Sunday, May 26, 2013

Will you be the first to market healthcare consumers along price, outcomes and experience?

Your price information is out there. Your outcomes information is out as well. And you already have developed by word-of-mouth either a positive or negative patient experience reputation. Whether you like it or not, the horses are out of the barn and it’s too late to corral, get them back into the barn, and pretend like it never happened.

As the hospital segment of the healthcare industry evolves to a more consumer centric model along the three dimensions of price, outcome, and experience, will you use that publicly available data to differentiate yourself to potentially establish market dominance along those brand dimensions that you excel?

This is not a frivolous marketing question. This is about how you are going to be competing in the near future. The healthcare brands of hospitals and health systems will come to be defined by these attributes.

And don’t think that the industry is so unified that no one will make that first attempt to define their market vies a vie their competitors along these three attributes. It is just a question of time before a hospital or system regardless of tax status claims a leading market position. Then what are you going to do?

If one were to diagram what it will look like to the healthcare consumer who will have some fair amount of control in the decision making process, it could look like this:




And the sweet spot is where all three intersect. But that being said, you could take one of several positions in the marketplace. You could decide to be the LDRP of healthcare. You could decide that price and experience are your brand position, and that matches to your healthcare consumer’s needs. Maybe its price and outcomes, price and experience, or experience and outcomes defines your hospital or system brand position.

But to take any kind of position in the healthcare market place without the market research to understand the healthcare consumer, their needs, and decision making process in an evolving market is not wise. No more guessing. No more thinking that you know what the healthcare consumer is thinking.

Healthcare markets for hospitals and health system are heading to a place where they have never been, namely a consumer-centric model boarding on retail. And as more people have a higher cost stake in the game as their costs continue to grow, consumeristic choice behaviors will take place whether you like it or not.

So here are your choices. You fight the losing battle against price and outcome transparency wasting significant energy and resources to stop a wave washing over the healthcare industry like a tsunami. Wait until one of your competitors takes one or all of these brand positioning options away from you. Hide from all of it hoping that it will all go away. Or, figure out what the best fit is for you that you can deliver on day-in and day-out to claim that brand position with the newly minted healthcare consumer.

Because you know as well as I do, that someone will do this despite all the wailing, howling of outrage, and head in the sand approaches to change going on in the healthcare industry. And by then it will be too late for you.

Michael J. Krivich, MHA, FACHE, PCM, is an internationally followed healthcare marketing blogger with over 5,000 monthly pages views read in over 52 countries worldwide on Healthcare Marketing Matters. These views are my own. He is founder of the michael J group, a Fellow, American College of Healthcare Executives and a Professional Certified Marketer, American Marketing Association. Like us on facebook at the michael J group, and connect with me on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Pheed.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

How are you integrating your healthcare brand into your public relations?

With the rapid progression of healthcare evolving into a consumer-centric market, how much more effective would your marketing, experience and outcomes campaigns be if your messaging in your Public Relations (PR) campaigns carried your brand messaging with the value, experience and outcomes it brings to the healthcare consumer?

Simple really. More effective. More meaningful. More engagement. And if you aren't, than guess what?

That is a missed opportunity.

As healthcare organizations, we are expected by our audiences to advertise, write white papers, create case studies, write impactful sales materials, partner with leading market research organizations to present "groundbreaking" topical surveys and results, as well as other materials. That is a given.

But what is the value of these same messages being crafted in such a way through PR to your organization? The more people say they don't believe what they read and see, the more that they believe what they read and see. A positive story going viral in social media carries over to all the touch-points that the healthcare consumer sees, hears and feels. Third party credibility conferred by the publication, news organization or web content carrier that the story has some measure of truth and validity. Can't buy that in advertising, direct mail or contests.

It can all be summed up by the following:

Presence Builds Preference
&
Perception- Leads to Opinion- Becomes Fact

PR can provide you with a continuous brand presence in the market that you cannot afford through traditional or online paid efforts. It can successfully build positive impressions, solid opinions which after a while the healthcare consumer will come to believe about your organization, and this is an important and, allows you to build relationships with the media that can be leveraged in times of crisis.

In my experience, it is not uncommon to generate on an annual basis for small healthcare organizations $1 million plus in equivalent advertising through an aggressive PR program. For larger companies, an aggressively planned and consistent PR program generates $10s of millions in equivalent advertising dollars. Ask your Executive Suite for that kind of money for paid advertising in this or any economy and see what happens.

If you are not integrating your brand messaging into your PR efforts, your losing the opportunity of a lifetime and potentially your markets.

PS. And it's just not writing press releases.

Michael J. Krivich, MHA, FACHE, PCM, is an internationally followed healthcare marketing blogger with over 5,000 monthly pages views read in over 52 countries worldwide on Healthcare Marketing Matters. These views are my own. He is founder of the michael J group, a Fellow, American College of Healthcare Executives and a Professional Certified Marketer, American Marketing Association. Like us on facebook at the michael J group, and connect with me on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Pheed.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Is your healthcare consumer/patient experience disappointing?


Seriously, this is not just a sarcastic attempt to get your attention. It's an honest question about what hospitals and health systems do not get regarding the importance of the patient and healthcare consumer experience from first touch-point to last. The experience story for the patient or searching healthcare consumer isn't just about the patient care or the test. It is for all practical purposes the entire experiential encounter.

