Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Lessons from the Field – Fours Areas of Hospital Market Influence to Control

 

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Think for a moment using the lens of marketing and ask what a hospital or health system does control? Do they control the insurers? No. They negotiate but do not control them. Do they control Medicare or Medicaid? Do they control the independent physician they need to utilize the hospital inpatient, outpatient, and emergency room facilities and services? No. Can they control the patient at any other time when they are not in the system of care receiving some medical care?  I think that is a no as well.

For the sake of the discussion, let's agree that control is too harsh a word in its truest sense. So maybe the better choice would be the ability to influence the patient and others. However, the answer would still be a resounding no from a brand marketing viewpoint, especially in a buyer's market beginning to exist today.

Four areas of influence to manage.

The four areas that ultimately impact the hospital or health systems' ability to survive are payors, physicians, patients, and influencers. As healthcare transformation accelerates through innovation in care, new entrants, accessibility, choice, and price demonstrates that the hospital or health system has little, if any, control or influence.   If there were control and influence, providers would be proactive instead of reactive or even "circling the wagons."

Now that being said, what if anything can be done?

Providers need to influence the choices and decisions of the patient and physician.  And it doesn't matter where the audiences are found, be it in the insurance exchanges, work, the community, or social media.  When faced with factors beyond one's control, it can be easy to take the viewpoint and action based on past solutions. However, convincing oneself that the past efforts to stay at the top of the food chain will continue to work going forward is a prescription for failure.  Familiarly breeds contempt in this case.

So how is influence in a turbulent market accomplished?

Reluctant to change but mandatory for survival and growth, the hospital now needs to focus on these four areas, brand, experience, engagement, and price.



To achieve market influence, the sweet spot for the provider brand now sits at the intersection of the four areas. The four quadrants of influence should be considered as intersecting, not as separate unrelated areas, posing additional challenges and opportunities. Everything is interrelated now and not isolated.

It starts with the understanding that the hospital controls little, if anything, outside of the four walls of care. But the opportunity to influence everything with a strong brand, brand promise, and patient focus exists.  

Creating influence in what is evolving into a patient buyer's market falls along four dimensions. And those dimensions are entirely in the hospitals' control to strengthen and leverage.

Indeed, it's time for the hospital to influence the market instead of waiting for events to overtake them.

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 Feedspot.com. Michael is a Life Fellow American College of Healthcare Executives. An influencer in healthcare marketing strategy, communications, digital marketing, and social media, Michael is in the top 10 percent of social media experts nationwide. 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. Use 815-351-0671 to message me on WhatsApp or Telegram for safe and secure end-to-end message encryption. Video conferencing available via Zoom, Goggle Hangouts, and for Skype use live:michael0753_2.

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 in the blog sidebar. You will not receive additional general or specific marketing emails.

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.


Wednesday, June 2, 2021

Provider & Vendor Word of Mouth Marketing, Four Strategies to Energize the Channel

 

Image by Anastasia Gepp from Pixabay

Word-of-mouth marketing. We all talk about it. We all understand the importance of patients and clients spreading the good work of our hospital or business. So, while we all talk a good game, little attention is paid to the "how" of how you leverage word-of-mouth marketing.

Taking an "if it happens, that's a great approach," providers and vendors then turn their attention to the traditional and digital marketing channels to get the brand message out. Interruptive marketing is easier the implementing a word-of-mouth marketing plan. Word-of-mouth means you will take a risk to identify strategies, tactics, and metrics to execute.  It also means that in highly undifferentiated markets such as those that exist for hospitals and revenue cycle management companies, word-of-mouth marketing can be a powerful way to break away from the competition.

Word-of-mouth marketing is far more targeted and persuasive than traditional forms of marketing in establishing deeper ties with patients and customers, allowing you to eliminate much of the noise people have from using multiple online channels. It is also more efficient because you target groups and communities rather than individuals. So, while the patient and the potential client uses word-of-mouth as a significant influence in making decisions, few providers and vendors make any attempt to gather positive online reviews. Yet, surprisingly, word-of-mouth marketing can generate double the volume of use for providers and sales for vendors.

What steps should the marketing leadership in providers and vendors be taking to implement a word-of-mouth marketing program? 

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

1.       Focus on the patent or customer experience. Trust is an important consideration on the part of patients and clients in establishing your brand image. People gravitate to those brands that share their values and work with them. Patients and clients do not accept the advertising that brands do. Much more savvy today, they are skeptical about the claim's brands and desire authenticity that brands will live up to their promises and ideals. Purchasing decisions today are not about the what but about who is providing the care or service. 

