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

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

COVID-19, Patients, & Digital Healthcare, Leveraging the Obvious - 10 Steps for Marketing

COVID-19 and the innovation that continues to rapidly evolve in patients' access and comfort in using digital healthcare can be transformational for the hospital. For example, the pandemic has placed the patient in charge of when, where, and how hospital services are utilized.  Suppose for a moment that the pandemic has taught patients how to change utilization behavior. In that case, telemedicine and digital healthcare teach that one only needs a hospital for a few medically necessary services that cannot be provided in a freestanding ambulatory center.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

The fourth wave of the digital healthcare transformation is an opportunity for the hospital.

The patient is increasingly in control. Patients control their health and health data through wearables, mobile health platforms, telemedicine, and self-tracking devices. Patients have experience expectations based on previous non-healthcare digital experiences by selecting the most appropriate digital healthcare type.

What does it all mean for marketing the hospital?

In the fourth digital healthcare wave, hospitals need to be transforming from a group of static services to the view that hospital services are living and liquid with precise engagement and service expectations.  In the fourth digital wave, the leverage for new market positioning is there to take for hospitals who understand that services are liquid with different patient expectations.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay
10 Steps and implications for fully understanding the fourth wave of digital healthcare for hospitals. 

1.       Spend the money for market research to understand how the market segments, primarily how the Silver Surfers use digital health, the internet of everything, and their expectations around those channels. 

2.       Understand the experience, expectations, messaging, and perceptions of the hospital or health system digital brand. Does it meet the expectations uncovered in the market research? 

3.       View the hospital's digital brand as liquid. Hosptial leadership, physicians, and clinicians should view most hospital services not as static provided in-person in a single location, but as liquid which can be provided in any number of digital channels.  

4.       Learn from other industries, such as Amazon, Apple, Uber, and competitive innovations, that the patient has and is transferring to the hospital. Learn and emulate. 

5.       The patient moves quickly between mobile, online, wearable, and smartphone devices with expectations for a seamless digital experience.  Can the hospital or health system deliver on the expectation? 

6.       Development the internal marketing educational programs for all staff levels about the fourth digital wave. Include what it means when the patient is searching for providers and how they use the hospital's digital experience. It's not just an excellent wireless experience. 

7.       The more difficult but now essential transformation is from the hospital-centric business model to a patient-centric model. 

8.       Marketing needs to lead the active use of digital in establishing the patient experience and engagement. Digital is where patients live and expect to be engaged seamlessly across all digital platforms. 

9.       Focus marketing efforts on the hospital brand and value proposition along with value-focused communications on outcomes, experience, and expectation. 

10.   Listen to the patient digitally. What a patient or their family says in person, is often, a very different picture of what they say in the digital world. 

Hospitals have courageously innovated and changed to meet the patient needs during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. There is no letting up now. The next great transformational leap awaits.

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, Facebook, Tumblr, Instagram, Pinterest, TikTok, Flipboard, and Triller.

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.

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

The opinions expressed are my own.


Tuesday, January 5, 2021

When Patients Begin Searching for Hospital Price Information, what is Your Response?

Beginning on January 1, 2021, patients should be able to search a hospital or health system website for the prices on 200 standard procedures. Mandated by CMS in 2020, the purpose was to provide a measure of price transparency for patients and consumers when seeking medical care.

Image by Niek Verlaan from Pixabay 

What happened?

In randomly searching the internet on hospitals and health systems websites for pricing information, I found a confusing maze of information.  In all cases, the ability to find and search the information was difficult at best. I know my way around a website, search terms, and the internet as a healthcare provider and vendor marketing professional.  If I have difficulty finding, searching, and using the information to decide, how is a consumer or patient?

Kudos to any hospital or health system that provided an experience that made the information easily accessible, searchable, and user-friendly.

I am sure that over time with prodding from CMS, the ability for a patient to search for a hospital or health systems website for pricing information on 200 standard procedures will improve and be easier to find, more user-friendly, with a better user experience.

Price transparency and a good user experience is not a question of if but when.

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

How is the healthcare organization preparing for the eventuality?

In answering the question, there are four strategic dimensions for managing the patient's price search for consideration. 

1.       Marketing Plan - How are you positioning the hospital and the newly available price and shoppable services information in the market, i.e., what the detailed marketing plan? 

2.       Engagement Plan - What are your key messages that need to be delivered to patients and the community? What channels- digital, social, and traditional will be used to provide the key messages? 

3.       Experience Plan - What are the training programs and Q&As created to equip the employees who will most likely face questions from patients and the community regarding your prices and shoppable services? 

