Sunday, August 13, 2017

It’s the Hospital Quality Award Season. Is the Insured Consumer Listening?

Or as I like to call it, it is the silly season of meaningless hospital marketing.

Like the back-to-school physical ads, hospitals and health systems are touting their newly minted quality jewel or consecutive awarding in clinical categories for two or more years. The quality award in and of itself is an accomplishment at some level. But, when these awards are the result of a black box that no one knows how the data is analyzed, besides the awarding organization, do these quality awards make any difference to the insured consumer.

And when there is no context outside of the award seal in the advertising or on the website on what the awards mean for the insured consumer, what’s the point?  Is this just wow look at us? Or maybe a checkbox for senior management, the Board of Directors and physicians in what they consider to be good marketing?

It also flies in the face of the publicly available data, that for the most part, shows the award winners with overall only average medical care at best, overpriced, and just average satisfaction. Not great. Not bad. Just average.

A little cognitive dissonance for the insured consumer?

But beyond the obvious campaigning, what I fail to see is how health systems or hospital awardees are communicating in any meaningful way what those awards mean to the insured consumer. As I have written in the past, what is the value of that information to the insured consumer? A nice representation of the actual award and saying are in the top 5 percent nationally in (insert disease here) leaves it kind of lacking, especially when other hospitals you compete against are making the same claim.

Wasted Opportunity

The campaigning I see in its current form treats the insured consumer like they are some idiot.   It also reinforces what the healthcare industry has been crying about that healthcare is more complicated than a 5-star rating.  An inadvertent consequence nonetheless, you are creating the simplistic 5-star rating system yourself by how you are all campaigning the quality award.  Be careful what you ask for because you just might get it.

It’s not about value not to you, but to the insured consumer. Instead of taking the opportunity to make the award meaningful with value and context to the insured consumer, hospitals and health systems take the easy way out and puff out our chest to say look at me.

Leveraging the Opportunity

The networked patient is one who is hungry for information.  And patients are networked today more so than at any other time in the history of healthcare. The future will only make it more so.  So why not get ahead of the curve and start making your ads and marketing communications pieces more value-driven and providing healthcare solutions to the consumer?

Explain what that award means to the consumer.  Define the value. Show how it separates you from all the others. Communicate how it reinforces your brand and brand promise. Use the award to create trust. Define the award experience in the patient’s terms. Just don't throw it out there and say we are in the top 5 percent or whatever.  That is not meaningful to anyone.  In an age of outcomes transparency, quality accountability, and consumer choice, those ads sorely fail.

I am an insured consumer and your award ad claiming greatness in all things medical is meaningless.

Can you hear me now?

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.

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

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Nine Strategies in Engagement & Experience for the New Reality Demanded by the Insured Consumer & Patient.

It’s the consumer demand for the Amazon experience that is beginning to drive expectations and experience in health care.  Secondary to the headline question is, are healthcare providers prepared for that new marketing reality?

Like anything in life and business, some are, but the majority is not.   But be that as it may, it would seem that healthcare consumer or patient engagement is not a part-time or some of the time activity comprised of hit or miss events.  My goodness, there are over 147 engagement and experience touchpoints with the insured consumer and patient with the hospital or health system. So when all of the interruptive outbound marketing that goes on with silly messaging of we have the best doctors, our nurses care more, etc., no wonder the insured consumer and patient roll their eyes during the engagement and experience process when reality meets fantasy. 

What engagement should be viewed as is the opportunity to create, foster, and nourish a one-on-one relationship that is enduring with those individuals and families.  

A scary proposition for some healthcare organizations as it means being accountable and responsible to those you serve and meeting their needs by delivering on the brand promise day in and day out
After all, healthcare is a $2.8 trillion dollars business, and the competition from traditional and nontraditional providers will only get more intense. The healthcare consumers will spend more than $350 billion out-of-pocket for insurance premiums, co-pays, and deductibles.   Providers that can engage will become the go-to destinations for healthcare that will not only survive the storm but prosper as well.

Providers now live in a retail medical market.  Though others will tell you that it’s all about the experience, that’s just cover for the old ways of doing business and telling you what you want to hear.  It’s now about four dimensions-, price, outcomes, engagement, and experience.  Focusing only on experience with your marketing communications and campaigns is a prescription for failure.

So what to do?

Here are nine engagement strategies you need to employ:

1. Integrate your engagement solutions. That means information is delivered seamlessly so that the health care consumer can interact with you anyway they want when they want too. 

2.  Marketing should be using both push and pull messaging.  Messaging needs to be relevant to the audiences at the point in time it’s needed that is personalized, customized, and aware of the cultural heritage and influences tailored to them.

3. Incentives and motivational techniques will be necessary to keep the patient engaged. That doesn't mean cash. Look to the gaming industry for gaming technology and gaming prediction for ways to participate without money. Be creative.  Look outside healthcare for ideas, tools, and techniques to engage. 

4. Create a sense of community.  You have to compete, and one needs to feed the beast. The hospital has not yet tipped to be a cost center from a revenue center. That day will come but not for a while yet.  Get into the inner circle of the audience and become the trusted advisor. It's not just about loyalty. Shape the behaviors to the point where they will recommend unconditionally.

5. Know the audience and with whom one is speaking too. This is back-to-basics CRM understanding the gender, age, integration of risk assessments, culture, etc.  One cannot engage the insured consumer or patient unless there is intimate knowledge about them, their needs, and how to tailor the information.

6. Test and measure. No time to be reactive in approaching and engaging.  The only way to can figure out if it's working is to test and measure in a very methodical way.

7. Use technology.  We live in a world of technology, and you need to run a multifaceted, highly integrated campaign. With social media, smartphones, web, text messaging, mobile messaging, etc., eighty percent of consumers want the option of interacting with a healthcare provider via their smartphones. Forty-one percent of healthcare consumers use social media to make vendor choices.   The healthcare consumer and patient are inviting healthcare organizations to engage them all the time.

8. Know the influence of culture on behavior to engage.

9. Time it right, and add value.  If your health messaging is not resonating with the healthcare consumer or patient when they receive it, then one has lost them. Communicate relevant messages to a committed patient right before healthcare decisions are made. before.

If you can come to grips with the market reality that a hospital is needed for three things -emergency care, intensive care, and treatment for complex acute medical conditions, then you’d get away from the nonsense that is senior leadership-driven that goes in hospital marketing today. Focus on engagement and experience so your more than three things to the insured consumer or patient.

Can you hear me now?

That's why you engage all of the time.