions in this case can mean not going out of your network for care.

5. Integration

Integrate your marketing plans deeply within the organization. The healthcare consumer is at the center of all that you do. Pay special attention to social media. Social media is not a billboard but an efficient and effective engagement strategy that enhances all the other marketing channels you use.

6. The multiplicity of markets

Remember that not everyone will be in an ACO or a patient medical home. Not everyone will have employer sponsored insurance. Some won't have health insurance of any kind. Not everyone will be in expanded Medicaid programs. Small business will decrease employees hours to not have too provide health insurance. Large employers will create the own exchanges or go to defined contributions and tell employees to go shopping. Oh, and Baby Boomers will demand the healthcare experience be delivered their way, on their terms, at their price. And retail medicine is here to stay and will expand. Tailor you marketing accordingly. One size does not fit all.

That light at the end of the tunnel is healthcare consumerism and a Walgreens ACO may be coming soon to a location near you.

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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