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2013: Competition and Other Key Challenges in Healthcare Marketing

By Kathy, Senior Marketing Strategist
Kathy Roy Gaughran

Kathy Roy Gaughran

About a month from today everyone will be hanging a fresh calendar on the wall for 2013. And even from this relatively close perspective, the issues and challenges of what’s ahead for hospitals, physicians and healthcare providers are beginning to focus.

As we see things, one dynamic in the New Year will be that change and competition—which have been an ever-present backdrop in recent years—will remain an everyday consideration for healthcare delivery and healthcare marketing.

Two examples: The rollup (of various types) of doctor/medical practices with hospitals, and hospitals with hospitals, will continue, and health reform provisions (including Medicare Bundled Payment Pilot Program) will continue to unfold [implementation timeline here]. And with these and many other changes comes the necessary adjustments to the new playing field.

Some of the most significant challenge and change areas that we see in the 2013 landscape are all interrelated:

  • Competitive pressure is increasing. The influence factors in every community vary, but the consequences for healthcare providers include intensifying competition in a sluggish and uncertain economy. Physicians and hospital administrators who feel threatened by the shifting competitive landscape are struggling to answer the threat...usually with diminishing resources.
  • Physician engagement and alignment. Many doctors find themselves in a new employment situation, either employed directly by hospitals, with some type of affiliation structure in place, or as part of a recently formed group. Adjustment on both sides—hospitals and providers—will continue to be a process of adjustment. Physician practices have long been the primary pathway for patient care and hospital admissions. Doctors and facilities will constantly adjust to cultural shifts leading to a smooth working relationship. It’s a process that is likely to affect—positively or otherwise—the patient experience.
  • Pay-for-performance and patient experience. Financial incentives that are tied to patient experience scores are already a top-of-mind issue for both hospitals and providers. Although patient satisfaction is a well-established concept, implementation programs—from branding to operational requirements—continue to evolve with direct accountability growing in weight and importance.
  • The new consumerism and the Internet. On one hand, patients are increasingly better informed and more aware of their ability to guide their own health and wellness decisions…and their empowerment to shop for medical insurance, providers and facilities. On the other hand, the Internet and its various digital marketing faces (and forces) continue to evolve with new tools to reach consumers, educate/inform, shape expectations and influence choices.

Hospital administrators, providers and healthcare professionals will be contending with dozens of such new and evolving issues in 2013. Scott Becker, publisher of Becker’s Hospital Review, recently offered an excellent commentary about a dozen of the most pressing issues facing hospitals and health systems. And virtually all of these will touch some critical aspect of healthcare marketing, advertising and communications.

The New Year, and the pages of your new calendar will fill rapidly. Be prepared for a year of continuing change.

“We will open the book.  Its pages are blank.  We are going to put words on them ourselves.

The book is called Opportunity and its first chapter is New Year's Day.”  ~Edith Lovejoy Pierce

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