4.       Crisis Communications Plan -What are the talking points you will use to defend higher prices in services than your competitors? What are your talking points when you decide to raise your lower process to those of a competitor?

These four dimensions of the patient price information puzzle are not an afterthought. They should foster a much-needed critical strategy discussion and tactical marketing execution in the age of price transparency.  As much as we would like, patient pricing information cannot be left to the "we'll deal with this if any questions come up" strategy, because we made it so difficult to find and use.  Pricing and shoppable service information is becoming a strategic imperative that is an essential part of the organizational, business, financial, marketing, patient engagement, and experience plans.

If it's not, then don't talk about how patient or consumer-focused you are; either walk the talk or don't talk.

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, Facebook, Tumblr, Instagram, Pinterest, TikTok, Flipboard, and Triller.

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.

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

The opinions expressed are my own.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Patient & Customer Centricity is Culture Driven, Not Program Driven

I have worked for enough hospitals, health systems, and vendors in leadership positions to live through the declarations of the customer and patient centricity. It’s more than hiring new talent. It’s more than just catching up and using technology more efficiently.  It is a whole lot more than declaring it’s all about the customer.

Customer centricity doesn’t happen overnight, especially in healthcare enterprises that have had an internal instead of external focus. It isn’t driven by technology, though that is a tactic and solution. It’s not just a one and done training program. It’s not a line in the business or strategic plan.

It starts and ends with the culture and focus of the organization.

An organization can not treat patients or healthcare consumer as a customer, nor be successful in the endeavor if the very soul of the healthcare enterprise leadership, focus, and culture are not devoted to the customer.

It’s all about the healthcare consumer or patient. The only thing that matters is meeting the needs of the patient or the healthcare consumer.  It’s not about the hospital or health system in many ways.  Focusing on and meeting the needs of the customer is the single most important trait and a hallmark of successful companies. One patient to the hospital. One hospital to the patient. You’re all smart and can go figure out what I mean.

The singular focus on meeting the health care needs of the healthcare consumer or patient, or shopper for that matter, brings growth and revenue. Period.

Are you ready to make that transformation? And I ask that question because in health care nothing is ever new. I can remember from the 1990s when hospitals and health systems were throwing the words “patient as customers” around like they were M&Ms. So here we are, and it's 2018, still talking about customer-centricity around the healthcare consumer or patient. These times the words are engagement and experience. Hospital marketing neither reflects the experience nor engages in any meaningful way.

The healthcare enterprise can talk all it wants about treating patients as consumers. But unless it starts with the cultural transformation and a singular focus on meeting the needs of the healthcare consumer or patient, otherwise all the technology, new hires, new clinical programs and delivery of care is just another expensive undertaking that is nothing more than me too compared to the other healthcare providers in the market.

The more things change, the more they stay the same I guess.

A note to my readers. You may have noticed that haven’t been posting as frequently as before. After 11 years of writing Healthcare Marketing Matters, the weekly research and topic selection becomes a bit of a chore. While there has been much progress in hospitals and marketing, it remains mired in a features approach looking at us and little content that fosters true engagement with the patient and healthcare consumer. I guess I am just tired of beating a dead horse. The other reason is semi-retirement. Having a deep background in healthcare, I will be the hospital's worst nightmare patient.  Not from unreasonable demands, but from understanding healthcare delivery and my expectations of experience and engagement for an informed healthcare consumer standpoint. Get ready folks because I hate using a hospital for things that be done in a higher quality, more cost-effective, and convenient setting than the hospital or hospital-based outpatient services. I only need the hospital for three things, emergency care, care for acute complex medical conditions, and intensive care.


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 Feedspot.com. 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.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Are you taking advantage of the third wave of digital in health care?


Change can be transformational for companies. Or, for the lack of leadership and understanding, spell the death knell of the business model as the market and industry changes. For example, one only needs a hospital for are three things, intensive care, care for complex acute medical conditions and life-threating emergency care.  After that, all other healthcare consumer or patient medical needs can be meet outside of the hospital or hospital-based outpatient services.
The third wave of digital transformation.
Keep the above thought in mind as another transformational innovation is impacting health care and hospitals.   The third wave of digital isn’t pie in the sky and few years out. This market changing transformation is the third wave of digital for providers. No one is immune.
The healthcare consumer is increasingly in control.  Period.  They are in control of their heath and health data through wearables, mobile health platforms, and self-tracking devices. They are in control of the experience. They are in control of the expectations for services.
What does it all mean?
In the digital third wave instead of healthcare services being static, they are now living services with liquid expectations.  It is through the third wave, that lays the marketing opportunity for healthcare providers, in understanding those living services and leveraging liquid expectations.
Marketing steps to take now.

