Friday, December 26, 2014

Top 15 posts from Healthcare Marketing Matters in 2014

With the New Year approaching and many on vacation, I thought that I would look back over the last year of Healthcare Marketing Matters (HMM), which led to my own top 15 for 2014 based on page views.   Healthcare changes so quickly now it seems like yesterdays thoughts are ancient history.  But more often than not, those strategic writings show how valuable healthcare marketing can be in a time of great change.

A major milestone was crossed when Healthcare Marketing Matters passed the 200,000 pages viewed mark.  HMM continues to be read in 52 counties and in order of the most readership: United States; United Kingdom; France; India; Russia; Canada; Germany; Norway, China;  and Indonesia.  Average page views are over 5,000 per month.

 With that in mind, here are the top 15 posts from 2014 in Healthcare Marketing Matters. Thank you for reading. I know I am looking forward to another exciting year of change in 2015 as healthcare becomes more retail focused, and consumer friendly then it was on 2014. After all, it’s an evolution that is gaining increasing velocity and way past the tipping point for slowing down or stopping.

Happy New year everyone.  Best wishes for a prosperous 2015. 

Top 15 Healthcare Marketing Matters Post 2014
1.       How can healthcare marketing become a blue ocean strategy? http://bit.ly/1cfbFCr

2.       Can social media drive healthcare consumers to the hospital? http://bit.ly/1i45z7H

3.       Is social media in hospitals easy? http://bit.ly/1dQnNqr

4.       What don’t hospitals get about social media? http://bit.ly/1p8afyF

5.       Is retail healthcare all about the price? And can the hospital compete? http://bit.ly/1r4e6Rh

6.       Social media, hospitals and Facebook, a place to engage consumers? http://bit.ly/1hv0Rh9

7.       Should healthcare providers change marketing in an era of reform?  http://bit.ly/1lAJM9j

8.       Will healthcare marketing change with big data availability? http://bit.ly/1tm892k

9.       Is patient experience management more than a single touch point focus? http://bit.ly/14qzdDx

10.   Is story telling the new healthcare marketing? http://bit.ly/108kfjF

11.   How can the hospital dominate the five healthcare markets? http://bit.ly/ZkHdmW

12.   Can Google Glass improve the patient experience? http://bit.ly/1pRuRZn

13.   Is it time for hospital advertising to change? http://bit.ly/1s7a6wd

14.   Is healthcare consumer and patient engagement all of the time the new reality? http://bit.ly/1lXfook

15.   What happens when social media goes awry? http://bit.ly/1tpqaLh


Sunday, December 21, 2014

Have you made your healthcare marketing resolutions for 2015?


New Year's Resolutions can play a part in most everyone's life to foster positive and maybe lasting change.  To lose weight. To live life more fully. Be a better husband, wife, or significant other etc.   And many more that I have missed. But have you ever considered New Year Resolutions as a part of your business and managerial life? 

In grand anticipation of 2015, and the potential it holds for taking healthcare marketing in hospitals and health systems to the next level, consider if you will some resolutions for 2015. 

In the spirit of David Letterman here goes:

Top 10 Healthcare Marketing Resolutions for 2015

10.  Focus on innovatively meeting the needs of the healthcare consumer. Through market research drive programmatic and service delivery changes

9.  Learn from the healthcare retail giants like Walgreens, CVS Caremark and others. Healthcare continues to evolve into a semi-retail market and what has worked in the past won’t work anymore.

8.  Marry price to outcomes and be transparent to the healthcare consumer. Provide and prove value.

7.  Integrate traditional, online and social marketing strategies. All are complementary to one another and drive multiple successes.

6.  Lead!

5.  Be a marketing thought leader- in the organization and to external peers.

4.  Focus on marketing accountability, resource utilization efficiency and effectiveness. Use the data to demonstrate ROI. If it doesn’t work then stop doing it.

3. Stop using the words "unique", "state-of-the-art", and anything that is considered “buzz word" terminology in marketing communications.  Unique can be duplicated easily. State-of-the-art refers to yesterday's systems as things change so fast. Buzz words quickly fall out of favor.

2.  Bridge the divide between clinical, operations and marketing.

1.  Serve and be humble, for working in healthcare is a privilege, not a right.

Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays and Happy New Year! Best wishes for a prosperous year in 2015.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

What’s going to happen in 2015 with and to healthcare marketing?

That time of the year is upon us where predictions of things to come become all the rage. Prognostications, crystal balls, and ominous calls for the end of the world as we know it will continue to some degree.  

Continuation of hospital bankruptcies and closures, mergers, affiliations, disruptive innovations, healthcare consumerism, mHealth, and entrants of non- traditional healthcare providers, will continue unabated pushing hospitals and health system further down the food chain, threatening their very survival.

Okay, so I was just Captain Obvious and that’s what we all know the future holds. Now that being said, these trend continuations from 2014 don’t necessarily mean that hospitals and health systems will adapt. 

Will healthcare marketing in 2015 really be any different than the last 30 years? Probably not, but to survive the changes coming in 2015, that will only increase in velocity and intensity,  there are strategies and tactics that  healthcare marketing need to  embrace for growth and survival, by leading change in their respective healthcare enterprises.

Remember that growth is good. If the healthcare enterprise is not growing but circling the wagons, like so many do, then last one out turn the lights off. Here the trends and challenges as I see them for 2015 in healthcare marketing.

