Showing posts with label #change. Show all posts
Showing posts with label #change. Show all posts

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Eight Strategic Imperatives for Hospital Marketers in 2021

Image by Michal Jarmoluk from Pixabay.

We are on the 12th day of 2021, and already, the signs are apparent it will be another challenging year for hospital marketers. One could hope for improvement, but the confluence of external events, price transparency, and changes in healthcare delivery poses exciting challenges. The tried-and-true traditional ways of approaching the physician and patient market are no longer sufficient.

As hard as it is externally, hospital marketers, in many cases, still face the daunting task of driving revenue and building the hospital brand with diminished budgets.  The marketer's glass is either half full or half empty depending on your perspective. I prefer to see the glass full of tremendous opportunity.

The choice can be boiled down to; you can either surf the wave of change or let it wipe you out by marketing in your historical approaches and channels.  

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

With that in mind, here are eight strategic trends that hospital marketers should be focusing on in 2021. 

1.       COVID-19 will be around for a long time, and its impact will not go away anytime soon. Even with a vaccine, high unemployment will remain. In some cases, the patient's ability to pay for care will still be challenging, if not impossible. Patient fear still reigns supreme in deciding when and where to seek care. Hospital marketers will need to pivot to long-term growth strategies, brand reputation, demand generation options for multiple locations for care, brand awareness, public relations, and patient engagement. 

2.       Communication and engagement are essential. If not already, that means the hospital must be the trusted, credible source for health information and perspective, pandemic or not. It is time to humanize your communications. It is no longer about medical service, technology or building, and other features. Your communications now need to be engaging, informative, compassionate, trustworthy, and useful. 

3.       Patient experience is job number 1. Every single touchpoint in the patient experience needs to be revisited and addressed. The added urgency besides the pandemic is as of January 1; patients can now search the hospital's website for the prices of 200 common procedures. Price transparency and hospital medical service shopping have been introduced. While it will take a while for patients to figure it out, it will impact future utilization.  It is not the patients' role or responsibility to figure it all out. That is your job. That requires high-level communication and an easily navigable experience. 

Areas of focus are appointment scheduling and availability, procedures for in-person or telehealth options, elective and non-elective procedures, safety procedures and requirements, and general information. To optimize the patient experience, update your website content and navigation, revisit your call automation and routing system, personalize email and text messaging, provide an excellent mobile app experience, and update your business listings. 

4.       Focus on your brand reputation. If people have the feeling that you place profit over people, they will lose trust in the hospital. What you say and do will have a higher level of scrutiny in the coming year than ever before. No one expects you to stop advertising, but they want you to get it right.  

Areas of focus include 1) authority – how credible are you and the information you provide.  2)Transparency - it's time to stop omitting details. If things have changed, you have to be honest and inform on any issue, the who, what, where, and why. Omitting details or essential information builds distrust. 3) Reputation management- what is your program to generate positive patient reviews and address negative reviews? How are you optimizing the patients' digital experience to add to the hospital brand, not detract? 4) Public relations- don't turn it off; that is the worst thing you can do. But the time has come to change from throwing to the press release for a new medical staff member, award, or service. It is time to focus your PR on the good the hospital is doing in the community and the causes you are supporting. 5) Community engagement – with patients turning to healthcare organizations for safe, credible, and useful medical information, turn this into becoming the moderator for your communities in forums with medical professionals. Control the discussion and narrative. 

5.       Evolve your investment and spend on SEO and content marketing. The conversation is not what we are spending, but how is the patient using SEO and the desire for high-quality content changed?  How are your SEO and content spend best supporting the patient as they search for information? Patient searching hasn't gone away. Neither has the patient need for high-quality content. What has changed is how they search, such as voice using Echo and Alexa, for example, and what topics they are searching. 

6.       Telemedicine is not going away. Now is the time for hospital marketers to build demand for telemedicine services. The framework needs to be built now how telemedicine fits into the hospitals' overall services to look seamless to the patient. It is a focused brand awareness building. Telehealth is a different animal than the brick and mortar medical-based service. Telemedicine is, by nature, a virtual experience. The requirement focuses on the patient experience and engagement that is user-friendly, easy to use, and accessible. Build a telemedicine hub website that consolidates all the hospital's telehealth services in one place so that the user experience can be consistent and managed. It's just not another service that is an indistinguishable section of the existing hospital website. Telemedicine is a different high-tech animal that is the future of health care; when combined with wearable healthcare tech, it will only grow in importance. Make is it so. 

7.       Focus on and lean into innovative services.  Advances in technology such as medical AI, chatbots, medical care apps, curbside care, and other innovation come at you and the patient faster than you can shake a stick. The trick is to market these innovations, and the value and benefit to the patient, not features focused, but how to address and manage the experience. 

8.       Improve user's digital experience. The challenge is to create an exceptional digital experience no matter the user's skill level or digital literacy. How fast does your website load? Is information easily found? Can a person searching via mobile devices make an appointment or access a service? Can they log into the patient portal?  Using the Google Analytics dashboard, review the user experience data to tell you how people are using your website? What are the entry pages where are people using to access the site? How sticky is your website? Are people staying or dropping as soon as they find what they need, if at all, etc. Understand the bottlenecks, search patterns, and where the user experience fails and improve.

