Sunday, April 29, 2018

Extra, extra, read all about it. Hospitals Discover Patient Brand Evangelist Influencer Marketing

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

Now that being said, I realize that many a healthcare leader will dispute the above statement.  But the fact is it is little if any messaging differentiation.  I was there in the same place but made a conscious effort to move away from the “me too” messaging.

So where am I going with this?

Healthcare consumers and patients are demanding price and quality transparency, as is CMS, employers and other key constituents. Maybe what they want is more price certainty and to know what the value is they are receiving for the dollar paid?  But few in the hospital or health system segment 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.

Consider for a moment. 
1.       Consumers of healthcare are shopping.
2.       Consumers are now paying over one-third of the cost of care out of pocket.
3.       A consumer uses the internet and social media 41 percent of the time in gathering information to make provider choice.

And the answer by hospitals and health systems is marketing trust our expertise, buildings and technology with messages that are full of ambiguous claims and statements.

Now that being said, kudos to UChicago Medicine and Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital for leading the way in the Chicago healthcare market by bucking that trend. They comprehend the value of the patient as brand evangelist and influencer. And that is gratifying to me as a topic I have been writing about for a few years now. But let me be clear, I in no way claim any influence in the hospitals or their agency’s marketing direction. It’s nice to be proven right.

For the rest of the hospitals and health systems which do not yet comprehend the value and effectiveness of the patient as brand evangelist and influence, this is for you.

Let me give you an example. When employed as the Regional Director of Marketing at a multihospital health system, I developed with BVK 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 step. 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 you messaging we went in a very different direction. The campaign focused on three individuals with common cancer diagnoses of breast, colon, and prostate. By the way, it was hard to find those three brand evangelists. 

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 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 an answer for we went back to the individuals and clinicians for an answer.

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. Answering healthcare consumer questions that are life and death in nature to real questions from real consumers.

Use of a patient brand evangelist 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 healthcare market in 2006. Oh my, did I say 2006?  Twelve years ago?  What is old is new. Today the stake is even higher, and the hospital or health system brand needs patent evangelists and influencers.

The hospital of 2018 operates in a far different healthcare market than in 2006. But the idea and principles are the same. In many ways its even more important today than yesterday. Brand value, outcome, experience, and engagement are everything today.

Sometimes it's not rocket science, but the ability to adapt and change from past practices.  If I were on the hospital side in marketing, it would be like shooting fish in a barrel.

Michael is a healthcare business, marketing, communications strategist and thought-leader.  As an internationally followed healthcare strategy blogger, his blog, Healthcare Marketing Matters is read in  52 countries and listed on the 100 Top Healthcare Marketing Blogs, and Websites ranked at No. 3 on the list by Michael is a Fellow, American College of Healthcare Executives, Professional Certified Marketer, American Marketing Association. As an expert in digital marketing & social media with a Klout score of 64, Michael is in the top 10 percent of social media experts nationwide.  Michael is an established influencer and inquires for strategic consulting engagements can be made by calling   815-351-0671. Opinions expressed are my own.

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