1.     Healthcare consumerism.  That means brand positioning, experience, consumer health needs, price and quality transparency is the answer. It’s the only way to respond should the healthcare enterprise desire growth and success.
2.     Retail medicine.  That has taken a major turn with the introduction of some basic primary care services beyond the sore throat, cold or flu. Especially with a tele-health presence, physicians are now able to consult real time. It is more convenient to the healthcare consumer, faster and cheaper then hospital based services. From a market perspective, the healthcare enterprise needs to respond in the same fashion by making the services of the healthcare enterprise more desirable, priced appropriately and consumer need focused than hospital focused. Beat Walgreens and others at their own game.
3.     Social media. Its use will accelerate and grow in influence during the healthcare consumer selection process. At a minimum Facebook, Twitter, Yelp and Instagram are the vehicles of choice for the novice organization. One to engage and dialogue. One to enhance the experience. One to mange reputation. One to tell a visual story.
4.     Price wars. They are coming considering that the healthcare consumer now pays one-third of the cost of care. Look for opportunities to lower prices and provide better care as a loss leader, for the more costly and profitable healthcare enterprise services. Capture the healthcare consumer by engagement, build the relationship and drive loyalty.
5.     Content marketing. The story is important and it’s how you influence the influencers. In markets that are undifferentiated, it’s the way to differentiate not on clinical programs and services which all competitors have but on the story.  The story is different from all others and can be used efficiently and effectively to drive engagement, awareness and choice. Content that is changed timely, appropriate and fresh. Content is not some of the time, but all of the time.
6.     Innovation. Non-traditional entrants into the market will drive further change the cost and delivery of healthcare services, placing the healthcare enterprise at a competitive disadvantage.  The only way to anticipate that is using market research to discover and understanding the unmet needs of the healthcare consumer. Then design the offerings at competitive prices, convenient and engaging before someone else does.  That means changing the business development aspect from an internal inwardly focused process to an external market focus.
7.     Redistribution of marketing resources. Resource will move from traditional print and electronic, to online with native advertising, social media platforms, email, and blogging and to mobile. That is where the audience is.
8.     MHealth.  Consumers love it. Providers generally hate it. Venture capital private equity firms are pouring billions into it.  Look for more innovation and acceptance that will drive the healthcare consumer further from the hospitals and hospital based services.   Healthcare enterprises will get on the bandwagon, hopefully before it’s too late in their markets.
9.    Healthcare consumer engagement will move beyond emails, wellness programs of little value and repeating what the healthcare enterprise has always done, to dialogue and exchange of information in a manner and method that the healthcare consumer desires. 
10.  Focus on growth.  This isn’t the build it and they will come growth, but growth that is  based relationships, manages experience and expectations and manages the demands of the healthcare consumer to the right setting of care, at the right time, for the right cost.

These are what I see as the 10 most important healthcare marketing changes and challenges for 2015. 

One may notice that the lines are blurring from what can be viewed traditionally as a healthcare enterprise operational focus, to a market driven focus. And that is the biggest marketing challenge.

Funny how that happens in a consumer driven semi-retail healthcare market. Best of luck.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

What about moving healthcare marketing to social media, SEO & content marketing?

It’s well documented that the healthcare consumer’s use of online, mobile and social media, has been steadily increasing for a few years now. Even though the growth has been nearly exponential across all  age groups in adaption and use of the new channels, hospitals have slowly adapted to effective utilization of the new marketing channels.  Back in 2010, the American Hospital Association found that only 21 percent of hospitals were using social media in some form, most notably Facebook and Twitter.  

In a recent report by Griffis HM, Kilaru AS, Werner RM, Asch DA, Hershey JC, Hill S, Ha YP, Sellers A, Mahoney K, Merchant RM, Use of Social Media Across US Hospitals: Descriptive Analysis of Adoption and Utilization J Med Internet Res 2014 it was found that 50.4 percent of hospitals were using social media platforms of Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare and Yelp.  Slow adoption at best, finding that 41.6 percent of hospitals still do not have a social media presence in 2014 is concerning.

So let’s expand the discussion to include SEO and content marketing, as well as shifting marketing resources and focus from traditional marketing channels of print, broadcast, billboard etc., to social media, SEO and content marketing.  In the simplest of terms, it’s all about being where the audience can be found.

Think of it this way:



Taking this a step further, these channels are living, breathing entities.  They have staying power in the market environment, and provide a consistent presence for the healthcare enterprise to be easily found, tell the brand story, engage, influence choice, as well as manage experience.  Can one realistically accomplish this with just a focus on traditional marketing with a sprinkling of social media? Now that being said, I am not throwing traditional marketing under the bus. There is still a place for those marketing channels.

This isn’t innovative thought. It’s really about the exercise of marketing leadership in hospitals and health systems, and leading change.  As written before, healthcare is changing from a provider- dominated build it and they will come model, to a semi-retail healthcare consumer choice model influenced by price, convenience and experience. Those healthcare consumer needs and ways to reach them are being increasingly dominated by non-traditional entrants into healthcare, further pushing the hospital to the bottom of the food chain.

If I were a Vice President of Marketing in a hospital or health system, 60 percent of my direct spend would be on SEO, social media and content marketing. And the staff of the marketing department would reflect the skills and expertise to carry out the tactical execution of that strategy.

Grow the healthcare enterprise brand and revenue through social media, SEO and content marketing.  Growth is good.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Communicating the value of the healthcare enterprise- yes or no?

With healthcare changing so rapidly, is it time to move healthcare marketing beyond "all about us”, to the value and benefit brought to the healthcare consumer.  Unless you are a new provider in the market, features and benefits or vague claims of quality and excellence may be falling on deaf ears.

In today's world, it's about value, benefit, price and convenience to the healthcare consumer.
                                                                                
In today's world, it's about the answering the healthcare consumer’s question of what is my ROI for using you?

In today's world, you need to have a compelling value proposition with messaging that provides clear and understandable benefits to the healthcare consumer.

Enter Value Marketing

Value marketing is making the case to your healthcare consumer how you are solving their medical problem, offering a solution, giving results and even making them happy.   

