The Millennials are coming. Is your healthcare marketing on target?

April 16, 2014 by

Millennial InfographicIs your hospital and physician practice marketing connecting with 20-30 year-old women? These are the people who are often choosing a physician for the first time. They are entering into a lifetime of health care needs and making their own decisions without strong parental influence.

For OB/Gyn physicians and hospital women’s service lines it is important to reach this group. They are the future for your patient growth. But according to a new Pew Center study this generation is very different from previous generations. Is your healthcare marketing message changing to fit with their lifestyle?

This is a generation of firsts. They are the most racially diverse of all generations with 43% being non-white. They are also the best educated generation with over 33% having a 4-year degree or higher. With that higher education comes more debt. Millennials are also the first in the new era to experience higher debt, poverty and unemployment than GenXers or Boomers did at their age.

This may be one of the reasons that they are also marrying later than earlier generations. The median age for women to marry is 27 and for men it is 29. Even though they disapprove of the trend 47% of births are out-of-wedlock.

Millennials are less likely to associate themselves with political or religious organizations. They socialize online. They are digital natives and spend time on social networks putting themselves at the center of these social networks with more than 50% of them posting selfies. 90% will trust medical information from a friend online, but as a whole they are far less trusting of people in general.

So what are some key takeaways for this group of new healthcare consumers? First you will find them online. But as an outsider you will need to work hard to gain their trust. They are well-educated and are used to researching and comparing products online too. You will need to provide more relevant information that applies to them. They are also different socially in that they are marrying later and having more children before marriage. This accounts for almost half of births for this age group, an important point to keep in mind when promoting your Ob/Gyn or women’s services.

 

Sources: Pew Research: Social and Demographic Trends, Search Engine Watch

Lessons Learned from Fast Food Service Relevant for Healthcare Customer Engagement

April 9, 2014 by

The focus for hospitals and physician practices has been to deliver excellent customer service to engage patients and visitors. Which is fine, as far as that went.

Focusing on just customer service by itself is passé in today’s fast moving world. Customer engagement is the marketing tool that hospitals and physician practices are wisely embracing. Simply put, that means that in addition to delivering excellent customer service, your communications with customers – patients, visitors and even employees – need to be done in an engaging, ongoing manner. It’s about more than just communicating information. You want to pull them in with frequent two-way conversations in order to develop successful relationships.

Recently, I was engaged on a retail level by Chick-Fil-A regarding their Founder Truett Cathy. I received an email that it was his birthday and was urged to join them in wishing him a happy birthday. Because I absolutely love their food and have a great deal of admiration for Mr. Cathy and the brand he has developed, I took a moment – on my phone – to send him a birthday greeting. I received a reply thanking me and inviting me to join them soon for a meal. This was a very simple, but effective, means of engaging me as a customer and leaving me with a warm feeling towards this company – and their brand.

The beauty is, that if done correctly, what works for your customer, will work for your healthcare practice or hospital. One simple way is to use social media to make it easy for them to contact you online and give them options. Get patient input on how to enhance quality improvement. Give them ways to interact with you on their schedule. Remember, it’s a mobile society and customers are constantly seeking information and resolution 24-hours a day. Create positive experiences and outcomes for them. The more you interact in helping to solve their issues, the more loyalty you create for your hospital or physician practice.

And, yes, I am planning on visiting my neighborhood Chick-Fil-A for a meal soon!

Important Considerations for Developing Physician Websites

April 2, 2014 by

A great website takes a lot of work to design, implement and maintain – and they are critical today. Your patients not only expect your practice to have one, but expect that the information they want and need will be there, whether it is a patient portal that enables them to schedule appointments, get a prescription refilled, check on lab and test results, pay their bill online or find office hours and locations.

A physician website should include:
• An up-to-date look and design that is visually attractive and compelling
• A site that is responsive so that it is easy to view on different devices
• Graphics and videos that are compatible and come up quickly (no Flash)
• A content management system (CMS) that allows you to make copy and photo changes
• Short, easy-to-grasp and grammatically correct content broken up by subheads and bullets that make it easy for healthcare consumers to scan the content (hint: no one reads long blocks of copy anymore)
• Information that is well organized and easy to find so that viewers don’t have to search for what they need
• Pages that load quickly – generally in two seconds or less
• Use of good search engine optimization (SEO) practices so that your site ranks higher on search engines and shows up earlier on pages – most consumers do not look beyond the first, and sometimes the second page, of search results
• The ability to work across different browsers (Internet Explorer, Safari, Foxfire, etc.)

Today, your medical practice is judged not only by the health care you deliver, but also by your website. Most people initially research your site before they ever decide to make an appointment. And, while they are researching your practice, they are also researching others that offer the same services. It’s a given that they will compare your website to others to get a sense of what you offer and how information is presented.

The professionalism of your website and how it engages current and prospective patients is a reflection of your practice. Make it the front door that warmly welcomes patients.

Designer Babies

May 7, 2013 by

As I dive into the research phase of marketing, differentiation is at the very heart of the discovery process.

