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Patient Experience: The Forgotten “P” in Your Medical Marketing Plan

By Stewart Gandolf, Chief Executive Officer

forgotten p in plan is patientHealthcare marketing is having a milestone moment. Because the nation’s healthcare delivery system has experienced sweeping changes in the past few years, the textbook list of medical marketing fundamentals needs a significant adjustment.

Henceforth, PATIENT EXPERIENCE joins the classic “Seven Ps” of a marketing mix—PEOPLE, PRODUCT, PRICE, PROMOTION, PLACE, PACKAGING, and POSITIONING—for a new total of eight fundamentals.

The primary reason for making Patient Experience a basic category of its own is:

For healthcare consumers, personal experience is the number one reason for choosing a doctor or hospital.

Industry thought leaders have recognized it. Insurance systems have required it. Innovative providers have been implementing it. And respected consumer surveys have quantified it. The user experience, and patient satisfaction, are primary drivers in the new healthcare consumerism movement.

For documentation, a new PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) report compared healthcare consumer purchasing attitudes with several other industries. They found that personal experience was two times more important in healthcare than to consumers in other industries.

Patient Experience…often the forgotten “P”

Since we’re rewriting the textbooks, Patient Experience deserves to be the first “P” on our new list of eight items. Healthcare is—perhaps more than any other industry—a people business. Yes, “people” is already on the list, and that serves well for defining audience characteristics. And, we agree that elements of “patient experience” are logical ingredients among other headings, such as Product, Place and Positioning.

Our point is, PATIENT EXPERIENCE has emerged as a fundamental marketing consideration that requires the weight and support of its own section in a medical marketing plan. From the hospital or practice branding to the operation of the practice and the training requirements of the staff…patient experience is now a key measure of success in healthcare delivery.

Healthcare is a service industry, and the patient experience—and all that it includes—is a primary deliverable. For many facilities and providers, the problem is that this is the forgotten—or neglected—fundamental marketing “P.” Two traditional models (now beginning to fade), have been the:

  • Physician-centered business, where the provider’s time was the principle focus; or
  • Transaction-centered business, where the administrative (patient) flow was the core of the practice culture and mindset.

But beyond the fundamental need to deliver quality clinical care (and successful medical outcomes), neither of these administrative structures puts the patient’s overall experience first, or were tested by a need for patient satisfaction. Consumerism is a new word in the vocabulary of the healthcare industry. And comparatively speaking, medical delivery systems are only beginning to respond to needs, wants and preferences of “buyers.”

Staff training, as one example, is often a vital plan component and a key influence factor. In fact, provider staff attitude was the main contributor to positive experiences by 70 percent of consumers, according to the PwC report, compared to 38 percent of retail shoppers and 33 percent of bank, and airline customers.

By comparison, in “brick-and-mortar” retail venues, value of employee training and customer interaction is acknowledged as a primary, and sometimes outright critical, a necessity. For example, the CEO of electronics big-box retailer Best Buy is applying more resources on employee training as the primary key to reviving stores and declining sales.

The PATIENT EXPERIENCE transcends virtually all of the many facets of hospital and provider operations and marketing and it requires a first-position listing among the (now) Eight “Ps” of Healthcare Marketing. The “experience” has never been more important to the selection of providers and the overall success of the business.

With healthcare consumers increasingly aware of, and willing to exercise, their options, Patient Experience cannot be forgotten or neglected. It is an essential marketing component that requires its own plan, goals, strategies, tactics, and resources. Welcome the new "P."

For additional reading on this topic, see our earlier article, A Fresh Look at the 7 Ps of Healthcare Marketing.

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