1.     Market research to understand how the market segments especially how the Silver Surfers are using digital health, the internet of everything, as well as their expectations around those channels.

2.     Understand the nature and function of the hospital or health system digital brand. Does it meet the expectations uncovered in the market research?

3.      Embrace the trend don’t fight.  That means marketing leadership and participation in hospital or health system strategy development.

4.     Understand, and this is important for senior leadership and clinicians, all services in this new environment are liquid.  Clinical serves are no longer static and unforgiving of expectations.

5.    Understand the experiences that the healthcare consumer has in other industries and is transferring to healthcare. Learn and emulate.

6.    The healthcare consumer is moving between mobile, online, wearable and smartphone devices with expectations for a seamless digital experience.  Can the hospital or health system deliver on the expectation?

7.    Development of internal marketing educational programs for all levels of staff about the third digital wave and what it means when the patient is searching for providers and when they are in-house.

8.    More difficult but now essential transition from a provider-centric business model to a consumer-centric business model.

9.    Use digital to establish and manage engagement. That is where the healthcare consumer lives and expects to be engaged. Seamlessly across all digital platforms.

10.  Focus marketing efforts around the healthcare brand and value proposition around outcomes, price, experience, and expectation.

11.  Listen. Listen. Listen. And listen some more to the healthcare consumer and their needs.

Things have just gotten a lot harder in healthcare. The healthcare consumer is gaining control faster than hospitals, and health systems can keep up.
Not good.  Not good at all for the digital deaf providers.

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, October 2, 2016

Are you using social media in actually engaging the healthcare, consumer?

More of a rhetorical question, the other day I was wondering with all the engagement and experience efforts underway if I am an engaged at any level by my insurance plan or health care provider? Putting my marketing hat aside, and looking at the question, I have to say the answer is no.

And it is a major challenge and obstacle that providers face as healthcare becomes retail and healthcare consumer driven in nature on how to engage.

Engagement is human- to-human

Let me repeat; engagement is a human-to- human undertaking. It is not a piece of state disease literature.  It is not a generic newsletter sent monthly with topics that I have little interest. It’s a meaningful interaction that is a two-way conversation about my health status, needs, and options.   A dialogue that is ongoing, not one time.

Patient engagement or any engagement for that matter is a mutually beneficial conversation that is structured to meet the healthcare needs of the individual.  It can take many forms to fit the engagement style of the patient or healthcare consumer.  The implication here is that it is highly individualized.  

In marketing, we call that mass customization.  That is the same information shared with large populations or group of people that appear in nature to the individual to be highly personalized.  But all of the engagement drives mostly the same outcome, to increase knowledge, to make better choices, to empower decision-making, to create brand loyalty and drive revenue. And that engagement effort is delivered across multiple mediums and channels that the targeted individuals desire to receive the information.

Past engagement styles and efforts do not meet today’s healthcare consumer’s needs.

The healthcare consumer and patient lives and reacts to the world that is omnichannel in nature.  They move freely between phone, email, mobile, and desktop, etc., expecting the engagement and experience to be seamless and available at any time of their choosing.

It’s easy to talk about the rationale and the importance of an effective and efficient social media program.  Or, to suggest social media channels as a starting point to drive engagement and business.  It’s another thing to discuss the how you do it in a time of scarce marketing resources, lack of knowledge or the willingness to lead change.

What follows are steps in a defined process  to embark on an integrated social media program for engagement?   
1.       Improve the organizational marketing process. Let face it, we all do things that don’t make any sense or has become so ingrained we react without thinking. Take a step back and look at the marketing processes. Find efficiencies and increase effectiveness. Stop doing what doesn’t work and move those resources to social media.    
2.       Find the one person in the organization that knows social media and put them full time on the job or hire someone.  It takes an FTE dedicated to run a successfully integrated, efficient, and engaging social media program.   
3.       Commit to social media all the time. The challenge is to keep in front of your audience with relevant information, all the time.  Attention spans are short.  If someone sees no changes on a pretty regular basis in your content or information, they will fall away.   
4.      Measure everything.  Evaluate.  Adjust based on your findings. Redeploy budget as needed.  
5.      Use social media with brand evangelists, followers, customers, physicians, employees, etc., to communicate, build organizational support and loyalty.   
6.      Develop a content plan and editorial calendar.   
7.      Repurpose all content across social media channels.   
8.      Make it interesting and about the challenges the organization is solving.  All about you is boring and glossed over.  All about your customer’s or patient’s and how you are helping will.   
9.     In the end, if the human resources are not available in the department, consider outsourcing the social media function.

