Sunday, November 25, 2012

How are you using technology to improve the patient experience?


The other day, I received a call from my PBM. Not being home, they left a message and return number. Now this is where it gets interesting. When I called the number I just didn't reach an individual in a call center, the line was answered with thank you Michael for calling us back. Really.

I called a return number expecting to be told all lines are busy and please wait for the next available person, or if you know the persons extension lease dial it now, right to a personalized greeting. Pretty slick and the start of a great patient experience. For me, that was an excellent example of how technology deployed and utilized leads to a better individualized patient experience. And this PBM has millions of members.

How are you keeping up with technological advances to allow you to customize and improve the patient experience?

Technology when applied creatively can be used to customize and improve the experience of an individual even when those patients number in the millions. When you look at your specialty pharmacy, hospital and nursing home or any other healthcare setting, which doesn't necessarily have millions of patients, why can't you do this?

The majority of patent experience improvement efforts are focused internally looking at the same systems, processes and outcomes time and again. Usually leading to incremental improvement, maybe a little less paper and a slight improvement in waiting times. But if you extend your patient experience improvement efforts to include technology focused solutions for improvements that can be customized for a more personalized experience, you may find that your efforts leap forward and patient's have the start of a better experience.

Personalize the kiosk messaging after an individual signs in.

Leaving a message for a return call, using similar technology for the return call and personalize the experience ala the PBM.

The physician is delayed or the surgery is late etc, send a text with the new approximate new appointment or test start time.

Using technology to improve the patient experience means being creative and adaptable. It also means changing the way you do business, your systems and processes.

These are just some examples. The patient experience just doesn't start when they walk into facility. It starts at first contact regardless of the where or how, be it you or the individual reaching out. Start using technology to your advantage.

The networked, technologically savvy patient has arrived and expects the same of you for a better experience.

Michael Krivich is an internationally followed healthcare marketing blogger with over 5,000 monthly pages views in over 52 countries worldwide on Healthcare Marketing Matters. 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. Like us on facebook at the michael J group.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

When do you start patient engagement?


Patient engagement doesn't start when the healthcare consumer enters your healthcare system for diagnosis, treatment and care. Patient engagement begins before they ever need medical care.

It has been a most interesting year of change for healthcare in 2012. The Supreme Court made its decision. The Presidential elections are over and healthcare reform is full speed ahead. Full speed ahead that is into the great unknown. A topsy-turvy world where the patient begins to assume more of the decision-making and involvement in their healthcare.

Individuals and families are facing more out-of-pocket expense too as employers shift the cost of care to employees. Ditto eveyone else for that matter too, government or private. When people pay more, they pay attention. Attention to the price. Attention to the experience. Attention to you. Attention to your marketing and brand.

And that means you have an opportunity. An opportunity to engage the patient in meaningful ways. Not about awards from third parties that you pay them to use, or HD TVs, or private rooms, or valet parking. That is just so 2000 and pejorative. Patients aren't idiots.

As you set your strategic marketing plans and tactical budgets for 2013, a key component is how you will begin to engage the patient, aka healthcare consumer. And it's not just wellness programs, seminars, community events or material copied on bright neon paper. It takes strategy, commitment and learning. It starts way before they ever seek medical treatment.

Here are nine patient engagement strategies you need to employ:

1. Integrate your engagement solutions. That means information is delivered seamlessly to patients, so that they can interact with you any way they want, when they want too.

2. Marketing should be using both push and pull messaging. Messaging needs to be relevant to the patient at the point in time that they need it. Personalized, customized, aware of the cultural heritage and influences tailored to them.

3. Patient incentives and motivational techniques will be needed to keep patient engaged. That doesn't mean cash. Look to the gaming industry for gaming technology and gaming prediction, for ways to engage without cash. Be creative. Look outside healthcare for ideas, tools and techniques to engage. After all, patients are people too.

4.Create a sense of community. You have to compete for patients, especially if you are forming an ACO or employing physicians. You need to feed the beast. You have to get into the inner circle of your audiences and become the trusted advisor. It's not just about loyalty. You need to shape patient behaviors to the point where they will recommend you.

5. Know your audience and with who you are speaking too. This is really back-to-basics CRM understanding. Gender, age, integration of risk assessments, culture etc. You cannot engage the patient unless you are intimately knowledgeable about them, their needs and how to tailor the information they need to engage them.

6. Test and measure. This is no time to be reactive. You have to know how to approach patients and engage them, You don't have the answers. The only way to can figure out if it's working is to test and measure in a very methodical way.

7. Fast Failure. We live in a world of technology and you need to run a multifaceted ,highly integrated campaign. With web, text messaging, mobile messaging, QR codes etc, if you structure it appropriately, and this is a big if, and you are testing and measuring, you will know if it's working or not. If your marketing model , is not working, get out. Get out quickly and allocate those resources elsewhere. Failure is successful because you learn from it. Fail fast.

8. Know the influence of the patients culture on behavior to engage them. You need to know who the individual is culturally, their affinity groups, and religious beliefs to name just a few items, beyond gender and age.

