By Kathy Roy Gaughran
Senior Marketing Strategist
[Series Installment] Nearly all health systems, hospitals, medical groups and professional practices have two fundamental considerations in common. And the professional groups that are becoming breakaway successful have leveraged the new consumerism marketing.
The first is dynamic—one that virtually everyone struggles with—is the tough competitive landscape. The quiet days of old-school healthcare are gone. The fast-pace the Internet, consumer demands, as well as an era of rollups, buyouts and mergers have given healthcare a fierce new face of business development.
The second factor is the ongoing struggle to reinvent healthcare delivery. The leading edge is the mission of creating a positive patient experience—one that embraces and adopts the breakthrough patient expectations of a new, consumer experience.
It turns out that the second of these—consumerism marketing—is a key to answering competition. By providing a largely unknown and differentiating experience in healthcare delivery, patients are attracted to a unique “retail experience,” and become first-class customers.
The downside of this picture is that consumerism in healthcare is that old-school traditions are slow to change. Consumerism has not enjoyed widespread traction. Conversely, this also means that consumerism marketing is still a breakthrough opportunity for providers to be first, and to take the undisputed leadership position in a marketplace.
Consumerism marketing meets the new customer mindset…
The consumer’s mindset is one thing that has changed dramatically in recent years. And what successful hospitals and health care providers have done is to adapt to the new expectations of the buyer. Patients have now become informed consumers. And, having a greater stake in the game, they are no longer quietly compliant patients. Increasingly, they are the buying audience with a louder voice in the process.
The healthcare industry has been changing to better serve consumer-minded patients. In some situations, the adoption of new ideas has been slow. But strong leadership and far-sighted marketing plans have realized a new level of success and achievement—for both the provider/institution and for the patient/consumer.
The consumer expectations are rarely issues of clinical care or medical excellence. Consumerism marketing is a consumer-driven relationship. It is a baseline of positive communications, access, and patient-first considerations. Here are seven examples of the consumer expectations:
Fast and convenient access to see their doctor. Waiting weeks for an appointment is unacceptable and cause for today’s consumer to change their provider.
Walk-in service and extended office hours. This includes weekdays, weekends and times that are convenient to the customer/public.
Easy and convenient online services. People want electronic scheduling, to manage prescriptions and get answers to questions.
Online medical records access via patient portal. Patient/consumers to communicate with their provider as they do with others. Add secure email, lab results and health data. And they expect this information to be available 24/7.
Convenience and transparency in billing and payments. Patients want to be able to view all costs and charges online, have issues explained, provide a means for resolving problems, and set payment plans.
Millennials want services, not a relationship. One of the largest audience groups, Millennials seek access to routine care (such as vaccinations, physical exam, etc.) without being tied to a specific provider. They want the convenience of anytime access; not waiting for a specific provider.
Telehealth and/or video communications is a convenient option. Millennials, in particular, have never known a time without the Internet. They are extremely open to digital doctor-patient encounters online. It is the convenience and immediacy that has strong appeal.
Consumerism in healthcare delivery has the familiarity of a typical retail shopping experience. One where the “customer is king,” and unparalleled satisfaction has become the standard. What’s more, this new mindset is a significant differentiation that sets the facility or practice above and beyond the competition.