Value marketing is about a creative exchange between people and organizations in the marketplace.  It is a dynamic transaction that constantly changes based on the needs of the individual compared to what the healthcare organization has to offer.

So instead of talking about what is done every day, talk about what the value and benefit is of what transpires.

Instead of talking about programs and serves that everybody else has, talk about the value and benefits those same programs and services and what they bring to the healthcare consumer, i.e., outcomes, price, experience and convenience.

Instead of saying we have the latest high-tech gizmo, talk about the value and benefit of what that latest greatest high-tech gizmo brings to the healthcare consumer.

Instead of just talking about Healthgrades or 100 Top Hospitals awards for care for example, talk to your healthcare consumer about the value and benefit of that award by putting context around the content.

Instead of talking at your audiences, talk to them.  Talk to them about value and how the healthcare enterprise can solve their health problem by offering value-based solutions to their healthcare needs.

 The healthcare consumer is awakening and demanding more.  More proof.  More value.  More benefit for them, not the healthcare enterprise.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Can gamification improve patient engagement and experience?

One of the great challenges in healthcare is the engagement of the patient in lasting and meaningful ways, as well as improvement in the patient experience. Uncharted territory really and the old ways of doing things just won’t cut it.   New market realities and the rising of healthcare consumerism demand new innovation and thought. 

Gamification is not a new topic in marketing. It's been out there for a long time and used successfully by businesses to attract, retain and build the loyalty of its customers to the brand. Sometimes I do hear- "but we are healthcare, taking care of people in complex and mysterious ways that they can never understand and this isn't a game".  Correct it’s not a game, but how you engage the patient and improve the experience is closely related. And my opinion is that you can't do one without the other. Look at this through the eye glass of a new linkage between engagement and experience.

If the goal is to engage the healthcare consumer, aka the patient, to stay in network, to improve health, to be personally responsible for health, then gamification is an option. This isn't about creating negative disincentives that have been tried in the past.  Those messages of it will it will cost you more if you go out of network; you pay a penalty for non-compliance; it shortens your life kind of actions and messages if you don't do this. 

The point is one has to create a healthcare consumer that is highly motivated to act, or comply in a way that meets the goals of the healthcare organization in engaging and improving the experience.

So how does this happen?

It starts with game mechanics. Game mechanics is really the actions, tactics, mechanisms and motivational elements used to create an engaging and compelling experience for the healthcare consumer.  It's about how you design your engagement and experience strategies and tactics that keep the healthcare consumer engaged at all levels contributing to a positive experience.  

In game dynamics the healthcare enterprise taps into the motivations that result as part of the game experience driving continued participation by the healthcare consumer. The healthcare enterprise can't have effective game dynamics unless there is an understanding of what motivates the healthcare consumer. This understanding is based on the behavioral data from research that has to be conducted.

The choice of gaming tactics is an important decision. If one does not understand what motivates the healthcare consumer and how to trigger those motivations, then how can you design the game mechanics?  Do the research.

Put game mechanics and game dynamics together in the right way and you can engage the patient and improve the experience. Gamification can be a very powerful tool in marketing the healthcare enterprise.

Think about this application to healthcare at the next time you fly your favorite airline, go to a shoppers club or pull out your rewards card for something.   

Even Walgreens has this figured out.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Is patient experience management more than a single touch point focus?


Customer Experience Management (CEM) first appeared  13 years ago in an article published by the Harvard Business Review authored by Pine and Gilmore. The concept proposes that by managing the entirety of the customer experience from first contact to purchase or use, that  you can move a customer from satisfied to loyal, and then from loyal to brand advocate by actively managing the experience. It is based on thoroughly understanding the customer. Essentially a beginning to end management of the chain of events that an individual experiences. Since that time CEM has grown and evolved to become an important business requirement.

This is a critically important topic for healthcare, especially in engagement activities. It is taking a consumer centric or patient centric viewpoint, that is all about the individual. It’s no longer about the healthcare enterprise at a single clinical service or entry point into the care system. Why? 

Two-thirds of an individual's interaction with a healthcare provider is as a customer pre and post treatment.  Only one-third of their encounter with you is as a patient during treatment.

A healthcare provider's ability to deliver an experience that sets it apart in the eyes of its payers, physicians and consumers/patients, from its competitors both traditional and non-traditional, serves to increase their in-network utilization of medical services and loyalty to the healthcare brand. Effective patient experience management not only reduces cost, but captures revenue as well, that could have been lost to out-of-network providers.

Marketing has an important role and it’s just not to make things look pretty. I know that most experience improvement efforts are clinically driven and not necessarily holistic in nature, that enhances the total healthcare enterprise experience.  But for the sake of the conversation, think about this for a moment, who or what department has more contact with the healthcare consumer or even the patient for the matter? 

Its marketing isn’t it?  Think about this statement. From the web site, call center, campaigns, social media, events, wellness programs and all the other marketing channels, the marketing department is constantly in touch with the healthcare consumer and patient.  And if they are establishing and managing the relationship correctly, then marketing should be involved and dare I say, leading the experience improvement process, as they should have a total understanding the customer's point of view.  That is, all touch points internally and externally that a customer comes in contact with which in turn creates the experience.  

With the dynamic change in healthcare evolving into a dynamic semi retail consumer  focus, experience management goes hand in hand with engagement.

It's time we started to focus on the totality of the healthcare consumer experience, their needs and expectations to grow profitably. Marketing needs to be involved beyond making things look pretty.  Growth is good.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Looking for a market edge? Why not a bundled care & pricing campaign?

The healthcare consumer is now paying one-third of the cost of their care.  They also exhibit consumeristic shopping behaviors when selecting health plans in the exchanges.  Over the past couple of years, poll after poll finds that consumers like bundled care. With all the price and outcomes data now available to the healthcare consumer, it would seem to offer an opportunity to leverage consumer market interest and preference for a revenue opportunity.

