|Image by Engin Akyurt from Pixabay|
Patients as buyers are no longer an "it will happen someday," but a market reality come January 1, 2021. Signs are apparent that market power is shifting from the hospitals as the dominant seller controlling the relationship to the patient as the chief buyer. The CMS January 1, 2021 mandate of the 200 searchable standard procedures with prices on the hospital website will allow the patient more control.
In this kind of environment, the patient is king and queen. The hospitals' position in patients' minds will be an amalgamation of expectations and experience along the dimensions of brand, price, quality, experience, and engagement. Why? Because hospitals and health systems have little differentiation.
|Image by djedj from Pixabay|
A hospital is a hospital, is a hospital.What value does the hospital or health system bring to physicians and patients? That is the question at hand. And in a buyers' market, it's the only question you can answer successfully. In many ways, a hospital service buyers' market is about the accountability of your offerings' for patients and community regardless of the demographic or market segment they reside.
To respond appropriately to a buyers' market, hospital marketers need to dramatically change their approach and techniques.
Moving forward with seven considerations to respond to a buyer's market
1. Brand and competitive position. Patients are ready for transparency and convenient technology-enabled access to care. Healthcare providers capable of identifying these needs and how they want their healthcare needs met through technology will gain new patients and next-generation physicians.
2. Engage existing customers and patients. An individual is only a patient 1/3rd of the time they come in contact with you. That is during the diagnosis, treatment, and recovery phase. Pre and post this experience; they are a healthcare consumer, not a patient. So why then is it the only time one chooses to meaningfully engage them is during the period when they are a patient? Continuous patient engagement builds loyalty, and more importantly, keeps them in your network, which has some pretty significant financial ramifications in a risk-based reimbursement model.
3. Engage physicians. No matter the payment model, the hospital or health system still needs a physician or physician extender medical 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 and quality in the hospital than any other factor.
4. Improve physician experience. How hard is it for a physician or physician extender to practice medicine in your organization? Have you looked at the hassle factor that physicians encounter when trying to get things done in the hospital setting? Understand how the physician experiences your organization at every touch-point they meet the hospital. Understand their experiences overall from beginning to end, not just in an isolated segment. Fix what is broken; keep what is working. The more satisfying the experience, the better you will do financially.
5. Focus on patient experience. A hospital's ability to deliver an experience that sets it apart in the patients' eyes and potential patients from its competitors - traditional and non-traditional - increases their loyalty to the brand. One needs to actively manage the customer experience in totality by understanding the customer's point of view. All touchpoints internally and externally that the patient encounters, which create the experience, need to be actively managed. Exceptional experience means gains in market share, brand awareness, and revenue.
6. Expand retail healthcare. Traditional ways of delivering healthcare are going by the wayside. Think of the hospital system as a distributive computer network. Price convenience, access, and outcomes are the drivers in retail healthcare. Find the need, understand the patient's behavior drivers, design the offering around the patient, not the hospital, in a convenient location, and price it appropriately. Oh, and name it correctly; think will the patient understand what you do from the name and not something opposite. If you can't compete in the market in this way, the last one out can turn off the lights.
7. It's an omnichannel world. With the healthcare consumer living in an omnichannel world, turn to social media and influencer networks to engage, manage the experience, drive loyalty and referrals. As healthcare continues evolving to a consumer dominated transaction in a semi-retail environment, social networking is a healthcare marketing channel that underperforms. Go where the patient is, not where you want them to be.
Seven steps for hospitals to achieve market and revenue growth in the new buyers' market. Not an impossible task, but one that does require focus and a willingness to break from the past.
Welcome to the age of the patient as a buyer.
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 email@example.com.
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