Sunday, June 26, 2016

Is Provider Marketing a Tale of Two Cities? Seven Steps to Change.

It was the best of times. It was the worst of times.
Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities

“It was the best of times.”

With apologies to Charles Dickens, I think that quote best sums up the state of healthcare provider marketing. And, it could describe a few healthcare vendors as well. We live in an age of data and analytics combined with marketing automation that gives marketers the ability to engage, define the brand experience, and creates brand evangelists to drive growth and revenue. 

From mobile to email to social media, the ability to deliver meaningful, engaging and personalized content to the patient and healthcare consumer has never been greater. Inbound marketing is the force driving growth and revenue as those providers are responsive to the needs of the healthcare consumer and patient, and drive the right message, at the right time for the right healthcare need, giving their audiences a reason to engage them.  Even the emerging fields of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and virtual reality (VR) offer unprecedented ways of reaching and engaging as well.

“It was the worst of times.”

No marketing automation. No email marketing.  There is little healthcare consumer or patient engagement through social media. Messaging is communications fluff with claims of caring and high quality. Did the marketing department and leadership look at the publically available data from the hospital or health system which doesn’t support the claims? 

Interruptive marketing is the norm with messages and advertisements thrown out to the widest possible audience in the hopes that someone will call. It’s a scatter-gun approach that makes senior leadership and the Board happy because they see the billboard or hear the promotion. Never mind that no one is paying attention. Tell me, how did that ad work for Interventional Radiologists treating varicose veins, while competing with vein clinics that have a better brand story, engagement, responsiveness and convenience taking that cash business from the hospital?

Which are you?

See what I mean, a tale of two cities in provider marketing. One drives growth and revenue and is healthcare consumer focused. The other circles the wagons and is unresponsive to the needs of the market by being hospital focused, but the CEO and Board is happy.

In a world that is moving from hospital care to health care, provider marketing, and all leadership needs to start making that change as well.

How do you do it? Seven steps that hospitals and health systems can take in improving their marketing and improve the tale.

1.       Leadership. The beginning is where it all starts. The willingness to lead and the courage to drive organizational change.  Without effective corporate leadership that is courageous and accepts the fact that what has worked before doesn’t work today, nothing happens. That is why leadership is first.  
2.       Budget.  You have the budget. It’s not a question of new money, but a question of how one reallocates the marketing resources for marketing automation, social media, content development, etc. If you move the budget money from what doesn’t work and scale back the interruptive mass market marketing, lo and behold, you have the funds or for the tools that you needs for reaching the healthcare consumer and patient that lives in a mobile,  omnichannel world.  
3.       Staffing. Sad reality but, one may not have the staff in place that is capable of function in a content-driven, inbound marketing automated operation.  Engaging and relevant content feeds the new age marketing. And if your content is not engaging the patient or healthcare consumer, then all the social media, email, webinars, marketing automation, etc. won’t make any difference. Content is king. Not content that you want but content that is healthcare consumer and patient focused. It could be that these are not the skill sets one finds existing in hospitals.  Hard as it may be, the future of the organization is at stake. Change staff as needed.  
4.       Inbound marketing is simply the largest organizational and marketing department change.  That is, moving from outbound interruptive marketing to inbound relevant content driven marketing. The difference is changing from broadcasting clinical services and message in the hopes that someone will call, to sending engaging, relevant content that gives the audience a reason to call you and engage. That means the marketing plan changes.  The strategy changes. The messaging changes.  The tactics change.  You are delivering the right content, at the right time, with the right call to action message providing the reason to engage with the brand.  Inbound marketing is about engaging in a two-way conversation instead of a one-way now hear this message.  
5.       Content. Now comes the hard part, developing the content that is engaging and branded. The purpose of having a wide availability of content is to be able to participate in a meaningful way, the healthcare consumer or patient with the brand. For example, someone comes to your website and downloads some information.  Amazon like or via a confirmation email, recommendations are made that give the person more relevant information based on the action they took and the information obtained.  To do that you need content and lots of it.  
6.       Mobile devices and social media.  The healthcare consumer and patient uses mobile devices and wants to be engaged in social media channels.  Hardly anyone sits behind a desktop anymore. Think about how you like to be engaged. Why would it be any different for a healthcare consumer or patient? The “We don’t do social media.”  Or “We only do it sporadically.” is no longer an acceptable position for hospital leadership. If you are not where your audience is, then you lose, pure and straightforward.  
7.       Marketing Automation is now possible if you have started in the first six steps. I am not going to recommend a vendor as there are several out there for email social media, landing pages, content libraries, etc.  It depends on in the budget and strategic goals and objectives set in the marketing plan.  And don’t forget the tabular visualization software to show the results too. But please remember that marketing automation is a tool, not a solution. It exists to support and enhance the marketing efforts. If the first six steps are not in process, then marketing automation is a waste of time and resources.

