Sunday, February 28, 2016

Professional athlete injuries, PHI & HIPAA. Should the media exercise better judgment?

On February 25, 2016, there was a significant discussion on the Dan Patrick Show on NBC Sports regarding Adam Schefter, ESPN and the suit filed by New York Giants football player Jason Pierre-Paul concerning the release of the image of his injured hand. If you click on the ESPN link above, it will take you to the press release and the allegations, so I won’t cover those here.

The live discussion was well reasoned, discussed and managed gracefully by Dan Patrick and the Danettes. They should all get kudos for their efforts.

I do need to be clear that reporters and media outlets no matter the channel are not covered entities under current law and regulation.  So when a provider employee leaks PHI which is a violation of HIPAA to the media, while the employee and employer are subject to penalties, reporters and media members for using that information are not.

So maybe a little education is needed regarding Protected Health information (PHI) and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).  As a reminder and this is taken directly from the website of HHS:

The HIPAA Privacy Rule

The HIPAA Privacy Rule establishes national standards to protect individuals’ medical records and other personal health information and applies to health plans, health care clearinghouses, and those health care providers that conduct certain health care transactions electronically.  The Rule requires appropriate safeguards to protect the privacy of personal health information and sets limits and conditions on the uses and disclosures that may be made of such information without patient authorization. The Rule also gives patients rights over their health information, including rights to examine and obtain a copy of their health records, and to request corrections.
The Privacy Rule is located at 45 CFR Part 160 and Subparts A and E of Part 164
Click here to view the combined regulation text of all HIPAA Administrative Simplification Regulations found at 45 CFR 160, 162, and 164.
Is there a public right to know about an athlete’s injury when the information had not been previously released?

From my view, the answer is no; there is no public right to know when it comes to personal medical information about anyone regardless of profession or public status.  

One would hope that reasonable judgment and ethical behavior on the part of the reporter would be in play.  I know, that is Pollyannaish thinking when scoops, Q factors, Tweets, readership, professional jealousies and ratings are everything. Never mind the more than 15 minutes of fame. But still, aren’t reporters sometimes still seen as a trusted source for “my sources say” information? And isn’t the risk bigger for the writer losing the confidence and trust of players for releasing PHI?

Not so simple is it?

And it doesn’t matter either how stupid someone may think their action was resulting in the injury.

Where do we go from here?

Healthcare marketers and public relations professionals deal with this issue every day.  Many times it becomes a crisis communications issue when a provider employee or employees provide that athletes injury information to the press.

People engage in activities when they know it’s wrong for a variety of reasons tops of which are their 15 minutes of fame or for monetary reasons.  That is just the age that we live. But that doesn’t mean its right.

The opportunity for healthcare marketers here is to reach out to the print and electronic media in their markets and offer some refresher courses on PHI, HIPAA, and what to do if they receive from “confidential sources” protected health information.

I would also reach out to the media outlets and the teams as well and offer to provide PHI and HIPAA training to new employees during that organization new employee orientation.  No more than a few slides on the why of HIPAA, their responsibilities in this, and how to handle.

Build a strong relationship and everyone benefits. The provider. The sports media company and reporters. The professional team. And most importantly the individual athlete.

Protecting a person’s health information is everyone’s responsibility. Ignorance of the law, as well as poor judgment, is no excuse.

After all, would you want your health information released without your consent?

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

Monday, February 22, 2016

Hospital employed physician losses mounting? Think about this.

Recent figures from the MGMA indicate that owned physician practices by hospitals and health systems are losing an average of a $150K - $180K annually.  The continuation of angst in leadership is a replay of the 90s when owning physician practices was all the rage.  Funny, one would think that over time, the lessons of the past would make things different today.

And everyone knows these losses are unsustainable.  There are of course many reasons for this, some are structural, some are organizational, some are cultural, some are management decisions made all playing a part in why the practice is losing so much money.

When you think about it, there is no one single strategy to make them profitable.  It comes down to an integration of four strategies to lower the losses. Of these four strategies: improve the operational processes and workflow; develop financial management and collections process; management of ancillary and specialist referrals, so patients are not going outside the network; and building the practice through marketing, I will focus on the marketing.

But one of the contributing reasons to practice losses should never be because of bad marketing and business development. Sometimes, hospital leadership and practice management just need to get out of the way of marketing and business development and let them do their thing.