Let me relay a story of an encounter with a health system hospital. By the way it's about my recent experience, so no HIPPA is involved here and it's not hearsay. It wasn't bad, but sure did not met my healthcare consumerist expectations.

My personal physician orders a test and faxes it to the hospital central scheduling department. Central scheduling calls during the day when I am work so I call back the next day. Now, if they had really had been on top of the experience and technology, when I called back it would have gone straight to an individual and they would have had some basic info. This is quite common in the PBM and specialty pharmacy industry when calling back and they already know who you are by the number dialed.

Instead I get the "please hold for the next available representative". Okay, it feels like I am calling in for some kind of repair with no idea of how long the wait may be. I am finally an transferred to someone and go through doctors name, my name, date of birth, insurance, test etc.

Then they ask, "Where do I want to have the test done, hospital outpatient or satellite radiology diagnostic center? I thought hmmm, a choice of convenience. I make my chose based on location, distance and travel time. Then I get, "We can do the test on this day and time". So my needs and choice go out the window at this juncture of the conversation. "Sorry I work downtown and that's not convenient to me. I need a Saturday". Silence for a short period. "Okay what Saturday can you do this?" I gave date. "No we are closed that Saturday." Really? We finally settle on a date and time that is convenient for me not the hospital or staff.

The next part actually caught me by surprise because I was expecting a different outcome in the process than what happened. Here's is the experience disconnect, and it goes on everyday thousands of times in hospitals across the country and they don't even know it. I was expecting something very simple that happens in other industries every day, every time without failure.

"Will I receive an email confirming the test, date, time, and any special instructions prior to the test?" "No, just do what I told you and if you forget when the test is just call us back and we will tell you." It was the wrong answer. The answer should have been, "Yes, what is your email address, and you will receive written confirmation of all the details."

When I make a dinner reservations, buy something online, book a hotel room etc, I get written confirmation and all the detail electronically. Now that being said, scheduling a test is no different than any other those other experiences. And that's the point.

As you focus on all the internal experience stuff from your perspective, the healthcare consumer and patient's have very different experience expectations that you don't fully understand.

It's not about you anymore. Healthcare is evolving to a consumer-driven industry and its about the healthcare consumer and patient.

Maybe you should be paying more attention to what's going on in the world around you, and not be so internally focused with the answers that you think that you know about the experience? It's really not that hard.

But what it does take is a focus on the experience from first touch-point to last. It takes enabling technologies, and simple things that go on every day, every time without failure in other service industries that make the experience worthwhile and special. And that is what the healthcare consumer expects.

Michael J. Krivich, MHA, FACHE, PCM, is an internationally followed healthcare marketing blogger with over 5,000 monthly pages views read in over 52 countries worldwide on Healthcare Marketing Matters. These views are my own. He is founder of the michael J group, a Fellow, American College of Healthcare Executives and a Professional Certified Marketer, American Marketing Association. Like us on facebook at the michael J group, and connect with me on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Pheed.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

How do you market the big box hospital in an era of reform?

From what I have seen its pretty much the status quo when it comes to hospital marketing. Smiling happy patients, fluffy messaging that are all about you, shiny and dramatic shots of hi-tech equipment, new buildings with assorted other visuals, and copy that leaves one with more questions than answers. Not much really in the way of experience, outcomes or framing of expectations that a healthcare consumer could use to make a reasonable decision about seeking treatment.

So given the rapid change and evolution of the healthcare market place, with some wondering if the day of the big box hospital is coming to an end, it is time for hospital marketing to change. Bundled payments, ACOs, public health insurance exchanges, private health insurance exchanges, narrow networks, bartering for care, retail medicine, price competition, massive shifts to outpatient providers not hospital based, etc., and here's the kicker, healthcare consumer directed choice in all of this means that you had better change or be left in the dust of the competitive market.

Ten marketing strategies to saving your big box hospital.

1. Brand and competitive position.
Consumers and patients are ready for convenient technology-enabled access to care. Healthcare providers that are capable of identifying consmer 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 efficient physician has more to do with the impact of cost, 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 is considering the purchase of 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.

7. 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.

8. 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.

9. 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 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 that there healthcare experience be delivered their way, the way they want. And retail medicine is here to stay and will expand. Tailor you marketing accordingly. One size does not fit all.

10. Quality Transparency
This is the one that causes the most fear and trepidation among hospital executives and physicians. Patients getting access to meaningful quality data that they can understand and use to make meaningful choices. Get ready it's coming whether you like it or not, and it's just not a marketing technique. It's the right thing to do. Because if you don't someone else will. And your quality data is out there. All it takes to some creativity to develop a Kayak type web site for healthcare and you're at the bottom of the food chain.

If a hospital has no beds, is it still a hospital?

Michael J. Krivich, MHA, FACHE, PCM, is an internationally followed healthcare marketing blogger with over 5,000 monthly pages views read in over 52 countries worldwide on Healthcare Marketing Matters. These views are my own. He is founder of the michael J group, a Fellow, American College of Healthcare Executives and a Professional Certified Marketer, American Marketing Association. Like us on facebook at the michael J group, and connect with me on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Pheed.