Thursday, June 19, 2014

Has the healthcare marketing tipping point arrived?

With the healthcare consumer  taking more control of and in their healthcare choices in a market that is evolving to a semi-retail model of healthcare, has the tipping point arrived in healthcare marketing to move from marketing communication activities to a hybrid consumer marketing model? 

Being responsive, outcomes transparent, delivering an exceptionally consistent patient experience from first contact through post purchase and the coming pricing wars, will have great influence on how to execute marketing at the hospital or health system.

An organization will still need to compete for that individual patient at some level in the five markets that you serve: Medicare; Medicaid; Exchanges; Commercial; and Uninsured. And within those market segments will be the ACOs, patient medical homes, narrow networks, bundled payment mechanisms, employers etc. 

It really comes down to the tipping points of the market- sustainability, presence, perception, outcomes, price and experience.

These are what healthcare providers need to focus on and incorporate for success in their marketing operations and campaign efforts in a consumer-driven market.

Sustainability- The resources to effectively and continuously communicate brand and differentiate what you’re offering across multiple channels.

Presence - By maintaining a continuous presence across multiple channels as in so many other consumer-directed industries you build brand preference.

Perception- With a sustainable, continuous presence in the marketplace, sooner rather than latter, your key messages become the opinion of consumers and they become fact in their minds.

Outcomes- No longer the great secret of healthcare, quality information is available from any number of consumer directed sources. The healthcare consumer and employers are seeking out that information. It’s another one of the tipping points in healthcare marketing.  Ignore it at one’s own peril. Define the market along outcome attributes or have competitors or the market define you good or bad. 

Price- As with outcomes information, price information good or bad is available. It’s another tipping point in marketing to the healthcare consumer.  Price could become the answer to the why should I go here, when all other factors are equal in their mind.
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.

The tipping point in the transformation of healthcare marketing has arrived.

To my readers- I offer my apologies for not posting for nearly two weeks now.  The fastpitch travel softball season has started for my daughter at the 16U A level.  Alex is a left-handed pitcher.  What is different for this season is that after 10 years of playing, it all comes to an end. She will stop playing at the end of the season in August after the USSSA National World Series where her tarvel team has been invited to play.  Alex has also made the decision not to play in college. She just wants to be a normal student figuring out what she is going to do with the rest of her life.  Great wisdom from one so young.   

This has been a big part of our lives for the last 10 years. I have seen her win tournament championship games, pitch a no-hitter and handle adversity with grace and dignity. Skills which will last her a lifetime.   I will miss it, especially the coaches, parents and players of the teams that she has been on. And much deep gratitude to Lisa, her private pitching and hitting coach who has helped her in ways un-imagined when this all started. And I will enjoy every last minute of it as a proud parent should. So I will post but only when the opportunity presents. Have a great summer. I know I will.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Ready for the tyranny of healthcare price competition?

The hospital marketing game is changing rapidly driven by easily accessible and readily available price and quality data. Hide one’s head in the sand if one must, but that information in the hands of the healthcare consumer will drive more innovation and change in how hospitals do business and marketing, than anything else imaginable.

Member co-pays and deductibles are rising.  Employers moving to defined contributions.  Millions of individuals have purchased health insurance or entered the market via Medicaid expansion. Healthcare consumers are facing the economic reality that they now to pay along several fronts. Can one really think of any better way to control healthcare costs by introducing a level of price competition and providing information which really up until now, was essentially unattainable?

There is nothing like having higher out-of-pocket expenses, coupled with the ability to obtain price and quality information, to estimate your own costs to get healthcare consumers to pay attention. Shopping for care among providers by price is a purely consumeristic behavior and it's not mystery shopping.

Just because one charges more doesn't mean higher quality.  The healthcare consumer already assumes quality.  And they assume that it is equal across multiple providers. Saying you have high quality or a better experience when you are unable to differentiate yourself in the market, is a claim that falls flat in a price driven market.

Markets based on price competition can be tyrannical in nature and a harsh mistress which is new reality for most in healthcare.  Now, doctors, hospitals and others will need to change their marketing operations and begin to deal on price.  Your brand takes on new meaning when price and choice become a critical component in the healthcare consumer decision-making process.  High price undifferentiated quality won't sell.

If a competitor in one’s market takes the first step and advertises lower pricing for some common diagnosis and treatments, what will be the response? Employers are already identifying providers based on price and quality.  Six million American go oversees for healthcare because it’s cheaper than here. If an innovator like Walgreens or private equity offers some of the same services but at a better price with the consumer in mind, is one ready to compete with that in the market?

Surviving all the change in healthcare is already hard, and unfortunately it’s about to get a lot harder. Competing on price vs. claims of quality requires a different set of healthcare marketing skills than a marketing communications focus traditionally found in most healthcare marketing operations.

Take stock and embrace healthcare consumerism and price competition. Growth is good.