Image by Pixels from Pixabay

The year 2021 will be another challenging effort, with seismic changes lasting well into the future, not just the foreseeable future.  Ride the wave of change and own it. Focus all actions on the patient for success now and well into the future.

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 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 

Connect with me on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Tumblr, Instagram, Pinterest, TikTok, Flipboard, and Triller.

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The opinions expressed are my own.

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

The Best of Healthcare Marketing Matters from 2020

Image by Tumisu from Pixabay

What a year 2020 has been, from the Coronavirus pandemic to the election and everything in between.

The response by hospitals and health systems across the country to the pandemic has been excellent. In an industry not known for rapid innovation and adoption of new ways to deliver care, the pandemic showed just how resourceful the leaders, doctors, and nurses changed their organizations to meet the need of patients, the community, and face the threat head-on.

Kudos to everyone for the countless lives saved. Remember those doctors, nurses, first responders, and other healthcare workers who lost their lives serving others.

As some of you may know, I write another blog, Perceptions, Observations, and Musings of an Old Man, since 2019. Writing two blogs takes its toll and is not easy. I am wimping out for the last two weeks of 2020 and giving you the best of Healthcare Marketing Matters blog posts from 2020. The best blog posts' criteria are the number of views, ranked highest to lowest with 1,000 views and above being the lowest.

Your readership humbles me. I am amazed that people worldwide thought about what I was writing was worth them taking time from their day and spend it with me.  When I started Healthcare Marketing Matters, back in February 2007, I never thought it would grow from a few hundred monthly views to being read in 52 nations with slightly over 12,000 views per month.

The best I can do is to say thank you for reading. I am humbled and grateful, and I am looking forward to sharing more strategic thought and considerations with you in 2021.

Stay safe. Mask up. Get vaccinated.

1) Hospital Grassroots Marketing- Seven Ideas to Lead the Community Out of the Pandemic -  – published July 28th - 2,205 views.

2) What is the Ongoing Role of The Hospital in a Public Health Crisis? - published July 21st – 2,122 views.

3) Lessons from the SARS-CoV-2 Pandemic, Are You Ready for a Chief Engagement Officer? - published - June 15th – 1,923 views.

4) Hospital Community Leadership for Ongoing SARS-CoV-2 Information. The Time is Now. - published July 13th – 1,908 views.

5) How Will You Manage the Hospital Patient Experience Post COVID-19? - published May 4th – 1,879 views.

6) "Hey Siri, Alexa, I Think I May be Coronavirus Sick. Who Should I Call?" - published June 29th – 1,850 views.

7) Because of COVID-19, Continuous Ongoing Patient Engagement is the New Reality - published July 6th – 1,839 views.

8) How Are You Reengaging Patients Post COVID-19? - published June 22nd – 1,830 views.

9)  Hospitals Need to Rebuild Trust, Not Send Pre-Pandemic Marketing Messages – published May 11th – 1,781 views.

10) Hospitals Need to Rebuild Trust, not Send Pre-Pandemic Marketing Messages – published May 11th, 1,781 views.

11) Where are All the Patients? And How do You Get Them Back? – published June 8th – 1,733 views.

12) Hospital Quality Award Season is Here. What Does That Mean During a Pandemic? – published August 3rd – 1,721 views.

13) Hope is Not a Strategy; Leading Patients, Community Through the Flu Season, COVID-19 Reemergence is. – published September 8th – 1,673 views.

14) With the "New Normal" Courtesy of SARS-CoV2, what is Your Continuous Engagement Strategy? – published May 25th – 1,664 views.

15) The Primary Care Marketing Opportunity - published April 26th - 1,590 views.

16) News Flash: SARS-CoV-2 has Changed Everything. Hospital Marketing Needs to Change too. - published May 19th – 1,549 views.

17) Have You Completed a Hospital Marketing Department Audit? - published August 11th – 1,547 views.

18) Time for Marketing's Return to the Hospital Leadership Table - published June 1st – 1,492 views.

19) Digital Stories- the Missing Hospital Marketing Opportunity? - published August 25th – 1,477 views.

20) The New Normal Podcast- Episode 9: Financial Stability of the Healthcare Industry, a Conversation with Michael Krivich - published May 28th – 1,431 views.

21) Leveraging Free Social Media Platforms During the COVID-19 Crisis for Communication. - published April 5th – 1,374 views.

22.) Four Basic Questions in Are You Ready for Hospital Price Transparency? – published August 18th – 1,366 views.

23) Healthcare Marketing in a Public Health Crisis, Be the Leader - published March 29th - 1,253 views.

24) What is Your COVID-19 Mid-Pandemic Marketing Plan? - published April 19th – 1,216 views.

25) Are You Preparing for Walgreens Entry into Primary Care? - published September 1st – 1,197 views.

26) Is the Golden Age of Patient and Community Engagement at Hand? - published April 12th – 1,135 views.

