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Doctor Marketing Success: Embracing Change While the Competition Snores

By Stewart Gandolf, Chief Executive Officer

seismic waves drawn on lined paper with different colored pen inkFor the sake of this doctor marketing discussion, I think we can agree on two things. First, that “the US health industry is undergoing seismic change.” PwC’s respected Health Research Institute (HRI) observes that newly empowered patient/consumers “are playing a critical role in this transformation.”

The second point of agreement is that the speed of this “seismic change” is often glacially slow. Here's the question: Is it the patients or the doctors that are slow to adopt...even when it's beneficial?

Many of the changes in healthcare delivery are fueled by technological and societal shifts. Other service industries and retail businesses have adopted change to improve. And the results have benefited both customers and enterprises. There’s a valuable marketing lesson for doctors in this contrast.

Are patients or doctors slow to embrace health care changes?

Recently, CBS News MoneyWatch took the position that consumers are slow to embrace health-care changes. They wrote:

“Patients are faced with an avalanche of new technologies and developments that are supposed to revolutionize the way they manage their health care. But according to a study from the PwC Health Research Institute, the revolution is slow in coming.

“Most [consumers] don’t shop for care, ask about prices, email with their clinicians or use telehealth options. Most don’t send their physicians data from their activity trackers. Most remain skeptical of the value of electronic medical record systems despite their ubiquity in examination rooms,” says the report, entitled: Surviving Seismic Change: Winning a Piece of the $5 trillion U.S. Health EcoSystem.”

Actually, it's the doctors that are slower at accepting change…

Patients are increasingly empowered to be more proactive in their healthcare choices and decisions. But medical practices, health systems, hospitals and individual doctors often resist change. Consequently, patients who want the benefits of change never get the opportunity. Here are some examples:

  • In our experience, most doctors hate the idea of using text or email with patients. Questions of time spent without reimbursement loom large. Many patients—myself included—select their doctor because they offer email and the convenience of connectivity. In a previous post, we pointed to several smart reasons to finally use patient email in doctor marketing.
  • Many doctors are not aware that they can charge for telehealth services. Consequently, they don’t offer it to current or prospective patients. (Surveys say patients would welcome telemedicine options.) What’s more, doctors believe that such services would clutter their busy schedule. Often it eases the office schedule.
  • With regard to pricing, it can be challenging for patients and uncomfortable for providers. Any given cost may be difficult to ascertain with the various deductible and co-pay schedules of different plans. This is likely to change over time as consumers with high-deductible plans demand price details.
  • Industry observers are watching the still-emerging wearable device market. These products promote fitness and wellness. Other devices promise—presently or in the future—to monitor and report vital health data. Importantly, this data stream can potentially report to the doctor/patient electronic medical records. Individuals are using devices, but as it turns out, few doctors are actively promoting wearables.

Here’s the timely marketing opportunity in this picture…

Although change abounds in healthcare, the doctor marketing opportunity is in embracing change. For the immediate and near term, providers and practices that differentiate themselves will out-distance the still-sleeping competition. While other doctors avoid change, the adoption of patient-provider email, text and other advances (for example) creates a significant competitive advantage. Let's talk about growing this advantage while the competition snores.

Stewart Gandolf, MBA, CEO

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