Medical practices are one of the few remaining opportunities to drive volume and revenue.   The drive to create ACOs and networks in a risk-based or value-based payment environment demands a different type of physician relationship, but that doesn't mean ineffective marketing. 

With this new opportunity to reinvent, revitalize and recapture what previously before had been an adventure on the part of hospitals with mixed results, it's time to discuss how one goes about marketing the employed physician.

A break from the past.

It's easy to look at this and say we'll just do what we did in the past in promoting employed physicians.  Healthcare consumers/patients are making physician choices based cost, location and convenience due to increasing co-pays and rising deductibles.  Stop the outbound interruptive advertising with a picture of a nice smiling doc with copy written in the third person about how the physician is wonderfully compassionate and caring.

Practice the three E's of physician marketing- Engagement, Experience, and Execution.


Communicate the values of the doctor.  Answer the healthcare consumer’s and patients for that matter, the question of what is special about this physician and why should I select her or him?  Stop talking at people, talk to them. Speak to them with compelling value driven reasoning why they should choose that doctor, or even why they should even considering switching physicians.  No more doctors looking contemplatively skyward or ad copy that talks about them in the third person.

Employed physician marketing is perfect for inbound marketing techniques, SEO, blogging, social media.


Pay attention to the patient experiences. How long is the patient waiting?  Is your website easy to use? Can they schedule appointments online?  Can the patient receive texts and updates via a portal or email?  How are they greeted? View the patient experience from beginning to end at every touch-point along the continuum. 

Remember, a consumer is only a patient one-third of the time they interact with your physicians.  Before care and after care, they are consumers, evaluating their experience at every touch-point that they come in contact.  


Stop wasting your money putting ads in papers that expect people to take action simply because the doctor is on your medical staff or in one of your buildings.  That treats the healthcare consumer like they are idiots.  They're not. They are demanding value for the cost and acknowledgment that they have a say in what's going on.  If you don't meet their needs, they will go somewhere else.

Focus on executing the brand promise by meeting the engagement and experience expectations of the consumer and patient all the time, every time.

Value, value, and more value.

If you're not communicating value and what's in it for them for selecting your physicians, then you can put it in the bank that the healthcare consumer will pass on by and go where they perceive the value to be greatest for them in line with the price they are paying.

In the end, it's all about knowing what healthcare consumer/ patient needs are and delivering that in a convenient location at a price point that is affordable.  If you think this is crazy,  then why are the retail clinics taking you to lunch?

 And the losses keep mounting.

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

Tags:  Value Marketing, Hospitals, Healthcare,  Consumer, ACO, Marketing Physicians

Monday, February 15, 2016

Why should a provider switch to Inbound Marketing?

Most marketing practiced by hospitals and health systems remains mired in traditional outbound marketing methods. That is pushing low-value content out in display ads, direct mailers, radio, billboard, etc., in the hopes that someone will pay attention and act. Calls to actions are generic in nature, and there is a lemming-like an approach by all hospitals in the same market to do the same thing at the same time. Commonly referred to interruption marketing, outbound is all about sending generic messages out to the widest possible number of audiences with no customization of content or message hoping that someone will respond.

Today's hospital brand is defined by the brand promise, outcomes, price, engagement and experience. These are the difference makers between driving revenue and growth or merger/acquisition/liquidation. The healthcare consumer and patient is increasingly taking control and making choices. Is outbound marketing the best way to drive brand awareness, choice, and selection?

What is inbound marketing?

Inbound marketing a series marketing actions designed to give healthcare consumers and patients a reason to contact you.  It’s about bringing the healthcare consumer or patient to you. Inbound marketing requires meaningful content that is used to engage consumers and patients building the value and relationship. It’s a pull strategy as opposed to a push strategy that hospitals and health systems use.  It’s not an either-or proposition; one needs both strategies well integrated to achieve maximum benefit.

It’s all about why someone should contact and choose you, not what you do.

Understand that inbound marketing focuses on “reason to communicate with you” and not a “do you need a doctor?” or cancer services or insert clinical, technology, or building name here for outbound marketing.  That means having content that is engaging, meets a healthcare consumer or patient needs and prompts that to take action with a strong call to action.

What are the inbound channels?

The major component of inbound is SEO, blogging, social media, content marketing, and review/referral sites. One is pushing relevant messaging based on the user personas and behavior characteristics that address their “pain points” and interests so that the hospital is staying top-of-mind in their decision-making process.