The bottom line is that the multiple stakeholders and audiences are out in social media searching for answers.  So it is probably about time that the provider or vendor is where they are, not where they would like them to be.

Think of one's personal experience as a healthcare consumer or patient.  Are you engaged? If not then the patients aren't either.

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.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Can healthcare marketing take advantage of the third wave of digital?

In an interesting article,  HealthCare to enter third wave of digital, Erin McCann, Managing Editor, Healthcare IT News, June 15,2015, thought leadership at Accenture  in the report The Era of Living Services  published on June 15, speaks to the third wave of digital.  Accenture also produced a great infographic that illustrates the third wave.

Now this is very important as another transformational innovation anticipated to impact healthcare first that will directly impact the hospital, health systems, physicians and other medical providers.  This isn’t pie in the sky and few years out. This market changing digital third wave is coming over the next couple of years.  Bad news as the digital channel for most healthcare organizations hasn’t been mastered to really any great degree in the second wave of digital.  That by the way is not a slam at any hospital, health system or vendor it’s just a fact.

What does it all mean?

The healthcare consumer is increasingly in control.  Period.  They are in control of their heath and health data through wearables, mobile health platforms and self tracking devices. They are in control of the experience. They are in control of the expectations for services.

In the digital third wave instead of healthcare services being static, they become what the Accenture people call living services with liquid expectations.  And therein lays the marketing opportunity for healthcare providers, in understanding those living services and leveraging liquid expectations.

Marketing steps to take now.

1.       Market research to understand how  the market segments especially how the Silver Surfers are using digital health, the internet of everything, as well as their expectations around those channels.
2.       Understand the nature and function of the hospital or health system digital brand. Does it meet the expectations uncovered in the market research?
3.       Embrace the trend don’t fight.  That means marketing leadership and participation in hospital or health system strategy development.
4.       Understand and this is important for senior leadership and clinicians, all services in this new environment are liquid.  Clinical serves are no longer static and unforgiving of expectations.
5.       Understand the experiences that the healthcare consumer has in other industries and is transferring to healthcare. Learn and emulate.
6.       The healthcare consumer is moving between mobile, online, wearable and smartphone devices expectation for a seamless digital experience.  Can the hospital or health system deliver on the expectation?
7.       Development of internal marketing educational programs for all levels of staff about the third digital wave and what it means when the patient is searching for a providers and when they are in-house.
8.       More difficult but now essential transition from a provider centric business model to a consumer centric business model.
9.       Use digital to establish and manage engagement. That is where the healthcare consumer lives and expects to be engaged. Seamlessly across all digital platforms.
10.   Focus marketing efforts around the healthcare brand and value proposition around outcomes, price, experience and expectation.

Things have just gotten a lot harder in healthcare. The healthcare consumer is gaining control faster than hospitals and health systems can keep up.  Not good.  Not good at all for the digital deaf providers.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Stuck in the 80's, what should hospitals be advertising in 2015?

In 1958, McGraw-Hill Magazines published the award winning and now famous advertisement of “The Man in the Chair.” For those of you not familiar or had forgotten the advertisement, below is the ad.

Obviously this was aimed at the aimed at the B2B audience. But with the recent spate of meaningless healthcare advertisements appearing from hospitals and health systems, it might be time for the healthcare industry to take note of  "The Man in the Chair”, and apply those learning’s to the healthcare consumer. And from an editorial standpoint, there are any number of healthcare vendors that could use to learn this lesson as well.

For the life of me I really can’t figure out why it’s so difficult for the hospital industry to provide healthcare consumers with meaningful information in order to make a choice decision?  After all, the healthcare consumer now pays for one-third of the cost of care and will spend over $300 billion on health insurance premiums, co-pays and deductibles in 2015. That is not chump change.

What really started this week’s rant  was the endless parade recently of the we care about you, trust us, we are the best, and we are healthy driven advertising.  Really, now what does all that that mean? Which speaking frankly is boring, looks the same across providers and ignores the healthcare consumers need and quest for information.

I realize that I am on a crusade here but the healthcare market has changed and this type of marketing is no longer acceptable. That is of course unless the hospital or health system is determined to become  part of the 30 percent of the hospital market that  will liquidate or be acquired over the next five years.

What should hospitals and health systems be advertising?

It’s really simple but terrifying at the same time. There are four areas to address in hospital campaigns aimed at building brand, awareness, revenue and market share.

Price. Outcome. Experience. Value.

