Monday, June 29, 2020

"Hey Siri, Alexa, I Think I May Be Coronavirus Sick. Who Should I Call?"

Is Your Website Optimized for Voice Search?

Image Steve Bussinne from Pixabay

How does this grab you? Thirty-eight percent of all internet searches are now by voice using a digital assistant like Siri, Alexa, Echo, and others on a smartphone or home voice internet-connected device. Additionally, most voice-activated searches are using the term "near me" sometimes combined with the term "near me today." 

Putting it another way, with the pandemic, the potential patient may very well be voice searching for a physician, or hospital or COVID-19 information via voice search. Have you optimized your website for voice search so that you're included in the Siri or Alexa results?

I ask the question about finding healthcare resources during a pandemic because it now moves beyond just getting directions using voice search to travel to the healthcare providers. Voice search is mostly a local phenomenon, and the hospitals in non-surge SARs-CoV-2 areas need to find creative ways to outreach, engage, and bring patients back.

With patients not returning for even routine medical care, the hospital must engage the patient on their terms and make the experience easy, using the technology the patient is comfortable using. There is fear among patients, and it's about rebuilding their trust in the hospital or physicians' practice for the matter, is safe.

Let's cut to the chase.

Image by Gred Altmann from Pixabay

The following seven steps should enable you to start optimizing for voice searches. 

1.     Ditch the old fashion search keywords like hospital Plainfield or Cardiovascular Service Line. Nobody talks like that conversationally. Searches are in the natural language of the person.  

2.     Move to long-tail keywords. Long-tail keywords generally run from three to five words. Long-tail keywords are essential due to the preference of digital assistants to use natural language for processing requests. If you use a digital assistant for shopping, think about how you speak to Siri or Alex, for example, you talk conversationally and naturally to the devices whether you realize it or not. 

3.      Exploit the power of near me searches. Voice searches are local. All healthcare is local, and that's the connection for you. The healthcare consumer isn't looking for an exotic specialty; they are searching "near me" for the solution to their problem. 

4.     Make sure it's easy for bots and spiders to crawl your site and know what the hospital business is. Make sure you submit your sitemap to Google, Edge, Firefox, and other browsers. Start incorporating microdata, schema, rich snippets, and so on. These little pieces of code give the search engines even more information about what your business is all about. 

5.       You also want to make sure that your online business directories (aka citation sites) are accurate as well. For example, if one address is on Yelp, and another is on Citysearch, the search engines won't know which address is the correct one and will be less likely to pull your hospital up in voice search results. 

6.       Take a look at your analytics. Google's Search Console reports show you what queries are bringing people to your site. Now that being said, you can't tell if the search query came from voice search or the old-fashioned way. You can get some good ideas based on how people are finding you right now. 

7.       Since most voice searches take place on mobile devices, you must have a mobile-friendly site. If a person does a voice search, goes to your website, and has a bad experience, it's over. This not only impacts that individual searcher but a high bounce rate because your site is challenging to use on a smartphone can also negatively affect your rankings on Google.

"Hey Siri and Alex, I'm sick. With the Coronavirus in hospitals, I don't know what to do.  Where should I go?" 

Is your hospital in the voice response answer?

Can you hear me now?

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 is listed on the 100 Top Healthcare Marketing Blogs & Websites ranked at No. 3 on the list by Feedspot.com. Michael is a Life Fellow, American College of Healthcare Executives. An expert in healthcare marketing strategy, digital marketing, and 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, you can email me at michael@themichaeljgroup.com. Connect with me on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook. Opinions expressed are my own.

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


Monday, June 22, 2020

How Are You Reengaging Patients Post COVID-19?

The purpose of the headline is to have hospitals think through more fully how they are engaging patients to return to the hospital. The driver was that I have been on several webinars recently and when the question of re-engagement was posed the standard answer was:

Emails. Marketing. Phone calls.

Okay, it is a start, but not enough. I was hopeful that due to the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, hospitals would have taken a more significant step forward in understanding the role of marketing and the patient engagement process. Now in fairness, there may be a more detailed strategy and tactical execution plan with measurable outcomes, but the presenters were unaware. It would appear that there continues to be a significant misunderstanding of the role of marketing and the use of the resource.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Let us take a step back because the patient is never going back to the old ways and responses.

If marketing is not at the forefront of the hospital leading the re-engagement effort, you're losing. With all due respect to the clinicians, operations, and financial leaders, your knowledge and skill base, even with taking a couple of marketing classes in college or postgraduate school does not mean that you know or understand marketing. Marketing needs to be part of the senior management team and not an afterthought.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

The patient re-engagement process is now heavily influenced by the experience with the hospital during the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic. The patient has now experienced telemedicine and alternative ambulatory diagnostic and treatment providers finding accessibility, convenience, affordability, and high-quality.

