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Healthcare Marketing Under The Cloud Of Uncertainty

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June 07, 2017

No one knows for certain what will come of the House version of the American Health Care Act. Will it survive the Senate? Will it fade away into oblivion? We just don't know. However, running a healthcare advertising agency, I can't afford to wait and see. Our clients have to keep moving forward, and they look to our healthcare marketing firm to ensure their efforts are productive and durable even in an era of uncertainty.

With this in mind, we've put together this piece to provide fellow healthcare marketing professionals with some direction that will have validity and utility under any future healthcare legislation.

To begin, rather than guessing what's coming down the pike, let's start by looking at those things that are here to stay. Whether repealed, replaced, or revised, it's safe to assume any healthcare law will continue to advance the following two trends:

  1. Consumers will shoulder an increasing financial burden for their portion of healthcare costs (primarily as the result of high-deductible health plans).
  2. Providers will need to focus on value-based compensation vs. volume-based compensation, i.e. pay-for-performance instead of fee-for-service.

How Do These Trends Affect Healthcare Marketing?
It's pretty easy to see how patients' growing financial responsibility for their care is going to require making a stronger case for value. After all, if a patient is responsible for 100% of his or her healthcare costs (until they reach an astronomically high deductible), then they will likely take a more exacting approach to selecting a provider, including shopping for the best deal.

This means physicians, outpatient facilities like urgent care centers, and even hospitals need to recognize the role of pricing strategy, price transparency, and price sensitivity in how they sell their services. And those of us in medical advertising need to incorporate price and value into our messaging.

The shift to value-based care also affects how we communicate about healthcare services to the audiences we need to reach. Of course, providers need to adopt a more consumer-sensitive posture in the way they run their operations. As with any business, good customer service will pay huge dividends in the form of enhanced reputation (including online reputation). Conversely, poor service will wreak havoc. But in the context of value-based care, customer service matters even more. Patient satisfaction is among the key measures that determine provider quality. So it's not just "suggested." It's "required."

The focus on quality and outcomes also offers opportunities for healthcare marketers. If your organization is succeeding in meeting benchmarks for quality, why not advertise those successes? Highlight your organization's clinical excellence and the favorable patient experience it delivers.

Five Essentials Moving Forward
How do you put this new reality into practice, especially as we remain unsure about the future? Be sure to address these five essential elements of your healthcare marketing and communications program, and you'll be ready for whatever comes next:

  1. Use technology to maintain contact with patients. Everything from automated appointment reminders, to follow-up emails, to social media, should be part of a provider's communications arsenal.
  2. Approach price and value in patient communications. Let them know they have choices regarding the care they receive, and help them make decisions with price as a criterion.
  3. Include health education and literacy as key components of your marketing messages. They produce ROI.
  4. Demonstrate price transparency.
  5. Capitalize on the data required by MACRA/MIPS. Providers have to report outcomes measures. If the data is favorable, why not use it as substance for marketing?

Regardless of what comes in the way of policy changes, and whether you're working at a Miami ad agency like us, or a New York City hospital, the healthcare industry has to start focusing on the core benefits that every other industry has used for generations to market products and services: price and quality. Welcome to the real world!