You need to understand the buyer persona and their buying process.

The healthcare consumer and patient now have a buying process.  And in that buying process technology is a major factor. They are searching for information on the hospital, health system or doctor, etc.  With that, the case, doesn’t it make sense to be proactive and connect on a very personal level?  Inbound marketing allows you to do that.  And it’s not sending an email with generic information.

That also means the buyer is now different.  Yes, one continues to use demographic information but pigeonholing people into these “group clarifications”,  doesn’t get to the issue of their pain points and what solutions they are looking for in meeting their healthcare needs. So a persona is developed for each type of individual one is attempted to attract to the hospital.

Inbound marketing is healthcare consumer or patient-centric not hospital-centric.

If one considers the healthcare consumer or patient as the focal point of what they need, not what the hospital needs to generate revenue, then the task of marketing shifts.  The Marketing department needs to understand the journey of the healthcare consumer or patient buying process. Once that is understood, then it’s about having relevant and meaningful information available at any point in the process. That means the hospital marketing process with inbound marketing is to attract, capture, nurture, convert, and expand the relationship.

Inbound marketing positively impacts fee-for-service, risk-based or value-based contracts.

Because you shift to inbound marketing, the hospital is engaging and establishing a strong relationship with the healthcare consumer or patient.  In population health management, engagement and meaningful patient relationships are everything. 

Inbound marketing is attributable to increased revenue, growth and ROI.

Here is what happens for the hospital in shifting some of its effort from purely outbound to a strategically integrated combination of inbound and outbound marketing. The hospital does generate revenue, market share grows, the cost of marketing decreases and marketing ROI increases.

So what one does today by shifting to inbound marketing will pay huge dividends tomorrow no matter what the payment system.

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

Sunday, February 7, 2016

And what is the hospital brand?

Over the last couple of weeks, we looked at the three buckets of healthcare consumer/patient engagement and the responding to health care consumerism. And as promised a couple of weeks ago, we now are going to take a look at the hospital brand. As a memory refresh, this was a topic in a recent hospital CEO survey of the top five concerns for 2016.

But before we go any further, engagement of the healthcare consumer and patient, consumerism and brand are all linked.

While these three concerns were separate topics, in reality, are not unrelated to the strategic discussion.  Engagement, consumerism and brand are three sides of the same triangle integrated to the point that action in one changes the other two.

What is in your brand?

Now one can say that it’s a relatively easy question to answer. In some providers, it may very well be while in others not so much.  That is not a shot at anyone, just a reality of the marketplace. Hospitals are highly undifferentiated and bordering on commodity status. And when an industry becomes a commodity in the minds of consumers it is not about what you do or provide any longer, it’s all about the price you charge.

And that my friends are why the hospital brand is so critical now in health care.

Living in a large metropolitan market with nearly 100 hospitals, I have the opportunity to see a lot of hospital advertising. And frankly, I have no idea what any of the brands promises are. I don’t know what their brand position is. I can’t tell what their brand pillars are.  And to top it off, I don’t even know what they do well.

What I do know is that they all care deeply about me.  They all have everything I would ever need. The area providers’ rank somewhere in a third party quality award and some are in multiple awards. The hospitals all have great looking buildings, wireless internet, private rooms and big HDTVs and technology and 100s of physicians’ with the best quality available.

Phrasing it differently, what is your brand? How is your brand different from all the other hospitals? And what is your brand promise to me, the healthcare consumer & patient? Is it that you care, and it’s just like a hotel? Meaningless!

Doesn’t one think that a better brand promise for a provider would be “the trusted hospital to meet your healthcare needs?”  This type of brand promise requires a dramatic cultural and organizational change in the hospital.

What is needed today is for the hospital first to clarify its brand internally, and then in the market.

Take a step back and examine with outside help these three things.

      1. What is the hospital brand promise?
a.       What is the unwavering commitment to the healthcare consumer or patient?
      2, What are the brand pillars?
a.       How does the hospital deliver on the brand promise?
      3, What is the brand hospital personality?
a.       What is the way the hospital acts to deliver on its brand pillars?

Three questions for a market that is undifferentiated which are not at all easy to answer. But in answering these three inquiries, one will be able to execute tactically relevant marketing strategies and messages that have meaning, impact and drive growth.  Development of a meaningful and lasting brand is much more complicated than the above.  But it’s the most logical place to start.

