Sunday, February 24, 2013

How is the consumerization of healthcare changing your marketing?


As it stacks up in 2013, we will see monumental shifts in the healthcare landscape as healthcare organizations of all types seek ways to not only survive, but thrive. Technological and care delivery innovations, specialty pharmaceuticals, healthcare consumerism and reform are coming together to create the perfect storm. Hospitals who were once at the top of the food chain are now are the bottom swimming upstream to regain top position. Some will make and some won't.

My bet is with those healthcare organizations that recognize the role of the healthcare consumer in all of this and changes their marketing operation, message and resource allocation to engage the healthcare consumer will succeed.

It's a tough balancing act when you have never really had to market too or communicate with the healthcare consumer, aka the patient in meaningful human terms. Terms that grow your brand, build stronger customer connections and answers the question, what's in it for them to use you?

So why should this be on leaderships radar screen, as if they didn't have enough to worry about already?

I can give you five reason why:

1. Retail medicine; 2. Price competition; 3. Healthcare reform; 4.Consumer choice; 5. Social media

I am not going to go into the detail of these five reason, that's a post for another day. And you are all bright people who get it. But these five market shifts are changing how healthcare organizations will do business. And if your marketing is not changing, then what follows are the critical steps you need to take too leverage and move ahead to survive and thrive.

1. Market Research

Do the research on healthcare consumer behavior, what motivates them, how to communicate with them, how they make purchase decisions and price points they are willing to accept. Healthcare consumerism screams for market research. It's about the healthcare consumer, their needs, expectations, experience and engagement. And thinking you know about them is not the same as having the quantitative date that knows them.

2. Business Savvy

Make you healthcare marketing department business savvy. Out with the marketing communications focus, though you still need the marcom talent, in with an understanding of finance, project management, and operations so that the marketing leader can be transformational. Going from saying "we care and provide world-class care" to building brand, engagement and experience as well as measuring that change in real terms requires a deep understanding of the organization on many levels in order to be successful in the market.

3. Resource Commitment

Resource marketing appropriately. Marketing is not free in capital and human terms. And to compete with retail medicine and pricing competition, you are going to have to spend money. Money to engage the healthcare consumer in a meaningful way. Money to improve their experience. Money to build your brand. Money to increase awareness. Presence builds preference.

4. Agility

Be nimble. Be agile. Be quick. Keep repeating that over and over again. Healthcare marketing needs to move from the tried and true to the exceptional, the innovative, the engaged and the motivational. You can't reach the healthcare consumer on an emotional level to make the right choices, treatment and lifestyle decisions as well as purchase decisions in your favor unless you are sufficiently engaged. And purchase decisions in this case can mean not going out of your network for care.

5. Integration

Integrate your marketing plans deeply within the organization. The healthcare consumer is at the center of all that you do. Pay special attention to social media. Social media is not a billboard but an efficient and effective engagement strategy that enhances all the other marketing channels you use.

6. The multiplicity of markets

Remember that not everyone will be in an ACO or a patient medical home. Not everyone will have employer sponsored insurance. Some won't have health insurance of any kind. Not everyone will be in expanded Medicaid programs. Small business will decrease employees hours to not have too provide health insurance. Large employers will create the own exchanges or go to defined contributions and tell employees to go shopping. Oh, and Baby Boomers will demand the healthcare experience be delivered their way, on their terms, at their price. And retail medicine is here to stay and will expand. Tailor you marketing accordingly. One size does not fit all.

That light at the end of the tunnel is healthcare consumerism and a Walgreens ACO may be coming soon to a location near you.

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, February 17, 2013

Can gaming theory improve patient engagement and experience?


One of the great challenges in reform is the engagement of the patient in lasting and meaningful ways, as well as improvement in the patient experience. Uncharted territory really and the old ways of doing things just won't cut it. New market realities and the rising of healthcare consumerism demand new innovation and thought. Unfortunately there is little disruptive innovation in healthcare to meet those challenges.

Enter gaming theory.

Gamification is not a new topic in marketing. It's been out there for a long time and used successfully by businesses to attract, retain and build the loyalty of its customers to the brand. Okay, I can hear it now, "but we are healthcare taking care of people in complex and mysterious ways that they can never understand and this isn't a game". It's not a game, but how you engage the patient and improve the experience is closely related. And my opinion is that you can't do one without the other. Look at this through the eye glass of a new linkage between engagement and experience.

