Interesting question isn't it? It presupposes that healthcare consumers know what they need in the way of healthcare services. Which many in the hospital and medical professional world will howl and say its way to complicated for the healthcare consumer to know what they need to be able make a reasonable treatment decision based on quality.
Yes and no.
On one side yes, in that medical care is complex and diagnosis is not as easy as reading a book or talking to someone. But the healthcare consumer, once they realize that their wellness is not to what they normally experience, will more often than not seek medical advice as to the cause of the illness. Then in seeking that medical advice they begin the process of gaining the necessary information to make reasonable decisions, or at the very least to participate in the process.
On the other side no, in that once the healthcare consumer has acquired a basic understand of what is medically wrong, they have now the ability to use quality data to make choices on where to seek treatment along several dimensions, their direct cost, aka out-of-pocket expenses such as deducible and co-pays, and indirect costs such as time, convenience, travel requirements, access, time away from work etc., on where to receive the care they need at the right time, for the right cost, in the right setting.
In a consumer-driven healthcare system that is evolving before our eyes, real quality data, not pretty award logos is what is required for outcomes and quality transparency upon which a healthcare consumer seeking care can make reasonable decisions.
Because of the lack of transparency around quality and outcomes, the healthcare consumer assumes that quality is equal among competing providers. And we all know healthcares little unspoken truth is that it's not. Which brings us full circle to the issue of being quality transparent in patient engagement marketing to the healthcare consumer and why it hasn't happened.
In an era of reform as we transition to a consumer-driven healthcare system, quality transparency in patient engagement marketing is no longer a nice thought, but a new business requirement. And its critically important how you communicate quality information to the healthcare consumer.
It is meaningless to tell a healthcare consumer that that the chance of acquiring a post-surgical hospital infection is .85 at the 95 percent confidence level. That is from their view statistical mumbo jumbo. What the healthcare consumer wants from you is to know that 1 in 1,000 patients for example, acquire a hospital post surgical infection. Or that the medication error rate is 10 in 250 patients.
And you are not ready to do that because frankly, those are defects in the quality of care. If the healthcare consumer knew the real meaning of the .85 at the 95 percent confidence level in their terms, they might not come to your hospital, clinic or even have some physicians as their doctor.
So at this stage of the evolution of the healthcare consumer and a consumer-driven healthcare system, you need to start to figure out how you are going to become the quality transparent hospital or medical provider. And how you communicate and market that information is of equal importance as well.
There are no easy answers here and no magic marketing pixy dust to sprinkle around to solve the problem. The only way is by engaging the patient and the healthcare consumer in a meaningful way to understand how you can best meet their needs, determine the types of quality information and find the right ways to communicate that information to them.
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.