9. Time it right and add value. If you health messaging is not resonating with the patient when they receive it, then you have lost them. Communicate relevant messages to a committed patient right before healthcare decisions are made. That means knowing the patient like you have never known them in the past .For example, a patient or healthcare consumer, going to a restaurant to eat, or a supermarket to purchase groceries, means sending them health messages at that time, in order to enable them to make the right food choices. It's not impossible.

Patients are moving from passive healthcare participants to active healthcare participants. That's why you engage them.

Don't engage, don't survive. It's really pretty simple now.

Michael Krivich is an internationally followed healthcare marketing blogger with over 5,000 monthly pages views in over 52 countries worldwide on Healthcare Marketing Matters. 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. Like us on facebook at the michael J group.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Are you getting ready to manage demand for healthcare services?


Now that the election is over and the course is more clearly outlined for implementation of the provisions of the Affordable Care Act, you need to start thinking about demand management heading to 2014. Not demand generation, but demand management.

The role of healthcare marketing departments for the most part has been demand generation. Put "heads in the beds" and get paid for the production of care. Now, with a potential 40 million plus healthcare consumers having some type of insurance, the pent-up demand for healthcare services will be unleashed. That's good from the standpoint of the market in meeting the needs of healthcare consumers, but bad from the market standpoint of insufficient capacity to meet that demand.

Healthcare marketing departments are going to have to learn how to manage demand and move that demand for service to the appropriate care setting and medical practitioner. Market some services and de-market others.


And that is not an easy thing to do, because believe it or not, you are still going to have some demand generation but it will be very different that today. Not everyone will be in an ACO or medical home. Not everyone will be in Medicare or Medicaid. Not everyone will have employer sponsored insurance. Some will buy insurance in the insurance exchanges. Some may not even have insurance at all.

So while you are learning to more effectively to mange service demand in an environment of insufficient capacity with a healthcare consumer and patient who may be facing long waits to receive care, you will be generating demand for some healthcare consumers.

The demand generation part will come from targeting those individuals who have the means to pay privately and go outside of the normal channels to receive care. Private individuals who don't want to wait. American's hate to wait in queues anyway. Its cultural thing here. Have long waits for something or even rationing it, and people always find a way to get around it. So, healthcare marketers need to take advantage and attract those "private payers". It's not being mean or cruel, it is just a fact of life. But not every healthcare provider will be able to accomplish that feat.

Most healthcare organizations really aren't ready for the sophisticated marketing they will need to employ to manage demand. It's not a flip of the switch from marketing "things look pretty" and having a nice facebook page or web site, to understanding the complexity of the healthcare consumer and the demand for healthcare services. It takes a while to build that capacity. Your hardest decision may be understanding that you may not have the marketing operation resources, capital and human in place to get the job done. Its senior leadership admitting they don't know really all that much about marketing. And elevating marketing to the senior management table to bring that expertise.

Welcome to the new reality of healthcare marketing where demand management trumps making things look pretty and being an afterthought.

Michael Krivich is an internationally followed healthcare marketing blogger with over 5,000 monthly pages views in over 52 countries worldwide on Healthcare Marketing Matters. 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. Like us on facebook at the michael J group. 

Sunday, November 4, 2012

How intertwined is patient experience & outcomes?


Or another way of asking that question is, can you have a high quality patient experience and not be transparent regarding outcomes? I believe the two go hand-in-hand and are not separate from each other. Yet, when a healthcare organizations begin the patient experience improvement process, seldom do they consider how outcomes transparency will drive that experience.

Sometimes the patient's first experience with you is through your marketing. Think your new movers welcome program, community direct mailings, facebook, social media, web site, advertisements, press coverage and such. Long before they ever experience a service or encounter an employee, they have already started the experience process.

And outcomes data is usually nowhere to be found. The patient aka healthcare consumer, considers your transparency about outcomes to be part of that experience. The buzz in the media and articles is that there needs to be more outcomes information, beside pricing, so consumers can make informed decisions, or at the very least, be able to participate in the healthcare decision-making process. This establishes a pretty strong expectation on an individual's part that you will provide at some point that data to support the experience claims.

Experience you see is just isn't the hotel services, fast check-in or staff being pleasant and nice. It's about your quality outcomes. If you're not talking about your outcomes, then once again, you are really focused on the patient experience in its totality.

Now this is a scary value proposition for any number of healthcare organizations. Not necessarily for bad outcomes, but from becoming the transparent organization that shares its outcomes data with the patient in the experience process. Healthcare organizations can be secretive places even to their own staffs. So how do you think the patient feels when you talk about the experience yet don't talk about the outcomes?

The patient experience and outcomes are very intertwined. Your challenge is changing the organization and become more global and inclusive by including outcomes in your patient experience process. It is also your challenge to look at patient experience in its totality and not just in the diagnostic or treatment encounter.

Patients are expecting quality experiences and access to outcomes data. Same expectation with employees, payers and the government.

No way around it anymore. Time for healthcare organizations to step up and provide a complete patient experience, not just what they think the experience should be.

Michael Krivich is an internationally followed healthcare marketing blogger with over 5,000 monthly pages views in over 52 countries worldwide on Healthcare Marketing Matters. 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. Like us on facebook at the michael J group.