Sunday, June 12, 2016

Time for Hospital Physician Advertisements to Change?

The other day, I noticed a general increase in provider sponsored physician advertising, which got me to thinking about why it hasn’t changed much since I was doing that back in the 90s?

It would seem that physician referral advertising is stuck in the past and unresponsive to the needs of individuals looking for a doctor.  

Smile for me please and gaze upward pondering deep thoughts.

I see many a smiling physician in the ads looking so cheerful and accepting new patients, with lots of copy that are more features and benefits marketing than providing a solution to the healthcare consumer’s choice question.  Other ad layouts include physicians thoughtfully gazing upward pondering the great question of medical science. While other advertisements make an attempt at branding the doctor to the hospital proclaiming the greatness of both.

I can sum it all up with the following statement.

What is the compelling value reason that would cause the health care consumer to select a physician associated with the hospital?

With all the information that is available to the healthcare consumer today for making doctor choices, and spending a considerable amount in out-of-pocket for co-pays, deductible and insurance premiums these choice drivers demand more than a vague promise. 

There are of course many reasons for this and no need to go into great detail.  The important point is that the current wave of physician practice building advertising probably isn’t meeting the needs of the newly minted health care consumer.

It’s not just about the doctor anymore in an advertisement with vague copy that doesn’t say anything except for a laundry list of items. Let me be clear, I do not doubt the medical qualifications, skills and experience of the physicians.

But, it’s a disservice and disingenuous marketing, to not provide relevant information and a strong call-to-action about the reason why someone should choose the doctor in question.

Now accepting new patients is unacceptable.

Healthcare consumer’s and patient’s are making physician choices based cost, location and convenience due to increasing co-pays and rising deductibles.  If you're just going to throw some ads out there with a picture of a lovely smiling doc with copy written in the third person about how beautiful and compassionate he or she is, it's falling on blind eyes.

How to move forward.

What is needed is a new look at what you are doing and changing to meet the needs of your healthcare consumer.  In a great market in change, arrives opportunity for growth.  That is if one is willing to embrace that change and create value. 

Some new essential steps for physician practice building the marketing effort are in order in a retail market. 

1.       Do some primary market research to understand the characteristics of the audience and what they are looking for in a physician. Understand the healthcare consumer. That is the starting point, not what senior management or a doctor thinks.   Now that being said, their opinions are important but the discussion marketing needs to have must be based on market data. 

2.       In an opinion based discussion, everyone is right. Change your approach to the market; with an analysis on data, not opinion. Physicians and hospital leadership use data. They make a decision based on data. Why should a marketing discussion be any different? It’s more than marketing communications and making things look beautiful. 

3.        The campaign must answer the healthcare consumer’s question of what is special about this physician and why should I select her or him?  Stop talking to people, speak to them. Engage them with a compelling value proposition on why they should pick that doctor, or even why they should even considering switching physicians.  Answer the question of why. 

4.       Every marketing effort on building the physician practice in today’s  retail medical environment needs a high level of interaction with traditional, social media, mobile,  online and public relations.  It includes patient testimonials, engages and establishes expectations for the experience.  It is focused on the healthcare consumer and meets their needs for primary or specialty care. 

5.       It’s about the healthcare consumer, and meeting their needs. Never forget that!

In the end, it’s all about knowing what healthcare consumer and patient needs are, and delivering compelling reasons that have them making a choice in selecting the right physician, for good reasons that will meet their needs. 

Michael is an internationally followed healthcare blogger, business, marketing, and communications strategist and thought leader. I am also HubSpot Academy- Email, Inbound Marketing & Inbound Sales Certified.

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