Sunday, December 22, 2013

Have you made your healthcare marketing resolutions for 2014?

New Year's Resolutions, for the most part, play an important role in most everyone's life.  To lose weight. Live life more fully. Be a better husband, wife, or significant other etc.  Value more what we have in our family and friends.  And many more that I have missed. But have you ever considered New Year' Resolutions as a part of your business and managerial life? 

So my last Healthcare Marketing Matters blog for 2013 is about New Year Marketing Resolutions.  My own Top 10 list to get things started.  What are yours?

10.  Focus on meeting the needs of the healthcare consumer aka the newly insured.

9.  Learn from the healthcare retail giants like Walgreens, CVS Caremark and others. Healthcare continues to evolve into a semi-retail market and what has worked in the past won’t work anymore.

8.  Marry price to outcomes and be transparent to the healthcare consumer. Prove value.

7.  Integrate traditional, online and social marketing strategies. All are complementary to one another and drive multiple successes.

6.  Innovate- again and again and again;

5.  Foster a spirit of and demand marketing excellence in the marketing department.  Good enough is not good enough.

4.  Focus on the data and show ROI. If it doesn’t work then stop doing it.

3. Stop using the words "unique", "state-of-the-art", and anything that is considered “buzz word" terminology in my marketing communications.  Unique can be duplicated easily. State-of-the-art refers to yesterday's systems as things change so fast. Buzz words quickly fall out of favor.

2.  Bridge the divide between sales and marketing.

1.  Serve and be humble, for working in healthcare is a privilege, not a right.

It’s been a most interesting year, HMM went over 5,000 page views a month and is now read in 52 countries around the world.  There was a lot of spirited discussion in LinkedIn groups about several of the posts. I fielded calls on various topics from Bloomberg Weekly, Reuters, Associated Press, Crain’s and Strategic Health Care Marketing (published December 2013).  It was all appreciated and fun.  But most of all thank you for reading, for that is what really makes doing this worthwhile. I am taking a couple of weeks off. See you in 2104.

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and Happy New Year! Have a healthy, safe and prosperous year.

Michael J. Krivich, MHA, FACHE, PCM, is an internationally followed healthcare marketing blogger read in over 52 countries worldwide.. 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.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

The great healthcare experiment; will consumers buy on value or price?

It’s the great healthcare experiment really when you stop and think about it.  Today, thousands of individuals are going to public and in some cases private exchanges to purchase health insurance for themselves and families. Different levels of plans, varied coverage’s, deductibles and copays with open or limited networks, drug benefits etc.

So the healthcare consumer is now making the grand choice. Will they choose value by what they perceive based on experience, relationship and no real outcomes data to make a rational decision to keep the doctors and hospitals in their network? Or, will the healthcare consumer now shopper for care, decide to choose by price and consider value as a given among all providers.

There probably at this point no definitive answer to the question. The signs are all around that healthcare is evolving to a semi-retail market.  And the decision now facing healthcare consumers of choosing healthcare via insurance by value or price will only accelerate change.

When an individual is facing a decision with multiple price options, they will exhibit consumeristic behaviors and shop on price when all else is perceived as equal.  And healthcare for all intent purposes, is the ultimate (and pardon my use of a sports analogy, just can’t help myself) example of league parity in the minds of consumers.   Seen one doctor, seen one hospital, and seen them all.  For years healthcare providers have offered up platitudes of world class care, best doctors, high tech, Centers of Excellence and so on, that value is totally undifferentiated. In the absence of information, markets like nature abhor a vacuum. Price fills the void.

Now that the barn door is open and no getting the horse back in, what can a healthcare provider do? No simple answer this time around. Healthcare consumerism is a new phenomenon in healthcare. To adjust to that seismic shift, the healthcare provider regardless of type will now need to get serious about brand, outcomes, value, experience and price.  Total transparency really.

Oh and one other thing, the conversation with the healthcare consumer and newly insured is going to have to change from just stating that we are the best, to here’s why we are the best and what you are the best at.  Can’t be great at everything and the healthcare consumer already knows.

This is going to be a struggle for most healthcare providers.  It will be as much about changing internally as externally.  Going from being in control of the process, to being subjected to the needs and wants of consumers on a value, quality and price basis is not an easy transition.  Some will make and others will fail.  That’s life. That’s the nature of markets.

Take a look at the marketing strategy and organizational readiness as well as the consultants that you hire. Are they telling you here is your best customer go forth and fill the beds, or are they preparing you to be a responsive healthcare consumer-centric organization in how you approach the market and win the confidence and dollars of the new healthcare consumer?

It’s the great experiment; healthcare choice purchased on value or price. Something tells me that price will win the day. The horses are out of the barn.

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.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

How do you market the employed physician?

With dynamic changes taking place in the healthcare as it evolves to a semi-retail environment, employment of physicians is seen as central to the success of hospitals and health systems surviving in an era of reform.   A side note to physicians, I believe that there will always be independent practitioners, but that is a discussion for another day.   

With this new opportunity to reinvent, revitalize and recapture what previously before had been an adventure on the part of hospitals with mixed results, its time to discuss how one goes about marketing the employed physician.