2.       Find the influencers in your provider market or vendor segment. Since people trust the recommendations of others, the role of social media has grown exponentially over the past few years. Now considered the hub of word-of-mouth, social media's impact on purchasing decisions can no longer be underestimated. If patients and customers are pleased, they share positive reviews online. Conversely, if they are displeased, patients and customers share the negative experiences too. Therefore, providers and vendors should be using influencers who people they respect and can relate to actual users. Identifying those influencers is not about how many followers they have but their engagement rate with their followers. It also never hurts you to directly ask your users to comment online about your care, products, or services. 

3.       Content generated by users. People trust other people more than they do brand advertising. It makes sense that word-of-mouth marketing has taken off, given the proliferation of online and social media platforms with patients, customers, and clients can voice their opinion, which is user-generated content. While the content of a case study, white paper, or blog post is still valuable, it does not carry the weight of a user writing about experience against their expectations for brand performance. The provider and vendor can collect this feedback and share it on multiple platforms. The other exciting aspect of user-generated content is analyzing what your patients, customers, and clients are telling you. Then, you can act on the insights to improve the brand experience. Remember that user-generated content is always on and the tools and platforms they use need to be continually monitored to determine current patient or customer sentiment without waiting for satisfaction survey results. 

4.       Brand champions, come on down. Every provider and vendor needs a brand champion. These individuals will talk about the brand to their friends, in the breakroom to the community. These champions will be responsible for providing constructive feedback, actively recommending the provider or vendor, making known that their needs will be in the future, and defending brand loyalty. The key is identifying these individuals and keeping them engaged.  But while the brand champion in supporting the brand and loyalty, it's incumbent upon the provider or vendor to remain competitive and provide the best possible experience every time.

There you have a formalized word-of-mouth marketing strategy. Now the question is, are you ready to stop talking about it and start doing it?

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 Feedspot.com. Michael is a Life Fellow American College of Healthcare Executives. An influencer in healthcare marketing strategy, communications, digital marketing, and social media, Michael is in the top 10 percent of social media experts nationwide. 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. Use 815-351-0671 to message me on WhatsApp or Telegram for safe and secure end-to-end message encryption. Video conferencing available via Zoom, Goggle Hangouts, and for Skype use live:michael0753_2.

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 in the blog sidebar. You will not receive additional general or specific marketing emails.

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, May 25, 2021

Lessons from the Field – Nine Learnings on Physician and Patient Engagement in Specialty Pharmacy

 

Image by photosforyou from Piaxabay

I was thinking the other day about the lessons of patient and physician engagement in specialty pharmacy and how that could transfer to providers. That is meaningful engagement for managing population health, changing health behaviors, keeping physicians, referrals, and patients in the network, while improving engagement and experience.

It occurred to me that specialty pharmacy has been engaging physicians and patients for a long time, long before "engagement" and "experience" became the corporate buzzword in hospitals. Specialty pharmacy is more than just a transactional drug fill. Due to the expense and side effects of many of the specialty pharmaceuticals, a high level of patient engagement by clinicians, customer service, and feedback on patient compliance and side effects is essential. Specialty pharmacy also requires a seamless and well-designed experience for physicians and patients.

Image by Tina Koehler from Pixabay

Nine lessons from specialty pharmacy for physician and patient engagement, experience.

1. Reach out and touch someone. If you want patients and physicians to be engaged, you must establish a personal connection. That means a human connection all the time, not just when the patient is in the hospital or the physician is in the medical staff lounge.  Without a human connection to the organization, engagement never has a chance.

2. Do what you tell the physician you are going to do right now.  Saying you will take action with a patient or commit to act with a follow-up report of the outcome to a physician is right now, not days later.  

3. Invest in process and training for customer service methodology across the hospital so that it's done right the first time, every time.  Marketing should lead the effort. It must be one physician and patient to the hospital and one hospital to the physician and patient. That will mean investing in a CRM system to manage and collect information from interaction regardless of time or setting.

4. The same high standards you have for interaction with physicians and patients are the same high standards for your employees interacting with one another.  That means proper training, creating the right culture, and having good performance measurements.  If your employees are not engaged and happy, then the physician and patients won't be satisfied—view provider engagement as a continuous process.

5. Computerize the encounter. Not just scripting but an integrated approach using current physician and non-patient PHI information utilizing branching logic in response to questions and follow-ups. It is more effective and efficient and can enhance the encounter medically, personally, resulting in better outcomes.

6. The same person interacts with the physician regularly.  Constant turnover destroys any potential meaningful engagement. It creates uncertainty, doubt, and fear and is negative because the physician loses confidence.  People go on vacation, take days off, get ill, and life happens; doctors get that.

7. Understand the physician you are talking to, what they want from you, and how they want the engagement to occur will define your engagement strategy to a great extent.  Physician engagement in specialty pharmacy is a personal one-on-one encounter, and one size does not fit all. Yes, you have processes and systems, but they need to be adaptable and ever-changing.

