Monday, January 18, 2016

Is marketing still a dirty word in some hospitals and health systems?

It seems that when the topic of marketing in hospitals comes up beyond the “making things look pretty” activities, the adverse reaction to marketing involvement from clinicians can be swift.  Now that being said, not all clinicians meaning nurses and doctors are in that category.  Some have a very clear understand of the role and purpose of marketing in the organization.

But for the majority, ask how marketing participates in their respective hospital with patient engagement, experience management, program design, revenue collections or creating the customer –patient-focused hospital, for example, it’s often followed with that quizzical look.  Sometimes that question will also elicit a swift verbal or written rebuttal.

I especially like the “insurance plan makes those choices” argument. Nonsense. It’s just nonsense because payers do not make consumer selections decisions.  A consumer in a health plan has a selection of doctors and hospitals within a network, and can choose to go out of network paying a financial penalty for doing so.  Plus, many plans are beginning to incentivize consumers for choosing the lowest cost option in their network of providers which reduces their out-of-pocket expenses. So please just stop with the managed care nonsense, there is no basis in reality for the statement.

The world that hospitals exist in today is markedly different than even last year.  That won’t go away, and clinicians and doctors cannot change it. Being angry at the question of the role, involvement and effectiveness of marketing in hospitals are self-defeating and, in reality, wastes a valuable organizational asset and resource.

Marketing is not the enemy, and it’s just not about making things look pretty. Especially since in a recent Becker’s Hospital Review story on the top five strategies that are on CEOs desks in 2016, with healthcare consumerism and branding as the number 5 activity.

I also get that for clinicians and others it’s a control issue.  It’s easy to say and believe one knows all that he or she needs to know about the healthcare consumer.  The reality of that belief is that it is pejorative and arrogant.  When marketing becomes involved, that means sharing control and hearing viewpoints and seeing data/analysis of healthcare consumer behavior, preferences, and needs that may very well be the opposite of what one believes or wants to believe.

Changing focus from an internal view to an external view is what marketing accomplishes.  Well, effective marketing for the record.  It is about uncovering unmet market healthcare needs and collaboratively designing solutions to meet those health care needs that are healthcare consumer focused, have an affordable price point that are convenient to the healthcare consumer or patient, not the hospital.

The hospital is nothing more than a cost center in search of a revenue stream. There are only a few things anymore that one needs a hospital for in the provision of care. New entrants, innovations in care and setting delivery, technology, information, drugs, as examples are in the very process of making the big box hospital obsolete.  

Do clinicians and hospitals realize that today, a savvy healthcare consumer or patient could create their care delivery network, and never step foot in a hospital or hospital-based outpatient service for care?

Marketing is not the enemy. Marketing can go a long way in helping the hospital and clinicians understand the nuances of the market to improve the experience, build programs that meet the health care needs of the consumer, build a brand and generate growth and revenue if given the chance.

After all, the number one strategy for 2016 for CEOs is acquisition and merger to grow. Well, guess what? In all my years of healthcare experience, those companies that focus on growth through a single strategy of acquisition to grow are doomed to failure over the long term.

And in that single focus strategy for growth, there are only so many hospitals in a market for merger or acquisition. Sooner or later you run out of acquisition targets, and that is if the Justice Department doesn’t jump in first with an anticompetitive lawsuit to stop the acquisition or merger.
At some point, the hospital has to grow organically. And organic growth won’t be accomplished if marketing is treated as the enemy.

It’s no longer about making things look pretty.

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

1 comment:

Emy Watson said...
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