Sunday, July 28, 2013

Are you prepared for a healthcare consumer centric market?

If you think because reform and the ACA that marketing is just an unnecessary expense, and you don’t need to invest resources, then you may be in for a rude awakening.

Healthcare is evolving from a provider-dominated market to a consumer-centric model and market. And that means how you have been marketing your healthcare organization won’t work in a semi-retail healthcare consumer-controlled market. 

Here are the five areas to focus on to survive the new reality:

1.       Brand. Your healthcare brand will take more of a front and center stage in the new healthcare environment.  It’s not just the logo or how displayed.  It’s now about what your brand stands for, your brand promise and how you deliver on that each and every day in every encounter. Do you even know what your brand promise is?

2.       Price Transparency.  Here it comes, and people are asking questions forcing you to become accountable.  And the answer is not silence, and hoping all the price noise will go away.  Long gone are the days of build it and they will come.  Also gone are the days when you could get way with talking about private rooms, internet access, or how you are such wonderful people because you care.  Patients, consumer’s, employers and others are demanding pricing information, and will be choosing based on price to limit their out-of-pocket expenses.  
 
      Quality is a nonissue. I say that because we as an industry have been shouting  without any measurable understandable proof for the healthcare consumer (beyond fancy award logos with no context around the content) that we have high quality. Okay says the healthcare consumer, quality is a nonissue since you all are the same because you say so, which means I can buy on price alone.

3.       Patient experience.  Still a top concern of senior leadership, patient experience across all touch-points needs to be improved. Not just the single clinical service un-integrated internal focus that most healthcare organizations take. Patient experience is about the totality of the experience, and only improving one aspect of that experience leaves you vulnerable in other areas. It’s also about market research in understanding ever detail and facet of that experience from the patient’s viewpoint, not yours. And that only comes from talking to your healthcare consumers.

4.       Patient engagement. Different than experience, engagement is about actually developing a meaningful relationship with your healthcare consumers to build loyalty, change health behaviors and keep them from going out of network in a risk-sharing arrangement like an ACO to receive care. How do you expect to engage patients when you still send information “To our neighbors at” direct mail?

5.       Outcomes Transparency. This is the only way that you can combat the price equation. People will pay more for higher quality, but it has to be proven. Outcomes transparency is the name of the game now.  It’s all out there already, becoming more available and easily understandable for the healthcare consumer every day. 

Repeat after me: Brand, outcomes, experience, engagement and price.  Miss on any of these and you’re an also ran in the market.

Well the fastpitch softball travel season is over. Last week (July 21-26, 2013) the 16U A Romeoville Starzz team that my daughter plays for participated in the USSSA 16U A Fastpitch World Series in Overland Park, KS. What a season for the Romeoville Starzz 16U A Fastpitch Softball team. Here are the final USSSA rankings for 2013: Region 3 (IL, IN, KY, MI, OH), 5th out of 150 teams; State of Illinois, 4th out of 60 teams; USSA Fastpitch World Series a top 20 finish at No. 17 of 62 teams. In the World Series we faced some of the nation’s top 10 teams and beat them or stayed close. Went 3-3-1 and the girls proved that they can play with anyone. Congratulations girls. Well done. Well done indeed.

Now back to the healthcare marketing story in progress.

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, July 14, 2013

Is your automated voice answering attendant harming the patient experience?

How often do you call in from an outside landline or cell phone, to your organization to experience what a patient, a family member or a healthcare consumer does when calling?  This isn't such a strange question.  We all go through the evaluation process, seek the system we believe will reduce our cost, improve response and service and enhance the experience.

But you know, sometimes we make the system so complicated, that we forget why someone calls us.

For this I have coined Mike's Law:  "The smaller the organization, easier to use is the automated answering solution. The larger the organization, the more complex and harder the automated answering solution is to navigate." Use is very different than navigate. One implies simplicity, the other complexity.

Let me give you an example. In calling a local hospital when a family member was hospitalized, it was really very straight forward. Dial in, hear the message, dial the extension or room number if you know it, or wait for an attendant to come on the line and assist.

I have found that most of the time you can short circuit the whole thing and just dial 0.Get to the live person and to where you need to be.

Then there is the most complicated system, integrating your existing customer data into the call, because you are a current customer. Then it plays what seems the game of 20 questions, tries to push you entirely to an automated solution to solve your problem that could be resolved in less than 60 seconds if you could get to a live person.  

Oh yea,  and when you keep trying to get to a live person,  that systems automated response keeps attempting to push you to an automated solution.  Even when, I indicated every way that I could, three times (yes three separate calls),  that I wanted to talk to a service representative before hanging up.  The best part of the encounters was the "voice" telling me, "I can't help you, goodbye".

It was like being in a Monty Python episode.

From a marketing standpoint, your automated answering attendant is an integral touch-point in the healthcare consumer/patient experience chain.  It may even be the first experience that someone has with your organization. But, how many times has marketing been included in selecting the automated answering attendant, beyond, writing the copy for the greeting, options menu and submenus?

Marketing should be involved in nearly every decision you make that effects your healthcare consumers and patients from an experience standpoint. 

It's seemingly the rare organization that considers the experience and needs of its audience in selecting the system. It’s more based on what the needs of the organization and solutions to cost and headcount issues, than what will make the healthcare consumer experience exceptional.

The moral of the story. Consider the healthcare consumer/patient experience and the impact both positive and negative, that your automated answering system will have on a caller. You have a clear choice. You can make a customer evangelist with a great experience, or create a customer  with a negative experience and  view of your company, no matter what good you have done, simply because, you couldn't answer the phone.

After all, that old land-line technology which even cell phone users will access is get to you usually is the start of a positive or negative consumer/patient experience. 

Which one do you want?

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, July 7, 2013

Can social media assist in driving change in negative healthcare perceptions?

To tweet or not to tweet, that is the question?  Faced with a dizzying array of possibilities from twitter to facebook to YouTube,  LinkedIn, Instagram  and others, healthcare providers are struggling with developing a comprehensive social media strategy to manage their brand, become transparent and contain a communications crisis.

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 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 and organizationally transparent 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?

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 budding  healthcare consumer of today evolving a provider-dominated healthcare system to consumer –centric is media savvy and networked to the nth degree.  They expect the same of you.
are marketing, social media, facebook, twitter, YouTube, brand

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