The hospital task is now more difficult than attempting to convince patients that it is safe to come back. Anecdotally speaking, patients are not even returning to their primary care physicians first for treatment. Patient volumes may never return to pre-pandemic levels or get close to previous volumes until mid-2021 at best.

It's a problematic conundrum the hospital faces. Patients have delayed care and continue to do so, or they found ways to meet their healthcare needs without the hospital. But the bottom line is emails, marketing, and outbound calls are just not going to get it done. Internally the focus needs to be a highly coordinated effort and messaging across operations, nursing, finance, and marketing that carries out externally.

Image by John Hein from Pixabay

The hospital must reengage the patient on a level not seen before, to redevelop the trust and belief in the safety of the hospital necessary for the patient to return. Add in the patient's need for convenience, affordability, and nearly seamless patient experience, the hospital faces some significant challenges and hurdles. It means changing how you treat patients and changing the culture to be in practice and deeds, not just words, patient-focused.

Emails, marketing, and outbound calls are not going to get it done. It doesn't take a village, but it does take the entire hospital focused on the effort to reengage.

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 is listed on the 100 Top Healthcare Marketing Blogs & Websites ranked at No. 3 on the list by Feedspot.com. Michael is a Life Fellow, American College of Healthcare Executives. An expert in healthcare marketing strategy, digital marketing, and 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, you can email me at michael@themichaeljgroup.com. Connect with me on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook. Opinions expressed are my own.

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


Monday, June 15, 2020

Lessons From The SARS-CoV-2 Pandemic, Are You Ready For A Chief Engagement Officer?

A significant change has taken place in hospitals and health systems as an unintended consequence of the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic.  Hospitals and health systems were forced on an unprecedented scale to rapidly engage with government, first responders, employees, patients, and the community. The engagement also required a new level of cooperation, communication, and information sharing between competing hospitals and health systems in any given location.

Image by ar130405 form Piaxabay

A new level of organizational transparency was required, as the communication flows and the information needed to be transmitted significantly varied depending on the audience and communication channel being used. In doing so, hospitals and health systems learned that meaningful engagement and transparency made a difference with patients and the community. 

A hard-won first lesson as most engagement activities until the pandemic, we minimalistic and more along with the ones of marketing messages or readily available wellness information.

The second lesson was that patients and the community responded positively to the new engagement and information.  The hospitals and health systems led, and for the most part, experienced positive outcomes from the transparent and informative engagement efforts.

The third lesson was the discovery that patients and the community became engaged and turned to healthcare organizations as trusted sources of information. Audiences liked and appreciated knowing what was transpiring and how it impacted them.  In experiencing the new engagement, patients and the community found they wanted it, which set up not only an engagement expectation but an experience expectation as well as going forward post-pandemic.

Image by Mystic Art Design from Pixabay

The genie is out of the bottle, and there is no going back.

The question now on the table is, how will the hospital or health system maintain the level of patient and community engagement going forward?  And, the question is critically important.

That is where the position of Chief Engagement Officer comes into being.

It is essential to understand the role of the Chief Engagement Officer is to cut across organizational silos and boundaries, to unify, and manage all the engagement activities, and messages aimed at patients, and community.  Let me repeat this important point. Unify all the engagement activities across the healthcare organization.

Given the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic and the requirements of engagement and communication across multiple disparate audiences, the hospital and health system became, out of necessity, a highly integrated, communicative operation. The patients liked it. The community wanted it. First responders liked it. The media loved it.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Going forward, the benefits of keeping patients and the community-engaged with the hospital and health system at a high level is apparent. It’s the new normal now and meeting the engagement and experience requirements of the patient and the community has become a long-term strategic business requirement.

Back to the question posed in the headline, are you ready, or at least preparing, for a Chief Engagement Officer?

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 is listed on the 100 Top Healthcare Marketing Blogs & Websites ranked at No. 3 on the list by Feedspot.com. Michael is a Life Fellow, American College of Healthcare Executives. An expert in healthcare marketing strategy, digital marketing, and 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, you can email me at michael@themichaeljgroup.com. Connect with me on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook. Opinions expressed are my own.

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


Monday, June 8, 2020

Where Are All The Patients? And How Do You Get Them Back?

The SARS-CoV-2 pandemic and the high rate of infection in the U.S. has driven individuals who would typically seek care from doing so. Even with the economy gradually reporting, hospitals and physicians never stopped seeing patients' during the pandemic. But patients it seems stayed away in droves from seeking care for conditions that they usually would have and continue to do so.

