Sunday, November 24, 2013

Is your healthcare marketing driven by HIPPO?

I saw something the other day that really commanded my attention.  It raised that old question related to marketing effectiveness and efficiency.  Is your marketing regardless of the type of industry, driven by HIPPO?

Sounds interesting you say? What is this marketing by HIPPO?  Get ready because you may not like the answer.

HIPPO = Highest Internally Paid Person’s Opinion

And the marketing that I witnessed drove this point home. And the not so funny thing about it is that the marketing department will be blamed for the nonsense when really, the question should be was it a bad decision and performance by marketing, or was this driven in a large extent by a highest paid person’s opinion. 

That happens a lot in healthcare.  No marketing science, no qualitative understanding of markets, just opinion, hearsay and flavor of the day from reading an article or seeing a competitor’s advertisement. No primary or secondary market research or understanding customer needs except in the most superficial level. One maybe two people say something and then it’s the whole universe acts that way.  I am the highest internally paid person here, so go do this. A competitor does this, so you do this. I have made up my mind because I believe this to be true and I am the insert title here- CEO - EVP – VP, etc.
 
Do you work in a HIPPO marketing organization? Be honest now.

The characteristics of such an organization are as follows:  larger than life executive egos (big fish in a little pond); lack of sustained adherence to mission, vision and values beyond executive decree; short attention span due to constantly shifting plans and priorities; the inability to execute operationally; constant crisis and chaos; and adherence to that “this is the way we have always done it so way we are doing it that way”.  Or what I call slavery to the past because I say so.

As we continue on with HIPPO characteristics: communication is poor interdepartmentally;  marketing is seen as doing “stuff”;  and the best one of all - proposed marketing solutions are seen an “elegant” and not as the right way to build revenue and brand because they aren’t expedient.  It’s all about the HIPPO and what they believe regardless of any lack of foundation in reality.

In today’s world of lightning fast change, social media and the growing power of the healthcare consumer with more of an economic stake, you can’t afford ineffective and inefficient healthcare marketing.  That doesn’t build a strong brand. That doesn’t provide you with a competitive advantage. And most importantly, it doesn’t engage the healthcare consumer in any meaningful way.

HIPPO healthcare marketing is a prescription for failure.

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 and Twitter.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

And how will you be paying for your care?


Seems like an innocuous question/statement.  But it’s a question that can be fraught with staff unease, unexpected healthcare consumer resentment, missed opportunity and bad PR if it is not handled correctly.
It’s not a question of whether not you should ask that question as a healthcare provider. No margin, no mission.  There are very appropriate reasons for asking, and includes walking a fine line with tax exempt status and the legal requirement of caring for all who come through the doors seeking medical treatment. The real question is how is the organization preparing to engage the newly insured, current patients and the healthcare consumer making choices in which healthcare providers to engage?

How one handles the question goes beyond staff training, scripting and role playing. The conversation and ask begins well before anyone ever sets foot in door of the healthcare provider. It may be that the healthcare provider has lost the potential advantage in securing the high ground in this part of the healthcare reform equation.
Individuals and families are selecting high deductible plans to reduce their premium costs. Employers are going to defined contributions, creating private exchanges, increasing employee contributions for not only the cost of insurance, but the deducible and co-pays as well.  And even the newly insured that could be eligible for the expanded Medicaid programs will still have to meet spend down requirements of the Medicaid program before full coverage will kick in. Just because the program is expanded for initial eligibility requirements doesn’t mean in the least that the base regulations of the program have changed.

Several months ago I wrote about the opportunity in the market place that healthcare providers had in educating the healthcare consumer abut exchanges, plans and choices.  It was at that moment in time that those discussions could have begun with the process of the payment ask, connecting it to high deductible plans and general changes in how they will pay for healthcare. Little if any activity on the part of hospitals, health systems and other providers recognized the new dynamics and took marketing and PR steps to head off the coming challenges.
Now that the ship has sailed, how are you going to actively take control of the conversation and educate the healthcare consumer before they ever walk in the door seeking treatment? This is about setting realistic expectations in the context of experience as well as establishing the role and responsibility of the healthcare consumer in all of the discussions.

Easier said than done and we all know that.  But with all the issues around the exchanges and failures therein,  the news that people are selecting high deductible plans and the coming sticker shock because they really don’t understand what they are buying,  you have the chance to hit the reset button and start anew.
So instead of advertising those wellness bus tours, free gifts for a colonoscopy or even connecting with all those high quality physicians on staff without outcomes transparency in any of it, maybe it should be meaningfully engaging the healthcare consumer about the real cost of high deductible plans, prices, the value of the medical service and their accountability and portion of cost they will bear?

The risk is because as we all know, that the process for asking for payment after the fact or even when someone walks in the door and is sitting at the desk, is not going to go well and there will be human error.   As a tax exempt healthcare provider, you will be the evil greedy healthcare provider, and it's a perceptional battle that is unwinnable.

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 and Twitter.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

How will you explain pricing to healthcare consumers?

The eight hundred pound gorilla is in the room and it’s not going away any time soon if ever. With the newly insured, current and former patients and the healthcare consumer all facing increasingly larger out-of-pocket expenses for healthcare, how will you explain pricing?

Case in point. A couple of weeks ago I was exhibiting the signs of a heart attack. So after being sent to the ER by my primary physician, an EKG and blood work was done and after several hours I was admitted to the 23 hour observation unit. The other day I received the bill for $23,000 which works out to around $1,000 an hour.  And yes it was sent to my insurance carrier and I have my portion to pay. But there was no explanation of how those charges were determined.  Here is the bill; you owe; so pay it.

But it got me to thinking. I had no idea how the $23K was arrived at and whether or not that was representative of the most accurate value for the care received, especially when the total bill would buy a nice car for that type of money. I mean, a less than friendly radiologist, an arrogant hospitalist who was an internal medicine physician, and a cardiologist who seemed like he did not want to be there added to the wonder if it all. I especially liked being awakened at 12:30 PM for a saline IV that had to be started because a doctor ordered it.  My biggest chuckle was that I could not get a Tylenol for a headache, but there was a physicians order for morphine. Go figure. It’s probably a standard order set and no one is paying attention.
 
I wonder how many meals I was charged for since I only ate once because no one explained to me that I had to order each meal off a menu and never did have breakfast because of that little omission?

As healthcare evolves to a semi-retail model with the healthcare consumer aka the patient at the center of it all, explanation of pricing, what care and test were provided is no longer something that hospitals, health systems and other providers can afford to ignore.  Can you really imagine going to buy a large ticket item and not knowing all charges? And healthcare is a large ticket item.

This is a reasonable expectation for the healthcare consumer, to be able to know all that was done and how much it cost in detail.  The healthcare consumer is paying more out of my pocket. You can bet they want to look at billing by line item. And they really don’t have the time to chase down with your billing department the detail.

It’s called accountability and it’s a two way street.  Accountability on my part to understand the who, what and where of treatment, and accountability on your part to be price transparent. This will lead to some uncomfortable discussions with the healthcare consumer as they seek to understand it all, but that is why you have a marketing department. They need to be involved by understanding the informational needs of the healthcare consumer, design of the bills and training of staff to handle inquiries.

Healthcare is changing and the old ways of doing business no longer work.  Because if you don’t change billing practices and become more price and treatment transparent, someone legislatively, or through the courts will force you too.

Its your choice on price transparency. Inform the healthcare consumer now, or inform them later when you are forced too. Either way it’s going to happen.

Now where is the address for the FTC and my Senator and Representatives?

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 and Twitter.