If your goal is to engage the healthcare consumer, aka the patient, to stay in network, to improve health, to be personally responsible for health, then gamification is the way to go. This isn't about creating negative disincentives that have been tried in the past and failed. Those: it will it will cost you more if you go out of network; you pay a penalty for non-compliance; it shortens your life kind of actions and messages if you don't do this. That has never worked in healthcare and never will.

The point is you have to create a healthcare consumer that is highly motivated to act or comply in a way that meets the goals of the healthcare organization to engage and improve the experience.

So how does this happen?

It starts with game mechanics. Game mechanics is really the actions, tactics, mechanisms and motivational elements used to create an engaging and compelling experience for the healthcare consumer. It's about how you design your engagement and experience strategies and tactics that keep the healthcare consumer engaged at all levels contributing to a positive experience.
In game dynamics you tap into the motivations that result as part of the game experience driving continued participation by the healthcare consumer. This statement assumes that you fully understand the motivations of the healthcare consumer. You can't have effective game dynamics unless you know what the motivates the healthcare consumer.

And this is where I start shouting because healthcare organizations are generally clueless about what motivates patients because they don't do the market research. The choice of gaming tactics is an important decision. If you don't know what motivates the healthcare consumer and how to trigger those motivations, then how pray tell, can you design the game mechanics? Do the research.

Put game mechanics and game dynamics together in the right way and you can engage the patient and improve the experience. It's very different and not easy at all. No easy answers here. All the easy answer are already taken.

Gamification is a very powerful tool in marketing and this is but a brief overview.

Think it won't work in healthcare? Think about that the next time you fly your favorite airline, go to a shoppers club or pull out your rewards card for something.

Guess what, you're playing their game and you didn't even know it.

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, February 10, 2013

Do you have a vibrant & strategic healthcare social media strategy?


As I look across the hospital and health system landscape, one thing that has struck me for the most part, is that little attention is paid to social media outside of using it as a billboard for various programs and announcements. Doesn't matter whether or not if it's a clinical service or wellness program to heralding quality awards, its static. There seems to be a lack of creativity and engagement that one would think is the hallmark of a vibrant healthcare consumer engagement strategy on a social media platform.

But then, maybe that is the problem and the solution? That there is no vibrant social media strategy to engage the healthcare consumer, so it just becomes another marketing channel to yell at someone about how you provide " world-class" care.

Okay, that's a little synclinal, but healthcare is evolving in ways we didn't imagine which includes how networked the healthcare consumer is today. Yet we continue to reach out to that networked healthcare consumer with social media like its nothing more than an advertising platform.

Here are 10 steps you can take and turn a moribund social media effort into a strategic social media engagement:

1) Engage the healthcare consumer with the CEO and medical leadership. No more hiding in the background to come out when there is good news an or an award. Leadership guided by marketing, should be out in front in social media. If you're a for-profit, that means paying particular attention to SEC regulations about what you can and cannot say, but it's not impossible.

2) Encourage the healthcare consumer to interact with you. Social media is about active engagement not passivity or reactive yelling at someone. The consumer won't react with you as long as your efforts are perceived as nothing more than an ad billboard.

3) Integrate your blog, website, LinkedIn, twitter, facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Pintrest and other social mediums. Understand where your healthcare consumer goes and be there. If you're not there then create a presence.

4) Sorry Mr. CFO, the game has changed. Hire somebody full -time. This is not a part-time effort or strategy. You can't just give this to someone on top of all that they are accomplishing. 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.

5) 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.

6) 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.

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) Have fun with it and build excitement around what you are doing. Nobody like dry, boring or stuffy. Social media is interactive and has a tone all of its own. What's your tone? Set it or someone else will set it for you.

The patient and healthcare consumer of today are 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 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, February 3, 2013

Is patient engagement really that hard?


It's not, but from what I can tell, organizations aren't making nearly the changes at the pace they need to engage the healthcare consumer. Individuals and families are facing more out-of-pocket expense too as employers shift the cost of care to employees. Ditto everyone 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.

Hint- Its more than an outbound call from a nurse or physician extender.

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. So when your satisfaction scores drop and you lose those quality payments, you'll wish you started with patient engagement at the very beginning and not as 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.