What I don’t see is any innovative marketing by hospitals and health systems around bundled care and pricing, aimed at the healthcare consumers. The finance people are negotiating those deals with payers and employers to an extent and that is necessary. But really, is that just doing business the same old way that the healthcare enterprise has always done, while missing the market shift to a semi-retail consumer-centric business model?  

True that not all care can be neatly bundled into a healthcare consumer friendly package, but a lot of it can. And if the healthcare enterprise wants grow and thrive in a consumer-centric healthcare model, then that means marketing innovation to reach the healthcare consumers.

Being first in the market with this type of marketing effort makes the healthcare enterprise a market leader not a market follower.  In a copy cat industry, other healthcare enterprises will launch their bundled care and pricing effort, and differentiation will be lost. It always happens.  Being first does give one some blue ocean to swim in before it becomes a purple, then red ocean of crowded competitors.

First one to the market place wins the perception battle, increases brand awareness and beings to move the market away from the confusing discussion and focus on hospital price, while clarifying for the healthcare consumer their choices.

As a marketing leader, one will have to do the homework, work closely with finance and sell the plan. This calls for healthcare marketing to begin the transition to become revenue marketers.

As I have written before, the new market drivers for hospitals in an evolving consumer-centric market are price, outcomes and experience.  Bundled care can deliver on all three market dimensions.

Nobody said this was ever going to be easy. And growth is good.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Are you influencing the influencer's?

All health care is local. Major events such as the Affordable Care Act, state regulatory action and new or experimental payment methodologies change the game on a regular basis. But in the end, it still comes down to medical care delivered in the physician’s office, the local hospital and other nearby settings. Places where the healthcare consumer forms opinions and then shares in a variety of ways.

Even with all the market uncertainty, the growing consumerism, data transparency driven by third parties along price and outcomes, retail innovation and non-traditional competition, health care is still a game of influence.   Often overlooked in healthcare, influencer's have the ability to sway public and individual opinion to the betterment or determent of the organization. 

So how can a hospital or health system influence the influencers?

It’s not about emailing the top 50 twitter people in your market; though social media is important.

It’s not about the blogger with the biggest audience; though a highly followed blogger can’t be ignored.

What it is about is identifying who the influencer's are in your market, and building long term relationships. It’s like making a friend. Would one make a friend just by tweeting or commenting in a Facebook post or reading a blog? No magic bag of tricks here.  It takes hard work but the payoff can be measured in years.

Since influencing the influencers is all about relationship building, it’s about getting them to an event, getting them on the phone, writing a personal email.  Influencing the influencers is pretty traditional stuff really.  Things healthcare marketer’s use to do and still do to a certain extent, but chase the shiny new channel or technique. Its old-fashioned relationship-building applied to a new way of reaching people.

Influencers can assist in recommending insurance plans one is a provider member of in the exchanges. Influencers can recommend hospital friendly physicians.  Influencers can make a great difference and speed up the brand and reputation recover efforts after a major public relations or media disaster. Think Texas Health Presbyterian and Ebola mismanagement.  I hope that in the reputation rebuild efforts that they are using community influencers to make a difference.

The more things change the more they stay the same. Adding an influence the influencers component into your integrated marketing  has the potential to pay some very large long term brand, reputation and revenue impacts.

So who are you influencing?

Saturday, October 25, 2014

How does a hospital or health system recover from a devastating reputation hit?

The Ebola scare that is rampant in communities driven in some cases inaccurate  media and social media reporting by  individuals, has had a significant toll on Texas Health Presbyterian in Dallas, Texas. Its good reputation damaged has resulted in ER utilization, admissions and revenue declining significantly as reported by the Wall Street Journal on October 23, 2014, “Ebola Still Weighs on Texas Hospital”,  by Caitlin McCabe and Christopher Weaver. The CDC sure didn’t help either in this case.

A 26 percent revenue drop is nothing to sneeze at, and one that most healthcare organizations would have a hard time accommodating.

This isn’t a blog post slamming the mismanagement of the public relations during the crisis. It is well documented over three days, how badly the media and public was handled by the shifting inaccurate responses, lack of clear messaging, and strategy on the part of Texas Health Resources. 

The damage is already done and it could take years to regain a good reputation. Now comes the how does a healthcare provider accomplish this no small feat?

This isn’t only about recovering from Ebola; this is really about trust.  Recovering the trust of the doctors. The trust of the paints. The belief of the community. The confidence  of the healthcare consumer. This in my opinion is about rebuilding the solid reputation that the hospital can care for individuals without harming them.  Changing the perception of,  if they can’t take care of an Ebola patient correctly, how are they going to take care of me?

All the awards that Texas Health Resources Presbyterian has received from national organizations about quality of care mean nothing to patients and the healthcare consumer.   Maybe they never really did anyway?

Where to start?

1.       Commit the resources.  This is going to cost some money over a very long period of time. Understand it and get over it.

2.       Do the market research in terms of quantities surveys and focus groups.  The organization needs to understand the attitudes, perceptions  and choice preferences of the healthcare consumer, patient, community and doctors. Don’t assume one knows all of that already.

3.       From the results of the market research develop the strategy first, then build the key messages and plans. The hospital has one shot to get it right and that starts with the right strategy.  My favorite quote comes from Sun Tzu in the Art of War: “Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory; tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.” Strategy first; tactics second to be successful.

4.       Be prepared and budget for doing the research annually to measure the change in perceptions, attitudes and preference choice.  It’s a cost of doing business.

5.       Executive leadership leads and is in front of the community.  No sending the PR person out to answer the media and others. This is the responsibility of the CEO, and on special occasions when needed the Chief Medical Officer or CNO. All others stay away. Media days, community meetings, Q & As. All led by the CEO or CMO.

