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.

1 comment:

Ben Dillon said...

This is a great thought, but pricing transparency has proven to be more complicated than it seems. Do you see anyone doing this well today?