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.