27) Hospital COVID-19 Communications Today, Will Impact Future Consumer Decisions - published March 22nd – 1,031 views.

28) Coronavirus, Your Hospital, and Crisis Communications- Key Principles to Use. - published March 8th – 1,021 views.

Happy holidays, Merry Christmas, and Happy New Year. Best wishes for a safe, healthy, successful, and prosperous 2021.

Image by amorimboitec from Pixabay

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 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 

Connect with me on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Tumblr, Instagram, Pinterest, TikTok, Flipboard, and Triller. The opinions expressed are my own.

Signup for the e-newsletter Healthcare Marketing Daily and have the latest healthcare marketing and business news for providers and vendors delivered right to your mailbox daily. Add your email address in the signup on the sidebar.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Is hospital marketing unintentionally driving inappropriate utilization and cost?

The other day, an individual who I follow and respect very much, Paul Levy author of the blog,  NOT RUNNING A HOSPITAL- THIS IS A BLOG BY A FORMER CEO OF A LARGE BOSTON HOSPITAL TO SHARE THOUGHTS  ABOUT HOSPITALS,  MEDICINE, AND HEALTHCARE ISSUES, wrote an interesting post  S(uch) S(trange) M(edicine). Very eloquently, Paul raised some every significant questions based on the blog, SSM and Health Fair: what happens when you don’t use Google, and the experience of Vik Khanna in his blog post Over Diagnosis . These were not low cost screenings either. I highly recommend that everyone read these posts.

The discussions addressed the ethics based on the stated mission and value statements of SSM, by packaging and selling of cardiovascular screenings that except for one of the six screenings, were RECOMMENED NOT to be done by USPSTF and the medical community.

Oh.. oh…

It did provide a pause for me in considering healthcare marketing and its place and role in today’s evolving medical retail market.  And yes when I was the hospital side, I did promote screenings.

But it doesn't mean it was right then, or the right marketing strategy today without pause.

There is a fine line between promotions of disease screenings that are needed in a population that may be exhibiting for example cardiovascular disease, and promoting screenings to the general public that has been determined as medically unnecessary and may produce false positives. This is especially true in an environment where we all hear so much about customer focus, patient centered care, cost reduction and meeting the Triple AIM messaging from hospitals and health systems.

It’s not easy….

It’s not easy when the business model is changing from being paid for the production of care to being paid for the risk and quality of care. There is still the need to put “heads in the beds” to generate revenue while the transition from revenue center to cost center plays out for the hospital.

The market is shifting to a consumer focused medical retail model based on cost and quality as well, which requires a different marketing skill set. It can make healthcare marketers and hospital leadership schizophrenic in many ways.  

The moral of the story is……

I do not think it’s to promote medically unnecessary tests and screenings, even as the market shifts to a consumer driven model.  This isn't like selling cars or shoes.  Shoes are needed.  Unnecessary medical tests are not.

The role of healthcare marketing in hospitals is to understand the healthcare consumer and dynamics of the market so completely, that they develop those marketing strategies and tactics that are based on the needs of the healthcare consumer, are priced correctly and move the healthcare consumer to obtain the right care, in the right place, for the right cost.

It is also to be the leadership voice in the healthcare enterprise, and to fact check and verify that the screening program is not promoting tests, that that have been determined not to be medically necessary by the medical community and evidence based literature. Marketing leadership in the healthcare enterprise has the responsibility and accountability to lead a fact based discussion about the program.  

Retail medical marketing is more than just slapping some screening tests together with a pricing discount.  That’s not marketing. That is just throwing stuff up against the wall and seeing what sticks.

And that is a major cultural shift and understanding of the nature and function of healthcare marketing in a medical retail environment in the hospital and health system.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

What does a customer focused hospital or healthcare enterprise look like?

 James Cullen, CEO of Conach Consulting and a former hospital CEO, asked me to consider writing an article which describes what a customer-focused hospital or health system looks like, from a customer’s perspective?  The question from James was a result of the Healthcare Marketing Matters blog post, “Can healthcare providers become customer-focused enterprises?”
The question was indeed fortuitous, as the news coverage this week in various hospital and provider focused news outlets,  reported that consumerism is one of the top concerns on CEO minds these days.

 But the answer to the question is not a simple as it may seem. There is no checklist of “if I do this and this, I will be a customer-focused hospital or health system, and the healthcare consumer will think so too”. The answer to the question is really a two-part answer. And a hospital cannot arrive at the promised land of being a customer-focused healthcare enterprise, unless it accomplishes part two of the answer. 

Part One- The Health Care Consumer

Think of one’s own experiences when interacting with a customer-focused company.  One is engaged and highly satisfied. Interaction with the company in gathering information is easy, accessible, and clearly understandable across any of the platforms of my choosing.  The experience from the first contact to the last encounter is seamless, meaningful and totally integrated.  Proactive recommendations are sent and tailored to the individual healthcare consumer’s needs be that educational or preventative care. During the engagement process, trust is built and in the case of previous utilization, trust is reinforced and enhanced.  The brand promise is delivered every time. And most importantly as this is perceptual, there is an emotional connection that all that matters is “me”.  At no time do I feel or have an experience that’s it is all about the hospital and health system, making me secondary to what is taking place. The organization is responsive. Satisfaction scores exceed normalized standards.

