Sunday, August 26, 2012

Are you using social media to engage the healthcare consumer/patient?


To tweet or not to tweet, that is the question? Faced with a dizzying array of possibilities from twitter to facebook to YouTube, LinkedIn, flicker and others, healthcare providers are struggling with developing a comprehensive social media strategy to engage their customers.

Understandable really. Some of the concern comes from not understanding the power and uses of social media and how consumers are the new paparazzi. Some comes from trying to figure out how a social media strategy fits into the overall marketing plan. Some is purely from executive ignorance in not understanding the place and uses of social media in the life of the healthcare consumer.

In many cases its all of the above and others, including and by far the most pervasive, the never ending paralysis by analysis planning loop and engaging in that quest for the perfect best practice before proceeding.

It's not just a facebook page, LinkedIn, blogging, web site or twitter.

This is an opportunity to experiment, to deliver new content, new key messages with non-traditional methods to reach out too and engage in a meaningful way the networked healthcare consumer. An opportunity to engage in dialogue, a dialogue which the patient/healthcare consumer desires to have more than you can imagine.

Follow these steps and you're on your way to developing and implementing a strategically-focused, comprehensive and fully integrated social media strategy:

1. Strategy first, tactics second. Any old road will get you to where you want to go without a clear identifiable strategy. This is no different than a traditional marketing approach. Integrate the tools and techniques of social media into your overall marketing efforts.

2. Be clear about your messages and what value using these tools will bring to your healthcare consumers. The purpose is to engage in a dialogue not shout at them. You have to understand what type of information and content your consumers want. Without that knowledge you can say whatever you want, but chances are no one will be reading, responding or listening.

3. Take an integrated approach. What goes on your web site is also on facebook and used in twitter to drive traffic to you. Twitter is a great way to send out links for health related articles or news and information. Have a video? Post it on YouTube. Writing a healthcare blog? You should be if you're not. Make sure twitter, facebook, YouTube, flicker etc follow you buttons are on your site. Running Back-to- School, Sports or Camp physicals? Put it on twitter, facebook and even those coupon sites like Groupon. Holding a health and wellness event, ditto.

4. Use QR codes with your web site or specific page links or phone number embedded in them to drive them to your site, call center or service line. Through the use of QR codes you can make your print and traditional activities social in nature.

5. Remember at all times your are building brand, perception and experience. This just isn't nice to have, people will remember what you say and do. Be right the first time.

6. Devote resources, budget, time and personnel for the task. Your 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.

7. Measure everything. Evaluate. Adjust based on your findings.

8. Be creative, don't limit yourself to the tried and true or what a competitor is doing. Be an innovator.

9. Use social media with your physicians and employees to communicate, build organizational support and loyalty.

10. Build excitement around what you are doing.

The patient and healthcare consumer of today social media savvy and networked to the nth degree. They expect the same of you.

Michael Krivich is an internationally followed healthcare marketing blogger with over 4,000 monthly pages views in over 52 countries worldwide. He is founder of the michael J group, a healthcare marketing consultancy dedicated to creating value through strategic marketing for hospitals and health system regardless of payment mechanism, either fee-for-service or value-based to increase market-share, revenue , brand and demonstrate actual return on marketing investment. Michael is a Fellow, American College of Healthcare Executives and a Professional Certified Marketer, American Marketing Association.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Are You Improving the Physician Experience?


As hospitals and health systems continue to search for ways to integrate physicians in any number of ways, an oft overlooked aspect in the integration efforts is activity aimed at improving the physician experience. Sadly it appears that little effort is made in the critical success factor.

What's wrong with this picture?

If you are really serious about integrating physicians, beyond the control of patients and while in still the fee-for-service payment model growing revenue and volume, you must, not need too, but you must make changes in the physician experience in your organization.

No matter that the healthcare consumer is in the beginning stages of learning how to be empowered. No matter that the payment model is changing from a production-based, to a risk and quality-based. No matter, that you are employing physicians. If you want to successful integrate and grow, you need to change the physician experience with your healthcare organization.

Face it. Nothing happens unless you have a physicians order. No test. No surgery. No home health care. No specialty drug. No nothing.

What will bring you the greatest Return on Marketing Investment (ROMI)?

Running ads that tell consumers are how great you are because you just got an award? Or focusing considerable time, resources and energy on improving the physician experience across all your organizational touch-points? Highly satisfied physicians will see you as an efficient and efficient hospital, health system or specialty pharmacy for example, who allows them to do that they do best, practice medicine? As a side note, research is now showing the consumer doesn't believe the award ads anyway.

Its about their experience in admitting, treating and referring patients to your emergency room, hospital, pharmacy, surgical center or a home care agency to name a few of the providers docs deal with on a daily basis. How easy is it for them to practice medicine in your facility? How many complaints do they get from their patients about you? How do you lessen the hassle factor for them to do what they want? Namely, practice medicine.

More than your own perceived features and benefits.

Be ready to make changes in how you do things. When your physician liaison, account rep, or insert title here person comes back, and says he or she is finding obstacles that physicians are encountering in admitting or practicing medicine in your organization, be ready to make meaningful changes. If not, you're just wasting your time and money sending out people to a physician or multispecialty group.

Bottom line, successfully improving your physician experiences makes for more effective and efficient physicians. And the direct impact of that combined with effective practice management is lower cost, higher quality, profitable practices and opportunities for more effective marketing.

Did I mention more satisfied patients too?

