There is no shortage of significant trends in the dynamic world of hospitals and hospital marketing. Arguably, healthcare is one of the largest and most complex industries in the world. And by nearly any measure, the changes that have occurred in just the past few years could qualify this world as “frighteningly dynamic.”
Hospital leadership, administrators and executives are challenged daily to find a solid foothold for marketing traction and success. Target audiences change. Expectations change. Deliverables change. And overall, important hospital marketing trends propel fast thinking, rapid responses and innovative foresight.
In this shifting landscape, some of the significant trends to consider include:
PX EXPLOSION – For as long as there have been patients, “the experience” has been part of healthcare delivery. Someone once characterized the patient experience (PX) timeline as morphing from “doing to patients” to “doing for patients,” and most recently “doing with patients.” Among the implications of patient-centered care and patient experience is a new, top-down management mandate for marketing at progressive hospitals.
THE NEW TRANSPARENCY – Patient safety is far more transparent than ever before. Consumers are increasingly aware of this, and as hospitals increasingly adopt “openness” policies, it influences the attitudes, expectations and medical decisions of informed patients. What’s more, transparent measures of performance—in patient safety, physician ratings and other metrics—often drive improvements and enhance reputation.
SELLING WELLNESS – The old-school perspective would say that promoting wellness versus hospital service lines or sickness is counterproductive. But health-aware, proactive patients increasingly appreciate that prevention often trumps cure. This hospital trend recognizes that the spectrum of care begins with wellness marketing strategies—such as Kaiser Permanente’s Thrive program—to help keep patients out of the hospital.
NEW ACA PATIENTS – Predictions about the Affordable Care Act (ACA) bringing newly insured patients to the table have been in the 30-million range. With all the fits and starts of ACA, it remains to be seen how this trend will play out. In addition, the competitive landscape is shifting, with urgent care and walk-in clinics absorbing some of the projected demand. Nevertheless, hospitals struggle with staffing requirements, doctor shortages and marketing directed to physician recruitment and retention.
ONLINE PRESENCE – Hospitals are largely behind consumer expectations in terms of an online presence. Most estimates hold that over 60 percent of healthcare needs begin with online consumer searches for medical information, provider information and hospital selection. Increasingly, successful marketing efforts recognize the Internet as a hospital’s new front door.
COMPETITIVE SHIFT – Savvy private practice doctors slice away at the hospital’s market share for various service lines. They hold several marketing distinctions, including not having to deal with internal politics. Also, they evaluate marketing by its Return on Investment, and they are focused in their product/service offerings.
GROUP EVOLUTION – Specialty and multi-specialty groups have formed around areas of patient need. And as group practices become supergroups, they become targets for hospital and medical-plan acquisition. This roll-up environment gives rise to fierce competition, making marketing more important (and increasingly agile) than ever before.
RELATIONS AND REFERRALS – Physician liaisons have become an integral part of many hospital-marketing plans to safeguard and extend the referral stream and proactively build and maintain physician relations.
RETURN-ON-INVESTMENT – Hospital marketing plans recognize the growing pressure to support the institution’s bottom-line business goals and contribute a measurable ROI. Marketing, advertising and communications departments need to rise to the occasion.
SOCIAL SLIDE – For those hospitals where ROI is a priority, some social media tools will decrease as a key concern. That said, Internet and digital marketing will continue to play an increasingly important role—along with traditional media—in communicating with audience groups.
PATIENTS + TECHNOLOGY = EMPOWERMENT – The convergence of personal tech devices and health is pushing toward greater individual engagement. Beyond electronic medical recordkeeping or patients using the Internet to find broad medical information, emerging digital technology is improving communications, health and fitness tracking, medical compliance, remote monitoring and other advances. Hospital marketing efforts play a role in harnessing the benefits of patient-centric devices and medical self-empowerment.
CONSOLIDATION – As hospitals and health systems continue to merge, this rollup will mean redundancies in marketing jobs will be eliminated. Strong performers will remain as leaders and under-performers will be displaced.
Grasping these and other significant trends has a positive side. Thought leaders and progressive minds will recognize the opportunity for innovation that improves clinical outcomes, boosts patient satisfaction, reduces costs and enhances operating efficiency.