It’s a new business model for hospital and health system operations and marketing.

Health care is evolving into a retail driven, consumer focused medical market and that means new approaches.  A new transparency based on price, outcome, experience and the value that the healthcare consumer receives. It’s not about logos, awards, vague claims or misleading advertisements. It is about being healthcare consumer focused and meeting their needs with usable, transparent, actionable information, not hospital centric messaging that makes the Board, physicians and senior management feel great.

The marketing and messaging needs to support the brand and brand message as well differentiating the hospital from competitors.  For the new market environment and healthcare business model, price, quality data, accessibility, convenience and testimonials is the new marketing currency. The healthcare consumer wants to be able to trust the hospital. The healthcare consumer wants to make a good decision.  Listen to what the healthcare consumer is asking for in the way of information from the hospital. Give information and solutions, not “trust me” promises and all encompassing claims.  No one believes it anymore.

Winning healthcare marketers are driving growth by increasing their precision, broadening their scope, reacting quickly and telling a better story.

Look at the “Man in the Chair” and replace that person with the healthcare consumer.  Those are eight very important questions to  be answered. Stop stating the obvious and telling people what they already expect to be taking place in an environment of healing. Tell them what they need to know.


Monday, April 27, 2015

Are you an engaged patient or healthcare consumer?

More of a rhetorical question, the other day I was wondering with all the engagement  and experience effort underway, if I  am engaged at any level by my insurance plan or healthcare provider? Putting my marketing hat aside, and looking at the question from a patient’s viewpoint, I have to say the answer is no.

I am not engaged either as a healthcare consumer or former patient by a large IDN at any meaningful level.  I have actually had better engagement from my PBM. At least they call every 90 days to let me know it’s time to refill. It is a major challenge and obstacle that hospitals face as healthcare becomes retail and healthcare consumer driven in nature on how to engage.

Engagement is human-to-human

Let me repeat, engagement is a human-to-human undertaking. It is not a piece of disease state literature.  It is not a generic newsletter sent monthly with topics that I have no interest in. It’s a meaningful interaction that is a two-way conversation about my health status, needs and options.   A dialogue that is ongoing, not one time.

Patient engagement or really any type of engagement for that matter is a mutually beneficial conversation that is structured to meet the healthcare needs of the individual.  It can take many forms to fit the engagement style of the patient or healthcare consumer.  The implication here is that it is highly individualized.   

In marketing we call that mass customization.  That is, information that can be shared with a large population or group of people that appears in nature to the individual to be highly personalized.  But all of the engagement drives essentially the same outcome, to increase knowledge, to make better choices, to empower decision-making, to create brand loyalty and drive revenue. And that engagement effort is delivered across multiple mediums and channels that the targeted individuals desire to receive the information.

Past engagement styles and efforts do not meet today’s healthcare consumer’s needs in a retail consumer driven medical market.

This is not insurmountable, but it does take vision, commitment, resources and change. The healthcare consumer and patient lives and reacts to a world that is omni-channel in nature.  They move freely between phone, email, mobile and desktop etc., expecting the engagement and experience to be seamless and available at any time of their choosing.

For some that may be a newsletter delivered by email with a text to their cell phone informing that new information is available. Others may desire the information to be delivered as a simple text link to the information on a personalized web page. Others may prefer mobile app accessibility. Some may respond better to gamification and rewards. Still other may prefer hard copies.

And in some situations, it may be a personal phone call because the healthcare consumer or patient wants a true one-to-one engagement and experience. It could even be all of the above.  But in any event, the engagement experience is tailored to meet their needs.

So in a back to basics kind of way, it is completely customer focused and starts with how the patient, healthcare consumer or population wants to be engaged and how. Enter a lot of primary market research for the hospital to find those nuggets of information that are actionable for moving forward and engaging the healthcare consumer or patient.

Though David Ogilvy said this in relationship to the advertising industry “Advertisers who ignore research are as dangerous as generals who ignore decodes of enemy signals”, does apply today to hospitals and health systems on so many levels, and in so many ways as the market evolves into a retail medical environment.

The time between understanding and action in healthcare consumer or patient engagement is now measured in minutes, not days, months or when one gets around to it. Notoriously slow in adapting is to new technologies and trends; hospitals need to stop doing what they have always done in engagement.

Think of one's personal experience as a healthcare consumer or patient.  Are you engaged? If not then the patients in the hospital aren't either.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Can healthcare providers become customer focused enterprises?

There has been a lot of buzz this past week in industry publications, about hospitals and health systems seeing customer-centricity as being a viable business strategy for growth and success.  It began with the American Hospital Association meeting reported in the article Treating Patients as Consumers is a Growing Strategy, H&HN January 21, 2015, by Paul Barr.