Image by Altero Felines from Pixabay
There is any number of reasons from regular visits being replaced to an extent by telemedicine to better self-management. Still, people are probably staying way out of fear of contracting COVID-19 in the provider setting. Remember that the patent experience changed and remains changed to a great extent because of COVID-19 precautions to prevent community spread. With a long memory, patients won't all of a sudden believe because you told them so to come back just like before.

While there is an understanding that COVID-19 is not a normal situation, the impacts are profound and lasting. As hospitals execute their marketing plans for a post-pandemic world, special attention needs to be paid to the patient. And it's not with old marketing messages.   

It sounds simple, but the reality is more complicated.

The hospital marketing re-engagement task is compounded by a significant change in healthcare delivery that can't be undone as a result of the pandemic with less hospital-based care being provided.

Image by Willian Iven from Pixabay
Patients were forced to find different ways of getting healthcare. Once that happened, and patients found those more convenient, accessible diagnostic and treatment options that were more cost-affordable, why would they ever go back to the old ways?

SARS-CoV-2 has put consumerism back into healthcare in a big way. And now it's a survival tactic to become customer-friendly in actuality not words.

Changing the hospital to be a consumer-focused organization is a process.  A very long and grueling process, as lasting organizational change is not easy.  For further information on how to become a consumer-focused organization, please read, "What does a customer-focused hospital or healthcare enterprise look like?"

That fundamental change requires an unwavering commitment to meeting the needs of the consumer, and having to market plays a critical role in that process.  Consumerism for the hospital translates into accountability and value along the dimensions of price, quality, engagement, and experience.

Image by Alexas Fotos from Pixabay

1.  Brand and competitive position.

Consumers and patients experience for transparency and convenient technology-enabled access to care during the pandemic. Healthcare providers have no choice but to meets the patient's demands for timely, accessible, and cost-effective healthcare through technology and the next generation of physicians. 

2. Engage existing customers and patients.

An individual is only a patient 1/3rd of the time they come in contact with you.  That is during the diagnosis, treatment, and recovery phase.  Pre and post this experience; they are a healthcare consumer, not a patient.  So why then is it the only time one chooses to engage them meaningfully is during the period when they are a patient?   Engaging the patient continuously builds loyalty and importantly keeps them in the network, which has some significant financial ramifications in a risk-based reimbursement model.

3. Engage the physicians.

No matter the payment models, the hospital or health system still needs a physician or physician extender's order to get anything done in a healthcare setting. That means engaging physicians in meaningful ways, using the methods, technology, and systems that will make their life easier, improve their productivity, and protect or increase their income. A skilled physician has more to do with the impact of cost and quality in the hospital than any other factor.

4. Focus on the consumer/patient experience.

A healthcare provider's ability to deliver an experience that sets it apart in the eyes of its patients and potential patients from its competitors - traditional and non-traditional - serves to increase their loyalty to the brand. One needs to manage the experience actively and in totality by understanding their point of view.   Exceptional experience means gains in market share, brand awareness, and revenue.

5. Embrace local healthcare.

Traditional ways of delivering healthcare will go by the wayside in many cases.  Price convenience, access, and outcomes are the drivers in local healthcare.  If the pandemic proved anything, is that a hospital is only needed for three things, emergency care, care for complex medical conditions, and intensive care. The patient and consumer know this ow a fact. If you can't compete competitively in retail healthcare revenue will continue to erode. And it, not a hospital-based outpatient service.

6. Turn to social media and inbound marketing.

The patient is omnichannel and lives in a world dominated by social media and technology. The hospital has no choice in delaying or tap-dancing into digital marketing and social media. Social media and inbound marketings are channels and methods to engage, manage the experience, and build trust.

The pandemic has changed everything, and there is no going back. Unless, of course, your hospital is ready to merge into a more extensive and broader health system for survival.

 

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 is listed on the 100 Top Healthcare Marketing Blogs & Websites ranked at No. 3 on the list by Feedspot.com. Michael is a Life Fellow, American College of Healthcare Executives. An expert in healthcare marketing strategy, digital marketing, and 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, email me at michael@themichaeljgroup.com. Connect with me on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook. Opinions expressed are my own.

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


Monday, June 1, 2020

Time for Marketing's Return to the Hospital Leadership Table

Image from Pixabay



As a quick disclaimer, this post of not for health systems.

