Sunday, September 6, 2015

How do you market quality in a healthcare consumer-driven market?

An interesting question isn't it?  Well, I posed  a similar question in my  Healthcare Marketing Matters blog back on March 31, 2013. And so far it’s had 5,200 page views.  Some questions never seem to get answered or go away.  So this is an update looking through the lens of the market changes occurring during the last couple of years.

It presupposes that healthcare consumers have some kind of idea of what they need in the way of healthcare services. 

Yes and no.

On one side yes, in that medical care is complex and diagnosis is not as easy as reading a book or talking to someone. But the healthcare consumer, once they realize that their wellness is not to what they normally experience will more often than not seek medical advice as to the cause of the illness.  Then in seeking that medical advice they begin the process of gaining the necessary information to make reasonable decisions, or at the very least to participate in the process.

On the other side no, in that once the healthcare consumer has acquired a basic understand of what is medically wrong, they have now the ability to use quality data to make choices on where to seek treatment along several dimensions, their direct  cost, aka out-of-pocket expenses such as deductible and co-pays, and indirect costs such as time, convenience, travel requirements, access,  time away from work etc., on where to receive the care they need at the right time, for the right cost, in the right setting.

In a consumer-driven retail medical model, real quality data, not pretty award logos is what is required for the transparency that a healthcare consumer seeking care can use to make reasonable decisions.

Because of the lack of transparency around quality and outcomes, the healthcare consumer assumes that quality is equal among competing providers.  This brings us full circle back to the issue of being quality transparent in patient experience and engagement marketing to the healthcare consumer and why it hasn’t happened?

It is meaningless to tell a healthcare consumer that that the chance of acquiring a post-surgical hospital infection is .85 at the 95 percent confidence level. That is from their view statistical mumbo jumbo. 

What the healthcare consumer wants to know is that 1 in 1,000 surgical patients acquire a hospital post-surgical infection.  That the medication error rate is 10 in 250 patients.  Or the risk  of an acquired hospital infection is 1 in 10,000. Another is the risk of falling is 1 in 50 patients.  Just. Like. That.

Placing your quality information in those terms is meaningful and useful to the healthcare consumer and patient.  Not as I continue to see in so many provider advertisements the all encompassing we have “great quality” claims and look at this newest “award”!

At this stage of the evolution of healthcare consumerism and retail medicine, providers need to start figuring out how to communicate quality metrics in terms that are meaningful and understandable.
There are no easy answers.  The only way is by engaging the patient and the healthcare consumer, understand what they are searching for, and find the right channels and messages to communicate with them.

The healthcare consumer will spend out-of-pocket over $350 billion in 2015 for insurance premiums, deductibles, and co-pays.  They have the right to know. It’s their real money.

For more topics and thought leading discussions like this, join Healthcare Marketing Leaders For Change, a LinkedIn Professional Group.

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