8. It's not uncommon in specialty sales and marketing to have a problematic patient program. Every physician has one or several difficult patients in a specialty pharmacy, so a problematic patient solution is usually the preferred course of action.   You gain trust and utilization. The physician achieves a compliant patient and improved outcomes.

9. Eliminate the hassle factor for the doctor and help improve the practice of medicine and patient care. And fix the most critical hassle factor that the patient is complaining about you to them.

Of course, there are more, but these are the nine essential and most addressable lessons I thought are most important in transferring physician and patient engagement experience from one healthcare industry segment to another.

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 Feedspot.com. Michael is a Life Fellow American College of Healthcare Executives. An influencer in healthcare marketing strategy, communications, digital marketing, and social media, Michael is in the top 10 percent of social media experts nationwide. 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. Use 815-351-0671 to message me on WhatsApp or Telegram for safe and secure end-to-end message encryption. Video conferencing available via Zoom, Goggle Hangouts, and for Skype use live:michael0753_2.

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 in the blog sidebar. You will not receive additional general or specific marketing emails.

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, May 18, 2021

Lessons from the Field – What is the Hospital Brand? A Test to Answer.

 

Image by Paul Brennan from Pixabay

Last week’s Lessons from the Field post was about the hospital brand promise asking basically, what is it. An exciting number of discussions ensued. Except for a few notable hospitals and healthcare systems, the conclusion was that hospitals might not have a complete understanding of their brand promise to patients.   Most may not even be able to define the brand promise.

During those discussions, I took a step back and asked what the hospital brand is? Suppose you cannot articulate clearly and succinctly what the hospital brand promises are. In that case, the chances are excellent that the hospital and its employees do not know what the hospital brand is.

Hint, it’s not the logo and tagline.

Image by Andreaooi from Pixabay

Though the hospital logo and tagline should graphically communicate the core brand as best as possible, that is not the hospital brand.  In hospitals and other providers, the non-marketing professionals, from leadership to employees, usually think that is the brand. Unfortunately, this could not be further from the truth.

Why is defining your brand important?

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay


Because the patient and community deserve nothing less than to know what the hospital brand and brand promise are. Your employees, volunteers, and donors as brand ambassadors have a vital need to understand the hospital brand.  A highly undifferentiated market, which hospitals have managed to create for themselves over the years, directly impacts utilization and revenue. There is a greater need to attract and retain patients.  The shifting requirements of a changing competitive landscape. The need To grow and maintain payer relationships.

After all the hundreds of millions of dollars that hospitals have spent on marketing over the years, it still amazes me that too many hospitals are unable to define their brand or brand promise.

All hospitals are the same. Period.  

I think, from a patient perspective, it can be summed up by, “A hospital, is a hospital is a hospital, is a hospital.” There is little differentiation among hospitals with medical staff, technology, facilities, locations, medical services, or any other dimension you can consider.

In a situation like that, defining the hospital brand takes on new urgency as hospitals could be standing at the brink of commoditization where patients make choices based on price for standard services.

The SARS-CoV-2 pandemic changed everything.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay


This brings us to changes in regulations, such as searchable hospital prices for common procedures, the adaption of telemedicine by patients, and the rapid innovation in access to and care delivery adopted by patients.

What was the market for hospital services 18 months ago might as well be considered the ancient past. That is how fast the COVID-19 changed the demand for hospital services. In that light, the hospital brand now takes on added importance, impact, and meaning. No longer can brand differentiation be left to a haphazard approach. The hospital employees, physicians, volunteers, Board, patients, and community know what the hospital brand is or they do not.

A test for the hospital.

Image by Willi Heidelbach from Pixabay

Using the Rule of Three, define the following for each section: 

1.       What are the three reasons patients started looking for you? 

2.       What are the first three places patients go for information? 

3.       What are the top three things you believe that patients already know about you? 

4.       What are the three most impactful aspects of what do? 

5.       What are the three relevant things that your patients might like better according to your competitors? 

6.       What are the three most important things about your hospital?

Now take the information and distill it down to three brand words representing the hospital.

XYZ Hospital = ­­_________+_________+ _________

Not so easy, eh?

Patients and the community will only remember three things about the hospital and its brand. You can define your brand and gain some differentiation from competitors, or you can take your chances and let the patient, community, and competitors define the hospital brand for you.

Choose wisely.

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 influencer in healthcare marketing strategy, communications, digital marketing, and social media, Michael is in the top 10 percent of social media experts nationwide. 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. Use 815-351-0671 to message me on WhatsApp or Telegram for safe and secure end-to-end message encryption. Video conferencing available via Zoom, Goggle Hangouts, and for Skype use live:michael0753_2.

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 in the blog sidebar. You will not receive additional general or specific marketing emails.

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.