Monday, May 26, 2014

How do you market the big box hospital post reform?

From what I have seen it’s 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, what can be done by hospital marketing? 

Here are nine marketing strategies for saving the big box hospital.

1.  Brand and competitive position.
Consumers and patients are ready for convenient technology-enabled access to care. Use of mobile healthcare apps is on the rise. Healthcare providers that are capable of identifying consumers needs, and how they want their healthcare needs meet though technology focused on them, will gain new patients and the next-generation of physicians. 

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?  That doesn't seem like a lot of common sense. 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 repurchases behavior.

3. Engage the physicians and focus on the physician experience.
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 and efficient physician has more to do with the impact of cost, quality in your organization then may other factors.

How hard is it for a physician or physician extender to practice medicine in your organization?  Understand their experiences overall from beginning to end, not just in isolated care segments. Fix what is broken, keep what is working. The more satisfying the experience, the better you will do financially.

4. 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 healthcare consumer/patient comes in contact with, which in turn creates the experience. Exceptional experience means gains in market share, brand awareness, and revenue.

5. Embrace innovation in healthcare.
Traditional ways of delivering healthcare are going by the wayside.  Price, convenience, access are the drivers in retail healthcare.  Find the need, understand the consumer’s behavior drivers, design offering around the consumer not you in a convenient location and price it appropriately. If you can't compete in this way, your market position, share and revenue will erode.

6. Agility is the name of the game.
Be nimble. Be agile. Be quick.  Healthcare marketing needs to move from the tried and failed 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. .

7. Get moving on the social media program.
A hospital or health system needs to be where the healthcare consumer is living. And the healthcare consumer is on social media finding the information they need to make choices.  Social media is not a billboard, but an efficient and effective engagement strategy that can enhance the relationship.

8. Understand the multiplicity of markets.
You have five markets: Medicare; Medicaid; Commercial; Exchanges; and Uninsured. Baby Boomers are starting to demand that their healthcare experience be delivered their way, the way they want when they want. Retail medicine will continue to expand so tailor the healthcare offerings to the market accordingly. One size does not fit all. Outcomes and price transparency, access and convenience are the future and the future is now.

9. Quality Transparency will set one free.
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 here 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 and price 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. No circling the wagons. The genie is out of the bottle and never going back.

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

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Should healthcare providers change marketing in an era of reform?

Faced with a cacophony of payment models from fee-for-service to value ad risked based with everything else in between, the evolving healthcare consumer and the newly insured, healthcare marketing becomes an even greater challenge than before. One size does not fit all. And growth is good.

The hospital or health system has five markets: Medicare; Medicaid; Commercial; Exchanges; and Uninsured. And in those five markets it’s about:  Sustainability; Presence; Perception; and Experience.

These are the four dynamics that healthcare providers need to understand and incorporate for successful marketing and campaign efforts in a consumer-driven market. In short the answer is yes. No longer nice to have, these four basic concepts are now business requirements:

 ·         Sustainability- The resources to effectively and continuously communicate brand and differentiate the offering across multiple channels
 ·         Presence - By maintaining a continuous presence across multiple channels as in so many other consumer-directed industries is how one builds brand preference
 ·         Perception- With a sustainable, continuous presence in the marketplace, sooner rather than latter, your key messages become the opinion of you by consumers and they become fact in their mind.
 ·         Experience-  The actual customer experience at all touch-points matches the brand image, perceptions and opinions of customers that you created in the marketplace, that have been communicated in an integrated multi-channel sustained effort that includes social media engagement

What to do?

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:

·          A 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 than the old way of doing things.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

What does it take to implement a strategic healthcare social media program?

Over the past few weeks we have discussed the need for hospitals and health systems to partake of the social media revolution in reaching, engaging and driving the healthcare consumer to make favorable decision and choices.

It’s easy to talk about the rationale about the importance of an effective and efficient hospital or health system social media program.  Or to suggest social media channels as a starting point to drive consumer engagement and business.  It’s another thing to discuss the how you actually do it in a time of scarce marketing resources, lack of knowledge or the willingness to lead change.

What follows for your consideration are steps that need to be taken for a hospital or health system to embark on a fully integrated and effective social media program.

1.       It starts with leadership. If marketing does not have Board, CEO and executive leadership support, it’s not going anywhere. Why? Because it all about resource allocation and slaying some sacred cows.

2.       Improve the organizational marketing process. Let face it, we all do things that don’t make any sense or has become so ingrained it’s done without thinking. Take a step back and look at the marketing processes. Find efficiencies and increase effectiveness. Stop doing what doesn't work and move those resources to social media.

3.       Find the one person on the organization that knows social media and put them full time on the job or hire someone.  It takes an FTE dedicated to successfully run an integrated, efficient, engaging and effective social media program.

4.       Commit to social media all the time. The challenge is to keep in front of your audience with relevant information, all the time.  Attention spans are short.  If someone sees no changes on a pretty regular basis in your content or information, they will fall away.

5.       Measure everything.  Evaluate.  Adjust based on your findings. Redeploy budget as needed.

6.       Use social media with your physicians and employees to communicate, build organizational support and loyalty.

7.        Do the market research to understand and not guess.

8.       In the end if the resources can’t be allocated or the will is just not there consider outsourcing the social media function.

Bottom line is that the healthcare consumer and patient’s are out in social media searching for the hospital, health system or physician. So it is probably about time that the hospital, health system or physician is where they are, not where they would like them to be.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Is it time for hospital advertising to change?

With the healthcare consumer having a higher cost stake in healthcare choices with larger deductibles and co-pays, combined with the availability of price and outcomes data; it would seem that the time for change has come.

If one was to look at healthcare consumer in terms of interaction with the brand, only one-third of the time is spent as a patient during diagnosis and treatment. Two-thirds of the time they are healthcare consumers making choices and decision about where to receive care.

What should hospitals be advertising to create an unassailable market position, a strong brand, as well as an enlightened and informed consumer?  

Is it the "we are unique and world-class", have best doctors and locations that are accessible and convenient?

Then there is the ever popular, the technology is state-of-the-art, photo of the shiny new building or the doctor looking skyward like they are in great deep thought.

Another winner; we have the most shiny trophies and quality awards for several services. Oh, and even though we don't have a quality award for all services, if everybody else was as good as us message to go with it, “100,000 lives would be saved annually".

I think, that pretty much for the most part, sums up the current state of hospital advertising.  And when several hospitals are staying all of these things at the same time in a market, does anyone really believe that the consumer is paying any attention at all, when there is so little differentiation?  It all looks like "me too" and just shouting for attention.

It makes the Board, senior management and physicians feel good, all the while your audience receives absolutely no information that will help them make some of the most critical choices and decisions in their life.

The time has come healthcare providers to provide meaningful information in the marketplace that will allow the healthcare consumer to become informed, educated and participatory in the care decision-making process. 

The hospital or health system should be transparent and talking about outcomes and prices.  The healthcare consumer is hungry for information and searching the internet as well as other sources about you and how you perform. They are paying more of the cost and demanding more say in the process. And they don't like being treated like they are some small child who can't make a decision.

To use an often quoted metaphor, the wave of change is upon the hospital industry as we move from provider-dominated and controlled decision-making model, to a healthcare consumer and patient-directed controlled model, that is evolving into a semi-retail environment. 

Changing markets unless responded too can be a harsh mistress.