6.       Become the transparent organization regarding outcomes.  This is probably the most difficult part of this quest but it is absolutely essential. And I do not mean running ads with pretty third party logos bestowing an outcome ward.  I am talking about putting context around the content of the award for the healthcare consumer and patients to understand what it means and why it is important.

7.       Social media is everything here. The healthcare consumer is the new paparazzi. They can help reclaim the reputation of the hospital or they can destroy it in heart beat.  Twitter, facebook, LinkedIn, Tumbler, blogging, the web site, etal and more.  All are useful in the rebuild effort. One can reach more people and delivery more variable messages faster than anything else you can do. So can the hospitals customer evangelists.

8.       Enlist your employees. They are on social media. They are the ambassadors.  Their opinions carry weight.

9.       Events need to be meaningful and genuine. This moves beyond a bunch of employees standing in front of the hospital holding signs that they love their hospitals.  That is contrived, pejorative, and dismissed by the public.   This is all about meaningful action not words. Words and displays of affection at this point in time are empty promises.

10.   One step forward two steps back. Nothing goes smoothly or changes in a short period of time and will take years.  The effort to reclaim the reputation will be affected by everyday events and mistakes. Preventable medical errors when they become public, and they will, may negatively impact the reclamation effort and reinforce the perception that the hospital can’t get it right. 

This too shall pass, but only after some very hard detail work, careful planning and execution. If one messes around thinking one has the answers to fix this it will only get worse. Get professional  help.

Maybe it’s time for the acceptance of the idea that hospitals can't be all things to all people. There are just some diseases that should never even be considered for treatment in a community hospital setting. It is arrogant to think you can do what only a few can accomplish without harming the public safety or the patient. 

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Is story telling the new healthcare marketing?

Interesting question isn’t it?  The marketing department going from the tried and true traditional hospital and health system advertisements and pithy messages, to stories that market the hospital or health system brand.

I do believe that as an industry, that we need to move more fully into developing compelling content to engage and frame the experience of the healthcare consumer or patient. And that means storytelling assumes greater importance.

After all, when one looks at hospital and health system advertising, it’s still the shiny new building, panoramic views from the roof top terrace or lounge, smiling doctors, award logos or trophy’s and  new equipment.  But does that really meet the needs of the healthcare consumer or patient?  Those kinds of activities do not lend themselves to online or social media very much, where people are 41 percent of the time in looking for information on the healthcare provider. And with TiVo, cable online and all the myriad choices for viewing nowadays, does anyone really see them, or just surf through?

If that is the case and healthcare organizations for whatever reason are unwilling to build points of differentiation for the brand based on outcomes and price transparency, then why not tell a story?

Stories can provide rich content. Stories can engage. Stories can frame the experience.  Stories can allow one to impart critical information that a healthcare consumer or patient can use to make a choice.

This isn’t the story of “us”, or the story of the hospital as in “one hundred years ago, a visionary physician”, well you get the idea.  It would seem that given the lack of differentiation in the market place between hospitals and health systems that effective story telling can be the difference.

In a society that begs for compelling and meaningful content who better that the hospital or health system to frame what they do, how they do it and the outcome that is achieved around stories?  It does not mean that the traditional product, a place, price and promotion aspect of marketing goes away.  It is just that those four P's are told in a story.

Storytelling has a beginning, a middle and an end.

For your consideration, I submit, what works better, a story of the development of a new outpatient center that is the future of healthcare, or a full page four-color advertisement of a new building that simply says this is the future of outpatient care? Really, a picture of a glass and steel building multistory building?  Actually, it looks pretty cold and sterile. And I have no idea what is inside, what the hospital does, how it’s done or what it will cost me.

Now tell me a story of experience. Engage me with the story of the levels of treatment and what is done. Thrill me with the levels of care. Give me the reasons why this healthcare brand matters at this location at this time in my life.  Tell me a compelling story of why. 

Its healthcare.

Hospitals and health systems do good.  There are a millions of stories that can be woven into compelling content optimized for social media and mobile that makes a difference.  Not all the cold dry explanations a healthcare consumer sees today. Use storytelling to create the reasons why one should choose the hospital, or doctor, or whatever one is trying to sell.

Individuals are now paying one-third of the total cost of care.  They are gaining sophistication regarding making healthcare choices with outcomes and price data.  What they don’t have is the frame of reference to understand what it all really means.

In an age where compelling content matters more than at any time in the past, it’s time to change the paradigm for healthcare marketing. Time for creative story telling based on the traditional four P's of marketing.

Once upon a time……

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Are You Improving the Physician Experience?

It’s a tough world in healthcare and healthcare marketing in general.  Living in two worlds, hospitals and health systems still get paid for putting heads in the beds with the production of care, while at the same time needing to be cost efficient and medically effective in keeping the healthcare consumer out of the hospital, if it’s a value or risk-based payment model.  It’s really a push-pull.  Keeping the high admitter’s happy while identifying the most effective and cost effective physicians for risk contracts.

Sales staffs targeting physicians are popping up all over complete with goals and objectives, territories and quotas for specific docs along identified disease-states.  The first time the sales person comes back to the organization with, “this needs to change" request it all breaks down for a variety of reasons, most likely due to organizational inertia. Nobody ever really wants to change.

No matter that the healthcare consumer is in the beginning stages of learning how to be empowered. No matter that the payment model is changing from a production-based, to a quality-based. No matter that you are employing physicians.  

If you want to grow and growth is good, physician experience improvement is at the top of the too do list. It’s also one way to stop the out-of-network referrals and retain the patient and either save the cost or generate the income.