A note regarding satisfaction. Because the healthcare enterprise may have high satisfaction scores, remember that it only measures the customer's perspective during the process of care.  It does not measure external influences or needs. High satisfaction scores while important do not make a customer-focused enterprise. Satisfaction is only one indicator of customer-centricity.  Satisfaction is a process that can be studied, manipulated, changed, and improved.

Part Two- The Healthcare Enterprise

Sometimes, one must look at the lessons of the past to find the solutions of the future, as healthcare evolves into a retail medicine, consumer-driven business model. So here is some reading homework:  MARKOR: A Measure of Market Orientation, Ajay K. Kohli, Bernard J. Jaworski, Ajith Kumar,  Journal of Marketing Research, Vol. 30, No. 4 (Nov. 1993), pp. 467-477, American Marketing Association; Harvard Business Review, “To Keep Your Customers, Keep It Simple”, Patrick Spenner and Karen Freeman, May 2012; And  McKinsey & Company, The consumer decision journey”, David Court, Dave Elzinga, Susan Mulder, and Ole Jergen Vetyik, June 2009.

Becoming the total healthcare consumer-centric enterprise requires two things. First is outward market orientation. The second is the culture and behavior to support across all levels of the organization the customer-focused business model.

Customer centricity in its pure and simplest form is really a matter of market orientation. “Market orientation refers to the organization-wide generation of market intelligence pertaining to current and future needs of customers, dissemination of intelligence within the organization, and responsiveness to it.” (Kohli, Jaworski & Kumar, 1993.)

To become a consumer-focused healthcare enterprise, and there are 20 indicators in the MARKOR scale to measure market orientation, these three can be considered to be the most important first steps:

Intelligence Generation
1.    Meeting  with customers to understand current and future needs
2.    An in-house market research department or the availability of external market research resources
3.    The ability to detect changes in customers preferences
4.    Annual surveys of customer perceptions which is different than satisfaction measurement

Intelligence Dissemination
1.    Regular interdepartmental meetings on market trends and development
2.    Important developments within the market or with key customers  are shared quickly
3.    Regular dissemination of satisfaction and perceptual  data at all levels of the enterprise

1.    Recognition of changes in customers product or service needs
2.    Alignment of product or service development efforts with customer needs
3.    Regular, interdepartmental planning to respond to changes in the business environment
4.    Responsiveness to customer complaints
5.    Making a concerted effort to modify products or services to fit customer needs

According to Walker Research and the Walker Index, these characteristics are some of the key differentiating elements of customer focused companies that are most likely to produce significantly better long term performance.

Systems to gather the intelligence to be an evolving customer-focused healthcare enterprise are one thing.  Culture and behavior are another, and is more often than not, the potential stumbling block in hospitals and health systems becoming customer-focused.

The culture and behavior of the healthcare enterprise influences and ultimately determines success.  Just because the healthcare enterprise completes one or more of the above, or a select few of the 20 MARKOR scale attributes, that in and of itself doesn’t make the healthcare enterprise customer focused. It only works if the culture and behavior of the organization is in alignment with the underlying organizational beliefs and values.

Customer-centric organizational culture and behavior fall into four areas:

Senior management
1.    Committed to and takes action on being customer-focused
2.    Drives business and financial planning based on the needs of customers
3.    Utilizes  market data in decisions
4.    Business development  is externally focused on meeting the needs of customers
5.    Marketing is a member of the senior team, trusted and is involved in all decisions
6.    Has a high level of tolerance for change
7.    Accepts innovation and has some tolerance for failure
8.    Low tolerance for and eliminates “sacred cows”

Interdepartmental relationships
1.    Interdepartmental cooperation takes place at all staff levels
2.    Formal and informal connections to departments
3.    Openness to  ideas from other departments
4.    Focus is on meeting the needs of the customer
5.    Interdepartmental barriers to meet the needs of the customer is identified and eliminated
6.    Seamless hand-off of customers between departments

Organizational systems
1.    A balanced approach to organizational structure
2.    Market-based incentive structures that focus on long-term company health
3.    Low level of “office politics”
4.    Mechanism is in placed to share customer related data
5.    Continuous evaluation and training on organizational customer centeredness
6.    Strict standards regarding customer service competency skills for all positions
7.    All touch-points  of the customer experience are integrated and seamless

Organizational Culture
1.  Organization's core values are widely shared and intensely held
2.    Senior management establishes norms of customer focused behavior by their actions
3.    There is a culture socialization program for new employees
4.    Conveys a sense of identity
5.    People-oriented
6.    Team oriented
7.    Outcome-oriented
8.    Fosters behavioral consistency

Customer centrality  cannot be marketed into existence with campaigns and forays into the market with “customer-centric messages” or internal declarations of customer focus.  Sooner or later the healthcare consumer will figure it out.  Employees will see it as the flavor of the day and wait it out until the next grand leadership vision comes around.  As in a previous post, the customer-focused healthcare enterprise is a way of life that permeates the hospital or health system with a singular focus. It is outward-looking and responsive, not inwardly focused, and unresponsive.