But let’s expand the discussion from technology and service development focus, to catch up with the market shifting to a semi-retail model of medicine, driven by market innovation and the influence of more sophisticated healthcare consumer, to what it means absent the innovation and hiring people from consumer-focused retail industries.

What does it mean to develop and execute a strategy to treat patients as customers?
It’s not an easy question to answer.  I have worked for enough hospitals, health systems, and vendors in leadership positions to live through the declarations of customers or even sales centricity. It’s more than hiring new talent. It’s more than just catching up and using technology more efficiently.  It is a whole lot more than declaring it’s all about the customer.

It all starts with the culture.

Customer centricity doesn’t happen overnight, especially in healthcare enterprises that have had an internal instead of external focus. It isn’t driven by technology, though that is a tactic and solution. It’s not just a one and done training program. It’s not a line in the business or strategic plan.
 It really starts and ends with the culture and focus of the organization.

An organization can not treat patients or healthcare consumer as a customer, nor be successful in the endeavor if the very soul of the healthcare enterprise leadership, focus, and culture is not devoted to the customer.

It’s all about the healthcare consumer or patient. The only thing that matters is meeting the needs of the patient or the healthcare consumer.  It’s not about the hospital or health system in many ways.  Focusing on and meeting the needs of the customer is the single most important trait and hallmark of successful companies. And that lesson I learned from working at Walgreens corporate. Walgreens is on to something when you look at a $76 the billion-plus international retail company, transforming into a health care company.

The singular focus on meeting the health care needs of the healthcare consumer or patient, or shopper for that matter, brings growth and revenue. Period.

Are you really ready to make that transformation? And I ask that question because in healthcare nothing is ever really new. I can remember from the 1990s when hospitals and health systems were throwing the words “patients as customers” around like they were M&Ms. So here we are and its 2015, still talking about customer-centricity around the healthcare consumer or patient.

The healthcare enterprise can talk all it wants about treating patients as consumers. But unless it starts with the cultural transformation and a singular focus on meeting the needs of the healthcare consumer or patient, then all the technology, new hires, new clinical programs and delivery of care is just another expensive undertaking.

The more things change, the more they stay the same I guess.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Looking for a market edge? Why not a bundled care & pricing campaign?

The healthcare consumer is now paying one-third of the cost of their care.  They also exhibit consumeristic shopping behaviors when selecting health plans in the exchanges.  Over the past couple of years, poll after poll finds that consumers like bundled care. With all the price and outcomes data now available to the healthcare consumer, it would seem to offer an opportunity to leverage consumer market interest and preference for a revenue opportunity.

What I don’t see is any innovative marketing by hospitals and health systems around bundled care and pricing, aimed at the healthcare consumers. The finance people are negotiating those deals with payers and employers to an extent and that is necessary. But really, is that just doing business the same old way that the healthcare enterprise has always done, while missing the market shift to a semi-retail consumer-centric business model?  

True that not all care can be neatly bundled into a healthcare consumer friendly package, but a lot of it can. And if the healthcare enterprise wants grow and thrive in a consumer-centric healthcare model, then that means marketing innovation to reach the healthcare consumers.

Being first in the market with this type of marketing effort makes the healthcare enterprise a market leader not a market follower.  In a copy cat industry, other healthcare enterprises will launch their bundled care and pricing effort, and differentiation will be lost. It always happens.  Being first does give one some blue ocean to swim in before it becomes a purple, then red ocean of crowded competitors.

First one to the market place wins the perception battle, increases brand awareness and beings to move the market away from the confusing discussion and focus on hospital price, while clarifying for the healthcare consumer their choices.

As a marketing leader, one will have to do the homework, work closely with finance and sell the plan. This calls for healthcare marketing to begin the transition to become revenue marketers.

As I have written before, the new market drivers for hospitals in an evolving consumer-centric market are price, outcomes and experience.  Bundled care can deliver on all three market dimensions.

Nobody said this was ever going to be easy. And growth is good.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

What will you say when the media comes knocking about hospital prices?

In two article in the past week, and one of them written by a physician in the Wall Street Journal on September 4th , Healthcare and the $20,000 bill, WSJ op-ed September 4, 2014 , Eric Michael David, MD hospital prices came to the forefront. And it wasn’t alerting.  That was followed by Molly Gamble in Becker’s Hospital Review with The easiest way to make a Hospital CEO squirm, Molly Gamble,  Becker’s Hospital Review  jumping off from the WSJ article with additional information.