Michael Krivich is an internationally followed healthcare marketing blogger with over 4,000 monthly pages views in over 52 countries worldwide. He is founder of the michael J group, a healthcare marketing consultancy dedicated to creating value through strategic marketing for hospitals and health system regardless of payment mechanism, either fee-for-service or value-based to increase market-share, revenue , brand and demonstrate actual return on marketing investment. Michael is a Fellow, American College of Healthcare Executives and a Professional Certified Marketer, American Marketing Association.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

How can you quickly improve healthcare market position and generate revenue?


Have you ever taken a step back and from a strategic standpoint looking at what you can do to nearly immediately improves your market position and revenue generation? This isn't about massive advertising campaigns, gimmicks, wellness programs, etc. Its more about getting the basics right. The blocking and tackling that you need to do now, to prepare for risk and value-based payment models. If you can't get it right in fee-for-service model, then how do you expect to get it right in a risk model?

So very quickly here are six ways to improve your market position and generate revenue.

1. Brand and competitive position.

Consumers and patients are ready for convenient technology-enabled access to care. Healthcare providers that are capable of identifying their needs and how they want their healthcare needs meet though technology focused on them, will gain new patients and the next-generation of physicians. It's not a crime to use text messaging to send people information or confirmations about appointments, health reminders, or use QR codes to link to specific education or health offers.

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? Doesn't make a lot of sense really. 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 repurchase behavior.

3. Engage the physicians.

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 and quality in your organization then you may have considered in the past.

4. Focus on the 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 they try to get things done in your care setting? Understand how the physician experiences your organization at every touch-point they encounter you. 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 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 customer/patient comes in contact with which in turn creates the experience. Exceptional experience means gains in market share, brand awareness, and revenue.

6. Embrace retail healthcare.

It's not going away as some may still think. There is a reason why Walgreens just purchased a health plan with millions of potential customers coming online for insurance and medical care in 2014. Traditional ways of delivering healthcare will go by the wayside in many cases. Price convenience, access are the drivers in retail healthcare. Find the need, understand the consumers behavior drivers, design offering around the consumer not you in a convenient location and price it appropriately. End of story. If you can't compete in this way, your market position, share and revenue will erode.

Six steps. Not so easy, or not so hard. Just takes courage and leadership.

Michael Krivich is an internationally followed healthcare marketing blogger with over 4,000 monthly pages views in over 52 countries worldwide. He is founder of the michael J group, a healthcare marketing consultancy dedicated to creating value through strategic marketing for hospitals and health system regardless of payment mechanism, either fee-for-service or value-based to increase market-share, revenue , brand and demonstrate actual return on marketing investment. Michael is a Fellow, American College of Healthcare Executives and a Professional Certified Marketer, American Marketing Association.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Will price competition change healthcare marketing?

The game is changing. Rapidly.

Game changer. That's what I call Aetna's introduction to its members, of its easy-to-use, out-of-pocket payment estimator. Simple really, know the cost of a test, visit or procedure; know what it will cost you. But it doesn't stop there, it allows the healthcare consumer to compare the cost across multiple network providers. You can compare costs across 10 different hospitals and doctors.

WellPoint through its AIM subsidiary has shown where it was possible to incentivize physicians and plan members, to shop for radiology services and choose the lowest cost provider. It's reducing healthcare costs; while maintaining quality.

United HealthCare, though its Innovation Center , is empowering its clients and 70 million members across a broad array of data driven products and services, for the healthcare consumer to better understand their healthcare utilization, and make cost effective choices.

And these are just a couple of the price and cost decision-making information tools that the healthcare consumer is starting to receive. Nothing like having higher out-of-pocket expenses, coupled with the ability to obtain pricing information, combined with the ability to estimate your own costs to get healthcare consumers to pay attention. Shopping for care and it's not mystery shopping..

Member co-pays and deductibles are rising. Employers moving to defined contributions. Millions of individuals potentially coming online with health insurance in 2014. Healthcare consumers are facing the economic reality that they now have some "skin-in-the-game". Can you really think of any better way to control healthcare costs by introducing a level of price competition and providing information which really up until now, was essentiality unattainable?

Forget the quality argument.

Just because you charge more doesn't mean you have higher quality. The healthcare consumer already assumes quality. And they assume that it is equal across multiple providers. Saying you have high quality when you are unable to differentiate yourself in the market, because you won't use outcomes data, is a claim that falls on deaf ears. It's a given. It's the business you are in.

So now , pricing begins to rear its head in the healthcare consumer's decision-making process. And when all other things are equal, in the mind of the consumers, price wins. Quality is assumed. Caring is assumed. It's what you do.

Your marketing needs to change.

Most healthcare organizations aka hospitals, have never really had to deal with the pricing equation on a competitive basis. For insurance, medical device, pharma and other suppliers to healthcare, price competition has been a requirement in their markets since the beginning of time.

Now, doctors, hospitals, and others will need to change their marketing operations and begin to deal on price. Your brand takes on new meaning when price and choice become a critical component in the healthcare consumer decision-making process. High price, undifferentiated quality, won't sell.

Competing on price vs. claims of quality requires a different set of marketing skills than what you have traditionally found in most healthcare marketing operations. It requires more than a communications skill set, or senior leadership thinking that they know how to market.

Change is never easy, especially old attitudes towards the value of, and need for, healthcare marketing.

Repeat after me: Brand, Value, Price.

Michael Krivich is an internationally followed healthcare marketing blogger with over 4,000 monthly pages views in over 52 countries worldwide. He is founder of the michael J group, a healthcare marketing consultancy dedicated to creating value through strategic marketing for hospitals and health system regardless of payment mechanism, either fee-for-service or value-based to increase market-share, revenue , brand and demonstrate actual return on marketing investment. Michael is a Fellow, American College of Healthcare Executives and a Professional Certified Marketer, American Marketing Association.