Saturday, February 21, 2015

Learning to love social media- the easy button hospital guide?

Or, how would the hospital or health system like to create a sustainable, engaging and experienced based social media strategy and program?

Both questions are equally important and two sides of the same coin. Use of social media for engagement and experience management, can be a hit or miss proposition without the proper strategy and resourcing. When one considers that the healthcare consumer and patient have over 145 touch-points that impact experience, engagement and their decision making choices, social media is now a strategic business imperative, not a nice to have.

Provider marketing is no longer about puffery, grandiose statements or claims of excellence without proof.  That doesn’t work in a retail consumer- driven market. Provider marketing is now about meaningful engagement, managing the experience and meeting the healthcare consumer’s needs and expectations.

A tall order indeed that takes a strategic business outlook, an unrelenting  focus on the meeting the needs of the healthcare consumer, is meaningfully engaging and manages the experience across all touch-points, not just one to two.

What does the provider need?

First is an understanding of the social media channels that the hospital or health system needs to be participating in.  The following slide illustrates the easy button guide to the hospital using social media.

Now what?

Alignment. Alignment.  Alignment.

With clinical. With physicians. With executive leadership.  With the business plan. With the entire healthcare enterprise.

Effective social media utilization does require alignment and integration.  Danger alert- it can be very tempting to assign social media to one person and start publishing by throwing a lot of stuff against the wall.  To be successful in social media, it takes planning and execution that is in alignment with the healthcare enterprise, and the messaging is integrated across the social media channels and platforms that the healthcare consumer and patient is found. 

It comes down to the following key factors.
  • Do the market research. If you don’t know what social media platforms the healthcare consumer and patients are engaging in, then how can one decide what social media platforms to choose?  Know the audience. Know the markets. Know what information the healthcare consumer is searching out. Know what social media platforms they use to gather information and engage. Secondary research may give one clues in how to proceed with primary market research in the hospital service area, but these are guides only.
  • Build a social media content plan that is integrated into the overall marketing plan and strategy of the hospital or health system. Include in your plan, goals and objectives, key messages, engagement strategies. How it will be measured and evaluated and who is responsible for executing the plan. What gets measured gets done. Obtain executive by-in. If leadership does not support the plan or is not engaged in the effort, stop now and go find something else to do.
  • Evaluate constantly and learn what the healthcare consumer likes and doesn’t like. Test messages. Test engagement strategies.  Fail fast and become the learning organization and not repeating the same mistakes.
  • Engage and build a meaningful relationship with the healthcare consumer. Stay away from meaningless fluff and anything that looks like it’s all about the organization. And listen. Listen very carefully to what is being said in social media and responds accordingly.
  • Allocate the resources for someone to do this full time all the time.  Don’t say the hospital doesn’t have it.  Reallocate the marketing budget to social media from more traditional areas.
  • Invest in staff training on social media, identifying the skills sets that may be lacking and if need be, hire from the outside. Experience counts as the healthcare enterprise does not have the time for trial and error.
  • Budget marketing IT resources and systems for measurement, automation and reporting on social media channels and activities.
Social media done correctly will drive engagement, revenue and growth. It will also provide the healthcare enterprise with a continuous presence in the market that supports and is part of all the other marketing activities.  

In a retail medical retail environment, presence builds preference.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

The healthcare consumer lives in a multi-channel environment; the response is?


The other day I was updating my Healthcare Consumer & Patient Experience Matrix, when from the sheer size; I counted over 145 different touch-points along eight dimensions of interaction, that a healthcare consumer is exposed too for engagement and experience. That is an awful lot of information used consciously and subconsciously by a healthcare consumer or patient.  And there probably a few more as well that play a role in the process.

Agreed that it is an eye chart, but it visually indicates the challenge in developing a coherent and meaningfully integrated strategy, based on the multi-channel informational needs and expectations of the healthcare consumer or patient, and becoming customer focused.

This really means, that the strategy and process that a healthcare provider must use, needs to be multiple in scope, parallel to other efforts and integrated across multiple channels and touch-points. If a healthcare provider says “We don’t do social media.”, or focuses a major effort only on improving patient satisfaction, or providing canned disease educational materials when there is an inpatient encounter, then they are missing the opportunity for total experience management, engagement and customer focus improvement.

