Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Is legacy healthcare marketing obstructing healthcare consumerism?

It’s well documented that the healthcare consumer and patient is actively engaged in searching for quality and price information when selecting healthcare providers. Social media, web sites, mobile apps and other channels play significant roles in the consumer informational quest. Each day more and more disruptive innovation takes place that brings the data healthcare consumers need to the forefront in spite of hospitals and health systems.  News coverage by electronic and print channels is also intensifying the pressure for price and quality transparency.

On one hand there is the need and consumer desire for price and quality transparency in a market driven to a healthcare consumer focus by disruptive innovation.  The other side of that coin is the legacy marketing approaches that hospitals and health system take in not meeting employer, healthcare consumer and others need for quality and price transparency.

Yet amid all this change and pressure, hospital and health system marketing is still for the most part based on legacy marketing tradition.  Legacy marketing  for example of quality award content lacking context combined unattainable brand promises, or claims of quality care surrounded by hyperbole..

In the reality of the market place all of this comes together with unintended consequence.   The lack of response to dynamic market changes does have the effect of obstructing and slowing, but not stopping the transformation of healthcare to a healthcare consumer driven accountable healthcare system.

The emperor has no clothes.

Looking in the mirror the hospital or health system has the appearance of being finely dressed in the mission, brand, brand promise and pronouncements of “customer-focused” or patient- focused”  operations.  But when the hospital or health system step outside in the light of the community, its poor experience, lack of information, unknown pricing and marketing as usual in regards to the healthcare consumer.

Exposure has a price.

For example, in a May 13, 2015 article by Jay Hancock in Kaiser Health News,  Radical Approach To Huge Hospital Bills: Set Your Own Price,  a consulting firm ELAP Services is telling clients to refuse to pay. ELSP then completes a detailed accounting analysis of the hospitals filled cost report to identify the true cost of the service. The client based on the cost analysis, pays that price plus a markup for some profit.  By the way this approach has been upheld in the courts.

As more and more information is published in the New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Chicago Tribune and others, hospital and health system legacy marketing is creating confusion for the healthcare consumer. 

Health care is evolving into a retail driven, consumer focused medical market and that means new approaches.  A new marketing legacy 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.

To be a winning hospital or health system, healthcare marketers need to drive growth by increasing their precision, broadening their scope, reacting quickly and telling a better story. A story that is based on price, quality and value.

To answer the question posed at the beginning of the post, legacy healthcare marketing is obstructing the movement to healthcare consumerism, but it can’t stop the inevitable.  

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