Even today nothing happens unless you have a physicians order.  It makes no difference what the payment model is that the patient is covered under. No order means no test, surgery, drugs, home health care etc.  No nothing.  Oh, and the physician experience is just as important if the doctor is employed. 

What will bring the greatest Return on Marketing Investment (ROMI) or sales effort? Running ads that tell consumers are how great you are because you just got an award, or effectively and efficiently managing the physician experience?

Its about their experience in admitting, treating and referring patients  to your emergency room,  hospital, pharmacy, surgical center or home care agency that docs deal with on a daily basis.  How easy is it for them to practice medicine in your facility?  How many complaints do they get from their patients about the hospital? How do you lessen the hassle factor for physicians to allow them to be effective and efficient practitioners of the medical arts? Everyone is out there with the send to me, me, and me message. 

Be ready to make changes in how you do things.  When your physician liaison, account rep, or insert title here person comes back stating the physicians are encountering difficulties in practicing medicine in the hospital, be ready to make meaningful changes.  If not, one is just wasting time and money sending out people to manage the physician relationship.

To restate a common theme of mine, it is not at all about the hospital or health system any longer. It is all about the physician and healthcare consumer experience.

Have at it.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Left behind in the engagement of healthcare consumer’s and patients by Walgreens and Facebook?

Late this past week two announcements were made that received little notice, but will have significant effect on how the healthcare consumer and patients will be engaged.  Not only that, but these two market behemoths are once again taking the lead in being innovative, and setting new levels of engagement that will create an  enhanced  healthcare  consumer  experience and expectations for service that the hospital or health system will need to reach.

I think what was interesting about these two events, was how one was seen in two different lights. First comes along Walgreens announcing its partnership with WebMD, Walgreen, WebMD partnership awards discounts for exercise Chicago Tribune, Friday Oct 3, 2014 and Walgreens, WebMD Partner on Wellness Coaching, Information Week also on Friday Oct 3, 2014. The second event was a Reuter’s story Exclusive: Facebook plots first steps into healthcare, Reuters  Friday Oct 3, 2014.

Now I am not going to get into a discussion of the economic value to both these organizations for recognizing a market trend, seeing an opportunity in a consumer need, or for innovating with an appropriate response. I think that is pretty obvious for all to see, or at least think through.

What I am writing about through the lens of healthcare marketing for hospitals and health systems is what to do.  This should be a wakeup call on the rapid evolution of the healthcare market place that is becoming highly innovative and consumer centric. All of which is being driven by nontraditional healthcare providers. At this pace, hospitals and health systems who are desperately attempting to get back to the top of the food chain are only being further left behind.

This is about the business of health care, not about the business of being a hospital or a health system. Its taking advantage of the movement  to personal health responsibility and finding new ways of  engaging the healthcare consumer,  by  giving them the experience they want on their terms, not somebody else’s.

Here is some food for thought.

Step 1. Stop thinking in terms of providing hospital care. Broaden the focus and vision to the delivery of health care in whatever form that means.

Step 2. Do the market research about what the healthcare consumer and patient in the market want.  Remember all healthcare is ultimately local, so who better than the existing hospital or health system in the area to meet their health care needs.

Step 3. This is about ultimate convenience to the healthcare consumer or patient, not the hospital or health system.  With all the extensive healthcare talent available in a hospital or health system,  there is no reason why one can’t do what Walgreens is doing. The trick for the hospital  is making it convenient and accessible for the healthcare consumer or patient.

Step 4. Explore nontraditional ways of accomplishing this feat. Maybe its entering into partnership with Walgreens or some other healthcare consumer focused nontraditional provider.

Step 5. Get your social media house in order. In a recent study by Deloitte, 43 percent of adults are using social media and switching freely between mobile and online to find information in the decision making process. This isn’t about bulletin boards and nice pictures anymore; this is about engagement and experience.

Step 6.  Start thinking about mHealth application development and how that can assist the hospital  or health system in engaging locally patients, the healthcare consumer and using mHealth to improve the experience and manage expectations.

Step 7.  To develop the mHealth application for the hospital, call the local university or community college.  Talk to the computer science information technology program Dean. I am sure they would welcome the idea of having a real life opportunity to have their students develop a mHealth application for the hospital or health system.

Remember it’s all about the healthcare consumer and health care today and into the future,  not hospital care.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

How do you market healthcare in a dynamic market?

Faced with a cacophony of payment models from fee-for-service to value and risked based with a growing healthcare consumer looking for choice, healthcare marketing becomes an even greater challenge than before. One size does not fit all. And growth is good.

With the growing consumerism in healthcare, how can the hospital or health system make good in growing and generating revenue while the chance still presents itself?  After all, the tipping point of where a hospital is no longer a revenue center but a cost center has not taken place yet.  And it won’t for the foreseeable immediate future.  

There are three dynamic keys to concentrate on in the evolving consumeristic driven healthcare market:   Market Presence... Leveraging Opinion/Perception... Consumer/Patient Experience...

No longer nice to have, these three basic concepts are now business requirements.

  • Market Presence- The resources to effectively and continuously communicate brand and differentiate the offering across multiple channels. This includes having the right marketing organizational structure with the right people in the right jobs to manage the fully integrated marketing program.
  • Leveraging Opinion/Perception – Social media is critical in the area. Even with all the cost, price and quality data that is being released and consumers are learning how to use; it’s still recommendation of physicians, family members or friends that drives a big part of the selection process. That will change over time, but as of yet, it’s that old tried and true ubiquitous “word of mouth”  opinion/perception influencer channels that one needs to actively manage.
  • Consumer/Patient Experience- The actual customer experience matches the brand image, perceptions and opinions of customers that you created in the marketplace that had been communicated in an integrated multi-channel sustained effort that includes social media engagement.