Nothing about this is easy, not easy at all.  But in the end, which tale of two cities does your hospital marketing live, and are you willing to change?

It was the best of times. It was the worst of times.
Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities

Michael is an internationally followed healthcare blogger, business, marketing, and communications strategist and thought leader. I am also HubSpot Academy- Email Marketing, Inbound Marketing & Inbound Sales Certified.


For more topics and thought leading discussions like this, join Healthcare Marketing Leaders For Change, a LinkedIn Professional Group.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Seven Steps for Dominating the Five Healthcare Markets

Simplify your focus during these turbulent times and focus on five primary markets you need for success. Population health will come as will risk and value-based contracts as the tipping point away from fee-for-service draws closer. But, by having a laser-like focus today, will position the hospital or health system for a better tomorrow. The five markets are Commercial; Exchanges; Medicare; Medicaid; and Uninsured.

The new dynamic added to this change is the evolution of the broader healthcare market into a consumer-centric, semi-retail market existing in a multitude of reimbursement schemes, each nuanced for a different market segment. Leading to the question, have you identified from a marketing perspective immediate actions to improve market position and revenue generation? 

Don’t necessarily at this point think about massive advertising campaigns, gimmicks, wellness programs, etc. It’s more about getting the basics right, understanding who pays for what and how that matches with the needs of your healthcare consumers. Marketing today, is not only driving demand but managing demand by moving the health care consumer to the right setting, which may not be the hospital or a hospital-based outpatient service. In some circumstances, it may even mean de-marketing certain services.

Very quickly then, here are seven ways to improve your market position, generate revenue and dominate categories of service.

1.  Brand and competitive position.
Consumers and patients are ready for convenient technology-enabled access to care. Healthcare providers that are capable of identifying their needs and how they want their healthcare needs meet through 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 experience; they are a healthcare consumer, not a patient.  So why then is it the only time one chooses to engage meaningfully them is during the period when they are a patient?  This lack of focus or tactical engagement execution doesn’t make a lot of sense as a consumer, and patient engagement is about all of the time activity, not just some of the time.  Engaging the healthcare consumer on a continuous basis builds loyalty and importantly keeps them in the network, which has some pretty significant financial ramifications in a risk-based reimbursement model.

3. Engage the physicians.
No matter the payment model the hospital or health system still needs a doctor or physician extender’s 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 and efficient physician has more to do with the impact of cost and quality in the hospital than any other factor.

4. Focus on the physician experience.
How hard is it for a doctor or physician extender to practice medicine in your organization?  Have you looked at the hassle factor that physician’s encounter when they try to get things done in the hospital setting?  Understand how the doctor experiences your organization at every touch-point they encounter the hospital. Follow their experiences overall from beginning to end, not just in an isolated segment. Fix what’s 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 loyalty to the brand. Actively manage the customer experience in totality by understanding the patient’s point of view.  That is, all touch points internally and externally that a healthcare consumer/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 health care.
Traditional ways of delivering healthcare will go by the wayside in many cases.  Price convenience, access, and outcomes are the drivers.  Find the need, understand the consumer’s behavior controllers, design offering around the user, not the hospital in a convenient location and price it appropriately. If you can't compete in this way market position, share and revenue will erode.