The concept of differentiation brings back fond memories of college Biology. Stem cell research was a hot topic then and continues to fuel heated conversation on both sides of the debate.

DesignerBaby http://news.msn.com/science-technology/2-year-old-girl-gets-new-life-with-windpipe-made-from-stem-cells

The ‘con’ side fears stem cell research will lead to a society of “designer babies”. The ‘pro’ side views it as scientific research that will lead to a better understanding of cell function. Whichever side you gravitate to, what can’t be debated is the fact that stem cells are programmed to differentiate. They become very specific, specialized units. These units adapt to a form and function that distinguishes them from all others.

This formula for success holds true in the marketing efforts of your organization. Ask yourself………

Differentiation     What does your organization do well on a daily basis? How do these practices set you apart?

Segmentation        Are you able to clearly identify all possible market segments?

Specification          Is your campaign specific to your audience?

Specialization       In what areas does your organization specialize? Do your areas of expertise allow you to adapt to the ever-changing social marketplace?

The success of any marketing effort lies in your ability to identify those characteristics that distinguish you from all others. This seemingly small act of due diligence is certain to guide you to a “designer baby” of your very own!

A Prescription for Hospital Gym Marketing

September 13, 2012 by

Prescription for ExerciseAs the focus on preventive medicine has increased, many hospitals have incorporated gyms and wellness centers in their list of services. After building the gym the question becomes how to get and keep a vibrant membership.

In addition to traditional marketing for your hospital’s gym, you also can look inward and enlist your physicians, since they are the front line for patient wellness. A recent CDC study shows physicians are advising a much greater percentage of their patients to exercise than they were 10 years ago.

A Healthy Prescription

The hospital’s gym can offer a healthy prescription plan for physicians to give their patients. This can be a coupon card, much like a pharmaceutical discount coupon, With an offer on one side that might include a discounted or free two-month membership and an initial consult with a trainer to review physician recommendations. The back of the card has room for the physician to write a start level and goals for the patient’s exercise regimen.

The physician can recommend exercise or write their patient a prescription for it. Telling someone they need to exercise is good, but an actual prescription may have more impact in emphasizing the importance of exercise for better health.

Of course the patient is given the recommendation or prescription for exercise, not the gym. They can exercise in their house or the park, but the coupon card is given along with the prescription as an added incentive. This can be beneficial for all parties. The physician gains another tool to help improve his patients’ health. The patient gets more detailed exercise information and a discount to a gym. The hospital gains good will for providing the gym discount and possibly acquires new long-term members.

How You Can Bring Visual Value to Your Hospital’s Videos.

August 21, 2012 by

Hospital Video ProductionWe all know the saying “a picture says a thousands words.” This may be one reason that YouTube is one of the largest search engines. According to a Manhattan Research study, 30% of the US adults who search the Internet for health information watch health related videos.

People are very visual and constantly make judgments based on visual cues. A great example is food. Think of the cafeteria line compared to the beautifully presented plate of food at a fine restaurant. If our food looks good, it must taste good. That is why presentation is such a large part of the fine dining experience.

Visual quality is a basic but an important point to remember when creating a medical practice or hospital video. To the viewer good quality represents competence. On the other hand, if the video is amateurish, the viewer may wonder if your medical care is going to be sub-par.

It is all about presentation (and content)

1. Quality – You pride yourself in the quality of your patient care, so let that come through in your video. People will recognize low production value. This is not to say that you need to spend oodles of money, but you do need to be aware of lighting, picture quality, backgrounds, and editing style.

2. On-air personality – Yes, personality is the key here. If you are using staff or a physician, employ people who have engaging speaking styles. This may not always be possible, so be prepared to coach them.

They need to talk to the camera as they would a patient and let a good bedside manner shine through.

3. Wardrobe and Makeup – So this is starting to seem more like a major production than you thought. Be sure the talent is wearing clean, pressed clothing and their hair is neat. This seems obvious, but doesn’t always happen. Physicians are thinking about their clinical obligations and patients. Having freshly dry-cleaned clothes often is not top of mind. Just be prepared with extra coats, an iron, comb, and powder.

When making your medical video, think of creating a meal at a fine restaurant. Plan then prep, prep, prep. Finally, craft your story for patient friendly presentation.

Increase Hospital Reimbursements by Marketing to Reduce Costs

August 14, 2012 by

Medication ComplianceWith the shift of reimbursement payment practices, hospitals are looking at all options and best practices to improve quality care and reduce costs.

As marketers we can help increase revenue, but can we also help cut costs and improve care?  Sure we can. Many hospitals have already done this with hand washing campaigns that resulted in significant increases in compliance and reductions in infection rates.

 Another costly compliance issue involves patients and their prescription medication. I knew that medication compliance was a significant problem, but did not realize just how much until I saw the following numbers. A CVS Caremark study determined that medication adherence saved the healthcare system $1,200 – $8,000 per patient annually.  Unfortunately nearly 40% of insured people DON’T take their medication as prescribed.

