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.

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