7. Turn to social media and networks to engage, manage the experience and drive adherence. As the health care focus crystallizes around a healthy consumer making choices in a  semi-retail environment, social networks are an important marketing channel that is underutilized and underperforms today but holds great potential to improve engagement, experience, and adherence.

Seven step to achieve market and revenue growth in an evolving healthcare marketplace. Not an impossible task, but one that does require focus and a willingness to break from the past.

Michael is an internationally followed healthcare blogger, business, marketing, and communications strategist and thought leader. I am also HubSpot Academy- Email, Inbound Marketing & Inbound Sales Certified.

For more topics and thought leading discussions like this, join Healthcare Marketing Leaders For Change, a LinkedIn Professional Group.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Time for Hospital Physician Advertisements to Change?

The other day, I noticed a general increase in provider sponsored physician advertising, which got me to thinking about why it hasn’t changed much since I was doing that back in the 90s?

It would seem that physician referral advertising is stuck in the past and unresponsive to the needs of individuals looking for a doctor.  

Smile for me please and gaze upward pondering deep thoughts.

I see many a smiling physician in the ads looking so cheerful and accepting new patients, with lots of copy that are more features and benefits marketing than providing a solution to the healthcare consumer’s choice question.  Other ad layouts include physicians thoughtfully gazing upward pondering the great question of medical science. While other advertisements make an attempt at branding the doctor to the hospital proclaiming the greatness of both.

I can sum it all up with the following statement.

What is the compelling value reason that would cause the health care consumer to select a physician associated with the hospital?

With all the information that is available to the healthcare consumer today for making doctor choices, and spending a considerable amount in out-of-pocket for co-pays, deductible and insurance premiums these choice drivers demand more than a vague promise. 

There are of course many reasons for this and no need to go into great detail.  The important point is that the current wave of physician practice building advertising probably isn’t meeting the needs of the newly minted health care consumer.

It’s not just about the doctor anymore in an advertisement with vague copy that doesn’t say anything except for a laundry list of items. Let me be clear, I do not doubt the medical qualifications, skills and experience of the physicians.

But, it’s a disservice and disingenuous marketing, to not provide relevant information and a strong call-to-action about the reason why someone should choose the doctor in question.

Now accepting new patients is unacceptable.

Healthcare consumer’s and patient’s are making physician choices based cost, location and convenience due to increasing co-pays and rising deductibles.  If you're just going to throw some ads out there with a picture of a lovely smiling doc with copy written in the third person about how beautiful and compassionate he or she is, it's falling on blind eyes.

How to move forward.

What is needed is a new look at what you are doing and changing to meet the needs of your healthcare consumer.  In a great market in change, arrives opportunity for growth.  That is if one is willing to embrace that change and create value. 

Some new essential steps for physician practice building the marketing effort are in order in a retail market. 

1.       Do some primary market research to understand the characteristics of the audience and what they are looking for in a physician. Understand the healthcare consumer. That is the starting point, not what senior management or a doctor thinks.   Now that being said, their opinions are important but the discussion marketing needs to have must be based on market data. 

2.       In an opinion based discussion, everyone is right. Change your approach to the market; with an analysis on data, not opinion. Physicians and hospital leadership use data. They make a decision based on data. Why should a marketing discussion be any different? It’s more than marketing communications and making things look beautiful. 

3.        The campaign must answer the healthcare consumer’s question of what is special about this physician and why should I select her or him?  Stop talking to people, speak to them. Engage them with a compelling value proposition on why they should pick that doctor, or even why they should even considering switching physicians.  Answer the question of why. 

