Eight Critical Marketing Strategies Needed for Hospitals to Remain Independent.

Dateline Anywhere USA. Hospital anywhere closed today after
serving the community for 80 years. Beset by changes in reimbursement,
competition from retail medicine, telehealth, innovation and an empowered
healthcare consumer, hospital leadership and Board of Directors could not adapt
to the new healthcare market.  Hundreds of
employees lost jobs as hospital leadership blamed declining reimbursement and utilization.…, as reported in the local paper.
Is that the headline of a story written each day in papers around
the country fueled by provider leadership? It’s a scary thought, and unfortunately,
a story that written all too often. From
a marketing perspective, it’s not entirely
avoidable but could be. 
In the end, the inability to adapt quickly enough and meet
the needs of the healthcare consumer and patient
utilizing less costly treatment alternatives and innovative services that meet
their needs along the dimensions of price, outcomes, engagement, and experience will write that story.
Blaming declining
reimbursements as the sole contributor to the closure of a hospital would be a
mistake. An important contributor as the leadership could not adapt or guide
the healthcare enterprise through the transition to a quality-based
reimbursement system, yes.  But not the
sole reason as some may have you believe.

Unless the healthcare enterprise is the sole community
provider, there are always alternatives. If leadership is being
honest, this is a new reality for many.

This blog post isn’t about P4P, capitation, risk-sharing,
ACOs, quality payments or any other of the myriad
of reimbursement models in operational practice.  What we are
discussing is what providers can do from a marketing standpoint to
mitigate the risk of that headline becoming a reality.
Marketing is an asset
and not just there to make things look pretty.
Survival in today’s environment requires focus beyond
readmissions, patient safety improvements, elimination of preventable deaths,
cost reductions, quality improvements, etc.  All very important business critical mandates
as well as the cost of doing business in today’s healthcare world. While doing
all of that you still have to find ways to grow.

Eight steps to growth along the four dimensions of price, outcomes,
engagement, and experience

1.      
Become the customer-focused
organization for real and not in thought or a grand stagey on paper.

It’s about your
focus on the healthcare consumer and patient, not the hospitals. It’s an
external market focus compared to an internal focus. It’s about becoming the
healthcare consumer/patient-focused
hospital. And saying that the healthcare enterprise has a customer-centric focus, doesn’t make it so. 
Measure the healthcare enterprise against the 20 MAKKOR scale attributes of a customer-focused
organization.  Then and only then will
one know what the improvement steps needed
for the journey.

2.      
Evaluate
the healthcare enterprise brand and competitive position.

Consumers and patients are ready for transparency and convenient
technology-enabled access to care. Healthcare providers that can identify
meeting these needs and how they want their healthcare needs meet though
technology focused on them will gain new
patients and the next-generation of physicians. 

3.      
Engage
healthcare customers and patients all the time.

An individual is only a patient 1/3rd of the time they encounter
you.  That is 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 meaningfully engage them is during the period when they are a patient?   Engaging the healthcare consumer on a
continuous basis builds loyalty and importantly keeps them in the network, which has some significant financial
ramifications in a risk-based reimbursement model.

4.      
Engage
the physicians.

No matter the payment models, the hospital or health system still needs
a physician 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.

5.      
Improve
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 physician’s encounter when they try to get
things done in the hospital setting? 
Understand how the physician experiences your organization at every
touch-point they encounter the hospital. Understand 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.

6.      
 Make the healthcare consumer/patient
experience memorable.

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. One needs to actively manage the customer experience in totality by
understanding the customer’s point of view. 
That is, all touch points internally and externally that a
customer/patient meets which in turn creates the experience. Exceptional
experience means gains in market share, brand awareness, and revenue.

7.      
Embrace
and join the retail healthcare movement.

Traditional ways of delivering healthcare will go by the wayside in many
cases.  Price convenience, access, and outcomes are the drivers in retail
healthcare.  Find the need, understand
the consumer’s behavior drivers, design offering around the consumer, 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

8.      
Social
media is the currency for reaching audiences.

Turn
to social media and networks to engage, manage the experience and drive
adherence. As healthcare continues the evolution of a healthcare consumer dominated retail
environment, social networking is a healthcare marketing channel that is
underutilized and underperforms today but
holds great potential to improve engagement, experience, and adherence.
All of this takes organizational change, leadership, vision and
meaningful action. An individual only needs
the hospital for three things, emergency care, intensive care, and care for
acute complex medical conditions. Meet the healthcare
consumer on their terms or see you on the
ash heap of forgotten history.
Michael is a healthcare business, marketing,
communications strategist and thought-leader.  As an internationally
followed healthcare strategy blogger, his blog, Healthcare Marketing Matters
receives over 20,000 page views a month and read
in 52 countries.  He is a Fellow, American College of Healthcare
Executives, Professional Certified Marketer, American Marketing
Association.  Post opinions are my own
. As an expert in
digital marketing & social media with a Klout score of 64, that places me
in the top 10 percent of social media experts nationwide. Michael is a
micro-influencer. 

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