This is about changing the healthcare enterprise's DNA.  The customer-focused healthcare enterprise is hard to create and takes a lot of work. It’s not a box on a checklist and is not just satisfaction. But in the end, as healthcare evolves into a consumer-centric retail market, it is the only way that the healthcare enterprise can survive. Cutting costs and going lean will only go so far in retail medicine.

Time to get to work and reap the rewards.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

If hospitals had a golden age, then what does the future hold?

That assumes of course that hospitals had a golden age, which could probably be defined as the period from the introduction of Medicare and Medicaid, the explosive growth of employer sponsored healthcare and Hill-Burton.  I can remember the days when hospitals were paid 100 percent and even in some cases as not-for-profit hospitals received an additional 5 percent. Then came DRGs in 1983 and the world changed overnight. All followed by various attempts at changes in payment methodologies, new forms of insurance (think HMO etc.), programmatic pilots and on and on.

As with all things once the payment system was figured out, equilibrium was achieved and things went back more or less to how they were, abet at with lower revenues and profit margins for sure but a balance was achieved.  And really the incentives continued to drive the production of care and for marketing operations to make things “look pretty” and “put heads in the beds”.

Now the market has flipped like never before. Explosive disruption, innovation, entrants of nontraditional providers, legislation, regulation, payment models, technology, genetics, pharmaceuticals MHealth and the new healthcare consumer to name a few, creates a market environment that hospitals have never ever existed in.

ACA is the fundamental underlying driver for all of today's changes in the industry and markets. As an unintended consequence, healthcare markets are moving in a semi retail, consumeristic direction focused on accountability for price and quality. Directly or indirectly, these changes bring the healthcare consumer into the discussion, by the economic force of the market resulting in the healthcare consumer being accountable for a growing signification portion of the cost of care. With the healthcare consumer now paying more out of pocket, the result is a consumer engaging in shopping behavior on price, whether it is for insurance or care. Quality as of yet is not a determining factor, For years healthcare providers have all touted high quality care without the attendant proof points, that a consumer could use to judge these statements as being true or not.  Hence, healthcare providers are seen as equal in the provision of quality, even when the case may not be true due to lack of transparency. As more and more information is released as a result of the market movement encouraged by ACA, the healthcare consumer will begin to engage in more sophisticated shopping behaviors.

ACA has opened the door for disruptive innovation that focuses the light of attention on the healthcare consumer and meeting their needs.   Meeting their needs in the most convenient, accessible, effective and price efficient manner possible. 

At some point in the future, the hospital will flip from being a revenue center to a cost center. When that happens things will get really interesting, considering the billions of dollars in debt on the balance sheets of hospitals today. Lots of debt service out there. Could that be the next financial crisis?

So where does that take the hospital of today?

Not anyplace pretty but that doesn’t mean all hope is lost. Unless of course the hospital, instead of circling the wagons engaging in strategic planning and marketing like they always have, changes focus from an internal perspective of siege and “it’s all about us”, to an external market focus that embraces innovation, retail medicine, meaningful engagement and the growing power of the healthcare consumer. Look externally not internally for answers.

Let me be clear, the hospital is not going to go away but may in all likelihood be relegated to the setting of the place of treatment of last resort. The consumer with all the information now available on price and quality is pulling the curtain back on the wizard and they are not happy. The market reality is healthcare that is affordable, innovative, and accessible when and where they want it, conveniently delivered on their terms, efficient, effective and is “all about them” is the new business model.

It is a massive undertaking to shed years of cultural attitudes and organizational arrogance to change a slow moving organization into a nimble, consumer-centric, effective and efficient, innovative healthcare enterprise. But with some hard work, grit and determination along with changes in the prioritization and deployment of capital both human and financial within a hospital, it is possible. These steps are not all inclusive but represent movement in the direction.

1.     Start with an honest data driven market assessment of the brand and brand architecture, brand perceptions, brand promises, awareness etc,  market share, competitors, pricing, outcomes, in and out service migration, consumer attitudes, preferences and needs.  Move the discussion from I think, which when the discussion is around “I think”, everybody is right because its opinion, to a data driven discussion.

2.     Decide what the healthcare enterprise position in the market is and what it should be.  There are only three market positions one can take superior, equivalent or inferior.  And there is only one of three sub positions you can take to dominate. The healthcare enterprise is the low cost leader (think Walmart), the service leader (think Disney) or the quality leader (think Mayo or the Cleveland Clinic). Pick one, set meaningful benchmarks for the other two, but focus the healthcare enterprise on one. The days are over where the healthcare enterprise can be all things to all people.  The result of that thinking and behavior leads to too much diffusion of organizational resources which is inefficient and ineffective. It also represents the thinking and actions of the past.

3.     Stop marketing from making things look pretty and turn it into revenue driven operation, which is resourced appropriately in terms of capital and human. Hold marketing accountable for driving growth.  Elevate marketing to the senior table and position within the organization. From healthcare consumer to patient engagement, program development and launch to organizational strategic, financial and business planning, marketing needs to be in every discussion and bring the viewpoint of the market, the healthcare consumer and patient with them.