4.       Every marketing effort on building the physician practice in today’s  retail medical environment needs a high level of interaction with traditional, social media, mobile,  online and public relations.  It includes patient testimonials, engages and establishes expectations for the experience.  It is focused on the healthcare consumer and meets their needs for primary or specialty care. 

5.       It’s about the healthcare consumer, and meeting their needs. Never forget that!

In the end, it’s all about knowing what healthcare consumer and patient needs are, and delivering compelling reasons that have them making a choice in selecting the right physician, for good reasons that will meet their needs. 

Michael is an internationally followed healthcare blogger, business, marketing, and communications strategist and thought leader. I am also HubSpot Academy- Email, Inbound Marketing & Inbound Sales Certified.

For more topics and thought leading discussions like this, join Healthcare Marketing Leaders For Change, a LinkedIn Professional Group.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Improving the Physician Hospital Experience, Untapped Revenue & Growth?

It’s a harsh world in healthcare and for healthcare marketing in general.  Living in two worlds, hospitals, and health systems still get paid for putting heads in the beds with the production of care. While at the same time, hospitals are faced with needing to be cost efficient and medically effective in finding more appropriate settings of care than the inpatient site if it’s value or risk-based payment models.  

Dazed and confused.

After all the years on both sides of the healthcare marketing ledger, and having worked closely with physicians, I fail to understand is why time and effort are not spent by hospitals improving the physician practice experience? I am not talking here about the token efforts, but a full scale all out facility-wide effort in eliminating or reducing the internal hospital barriers that physicians encounter when they have patients in your facility.

Is it really award marketing and meaningless branding efforts?

When we all pat ourselves on the back for the great marketing campaigns and look at us branding. If one looks and the data, you will find that changes in hospital market share and revenue are more determined by physician admitting practices. The one or two-point swings in share between hospital competitors is the result of doctors moving their patients to hospitals where for the time being it’s easier to practice medicine.

If you want to grow, and growth is good, physician experience improvement is at the top of the too do list. It’s also one way to stop the out-of-network referrals and retain the patient and either save the cost or generate the income.

Even today nothing happens unless you have a physician's order.  It makes no difference what the payment model or insurance plan is that the patient possesses. No doctors order means no revenue and no growth. 

What will bring the greatest Return on Marketing Investment (ROMI) or sales effort, running ads that tell consumers are how great you are because you just got an award, or effectively and efficiently managing the physician experience?

Time to focus seriously on the physician experience.

It's about their experience in admitting, treating and referring patients to your emergency room,  hospital, pharmacy, surgical center or home care agency that docs deal with on a daily basis.  How easy is it for them to practice medicine in your facility?  How many complaints do they get from their patients about the hospital? How do you lessen the hassle factor for physicians to allow them to be effective and efficient practitioners of the medical arts?   

Be ready to make changes in how you do things.  When your medical staff liaison, account rep, or insert title here person comes back stating the physicians are encountering difficulties in practicing medicine in the hospital, be ready to make meaningful changes. 

To restate a common theme of mine, it is not at all about the hospital or health system any longer. It is all about value for physician, patient and healthcare consumer. And the experience is a significant part of that value.

Manage the physicians experience successfully, revenue and growth will follow.

On another note, I am going to be part of an article on pharma and the use of data and analytics in direct to consumer marketing to drive brand.  Publication is by The Drum www.thedrum.com, Europe's largest and most widely read source of news and information for marketers and brands based in the UK. It's going to run in a supplement created for the Cannes Lions Health Conference in Cannes, France, June 18-19, 2016. https://www.canneslions.com/lions_health/  The article will appear in special print edition supplement of The Drum being distributed at the conference.

Michael is an internationally followed healthcare blogger, business, marketing, and communications strategist and thought leader. I am also HubSpot Academy, Email & Inbound Marketing certified.


For more topics and thought leading discussions like this, join Healthcare Marketing Leaders For Change, a LinkedIn Professional Group.