By Stewart Gandolf
Chief Executive Officer
Every 12 months we turn the page on the calendar and observe the start of a New Year with grand ceremony. Admittedly, it’s a milestone celebration…a memory marker to help sort out “what was” from “what’s new.”
Generally, ushering in a New Year can be a lot of fun, but the actual dividing lines are less distinct or dramatic. Competition in marketing, as one example, didn’t take a holiday. And the change agents in every facet of healthcare are non-stop.
Traditionally, healthcare delivery and medical marketing have a “slow-motion” reputation when it comes to being nimble and responsive to change agents. Here are some of the issues and topics where success—and sometimes, survival—will require greater flexibility and innovation.
Health insurance programs have changed the rules but are still struggling. Both individuals and companies have already been hit in the face with higher premiums, co-pays and deductibles which, for some people, makes “going to the doctor” a financial challenge. What’s more, many of the “affordability” co-op plans have closed or are operating at loss. The largest insurance company in the US, UnitedHealth Group, may leave the Obamacare program exchanges. As one headline put it, “Even if You Like Your Co-Op Insurance, You Probably Can’t Keep It.”
Patients are customers. Informed and engaged patients have become full-fledged consumer-customers with the same level of service expectations they find in the retail and commercial world. Retail is learning healthcare faster than healthcare is learning retail. Drug stores, big box retailers and urgent care clinics will continue to erode primary care and hospital market share.
Patients now expect—and demand—greater connectivity with providers. Patients-now-consumers live in a digitally connected world where technology, gadgets and innovation are used as commonly as shoes and socks. Increasingly, they expect healthcare to come out of the digital dark ages and provide the convenience of online appointment scheduling, text and email correspondence, appointment reminders and other direct access connections with providers.
Social media engagement creates relationships. The notion that “content is king” falls short of the real goal. Social media is the technical means. Content is the method, provided that it is authoritative, useful and sharable. But an engaged and enduring relationship is the true objective.
In many ways, the New Year will be similar to last year, with continuing and rapid change. Successful healthcare marketers will, by necessity, adapt to change, find the patient/consumer benefits, and embrace things like:
- Data-driven decision support
- Mobile and immediate connectivity
- Mobile payments
- Wearable technology
Many of the big-time influence factors for the next 12 months are already here, but the tempo, frequency and intensity are likely to change. The best way to handle the dynamics of change in health care marketing is to be flexible in your planning, strategy and tactics.
For related reading, see:
- “I Want It Now!” Answering Society’s Instant Gratification Craving
- The Demise of Hospitals and Other Revolutionary Predictions
- Reimagining Ambulatory Care at Kaiser Permanente
- The Future of Healthcare Marketing is Already in Your Pocket