4.     Embrace retail medicine and innovation. Look critically at all the healthcare enterprise does and ask one simple question, what is it that I do today, that can be done more efficiently and effectively, is priced lower, more convenient and accessible for consumers and provides better quality and engagement by nontraditional entrants into the market. Assume that everything the healthcare enterprise does can be replaced by someone or something else. Doesn’t matter if the replacement is MHealth, pharmacological, care innovation, or technological to name a few. Figure it out and start looking for directions to move in.

5.     Change the team. The skills and leadership needed to compete in today’s market to not only survive but grow, may not exist in the healthcare enterprise. From Soichiro Honda, Founder of the Honda Motor Company is this wisdom, “If you hire only those people you understand, the company will never get people better than you are. Always remember that you often find outstanding people among those you don’t particularly like.”  Stop hiring people to do the same things the healthcare enterprise has always done. Start hiring people who have experiences in other industries that are transferable or have the breadth of experience across different healthcare verticals that look in on the hospital industry.  One may be surprised how their view of what the healthcare enterprise does and how it’s perceived can be eye opening. It can lead to innovation and change.

6.     Be flexible, adaptable, driven by change and the needs of the healthcare consumer.

Focus externally, not internally and the healthcare enterprise will find that world is full of exciting possibilities and growth.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Really? The hospital doesn’t do social media?

Imagine my surprise when I heard some hospital senior leadership types make the statement that "the hospital does not do social media". And proudly I may say, as if it’s some badge of honor. That kind of leadership points to a healthcare enterprise that has hunkered down with self imposed barriers, unable to effectively understand the nature or respond appropriately, to business model changes required in today’s healthcare environment.

I do predict that their future unfortunately, will be one of merger, closure and leadership unemployment.  Not because they don’t “do” social media, but because it is a failure of leadership, of vision and of innovation, that when combined with a rapidly evolving health care market that is consumeristic in nature, is deadly.

Okay the rant it is over.   Let’s look at why healthcare leadership in hospitals needs to have an effective and measurable social media strategy; plus tactical plan in place. This is just not about attracting the Young Invincible, or the newly insured or Medicare population. It’s about your strategy to build the brand, engage healthcare consumers and patients, manage your reputation and grow the healthcare enterprise. Remember that growth is good.

How about we start with some statistics on Silver Surfers, a key demographic for those in the health care business? I would sooner engage in a discussion around facts and not opinion.  When discussions are based on opinion everybody is right.

Silver Surfers are moving right on past the hospital, to wit:
1 in 5 twitter users is over age 50
53% of Americans over age 65 use the internet
Of that 53%, 70% use the internet daily
48% of seniors 65+ own a desk top computer
63% of adults 50- 64 own a desk top computer
77% of adults aged 50-64 use the Internet
1 in 3 seniors uses social media
49% of seniors online have a Facebook account
18% of Twitter users are over age 50 
Source: 2014


In just case this is a just a “oh really”, then from this social media infographic: 41 percent of patients say social media affects hospital choice courtesy of   This is really astounding when you consider the financial implications. Even better in the report was that 60 percent of doctors saying social media can improve the quality of care. One in two adults uses their smartphone to look up health information as well.
So who does the healthcare consumer trust in social media driven health information and content?  Doctors are first and that is no surprise at 60 percent. Nurses are in second place at 56 percent. Hospitals come in virtually tied with nurses at 55 percent.  Only 46 percent of people trust health information from patients they know.  And if they don’t know you as a patient, that trust drops to the bottom of the trust well to 25 percent. Most interesting is that the trust factor for the top three is really only a few percentage points difference.

When this information is combined with the Mayo Clinic survey  “Health Care Social Media List,” Social Media Health Network,  the statement “We don’t do social media?” is borne of a lack of knowledge, vision and leadership.

The point of all this, is to help leadership in hospitals and health systems, have rational fact-based discussion on the impact of social media on the business strategy. Social media does affect the overall hospital, its marketing strategy and positioning of the organization. It can have an effect on healthcare consumer and patient engagement. It influences reputation. It can shape the brand. It can influence revenue.

This is 2015 not 2000. The health care market marches on in becoming a semi-retail model, driven by innovation and healthcare consumer choice.   And hospitals are falling further behind each and every day.

Happy New Year

Sunday, December 14, 2014

What’s going to happen in 2015 with and to healthcare marketing?

That time of the year is upon us where predictions of things to come become all the rage. Prognostications, crystal balls, and ominous calls for the end of the world as we know it will continue to some degree.  

Continuation of hospital bankruptcies and closures, mergers, affiliations, disruptive innovations, healthcare consumerism, mHealth, and entrants of non- traditional healthcare providers, will continue unabated pushing hospitals and health system further down the food chain, threatening their very survival.

Okay, so I was just Captain Obvious and that’s what we all know the future holds. Now that being said, these trend continuations from 2014 don’t necessarily mean that hospitals and health systems will adapt. 

