Sunday, March 24, 2013

Can hospitals go it alone in an era of reform with average marketing?

There is an article in the March, 2013 issue of Hospitals and Health Networks, "Is going it ALONE still an option for your hospital? YES!". It covers briefly the mission critical decisions and viewpoints, but sadly, it left untouched any discussion of marketing's role in all of this. So not being able to leave well enough alone, I started thinking about what role and competencies of marketing that would be needed to be in play to remain an independent, stand-alone hospital in an era of reform.

First challenge, the current state of hospital marketing overall is not good enough and needs leadership, vision and new competencies. The second and even harder challenge is that hospital leadership is clueless about healthcare consumerism, how you market to the healthcare consumer and the marketing investment required, but they think they do. The third major challenge is admitting to the "I don't know healthcare consumer marketing" challenge in number two.

If you're lacking the following, then it's going to be even more of a challenge.

Marketing Leadership

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 healthcare consumer-driven or market-driven organization if the skills and experiences of marketing is not at the leadership table.

Managing the Patient Experience

If anyone is prepared to understand and manage the patient experience across the organization it's marketing. Hospitals in particular are making the mistake of putting clinical or operations in charge of patient experience. Patient experience means just that- understanding what that patient experiences is at all touch points. And then changing or managing that experience to its fullest potential for the benefit of the patient and the organization. Patient experience is an integrating process across the entire organization internally and externally. One organization to the patient, one patient to the organization. It is not simply another quality program or flavor of the day.

Understanding and Executing Demand Management

The hospital is no longer the center of the healthcare universe. In an era of reform the last place anyone will go for treatment is the hospital. Marketing needs to understand what the demand for healthcare services will be, where 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. Gone are the days where marketing departments will be driving demand to fill hospital beds. They will drive demand to the appropriate place and location of service and it may not be a hospital or hospital based ambulatory service.

Communicating With the Networked Patient

The networked patient 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?

Healthcare Consumer Value Marketing

With healthcare changing so rapidly, is it time to move healthcare marketing beyond " it's all about us" to "it's all about you" through focused brand architecture containing a clear and compelling brand promise that proves every day the value of your healthcare brand to the healthcare consumer? Unless you are a new provider in the market, you have been beating the healthcare consumer for years now all about your features and benefits. They get it.

In today's brave new world, it's about brand value to the healthcare consumer, perceived and real along several dimensions that most healthcare organizations haven't paid too much attention too, but the healthcare consumer is. Your brand will be viewed and will be challenged by multiple audiences along these dimensions: price; outcomes; experience; access; convenience; and choice.

Meeting the Healthcare Consumer Cost Choices

Member co-pays and deductibles are rising. Employers moving to defined contributions. Millions of individuals potentially coming online with health insurance in 2014. Healthcare consumers are facing the economic reality that they now have some "skin-in-the-game". In a article recently published in the Wall Street Journal, "Another Big Step in Reshaping Healthcare" in pilots for Health Insurance Exchanges, individuals will choose a narrowly defined and limited choice healthcare network if their premium savings is at least 10 percent less than the premium for the larger more expansive networks. When people are paying they exhibit more consumerist behaviors.

There are more, but this post is too long already.

As you determine your ability to remain a stand alone, it won't only be determined by clinical, financial and operational issues. It will also be affected by how you market and your responsiveness to the healthcare consumer. Succeed in reaching the newly developing healthcare consumer and you have got a real chance.

Michael J. Krivich, MHA, FACHE, PCM, is an internationally followed healthcare marketing blogger with over 5,000 monthly pages views read in over 52 countries worldwide on Healthcare Marketing Matters. He is founder of the michael J group, a Fellow, American College of Healthcare Executives and a Professional Certified Marketer, American Marketing Association. Like us on facebook at the michael J group, and connect with me on LinkedIn, Twitter and Pheed.

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