Sunday, May 5, 2013

How do you market the big box hospital in an era of reform?

From what I have seen its pretty much the status quo when it comes to hospital marketing. Smiling happy patients, fluffy messaging that are all about you, shiny and dramatic shots of hi-tech equipment, new buildings with assorted other visuals, and copy that leaves one with more questions than answers. Not much really in the way of experience, outcomes or framing of expectations that a healthcare consumer could use to make a reasonable decision about seeking treatment.

So given the rapid change and evolution of the healthcare market place, with some wondering if the day of the big box hospital is coming to an end, it is time for hospital marketing to change. Bundled payments, ACOs, public health insurance exchanges, private health insurance exchanges, narrow networks, bartering for care, retail medicine, price competition, massive shifts to outpatient providers not hospital based, etc., and here's the kicker, healthcare consumer directed choice in all of this means that you had better change or be left in the dust of the competitive market.

Ten marketing strategies to saving your big box hospital.

1. Brand and competitive position.
Consumers and patients are ready for convenient technology-enabled access to care. Healthcare providers that are capable of identifying consmer needs, and how they want their healthcare needs meet though technology focused on them will gain new patients and the next-generation of physicians. It's not a crime to use text messaging to send people information or confirmations about appointments, health reminders, or use QR codes to link to specific education or health offers.

2. Engage existing customers and patients.
An individual is only a patient 1/3rd of the time they come in contact with you. That is during the diagnosis, treatment and recovery phase. Pre and post this, they are a consumer not a patient. So why then is it the only time you meaningfully engage them is during the period when they are a patient? Doesn't make a lot of sense really. Consumer and patient engagement is about all of the time, not just some of the time. Engaging the individual on a continuous basis builds loyalty and return use or repurchase behavior.

3. Engage the physicians.
No matter the payment model you will still need a physicians or physician extenders order to get anything done in a healthcare setting. That means engaging physicians in meaningful ways, using the methods, technology, and systems that will make their life easier, improve their productivity, and protect or increase their income. An effective efficient physician has more to do with the impact of cost, quality in your organization then you may have considered in the past.

4. Focus on the physician experience.
How hard is it for a physician or physician extender to practice medicine in your organization. Have you looked at the hassle factor that physicians encounter when they try to get things done in your care setting? Understand how the physician experiences your organization at every touch-point they encounter you. Understand their experiences overall from beginning to end, not just in an isolated segment. Fix what is broken, keep what is working. The more satisfying the experience, the better you will do financially.

5. Focus on the consumer/patient experience.
A healthcare provider's ability to deliver an experience that sets it apart in the eyes of its patients and potential patients from its competitors - traditional and non-traditional - serves to increase their spending and loyalty to the brand. You need to actively manage the customer experience in total by understanding the customer's point of view. That is, all touch points internally and externally that a customer/patient comes in contact with which in turn creates the experience. Exceptional experience means gains in market share, brand awareness, and revenue.

6. Embrace retail healthcare.
It's not going away as some may still think. There is a reason why Walgreens is considering the purchase of a health plan with millions of potential customers coming online for insurance and medical care in 2014. Traditional ways of delivering healthcare will go by the wayside in many cases. Price, convenience, access are the drivers in retail healthcare. Find the need, understand the consumers behavior drivers, design offering around the consumer not you in a convenient location and price it appropriately. End of story. If you can't compete in this way, your market position, share and revenue will erode.

7. 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.

8. 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.

9. 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 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 that there healthcare experience be delivered their way, the way they want. And retail medicine is here to stay and will expand. Tailor you marketing accordingly. One size does not fit all.

10. Quality Transparency
This is the one that causes the most fear and trepidation among hospital executives and physicians. Patients getting access to meaningful quality data that they can understand and use to make meaningful choices. Get ready it's coming whether you like it or not, and it's just not a marketing technique. It's the right thing to do. Because if you don't someone else will. And your quality data is out there. All it takes to some creativity to develop a Kayak type web site for healthcare and you're at the bottom of the food chain.

If a hospital has no beds, is it still a hospital?

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. These views are my own. 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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