The other day, an individual who I follow and respect very much, Paul Levy author of the blog, NOT RUNNING A HOSPITAL- THIS IS A BLOG BY A FORMER CEO OF A LARGE BOSTON HOSPITAL TO SHARE THOUGHTS ABOUT HOSPITALS, MEDICINE, AND HEALTHCARE ISSUES, wrote an interesting post S(uch) S(trange) M(edicine). Very eloquently, Paul raised some every significant questions based on the blog, SSM and Health Fair: what happens when you don’t use Google, and the experience of Vik Khanna in his blog post Over Diagnosis . These were not low cost screenings either. I highly recommend that everyone read these posts.
The discussions addressed the ethics based on the stated mission and value statements of SSM, by packaging and selling of cardiovascular screenings that except for one of the six screenings, were RECOMMENED NOT to be done by USPSTF and the medical community.
It did provide a pause for me in considering healthcare marketing and its place and role in today’s evolving medical retail market. And yes when I was the hospital side, I did promote screenings.
But it doesn't mean it was right then, or the right marketing strategy today without pause.
There is a fine line between promotions of disease screenings that are needed in a population that may be exhibiting for example cardiovascular disease, and promoting screenings to the general public that has been determined as medically unnecessary and may produce false positives. This is especially true in an environment where we all hear so much about customer focus, patient centered care, cost reduction and meeting the Triple AIM messaging from hospitals and health systems.
It’s not easy….
It’s not easy when the business model is changing from being paid for the production of care to being paid for the risk and quality of care. There is still the need to put “heads in the beds” to generate revenue while the transition from revenue center to cost center plays out for the hospital.
The market is shifting to a consumer focused medical retail model based on cost and quality as well, which requires a different marketing skill set. It can make healthcare marketers and hospital leadership schizophrenic in many ways.
The moral of the story is……
I do not think it’s to promote medically unnecessary tests and screenings, even as the market shifts to a consumer driven model. This isn't like selling cars or shoes. Shoes are needed. Unnecessary medical tests are not.
The role of healthcare marketing in hospitals is to understand the healthcare consumer and dynamics of the market so completely, that they develop those marketing strategies and tactics that are based on the needs of the healthcare consumer, are priced correctly and move the healthcare consumer to obtain the right care, in the right place, for the right cost.
It is also to be the leadership voice in the healthcare enterprise, and to fact check and verify that the screening program is not promoting tests, that that have been determined not to be medically necessary by the medical community and evidence based literature. Marketing leadership in the healthcare enterprise has the responsibility and accountability to lead a fact based discussion about the program.
Retail medical marketing is more than just slapping some screening tests together with a pricing discount. That’s not marketing. That is just throwing stuff up against the wall and seeing what sticks.
And that is a major cultural shift and understanding of the nature and function of healthcare marketing in a medical retail environment in the hospital and health system.