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4 Biggest Reasons to Rethink Everything About Healthcare Marketing

By Stewart Gandolf, Chief Executive Officer

Fresh healthcare marketing ideas sign in the sky[The first of two articles.]

Where were you and what were you doing five years ago? Four years ago?

As recently as 36 months ago, many doctors and hospitals were working from a “traditional” marketing playbook. And for the time, by intent or oversight, it seemed that it was “good enough” for marketing, advertising and public relations to reside on a secondary (sometimes tertiary) agenda of business priorities.

That was then. This is now.

Take a quiet moment to consider the near-constant dynamics of healthcare and the upheaval in the nation’s healthcare delivery system. The former, “adequate-is-OK” attitude about business and marketing was faulty in the first place, and what’s required now—today—is nothing short of a total reassessment.

Here are four big reasons why it’s time to rethink everything you think you know about healthcare marketing:

  • Healthcare delivery in 2014 is nothing like it was in 2010. The ramp-up and launch of the Affordable Care Act has impacted the entire medical delivery continuum from patient to provider to payor. Many doctors are now hospital employees, while other providers and professionals have formed new groups, or in some instances simply retired. No matter how you once defined the competitive landscape, the deck has been shuffled. And, like it or not, virtually every “constant” you’ve known in the past has been, or will be, disrupted.
  • Physician-centered healthcare is out. Patient-centered healthcare is in. Today’s patient is, more than ever before, an informed, empowered and value-conscious consumer. The degree of enlightenment and patient assertiveness varies by individual and circumstances, but the trend is clear and continuing. Pay-for-Performance is linked to more than clinical outcomes. Patient Experience and Patient Satisfaction—rarely spoken terms in the old vocabulary—are among the key financial incentives for hospitals, physician practices and other providers.
  • Patients and consumers live in an Internet-pervasive (and persuasive) world. The Internet, including ubiquitous access, high-speed/broadband service, nearly universal WiFi connectivity, mobile (smartphones and tablets), are all mainstream in American society. What’s more, the Internet is, for many, if not most Americans, the primary source of healthcare information, education…and consumer/patient empowerment. Although the quality and accuracy of online medical references can be questionable, consumer access and use is undeniable.
  • Conversely, hospitals and medical practices have been sluggish in Internet adoption. As individuals, doctors and hospital executives are frequent and sophisticated users of digital technology and online resources. But medical practices, hospitals and institutions, are seriously behind the general public in the adoption and use of online and digital technology.

Healthcare providers have not kept pace with the public (or other service industries) in the effective use of Internet marketing and advertising, patient-provider communications, appointment scheduling, billing, health records, and the sophisticated use of websites, blogs and social media tools.

Rethinking everything you think you know about healthcare marketing means challenging all previous assumptions and former definitions. Our second article on this topic helps plan strategies and tactics that capture opportunity in healthcare marketing.

Lonnie Hirsch

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