It's easy to look at this and say we'll just do what we did in the past in promoting employed physicians and be done with it.  That is a dangerous mistake in the age of healthcare consumerism.  The newly insured are expecting to have some level of choice, are social media networked and will be controlling many of the purchase decisions where previously, the healthcare provider drove many of those decisions. 

What is needed is a new look at what you are doing and changing to meet the needs of the newly insured healthcare consumer.

With great change comes great opportunity.  That is if one is willing to embrace that change and find new ways of moving forward and creating value. 

Brand. Value. The Healthcare Consumers Choice.

Communicate very strongly how your brand and brand promise are associated with the employed physician.  Doesn't matter if he or she is in a Medical Office Building (MOB) you own, Accountable Care Organization (ACO) or Medical Home (MH) or a multispecialty group practice.  Bring your brand to the forefront and brand the doc to you. The physician represents the healthcare providers brand at an individual level.  Capitalize on that credibility transfer opportunity and leverage it.

Communicate the value that the employed physician brings to the community and the healthcare consumer.  Communicate the value that the doctor brings to the brand.  Stop talking at people, talk to them. Talk to them with compelling value driven reasons and stories as to why they should select that doctor, or even why they should even considering switching physicians. 

Stop wasting money putting ads in papers that expect people to take action simply because the doctor is on your medical staff. That treats the healthcare consumer like they are idiots.  They're not. They are demanding value and acknowledgement that they have a say in what's going on.  If you won't meet their needs they will go somewhere else.

The newly insured healthcare consumer is gaining market power as they reach into their pockets to pay those high deductibles and co-pays.  As the economic cost rises for the healthcare consumer, so does their attention to outcomes, quality, experience and price.

If you're not communicating brand, value and what's in it for them for selecting the employed physician, then you can put it in the bank that the healthcare consumer is will pass on by  and go where they perceive the value to be greatest for them in line with the price they are paying.

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, December 1, 2013

How can service recovery impact the patient experience?

Mistakes happen; for as healthcare organizations we are only human. And those errors whether they are care or everyday decisions can impact the patient experience positively or negatively. So the question becomes do you recognize when service recovery is needed acting swiftly and decisively, or do you wait until there is a complaint and then act after it was already realized that an error occurred?

I think it’s a valid question from a marketing standpoint for several reasons. With the growth of social media and actively engaged adults, they have become the new paparazzi and can do wide spread reputational damage in literarily the blink of an eye.  Taking accountability and doing what is right improves the patient experience and satisfaction scores. And finally, when everyone is talking about what a high quality provider they are and to look no further, service recovery can positively impact brand by reinforcing the brand promise and brand message.

For example, I take 4,000mg daily of pharmaceutical grade fish oil to help me manage high triglycerides.  I am also in an auto ship program with omegavia. Lovaza is not on the drug formulary for my PBM so I worked with my physician to find a suitable replacement. Well in November I received two emails on the same day that my monthly supply has shipped. I thought that maybe an error had occurred and a duplicate email was sent out.  Sure enough the next day I received two separate shipments of my fish oil.

I contacted omegavia and talked to the off hours answering service and was told I would receive a call the next day. I also explained in the initial call that I wanted my December shipment suspended until January 2014.

The call did come the next day, but it wasn’t the please explain to us what happened call. The call was the customer service representative apologizing for the double shipment.  They were suspending my shipment in December and would resume in January 2014. Oh and that there was no charge for the second shipment because it was their error. Not only did I receive the call, but a confirmation email as well.

The omegavia service recovery effort was: timely; accurate, responsive, courteous; exceedingly satisfactory; improved the experience; and made me a customer evangelist.

And it does have a financial impact to the company in terms of the free months dose, the suspension of one month shipment, as well as shipping and handling costs of probably around $120 or so. I know it’s not a great amount of money in the grand scheme of things, but the point is there was no hesitation on their part to make it right.

The real kicker in all of this was when they told me that they were proactively working with their shipping department to understand the root cause of the process failure and understand how the double shipment resulted to fix the process.   Notice here that they did not throw anyone under the bus or say it was some unnamed person on the back office somewhere or a computer error. They owned up, realized the process had a built in error potential and saw this as an opportunity to improve.

Now when was the last time in a hospital or health system service recovery efforts did all of the above take place?

Please don’t go down the, “well this is pharma and retail and we are different argument”. Not really. While omegavia operates in healthcare retail environment, hospitals and health systems are moving to a semi-retail environment. In this  environment where the healthcare consumer with high deductible plans are paying higher premiums with significant out-of-pocket expenses,  they will be expecting more from providers in the service recovery effort and patient experience. It is no longer about what the hospital or health system wants do, it’s about making the healthcare consumer, aka the patient, a customer evangelist and that can only be done through the patient experience and a service recovery process that is second to none.

Repeat after me, service recovery and experience is about the healthcare consumer not the hospital or health system.

In the interest of full disclosure, I did not receive any kind of remuneration either in payment or in-kind gifts.  This post was about my experience and where I believe hospitals and health systems need to go in their service recovery efforts as part of the  patient experience management program.

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.