 A consumer-directed market is much different environment than a provider-directed market which requires skills and abilities that may or may not exist in an organization.   Key success factors for creating a high performance marketing operation that delivers revenue and market share in an era of reform in the new healthcare environment include:

  •       Vice President of Marketing senior management position that reports to the CEO and is involved in all decision making.
  •       Marketing resources human, operational and capital budgets to support a multi-channel effort externally and internally.
  •       Comprehensive strategic and measurably focused marketing plan that is integrated with the financial and operational plan of the organization.
  •       Price, outcomes and experience transparency
  •       Internal communication and training to educate the organization around marketing efforts, expectations and their role in the execution of the plan.
  •       Creation of a comprehensive marketing dashboard which communicates activities and results on a monthly basis to all levels of the organization.


As the healthcare providers continue to consolidate across all segments, marketing will assume an increasingly important role in the survival and revenue generating activities for the organization.

And that requires a far different innovative sustainable marketing presence that changes perceptions and choice than the old way of doing things.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

What is wrong with this retail clinic picture?


By living in a major metropolitan area, one has the privilege of seeing firsthand how hospitals and health systems are approaching the establishment of a retail medicine strategy and the healthcare consumer. Or maybe it’s really and more appropriately, the absence of an understanding of that particular market strategy.

As written in the past, delivering retail medicine is a whole lot different than providing hospital outpatient services, or even building a medical office building, launching ambulatory care center or employing physicians.

The other day, I came across a small health systems foray into retail medicine.  It was by accident mind you because in coming by the location literally hundreds of times and even entering the grocery store, I never really noticed it before. The only reason I think I noticed because of the store pharmacy curbside signs about flu shot availability. And there has been no active marketing of the location to the neighborhood.

So what did I see? A sign high above the awning on the side of the grocery store with the hospital name XYZ Clinic. Jet back windows facing the parking lot communicating more about dark secrets within than with  lettering about name, hours, contact and services. When one goes inside the store, (and the location of the retail clinic is right next to the main entry to the store in a high traffic area) the healthcare consumer is greeted with a closed door.  No sign of anyone there except for offering a formidable and not so much a welcoming “come on in” presence for the retail healthcare consumer.

I did not write this description of what I saw to embarrass the health system, but to point out what hospital and health system executives don’t know about retail healthcare design, service delivery and marketing the retail clinic can be deadly.

Now that being said this is one case in point.  There are I am sure examples across the country of hospitals and health systems that got it right, or nearly so. But more often than not; well, that is for one to decide based on experience and knowledge.

If you are going to enter the retail medicine market, here are some rules of thumb to follow. These are offered as recommendations based on my retail healthcare experience and are not all inclusive.

To wit:
1.       This is not a hospital, MOB or an ambulatory outpatient center.  Don’t build it like you would build it if it  was a hospital, MOB or a hospital-based outpatient center.
2.       Retail medicine is about convenience, accessibility, service and price.  That means it is convenient, easily accessible, welcoming in appearance and friendly.  Exam rooms for sure but the registration and waiting area needs to be open, visible and welcoming.
3.       The healthcare consumer’s first impression and experience is everything.  It’s about them not about the hospital or the staff. If one’s clinic appears closed foreboding and “healthcare like” that’s a killer first impression.
4.       For goodness sakes, let the healthcare consumer or casual shopper know what you do there. What are the tests and exams offered?  What aliments do you treat? A sandwich board can work wonders.
5.       Before building a retail clinic, go around and see how the Walgreens, CVS Health, Rite Aid etc., store clinics are designed.  There is a reason they are designed that way and it’s not by accident. Learn from you competition.
6.       Do the market research. Understand the demographics of the neighborhood. Understand the healthcare consumer’s needs and build the retail clinic with those needs in mind. Don’t guess!  
7.       Figure out the service area for the clinic.  If there is a well established retail clinic less than two miles away from the chosen site, guess what? It’s probably not going to work or be profitable. This is retail and competition is unforgiving, as is the consumer.  That pharmacy based retail clinic down the street has been there longer than you, has established a market presence, is user friendly and customer focused.  It’s arrogant to think that by simply putting the hospital name on the clinic will make a difference.  The healthcare consumer doesn’t care.
8.       Be prepared to market the daylights out of the clinic.  Again as a reminder this is retail. The marketing rules are different.  Presence in the market builds preference. No continuous marketing presence, no preference for what you have to offer.

These are just some of my rules of thumb for establishing a retail medicine presence. Not perfect and not all encompassing, but a simple start offered for consideration.

Healthcare is evolving into a semi retail model of care and service delivery.  A model that is about the healthcare consumer built around their needs that is accessible, convenient, priced right and provides a consumer experience that is second to none.

Make it look like what one does like everything else in the hospital and it’s a loser.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

How can the hospital dominate the five healthcare markets?

As the reformation of healthcare continues unabated, a hospital or health system has only five primary markets.  Of course, there are the submarkets within these markets but it’s still only five: Commercial; Exchanges; Medicare; Medicaid; and Uninsured.

The new dynamic added to this change is the evolution of the broader healthcare market into a consumer-centric, semi-retail market existing in a multitude of reimbursement schemes, each nuanced for a different market segment. Leading to the question, have you identified from a marketing perspective immediate actions to improve market position and revenue generation? 

This isn't about massive advertising campaigns, gimmicks, wellness programs, etc. It’s more about getting the basics right, understanding who pays for what and how that is combined with the needs of your healthcare consumers. This isn’t only about driving demand in some cases, but managing demand by moving the healthcare consumer to the right setting, which may not be the hospital or a hospital based outpatient service. In some circumstances it may even mean de-marketing certain services.

Very quickly then, here are seven ways to improve your market position, generate revenue and dominate categories of service.