In order to improve the experience and engagement, the effort must be across all healthcare consumer and patient touch-points.  Also indicated by the eye chart, is the need for an all inclusive process, which is broken down into manageable bits worked on simultaneously. For experience and engagement to be successful, the major requirement is that a true customer focused organization needs to exist. And that is a major cultural and business focus shift which I have written about previously.

Marketing is your partner and collaborator in all of this, not just there to make things look pretty.

But the first step in this with primary market research in the service area.  Today primary market research is a hit or miss proposition. Some do, some don’t.  Once the data is in, make data-driven decisions based on the needs of the healthcare consumer or patient, not the hospitals in the development of engagement and experience strategies for change, which will meaningfully impact the needs of the audiences. Once you know this, then it’s all hands on deck. 

The healthcare consumer is multi-channel in how they gather information, engage and experience the healthcare enterprise. 

Embrace the challenge and focus on their experience and engagement needs to be successful.

If you would like the pdf of The Healthcare Consumer & Patient Experience Matrix, please email me at and I will send.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Are hospital advertisements misleading by nature?

This is my favorite time of the year in hospital marketing.  New budgets and campaigns in 2015, allowing hospital marketers to bring new messaging to market for physician referral, centers of excellence, awards, technology and building opening campaigns.  All promoting something that the healthcare consumers for no other reason other than “believe us” messaging, should call the number or visit a web site.

My best hospital/health system advertisement in 2015 so far, “Why would you trust your brain to anyone else?” This is an advertisement sticker on the front of a newspaper.  The question posed by the hospital is probably being answered by the healthcare consumer with the question, “So why should I trust my brain to you?”  

And that goes along with the “we have everything from world class physicians to the all the tools to treat cancer”.  I guess it matters not that the competitor down the street has a proton therapy center for cancer treatment, and the advertising hospital doesn’t. Minor detail.

And that is the core of the challenge.

While traditional approaches and messaging to marketing the hospital and health system continue unabated, much to the delight of agencies, newspaper outlets, cable, traditional TV and radio outlets and others, the healthcare consumer is left scratching their head since its looks and feels so much the same for all the hospitals’  in a market.

The healthcare consumer is searching for information on the hospital or health system that includes brand reputation, price and outcomes data, and patient testimonials in order to make a healthcare purchase decision.  They are finding the information elsewhere. What they are finding doesn’t match with the message. And that doesn’t foster or create trust.

It’s a new business model for hospital and health system operations and marketing.

Health care is evolving into a retail driven, consumer focused medical market and that means new approaches.  A new transparency based on price, outcomes and the value that the healthcare consumer receives. It’s not about logos, awards, vague claims or misleading advertisements. It is about being healthcare consumer focused and meeting their needs with usable, transparent, actionable information, not hospital centric messaging that makes the Board, physicians and senior management feel great about them.

What should be communicated?

By the placing of context around the content of how that awards makes the hospital a quality provider of care in that category of care, not all categories.   The marketing and messaging needs to support the brand and brand message as well differentiating the hospital from competitors.  For the new market environment and healthcare business model, price, quality data, accessibility, convenience and testimonials for the healthcare consumer, is the new marketing currency. The healthcare consumer wants to be able to trust the hospital. The healthcare consumer wants to make a good decision.  Listen to what the healthcare consumer is asking for in the way of information from the hospital. Give information and solutions, not “trust me” promises and all encompassing claims.  No one believes it anymore.

Is the hospital listening?

In most cases healthcare advertisements and other channel communications are the primary contact that a consumer has that starts the experience process.   Talk to the audience in meaningful ways. Educate. Teach. Inform. Change opinion.   Tell them why the quality award is important and what it means to them. Frame the experience and setup the clinical service or physician by providing actionable information in terms the healthcare consumer can understand.

Winning healthcare marketers are driving growth by increasing their precision, broadening their scope, reacting quickly and telling a better story.

Respond to the needs of the healthcare consumer, not the needs of the hospital.  In doing so the hospital needs for growth and revenue will be met.