Improving medication compliance won’t be easy and will probably require action from many public and private entities.  It does seem that hospital owned physician practices and hospitals could have a significant impact on this problem by providing educational materials, tools, and campaigns to their patients. A recent Health Research Institute study said that 57% of patients place a high value on education they receive during a visit . So they are primed for medical information, all you need to do is give it to them.  It may help them stay healthier, improve satisfaction levels and reduce readmissions.

Are you marketing medication adherence or other healthcare cost savings initiatives?  If so, I would love to hear about what you are doing.

 

How to make your hospital’s Facebook page the life of the party.

August 1, 2012 by

Facebook PartyFacebook, which is all about friends and their lives, is the epitome of social media. So think of running your hospital’s Facebook page as hosting a party for your friends. Invite people to join you and welcome newcomers. Strive to be a good host. Be a good conversationalist and never talk only about yourself. Go out of your way to provide refreshments and entertainment that will please the guests. Above all, be gracious and thankful to people who attend.

Know your guests and their likes and dislikes.

  • Pay attention to health and wellness topics that garner the most attention and comments. What topics flop? In the future weight your posts to the more popular topics. Think of your Facebook page as “Pandora” for healthcare in your community.

Cater to your friends. 

  • Share important community stories on your page.
  • Post important health information and observances.
  • Include information on events, new services or treatments you offer, staff recognition and other relevant information. Think of it as small talk. Try to present it in a way that invites conversation.

Be entertaining. 

  • Provide pictures and videos to supplement your post. A good visual can add spark to any topic. A physician explaining a disease or procedure on a video is a great way to educate people in a personable way.
  • Don’t drone on. Make your point short and sweet and when appropriate ask for feedback.
  • Party games can be fun, so use health quizzes and contests to interact with your audience.

Make it worth their time. 

  • Educate in a fun way. Be sure to provide helpful information – facts, event information, a good patient story, informative videos, recipes or helpful tips.

And in the end, thank people for coming.

  • Be sure to acknowledge your fans and the comments they make.

Follow these simple steps to be the host-ess with the most-est and watch your hospital’s Facebook likes and fan base grow.

Forget Strategy?

July 24, 2012 by

Recently, Advertising Age quoted the CEO of the global advertising agency, Saatchi & Saatchi, as saying, “Strategy is dead… If you take the time to devise a strategy, the more time you are giving your rivals to start eating your lunch.”

Is he serious?  I fully realize we now live in a very fast-paced world and hesitation can be costly, but forget the strategy?  How do you get the tactics right without a strategy?  The fact is good strategic planning leads to better execution.

We’ve also found that the tighter the strategy, the better the creative product.  It certainly makes it easier to create good ideas.  With even a loose strategy, creativity becomes far more difficult.  With no strategy, it’s almost impossible.  

Lack of strategy usually leads to poor management of resources as well.  Tactics do not replace strategy; they follow it.  Today’s new media enables carefully targeted rifle shots.  Why would you want to use a shotgun?

Educating Patients is a Primary Need for Better Healthcare Access

June 27, 2012 by

We are all waiting to hear the Supreme Court’s decision on the health reform law (Affordable Care Act) this week. According to a recent Times article, “If it survives, about 93 percent of all non-elderly, legal U.S. residents will be covered by 2016. That’s up from 82 percent this year.” This translates to an additional 30 million people who will receive health insurance coverage.

Regardless of the outcome of the Affordable Care Act, there is a strong need to educate consumers on how to access and use the healthcare system. Research points out that recent changes in health insurance status for newly insured and newly uninsured adults are linked to greater emergency department use – not community health centers, family physicians or urgent care centers. An emergency department is truly one of the most inefficient options for people to use for non-emergent care. Providing health care in this forum ties up resources that can be better used, costs substantially more than care delivered in a lower acuity setting, and typically has much longer waiting times than other healthcare options.

Many Emergency Departments are now triaging patients as they enter the door. Some direct patients to other alternatives (at a lower co-pay) and some are using nurses to handle non-emergent problems. Signage and patient handouts can explain the reasons and the importance for doing this. Online videos are another option that many hospitals are using to explain where to properly seek care.

Once newly insured patients are aware of accessing other levels of care, an answer according to Robin Clarke, University of California, Los Angeles, may be the use of enabling services. These are non-medical services, typically delivered by primary care practices and community health centers, to help low-income patients access the healthcare system. These services address the social determinants of health care by helping patients figure out transportation to appointments, conducting case management assessments and performing community outreach and education activities.

Current research is being done to investigate how these patient-centered services will affect the delivery of health care to underserved patients. The results will affect not only the implementation, but also reimbursement. It will also impact how the patient-centered medical home concept will apply to the practices caring for these patients.

There are many other points of access to educate consumers. But, we need to make it a priority to do so.

This reminds me of the saying, “If we build it, they will come.” Unless we focus on education, they may come but never figure out how to use it.


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