There was a time when marketing was considered important enough in many hospitals to be a Vice President position reporting the CEO. With a seat at the leadership table, marketing provided valuable input and was integrated into the operational, financial, and strategic plans of the hospital. Then, in a blink of an eye, all the consulting firms working in hospitals to streamline organizations and reporting relationships in the interest of Lean Management began recommending moving hospital marketing leadership to director status. Reporting relationships changed with marketing now under the COO, CFO, or even the VP of Human Resources.

Where are we now?

Image courtesy of WHO


Considering the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, digital innovations and patient expectations, telemedicine, social media, patient and community engagement, a highly complicated and frustrating patient hospital experience, and the impact of innovation and competition, marketing is in the same organizational place as 30 years ago.

If the Sars-Cov-2 epidemic pointed anything out initially, was hospital leadership was ill-equipped to understand the impact and effects that marketing could have on hospital operations and community. Had marketing been at the leadership table engaged in all the discussions, valuable time would not have been lost in communication and engagement of internal as well as external stakeholders.

Image from Pixabay


Marketing, if done right, has evolved from a cost center to a revenue center. Gone are the days of a marketing department that just "makes things look pretty." That statement is for organizations of any size, hospitals or not, that do not understand today's importance of marketing for understanding the changing dynamics of the marketplace and connecting the dots for improved organizational financial performance.

It still astounds me to this day how hospitals whose revenue is in the tens and hundreds of millions of dollars don't yet understand the importance of marketing and its impact on the organization. Marketing has a new mission in the 2020s, that can only be accomplished by being a member of leadership.

And it's not about "putting heads in the beds."

The marketing mission is now data management, engagement, experience, and demand management.


Data Management


Image by PublicDomainPictures on Pixabay



Non-traditional providers of healthcare services are expanding and applying retail concepts to healthcare delivery, which is driven by big data captured across the entire healthcare enterprise and looking at their healthcare services from a big data standpoint. That means analysis by taking big data chunks, down to smaller pieces of data looking for trends and insights into patient and healthcare consumer's behavior. And if you are going to manage population health and develop compelling messaging on an individualized basis, then look to big data. Going away are the days of generic messaging, as we enter
an age where individualization of messaging is critical.


The patient accesses healthcare services in novel ways now. While the analysis of the clinical and administrative data moves forward for population health management, take a step back and think about what that means for the patient and community. They are people, too, and not just clinical values. Every day the patient making cost-effective choices in care that are more affordable, convenient, and accessible digitally on their terms and cost-effective—even making choices to stay in or go out of network. Marketing is no longer about making things sound good, read well, or look pretty.


Consumer and Patient Engagement, Patient Experience

More than a buzzword engagement is the way that one binds the patient to the hospital or health system network. Engagement and experience are the currency by which the hospital stays relevant in a world full of higher-quality, cost-affordable, and convenient alternative treatment locations. That means providing content that is valuable and impactful to the audience. It gives the reasons why you're relevant and essential. It meets their needs, not yours. It is the value the hospital or health system provides, not the look at all the features.

Patient experience means just that- understanding what that patient experience is at all touchpoints, then changing or managing that experience to its fullest potential for the benefit of the patient and the organization. Made more complicated by the necessity of new experience interaction policies and procedures to prevent community spread of SARS-CoV-2, the patient experience is more fluid and dynamic. More difficult has the goal become of one organization to the patient, one patient to the organization. It is not merely another quality program or flavor of the day.

Understanding and Executing Demand Management

Image from Pixabay


Healthcare, because of SARS-CoV-2, is becoming more of a distributive network. With heightened awareness and utilization of telemedicine, the patient has become digitally engaged and likes it. That also means the structure of the hospital and its clinical services will appear more like a distributive computer network. Marketing integrated with the operational and financial needs of the hospital can manage demand, ensuring that the hospital has the right resources, in the right place, at the right time to meet demand. Telemedicine, digital health, non-traditional providers, in-home self-care, Uber for affordable, accessible on-demand transportation, all play a role in that demand management. Gone are the days of hospital marketing departments driving demand to "put heads in the bed." The need is to drive demand to the appropriate care setting and location of service.

All of this is a tall order, but none of it can be accomplished unless marketing is back at the senior management table, part of the senior management team in title and responsibilities. It's 2020 now, not the 1990s. The survival of the hospital in large part depends now on marketing.

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 is listed on the 100 Top Healthcare Marketing Blogs & Websites ranked at No. 3 on the list by Feedspot.com. Michael is a Life Fellow, American College of Healthcare Executives. An expert in healthcare marketing strategy, digital marketing, and 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, email me at michael@themichaeljgroup.com. Connect with me on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook. Opinions expressed are my own.

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