Sunday, March 10, 2019

The Hospital Marketing Experience, a Forgotten Channel?

Let me repeat the headline a little differently.

Is the hospital marketing experience channel for the consumer and patient, given its importance as a first-touch experience and engagement opportunity, been forgotten? Given all that has been and continues to be written about experience and engagement, then why is there not more careful consideration, time, thought and energy not given to the hospital marketing experience?

Case in point.

I just had my annual physical with my PCP. Now given my age and history of being an ex-smoker ( I quit 22 years ago and have never looked back), even though there was no indication of vascular disease, she thought I was fruitful for me to have a vascular scan. Since there was no indication, my PPO would not pay. My good doctor referred me to a screening service that regularly provides discount vascular scans at a discounted cash price to drive business.

The service understands that in retail health, the most effective source of referrals will be the PCP. Fortuitously, that Sunday in my local paper was a $99 vascular scan offered by the health system in their hospital that I have been using along with my PCP, for the last 22 years or so.  So, since this is a cash expenditure out of the pocket of this healthcare consumer, I decided to call the toll-free number and take advantage of an entity that I knew.

And that decision, based on the advertisement for a service that I needed, optionally I might add, is where the marketing experience ended.

Makes you wonder why the health system hadn’t informed the PCPs and other admitters about the vascular screening (first experience fail).

I called the number which went to the system marketing call center. The number worked, so that was good. I proceeded to explain why I was calling because they were generally clueless (the second experience fail). I had to explain that I had been using the system for many years and wanted to take advantage of the offer. I also specified the location. Once they found the screening questions (the third experience fail), the operator, quickly rattled off the ten-digit phone number for central scheduling for no apparent reason to me, as there was no forewarning that I needed to write down the number, (the fourth experience fail).

It gets better still.

Now comes the cold transfer to central scheduling (fifth experience fail). I now must explain all over again why I was calling (sixth experience fail). Now the operator in central scheduling is surprised because this is supposed to be a warm transfer from marketing (seventh experience fail). Then instructs me to hang on because she has to search for the screening questions, I had already been asked and answered because they not readily available while informing me that she has never scheduled one before (eight experience fail). Better yet, I learn in the course of this no one has ever called to schedule a screening (ninth experience fail).

I did ask if this could be done in a more convenient location than the hospital and was told yes (first positive experience).  Then the experience went negative. No Saturday’s were offered. I couldn’t schedule for some unknown reason to the operator for Tuesdays, and only morning appointments were available (the tenth experience fail). We finally landed on a Wednesday a couple of weeks out so I could rearrange my schedule to fit their schedule (eleventh experience fail).

Now the second positive experience in all of this was that as a former patient of the health system, system, much of my information was already available and all I needed to do was confirm some of the detail.

I schedule the appointment and then hear a litany of pretest prep that I need to do with no email follow-up conforming the appointment or providing me with written information on what to do before the test (twelfth experience fail). Two days later, I receive an automated phone call reminding me about my appointment two weeks out (thirteenth experience fail).

The point of this exercise was to illustrate how important healthcare consumer marketing experience is. If you are going to play in retail healthcare. then you better get your CPG marketing skill set together and understand that it’s all about the consumer and nothing about you.

The marketing experience is most often the very first touch-point of a healthcare consumer’s interaction which the hospital or health system. You cannot afford not to get it right. Those days are long gone.

Michael is a semi-retired 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 Life Fellow, American College of Healthcare Executives, and a Professional Certified Marketer, American Marketing Association. An expert in healthcare marketing strategy, digital marketing & social media, Michael is in the top 10 percent of social media experts nationwide and is considered an established influencer. For inquiries regarding strategic consulting engagements, call Michael at 815-351-0671. Opinions expressed are my own.