The headline question is one that hospitals and health systems can no longer ignore with pejorative and condescending answers, or even silence to the questions of hospital prices. When physicians turn on those organizations it moves from a healthcare consumer complaint to PR crisis.

Hide the head in sand and pretend it’s all just going away, but guess what- it’s not.  And it is maybe like one step away from a hospital or health system public relations crisis.

If you haven’t read the WSJ article, I recommend that you read it.  It’s a classic example of how not to handle the pricing issue. Doesn’t matter if it’s a physician, the media or a healthcare consumer that is calling for they are all equally important.

Here is what an organization needs to do to be ready for the negative PR:

1.       Admit one can’t win this argument. Develop, refine and have in place a media plan from the point of limiting the damage to your hospital brand and reputation as much as possible.
2.       In preplanning understand the hospital or health system pricing compared to area competitors.  Don’t compare to hospitals or health systems across the country.
3.       Be prepared to explain up coding. Matter of fact this is probably a good time to start reviewing your coding and billing practices to make sure that all applicable regulations are being followed before you add some charges like the trauma team.
4.       Don’t send out the billing manager or director of Finance out to answer media questions.
5.       Prepare Q&As and practice.
6.       Don’t answer it’s all the insurers fault. We don’t really charge those prices. The consumer will never understand because it’s so complicated.
7.       Never ever reference the charge master.
8.       When a clear billing mistake has been made, admit, rectify and apologize.
9.       Have the CEO briefed, media trained and ready to face the press.
10.   Answers to questions that come off as pejorative, condescending or arrogant are unacceptable.
11.   Treat this as a full blown PR communications crisis. Failure to do so will lead to mistakes and making it worse not better.

Pray it doesn’t happen that the pricing issue is raised by someone who knows what they are talking about. The hospital or health system can’t win this one, but limit the damage to reputation and brand you can.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Is retail healthcare all about the price? And can the hospital compete?

With all the significant pressures providers find themselves under especially financially, the last thing hospitals and health systems  need to worry about is market disruptive innovation in the delivery of basic healthcare services that focuses on price, convenience and access.

Well, that is exactly what has happened with Walmart introducing disruptive innovation in the pricing and delivery of some basic healthcare services. The following articles detail the move, Healthcare Finance News August 7, 2014,Walmart wades into provide territory”, and Healthcare Payer News, Retail 2.0: A new retail price”. A couple of months ago I posted a blog on June 1 in Healthcare Marketing Matters, “Ready for the tyranny of healthcare price competition”.  

For a while now I have been writing about a semi- retail healthcare market that was evolving. Well it’s here and here in a very big way.

And frankly, I don’t know how providers can compete with Walmart on price, convenience, service and access. And if one thinks they can make the quality argument as differentiation to justify higher prices than what Walmart is promising and delivering to the healthcare consumer, it won’t work.  It won't work unless the hospital or health system wants to be price and outcomes transparent for the healthcare consumers benefit. But that is a big gamble as well.

Part of this is the power of the brand at work. And Walmart has a higher brand profile, brand promise and value proposition that a hospital or health system does. Plus Walmart delivers on the brand promise day in and day out.

It’s easy to say that in the end these are simple tests and services that you can live without, but that is a dangerous attitude and dismissive at best. It’s the first foray into retail healthcare and as Walmart gains knowledge and skill, don’t be so surprised when they go after diagnostic imaging or any other number of ambulatory services that they could provide, and cut the price floor right out from underneath the hospital.

After all, quality for the healthcare consumer is a non-argument. Hospitals and health systems for years have all made high quality claims with no proof points. So, when Walmart tells the healthcare consumer about a better price and the same if not better quality, it’s a believable story. And in a retail environment, when all things are equal in the mind of a consumer, price wins.

This does not mean by any means that hospitals are going to close their doors and be put out of business by Walmart.  But what it does mean is that price is becoming king and unless the price, experience, brand and brand promise work together, one has a long hard road ahead.

Healthcare is changing more rapidly than anyone ever expected.  Hospital and health system leadership don’t have the luxury of not understanding a retail medical model, or not responding to dynamic disruptive innovation.

Part of that response is getting the marketing house in order and moving from a marketing communications effort to a true marketing operation where price, access, convenience and what the healthcare consumer wants is king, not what you want to give them.

Repeat after me, the healthcare consumer and price is king.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Can Google Glass improve the patient experience?

Hospitals and health systems, after some early adapters innovated in the use of Google Glass by physicians in the ER and with in-office patient examinations and treatment, by  having real time consults with specialists, are slowly moving to the use of this innovative technology. Which begs the question for me; can Google Glass be used to improve the patient experience?  

