Monday, May 15, 2017

Are You Using a Hospital Clinical Service Line Brand Evangelist for Differentiation?

Do you know who your patient hospital brand, evangelists are? I ask this question for a critical reason.  In an age of little provider differentiation in the actual retail medical marketplace with me-too messaging, how is a healthcare consumer to make a choice?

Now that being said, I realize that many health care leaders will dispute the above statement.  But the fact is is that there is little if any messaging differentiation.  I knew as I was there too but made a conscious effort to move away from the “me too” messaging. And that was in the early 2000s.

So where am I going with this?

Consumers are demanding price and quality transparency. 

Maybe in reality what they want is more cost certainty and knowing what the value is they are receiving for the dollar paid?  But few in hospitals or health systems are listening to the needs and demands of the healthcare consumer. Then they howl loudly than a third party releases data that is publically available on the hospitals or health systems prices and quality.

Consumers of healthcare are shopping.

Consumers are now paying one-third of the cost of care out of pocket.

An individual uses the internet and social media 41 percent of the time in gathering information to make provider choice.

Consumers no longer rely on word of mouth to choose doctors and hospitals but on the Internet of things and social sharing sites.

And the answer by hospitals and health systems is to market the “trust our expertise” with messages that are full of vague claims and statements.

One way to answer those questions is through the use of patient testimonials, aka the clinical service line brand evangelist. 

Let me give you an example. When at the multihospital health system, I developed The Third Opinion Oncology campaign.  Upon an individual receiving a cancer diagnosis, the next step is the second medical opinion.  But we found that there was a third phase. The patient then talks to everyone and anyone that went through that cancer diagnosis and treatment.

Instead of going to the market with a look at our great oncologists, technology, expertise and it’s all about your messaging, we went in a very different direction. The campaign focused on three individuals along with common cancer diagnoses of breast, colon, and prostate. By the way, it was hard to find those three brand evangelists. That tells one a lot about the hospital brand and experience too.

The simple message-  “Ask me how I beat breast cancer,” with a professional photo of the individual, email, print, billboard, and direct mail. Calls and emails went to my RN based call center. Before the campaign launch, a detailed Q&A was developed and conducted with the three individuals, clinicians and oncologists to identify the type of questions they had and the answers.  When a question came in that, we did not have any answer for we went back to the individuals and clinicians for a reply.

The entire campaign pulled the consumer to the hospital, pushed through to the oncologist, then pulled the oncologist to the hospital.

I did not message quality, technology, drugs, surgery; we care about you or anything else. I didn't say best and brightest; it’s all about you, or we are the only choices. Those are arrogant and pejorative vague claims that are indefensible. One message that was clear and unambiguous offer a solution to a serious medical situation bu providing alternatives and choices by clearly answering health-related consumer questions that are life and death in nature.

The use of a patient brand evangelist clearly differentiated the systems oncology services and established a position in the market that no other provider could claim.  The campaign drove appropriate utilization, built the oncologist practices, and increased hospital revenue, market share, and brand awareness.

And all of that was before a change in the market that is becoming retail medical in nature.  Today the stake is even higher, and the hospital or health system brand needs to mean more than ever.

The hospital of 2017  operates in a market that is more value and risk than fee-for-service. And where the consumer has a growing portion of the expense and choice of providers brand and value is everything.

Changing your marketing today from ambiguous we are all the same features and benefits marketing to patient brand evangelists and solutions marketing, will set one up for success whatever the payment system is.  A strong established brand will be in narrow networks, the provider of choice in consumer-driven exchange plans, and the dominant provider in the market.

What one does today in creating an indelible hospital or system brand will impact tomorrow's growth, revenue, and profitability.

Is it that hard to be responsive to a consumer's need for healthcare problem solutions? 

Michael is a healthcare marketing business, marketing, and communications strategist and thought leader.  As an internationally followed healthcare marketing strategy blogger, his blog, Healthcare Marketing Matters receives over 20,000 page views a month and read in 52 countries.  He is a Fellow, American College of Healthcare Executives, Professional Certified Marketer, American Marketing Association, and HubSpot Academy- Email Marketing, Inbound Marketing & Inbound Sales Certified. Post opinions are my own.

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