1.  Brand and competitive position.
Consumers and patients are ready for convenient technology-enabled access to care. Healthcare providers that are capable of identifying their 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 experience, they are a healthcare consumer not a patient.  So why then is it the only time one chooses to meaningfully engage them is during the period when they are a patient?  This lack of focus or tactical engagement execution doesn’t make a lot of sense as consumer and patient engagement is about all of the time activity, not just some of the time.  Engaging the healthcare consumer on a continuous basis builds loyalty and importantly keeps them in network, which has some pretty significant financial ramifications in a risk-based reimbursement model.

3. Engage the physicians.
No matter the payment model the hospital or health system still needs a physician or physician extender’s 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 and efficient physician has more to do with the impact of cost and quality in the hospital than any other factor.

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 physician’s encounter when they try to get things done in the hospital setting?  Understand how the physician experiences your organization at every touch-point they encounter the hospital. 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 loyalty to the brand. One needs to actively manage the customer experience in totality 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.
Traditional ways of delivering healthcare will go by the wayside in many cases.  Price convenience, access and outcomes are the drivers in retail healthcare.  Find the need, understand the consumer’s behavior drivers, design offering around the consumer not the hospital in a convenient location and price it appropriately. If you can't compete in this way market position, share and revenue will erode.

7. Turn to social media and networks to engage, manage the experience and drive adherence. As healthcare continues the evolution to a healthcare consumer dominated semi-retail environment, social networking is a healthcare marketing channel that is underutilized and underperforms today, but holds great potential to improve engagement, experience and adherence. And that takes healthcare marketing leadership, executive vision and meaningful action.

Seven step to achieve market and revenue growth in an evolving healthcare market place. Not an impossible task, but one that does require focus and a willingness to break from the past.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

What will you say when the media comes knocking about hospital prices?

In two article in the past week, and one of them written by a physician in the Wall Street Journal on September 4th , Healthcare and the $20,000 bill, WSJ op-ed September 4, 2014 , Eric Michael David, MD hospital prices came to the forefront. And it wasn’t alerting.  That was followed by Molly Gamble in Becker’s Hospital Review with The easiest way to make a Hospital CEO squirm, Molly Gamble,  Becker’s Hospital Review  jumping off from the WSJ article with additional information.

The headline question is one that hospitals and health systems can no longer ignore with pejorative and condescending answers, or even silence to the questions of hospital prices. When physicians turn on those organizations it moves from a healthcare consumer complaint to PR crisis.

Hide the head in sand and pretend it’s all just going away, but guess what- it’s not.  And it is maybe like one step away from a hospital or health system public relations crisis.

If you haven’t read the WSJ article, I recommend that you read it.  It’s a classic example of how not to handle the pricing issue. Doesn’t matter if it’s a physician, the media or a healthcare consumer that is calling for they are all equally important.

Here is what an organization needs to do to be ready for the negative PR:

1.       Admit one can’t win this argument. Develop, refine and have in place a media plan from the point of limiting the damage to your hospital brand and reputation as much as possible.
2.       In preplanning understand the hospital or health system pricing compared to area competitors.  Don’t compare to hospitals or health systems across the country.
3.       Be prepared to explain up coding. Matter of fact this is probably a good time to start reviewing your coding and billing practices to make sure that all applicable regulations are being followed before you add some charges like the trauma team.
4.       Don’t send out the billing manager or director of Finance out to answer media questions.
5.       Prepare Q&As and practice.
6.       Don’t answer it’s all the insurers fault. We don’t really charge those prices. The consumer will never understand because it’s so complicated.
7.       Never ever reference the charge master.
8.       When a clear billing mistake has been made, admit, rectify and apologize.
9.       Have the CEO briefed, media trained and ready to face the press.
10.   Answers to questions that come off as pejorative, condescending or arrogant are unacceptable.
11.   Treat this as a full blown PR communications crisis. Failure to do so will lead to mistakes and making it worse not better.

Pray it doesn’t happen that the pricing issue is raised by someone who knows what they are talking about. The hospital or health system can’t win this one, but limit the damage to reputation and brand you can.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Will healthcare marketing change with big data availability?

With the treasure trove of information available by applying big data analytics to the practice of healthcare marketing beyond traditional market research and surveys, is a new era of healthcare marketing getting ready to explode upon the industry?

Or, will the use of big data send healthcare organizations to ligation hell because some data was misused,  HIPAA was violated or patients just don't like the idea of marketers have access to data no matter how confidential, and the security steps taken to keep it that way?

Now that Walgreens and other non-traditional providers of healthcare services are expanding and taking a retail approach which is driven by big data, hospitals and health systems as well as others need to start paying attention, and looking at their healthcare services from a big data standpoint. That means analysis by taking big data chunks, down to smaller chunks of data looking for trends and insights into healthcare consumer’s behavior. 

And if you are going to manage population health and develop effective messaging on an individualized basis, then look to big data. Going away are the days of generic messaging, as we enter an age where individualization of messaging is key.

The healthcare consumer will use may use healthcare services in pretty novel ways going forward.  And that will become apparent in the data. It's not all about the hospital any longer. It’s about the business of healthcare, not hospital care.

If one desires the healthcare consumer to make "healthy choices"? If an organization wants the health care consumers to stay in network, then look at the data.  If the goal is to just even have the healthcare consumer to pay attention, then analyze the data to develop those mass customization messages that appear individualized, targeted at the health care consumer.

So while the analysis of the clinical and administrative data moves forward for population health management, take a step back and think what that means for the healthcare consumer.   They are people too. Not just clinical values.  Not just whether or not they are going in or out of network. Think how marketing can assist in all of the above.  And it's not making things sound good, read well or look pretty.

Don't use big data in your marketing and one will be scratching their head wondering what happened when that healthcare consumer train barrels past.

Big data is making healthcare marketing measurable and impactful.