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?

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