Will healthcare marketing in 2015 really be any different than the last 30 years? Probably not, but to survive the changes coming in 2015, that will only increase in velocity and intensity,  there are strategies and tactics that  healthcare marketing need to  embrace for growth and survival, by leading change in their respective healthcare enterprises.

Remember that growth is good. If the healthcare enterprise is not growing but circling the wagons, like so many do, then last one out turn the lights off. Here the trends and challenges as I see them for 2015 in healthcare marketing.

1.     Healthcare consumerism.  That means brand positioning, experience, consumer health needs, price and quality transparency is the answer. It’s the only way to respond should the healthcare enterprise desire growth and success.
2.     Retail medicine.  That has taken a major turn with the introduction of some basic primary care services beyond the sore throat, cold or flu. Especially with a tele-health presence, physicians are now able to consult real time. It is more convenient to the healthcare consumer, faster and cheaper then hospital based services. From a market perspective, the healthcare enterprise needs to respond in the same fashion by making the services of the healthcare enterprise more desirable, priced appropriately and consumer need focused than hospital focused. Beat Walgreens and others at their own game.
3.     Social media. Its use will accelerate and grow in influence during the healthcare consumer selection process. At a minimum Facebook, Twitter, Yelp and Instagram are the vehicles of choice for the novice organization. One to engage and dialogue. One to enhance the experience. One to mange reputation. One to tell a visual story.
4.     Price wars. They are coming considering that the healthcare consumer now pays one-third of the cost of care. Look for opportunities to lower prices and provide better care as a loss leader, for the more costly and profitable healthcare enterprise services. Capture the healthcare consumer by engagement, build the relationship and drive loyalty.
5.     Content marketing. The story is important and it’s how you influence the influencers. In markets that are undifferentiated, it’s the way to differentiate not on clinical programs and services which all competitors have but on the story.  The story is different from all others and can be used efficiently and effectively to drive engagement, awareness and choice. Content that is changed timely, appropriate and fresh. Content is not some of the time, but all of the time.
6.     Innovation. Non-traditional entrants into the market will drive further change the cost and delivery of healthcare services, placing the healthcare enterprise at a competitive disadvantage.  The only way to anticipate that is using market research to discover and understanding the unmet needs of the healthcare consumer. Then design the offerings at competitive prices, convenient and engaging before someone else does.  That means changing the business development aspect from an internal inwardly focused process to an external market focus.
7.     Redistribution of marketing resources. Resource will move from traditional print and electronic, to online with native advertising, social media platforms, email, and blogging and to mobile. That is where the audience is.
8.     MHealth.  Consumers love it. Providers generally hate it. Venture capital private equity firms are pouring billions into it.  Look for more innovation and acceptance that will drive the healthcare consumer further from the hospitals and hospital based services.   Healthcare enterprises will get on the bandwagon, hopefully before it’s too late in their markets.
9.    Healthcare consumer engagement will move beyond emails, wellness programs of little value and repeating what the healthcare enterprise has always done, to dialogue and exchange of information in a manner and method that the healthcare consumer desires. 
10.  Focus on growth.  This isn’t the build it and they will come growth, but growth that is  based relationships, manages experience and expectations and manages the demands of the healthcare consumer to the right setting of care, at the right time, for the right cost.

These are what I see as the 10 most important healthcare marketing changes and challenges for 2015. 

One may notice that the lines are blurring from what can be viewed traditionally as a healthcare enterprise operational focus, to a market driven focus. And that is the biggest marketing challenge.

Funny how that happens in a consumer driven semi-retail healthcare market. Best of luck.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Can the hospital get on the innovation band wagon?

Last week’s blog post “Is retail healthcare all about the price? And can the hospital compete? engaged a number of individuals in various forums on LinkedIn and elsewhere. All most interesting discussions and some common threads became apparent. Thoughtful posts with varying views about the place and role of non-traditional providers if any, regulation, quality and professional level of experience and training of medical professionals.   Of course there were some snarky comments with the expressed sense of entitlement by the hospital or physician scoffing at the developments.

But in all of the discussions, little thought was given to the continuation of the trend of innovation in the delivery of healthcare services and what it could eventually mean for the hospital, besides lost revenue.  One cannot combat the trend of innovation, especially from non-traditional retail providers who have deep knowledge and systems in place, to uncover and meet the needs of a consumer at a reasonable price.

Did we bring this upon ourselves and how do we reclaim the advantage?

We haven’t asked the right questions.  Maybe we even thought to ourselves stemming from a sense of entitlement, that innovation in service delivery and price was unnecessary? Could be because we really were not in tune with the needs of the healthcare consumers or the ones paying the bills? But I attribute it as most likely because healthcare marketing has been more about marketing communications than about market research, product, price and place.  Which in my opinion could have provided the early warnings and trends about a changing market dynamics and developments that could be capitalized upon before others.

Now a great backlash of disruptive innovation that keeps the hospital at the bottom of the food chain is accelerating. And guess what, the venture capitalist, private equity guys and the people innovating the in the delivery and price of care to meet the needs of the newly minted healthcare consumer, really don’t care what the hospital thinks.  As one private equity person I know put it, “it’s like shooting fish in a barrel”. Scary really.