If you think about a physician wearing Google Glass and transmitting data and images, then why not make the leap and consider giving the healthcare consumer/patient or even family member/visitor for that matter, the same technology to use during an inpatient or outpatient encounter?

The health consumer/patient experience is not linear. It is the sum total of every individual experience across the healthcare encounter that occurs. There are a lot of steps in the patient experience and mostly the analysis is all retrospective – market research, patient interviews, focus groups, patient satisfaction data etc. And the patient experience improvement process is usually focused on one or two aspects of the patient experience, not the entire encounter.

Now consider for maybe the first time, the availability of using an innovative technology developed for the general public, used by the patient to provide real-time data on the patient experience from the eyes of the healthcare consumer/patient.  Powerful.

Instead of looking at one single aspect, you can gain valuable insight into the entire experience while retaining the ability to zero in from the data on one aspect to the patient experience. Contemplate for a moment Google Glass use as a potentially good way to find out how nurse’s, physician’s and other caregiver’s are engaging and talking to the patient.  Could even discover which caregivers are or are not washing their hands pre and post encounter?  What would it means to have the availability of real time data from the patent from their view and what happened when the patient fell?

Seems to me that there are some great uses for Google Glass for improving healthcare, be it the experience or treatment.

Now that being said, the naysayers will probably use HIPPA or some advice from attorneys about risk and exposure that a hospital or health system can’t give Google Glass to patients. I could see some valid concerns, but nothing that cannot be overcome.

After all it’s about improving the experience and care isn’t it?  Or is it still in one’s mind all about the hospital or health system, and not the healthcare consumer/patient?

Google Glass may be just the prescription the doctor ordered.

The fastpitch softball season has come to a close as well as my daughter’s 10 year playing career. Hope springs eternal that she will change her mind and play in college.  The 16U A USSA Fastpitch Softball World Series in Overland Park, Kansas as a lot of fun. Alex pitched well and went 3-2 in games she pitched and the team went 4-3 overall.  The official results have them ranked in the top 20 in the 17th spot out of 40 teams.  Pretty good really!  Now on to college visits, high school graduation and a new chapter in her life.  Now where did I put that honey do list?

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Are you skating to where the healthcare marketing puck will be?


There has been a lot of activity lately with making an analogy to Wayne Gretzky’s most famous statement that he skates to where the puck will be, not where it is as a great player.  And lots of people have been beating that drum in the media lately about how hospitals and health systems aren’t skating to where the puck is going.   And in doing so are placing the very survivability of the healthcare organization at risk.

And that applies to healthcare marketing as well.

·        The healthcare consumer is skating towards outcomes. Healthcare marketer’s skate to award logos and contextually meaningless content.
·         The healthcare consumer skates towards price information. Healthcare marketer’s skate to nondisclosure.
·         The healthcare consumer skates towards social media to find information. Healthcare marketer’s skate to web sites that are not SEO optimized or mobile friendly.
·         The healthcare consumer skates towards choice, access, convenience and price. Healthcare marketer’s skate to new buildings and equipment.
·         The healthcare consumer skates to the story of the healthcare organization. Healthcare marketer’s skate to single point clinical services or diagnostic equipment capabilities story.
·         The healthcare consumer skates to the totality of the healthcare experience. Healthcare marketer’s skate in a circle waiting for some marcom tasks and for the most part are not involved in the experience process.

One could continue to write a pretty long list but I think the point has been made. Healthcare is becoming a very tough consumer centric business which hospitals and health systems have never had to compete in.  And in any kind of retail environment, cost and consumers are kings.

So where should healthcare marketer’s skate?

·         Skate to demand management of populations across the continuum of care.
·         Skate to the totality of the patient or healthcare consumer experience not to the single touch-point of the day.
·         Skate to providing clear and unambiguous price information.
·         Skate to providing outcomes information.
·         Skate to leading the healthcare organization.
·         Skate to telling the story of the healthcare organization, not the service or equipment.
·         Skate to where the market research data indicates that the market is headed.

It’s time to stop circling the wagons and skate to where the healthcare consumer and market is heading.  Otherwise, the Zamboni will pick you up along the way.

The fastpitch travel softball season is moving to a close and it’s been a lot of fun.  The week of July 28 my daughter and I will be at the USSSA 16U A World Series where the team is currently ranked in the top 10 at No.7. It will be a wonderful last hurrah for her. The college visits have already started.  It’s been a great 10 years of fastpitch travel softball and I wouldn’t change it a bit.