Sunday, May 26, 2013

Will you be the first to market healthcare consumers along price, outcomes and experience?

Your price information is out there. Your outcomes information is out as well. And you already have developed by word-of-mouth either a positive or negative patient experience reputation. Whether you like it or not, the horses are out of the barn and it’s too late to corral, get them back into the barn, and pretend like it never happened.

As the hospital segment of the healthcare industry evolves to a more consumer centric model along the three dimensions of price, outcome, and experience, will you use that publicly available data to differentiate yourself to potentially establish market dominance along those brand dimensions that you excel?

This is not a frivolous marketing question. This is about how you are going to be competing in the near future. The healthcare brands of hospitals and health systems will come to be defined by these attributes.

And don’t think that the industry is so unified that no one will make that first attempt to define their market vies a vie their competitors along these three attributes. It is just a question of time before a hospital or system regardless of tax status claims a leading market position. Then what are you going to do?

If one were to diagram what it will look like to the healthcare consumer who will have some fair amount of control in the decision making process, it could look like this:

And the sweet spot is where all three intersect. But that being said, you could take one of several positions in the marketplace. You could decide to be the LDRP of healthcare. You could decide that price and experience are your brand position, and that matches to your healthcare consumer’s needs. Maybe its price and outcomes, price and experience, or experience and outcomes defines your hospital or system brand position.

But to take any kind of position in the healthcare market place without the market research to understand the healthcare consumer, their needs, and decision making process in an evolving market is not wise. No more guessing. No more thinking that you know what the healthcare consumer is thinking.

Healthcare markets for hospitals and health system are heading to a place where they have never been, namely a consumer-centric model boarding on retail. And as more people have a higher cost stake in the game as their costs continue to grow, consumeristic choice behaviors will take place whether you like it or not.

So here are your choices. You fight the losing battle against price and outcome transparency wasting significant energy and resources to stop a wave washing over the healthcare industry like a tsunami. Wait until one of your competitors takes one or all of these brand positioning options away from you. Hide from all of it hoping that it will all go away. Or, figure out what the best fit is for you that you can deliver on day-in and day-out to claim that brand position with the newly minted healthcare consumer.

Because you know as well as I do, that someone will do this despite all the wailing, howling of outrage, and head in the sand approaches to change going on in the healthcare industry. And by then it will be too late for you.

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.