After all, if the hospital doesn’t know what the brand is how can one expect the market to know? And judging from the lack of brand differentiation among hospitals, nobody knows.

On a professional note, I have recently completed the HubSpot Academy Inbound Marketing courses and certification exam. I would highly recommend that healthcare marketers do the same.

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

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

How can the hospital respond to consumerism?

In the last post, the focus was on the three buckets of engagement that hospitals and health systems need to integrate into the engagement cycle of consumer, patient and brand loyalty. The post of January 25th was the first in the series of three posts regarding what CEOs are searching for solutions or paths to take in addressing those concerns.

This week, we consider steps that can be taken to resolve how the hospitals and health system can respond to and take advantage of the growing consumerism movement in health care.
Health care consumerism is already here.

Healthcare consumerism is no longer an “it will happen someday” issue. The evolution of a consumer-driven market will move slowly and be characterized by what seem to be fits and stops in the progression. The point for hospital leadership is that consumerism requires a fundamental change in the hospital to be responsive to the market.  

It is also imperative for leadership to understand, that being able to respond to consumerism starts now, not when the market flips. 

Changing the hospital to be consumer focused organization is a process.  A very long and grueling process, as lasting organizational change is not easy.  For further information on how to become the consumer-focused organization, please read, “What does a customer-focused hospital or healthcare enterprise look like?”

That fundamental change requires an unwavering commitment to meeting the needs of the consumer and having to market plays a critical role in that process.  Consumerism for the hospital translates into accountability and value along the dimensions of price, quality, engagement, and experience.
It’s really in many ways about market accountability of the hospital to the consumer’s of your offerings regardless of their selection journey or place in the care system.

Moving forward with seven ways to respond to consumerism

1.  Brand and competitive position.
Consumers and patients are ready for transparency and convenient technology-enabled access to care. Healthcare providers that are capable of identifying meeting these needs and how they want their healthcare needs meet through technology focused on them will gain new patients and the next generation of physicians. 

2. Engage existing customers and patients.
An individual is only a patient 1/3rd of the time they come in contact with you.  That is during the diagnosis, treatment and recovery phase.  Pre and post this experience, they are a healthcare consumer, not a patient.  So why then is it the only time one chooses to engage meaningfully them is during the period when they are a patient?   Engaging the healthcare consumer on a continuous basis builds loyalty and importantly keeps them in the network, which has some pretty significant financial ramifications in a risk-based reimbursement model.

3. Engage the physicians.
No matter the payment model the hospital or health system still needs a physician or physician extender’s order to get anything done in a healthcare setting. That means engaging physicians in meaningful ways, using the methods, technology, and systems that will make their life easier, improve their productivity and protect or increase their income. A skilled physician has more to do with the impact of cost and quality in the hospital than any other factor.

4. Focus on the physician experience.
How hard is it for a physician or physician extender to practice medicine in your organization?  Have you looked at the hassle factor that physician’s encounter when they try to get things done in the hospital setting?  Understand how the physician experiences your organization at every touch-point of an encounter with the hospital. Know the physician experience overall from beginning to end, not just in an isolated segment.

5. Focus on the consumer/patient experience.
A healthcare provider's ability to deliver an experience that sets it apart in the eyes of its patients and potential patients from its competitors - traditional and non-traditional - serves to increase their loyalty to the brand. One needs to manage actively the experience in totality by understanding their point of view.   Exceptional experience means gains in market share, brand awareness, and revenue.

6. Embrace retail healthcare.
Traditional ways of delivering healthcare will go by the wayside in many cases.  Price convenience, access, and outcomes are the drivers in retail healthcare.  Find the need, understand the consumer’s behaviors in play, design offering around them not the hospital in a convenient location and price it appropriately. If you can't compete in this way market position, share and revenue will erode.

7. Turn to social media and inbound marketing.
Social media and inbound marketing are channels and methods to engage, manage the experience and drive adherence. As healthcare continues the evolution to a healthcare consumer dominated the semi-retail environment, social networking is a healthcare marketing channel that underperforms today but holds great potential to improve engagement, experience, and adherence.

Seven steps for providers to achieve market and revenue growth in a consumer-driven market.  Not an impossible task, but one that does require focus and a willingness to break from the past.

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