What to do?

1.       Take stock and ask the hard question: What is being done in the hospital that can be done more efficiently and less expensively outside? How much revenue is at risk if that service disappears?
2.       Take a good hard look at the marketing philosophy, structure, capabilities, accomplishments and personnel. Fix what is broken. It’s hard and not easy by any means, but it has to be done.
3.       If not already in place, develop a business intelligence system that looks outside of the hospital at the market that identifies, tracks and disseminates information around developments etc.
4.       Get a private equity person or venture capitalist on the Board of Directors.  An organization needs new and fresh insight on the healthcare market that just won’t come from community members or the good old boys club.
5.       Invest in innovation in your organization and create the organizational structure that allows innovation to take place. A Chief Innovation Officer is needed. Hire from outside the organization.
6.       Stop circling the wagons! That stifles innovation and creates a siege mentality in the organization. Embrace change not status quo.
7.       Invest in marketing not marketing communications.
8.       Learn the lessons of disruptive innovation from others industries.  They can provide valuable learning’s, trends and directions.
9.       Lead don’t follow and expect the unexpected.
10.   If one can’t do any of this, then maybe it’s time to find something else to do.

There are more but one gets the gist of the conversation. The healthcare innovation train has already left the station.

Monday, May 26, 2014

How do you market the big box hospital post reform?

From what I have seen it’s pretty much the status quo when it comes to hospital marketing. Smiling happy patients, fluffy messaging that are all about you, shiny and dramatic shots of hi-tech equipment, new buildings with assorted other visuals, and copy that leaves one with more questions than answers. Not much really in the way of experience, outcomes or framing of expectations that a healthcare consumer could use to make a reasonable decision about seeking treatment.

So given the rapid change and evolution of the healthcare market place, with some wondering if the day of the big box hospital is coming to an end, what can be done by hospital marketing? 

Here are nine marketing strategies for saving the big box hospital.

1.  Brand and competitive position.
Consumers and patients are ready for convenient technology-enabled access to care. Use of mobile healthcare apps is on the rise. Healthcare providers that are capable of identifying consumers needs, and how they want their healthcare needs meet though technology focused on them, will gain new patients 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, they are a consumer not a patient.  So why then is it the only time you meaningfully engage them is during the period when they are a patient?  That doesn't seem like a lot of common sense. Consumer and patient engagement is about all of the time, not just some of the time.  Engaging the individual on a continuous basis builds loyalty and return use or repurchases behavior.

3. Engage the physicians and focus on the physician experience.
No matter the payment model you will still need a physicians or physician extenders 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. An effective and efficient physician has more to do with the impact of cost, quality in your organization then may other factors.

How hard is it for a physician or physician extender to practice medicine in your organization?  Understand their experiences overall from beginning to end, not just in isolated care segments. Fix what is broken, keep what is working. The more satisfying the experience, the better you will do financially.

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 spending and loyalty to the brand. You need to actively manage the customer experience in total by understanding the customer's point of view.  That is, all touch points internally and externally that a healthcare consumer/patient comes in contact with, which in turn creates the experience. Exceptional experience means gains in market share, brand awareness, and revenue.

5. Embrace innovation in healthcare.
Traditional ways of delivering healthcare are going by the wayside.  Price, convenience, access are the drivers in retail healthcare.  Find the need, understand the consumer’s behavior drivers, design offering around the consumer not you in a convenient location and price it appropriately. If you can't compete in this way, your market position, share and revenue will erode.

6. Agility is the name of the game.
Be nimble. Be agile. Be quick.  Healthcare marketing needs to move from the tried and failed to the exceptional, the innovative, the engaged and the motivational. You can't reach the healthcare consumer on an emotional level to make the right choices, treatment and lifestyle decisions as well as purchase decisions in your favor unless you are sufficiently engaged. .

7. Get moving on the social media program.
A hospital or health system needs to be where the healthcare consumer is living. And the healthcare consumer is on social media finding the information they need to make choices.  Social media is not a billboard, but an efficient and effective engagement strategy that can enhance the relationship.

8. Understand the multiplicity of markets.
You have five markets: Medicare; Medicaid; Commercial; Exchanges; and Uninsured. Baby Boomers are starting to demand that their healthcare experience be delivered their way, the way they want when they want. Retail medicine will continue to expand so tailor the healthcare offerings to the market accordingly. One size does not fit all. Outcomes and price transparency, access and convenience are the future and the future is now.

9. Quality Transparency will set one free.
This is the one that causes the most fear and trepidation among hospital executives and physicians, patients getting access to meaningful quality data that they can understand and use to make meaningful choices. Get ready it's here whether you like it or not, and it's just not a marketing technique. It's the right thing to do. Because if you don't someone else will.  And your quality and price data is out there. All it takes to some creativity to develop a Kayak type web site for healthcare and you're at the bottom of the food chain. No circling the wagons. The genie is out of the bottle and never going back.

If a hospital has no beds, is it still a hospital?