Una Newman

It’s a question on the minds of healthcare marketers everywhere.  For several generations, healthcare providers (both hospitals and physicians) have been incentivized financially on patient volumes and have built the most technologically-advanced hospital facilities to generate the revenue needed to fuel further investment. However, the hospitals and “systems” that have been highlighted by the recent healthcare debates are facilities at which doctors and hospitals—and their satellites—work as a system: Kaiser, Mayo, Cleveland Clinic, etc.These institutions foreshadow our healthcare future. As they increasingly build elements of insurance risk into their business models, or partner with insurance companies to offer a packaged Accountable Care Organization (ACO), marketing will focus less on the acquisition of patients and more on enrolling and building healthy populations into their system. Marketing will exist to drive new patients into their organization’s primary care providers, where the patient’s health and wellness will be cared for by a Team of appropriate providers, based on clinical needs. The marketer will promote the system’s access/entry points that are convenient and accessible – highlighting the other benefits of the system such as technology, IT capabilities or sub-specialists that may differentiate them from the competitors. Audience segmentation and more effective targeting will become standard operating procedures for all systems; improved tools will be developed that track media usage by select target audiences – to more effectively reach the “ideal” new patient. CRM tools and the ability to dig deeper into a hospital’s database will be used by all viable systems.

The test of a good marketer has always been: is he/she able to measure and prove a positive Return on Investment (ROI)?  ROI in the past came from increased revenues, increased patient volumes, and increased market share. But, how we define positive ROI will change for the marketer of the future. In the future, as we look at Accountable Care Organizations, where caring for a patient will be less episodic and more based on longevity, ROI will need to be redefined.  ROI will be based more on loyalty and keeping that patient in the system, keeping the patient healthy by insuring that provider-to-patient communication has been clear and understood and that the patient maintains the “doctor’s orders and instructions” at home to prevent readmissions (i.e. insuring compliance with medical orders and advice). Loyalty will be a function of care expectations being surpassed, the ability to offer sub-specialty care and technology that others may not offer and continual communication at the patient’s request and within the patient’s timeframe.

And new opportunities for marketing professionals will emerge.  With a primary care shortage emerging, systems will be forced to use lower cost providers and marketers will be challenged initially to communicate their value and efficiencies over the beloved MD.

Use of technology by marketers of the future:

According to a survey of 100+ Chief Marketing Officers in the US by Acsys Interactive in 2010, the percentage of one’s budget spent on digital media by healthcare marketers will rise from 9.9% in 2010 to 36.6% in 2013. There will be more search engine optimization (SEO), patient portals, physician portals, video and social media. The skill set of the new marketer must include digital and telecommunications. For rural and smaller hospitals this is a challenge. If they are not aligned with a larger system, they will not be able to afford an FTE dedicated to digital marketing.

So marketers, does this match what you see from your perspective?  Are you ready for the future?



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