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The Boomer Challenge in Healthcare Marketing

August 7, 2014
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Boomers Are Online

This year marks a milestone for Boomers. By its end all Boomers, approximately 75 million people, will be 50 or older. By 2017, those over age 65 will control 70% of disposable income in this country. By 2030, 18% of our population will be 65 or older.

Baby Boomers as Healthcare Consumers – Opportunity

This generation has been a force throughout the past decades and will continue to be. One of the industries that will be most affected is health care. Although boomers claim that old-age does not begin until age 72, many are less healthy than past generations. 13.2% of baby boomers reported “excellent” health compared with 32% of the previous generation.

It is estimated that 60% of adults age 50 to 64 are suffering from a minimum of one chronic health issue and many have multiple illnesses. People older than 65 spend more on health care than any other age group, averaging $4,769 out-of-pocket each year. They will present many challenges and opportunities for health systems and physicians.

Health statistics for those 65 and older:

  • 72% have hypertension
  • 51% have arthritis
  • 31% have heart disease
  • 24% have cancer
  • 20 % have diabetes
  • Boomers account for one-third of overall healthcare spending and prescription drug utilization and for 40% of doctor visits

Reaching Boomers – Challenges

Reaching this segment of the population is becoming easier. Traditional media vehicles are still a good way of connecting with boomers, but one myth being debunked is that digital marketing is not a good option. Although not as prevalent as with younger generations, 88% of 50-64 year olds and 57% of 65+ are online.

An Accenture survey found that 2/3 of seniors think access to health information is important and 60% want to be able to email providers, but only 15% have that option.

This group is searching for health information online. Those that have one or more chronic conditions are more likely than other age groups to:

  • Gather information online about medical problems, treatments, and drugs.
  • Consult online reviews about drugs and other treatments.
  • Read or watch something online about someone else’s personal health experience.

In Information Week, Jill Daily of Accenture Health was quoted as saying, “Just as seniors are turning to the Internet for banking, shopping, entertainment and communications, they also expect to handle certain aspects of their healthcare services online. What this means for providers and health plans is that they’ll need to expand their digital options if they want to attract older patients and help them track and manage their care outside their doctor’s office.”

 

Are you providing that service and doing all you can to reach this fast growing and affluent market?

Why Online Videos Should be an Integral Marketing Tool for your Hospital or Practice

July 8, 2014

Anytime you can invoke multiple senses in delivering your message, it makes a larger impact on your audience. Video affords you the opportunity to both paint a picture and capture sound. It has the ability to stir emotions and influence people and allows you to be a better storyteller. This emotional response ultimately helps drive engagement and allows viewers to connect with your brand.

This makes video a valuable tool in your communications with patients because it allows you to deliver valuable content in a format that viewers are consuming at a faster pace than ever before.

In 2012, Google and Compete, Inc. surveyed 533 hospital researchers to gain behavioral insights on how digital is used to seek healthcare information. They found that:
• One in eight patients watched an online video on:
Hospital sites – 42%
Health information sites – 30%
YouTube – 29%
• Patients seek video reviews and testimonials to learn about hospitals
and treatment options with 43% watching patient testimonials and
32% reviewing patient generated content
• Online video drives patients to hospital sites where they are more
likely to convert
• YouTube traffic to hospital sites has increased 119% year over year.

So why do consumers connect so strongly with video? Susan Weinschenk, Ph.D., a brand consultant for large companies, says there are four driving factors:
• We pay attention to faces – our brain function uses the human face as
a gathering point for believability and information
• Voices provide a way to convert information into meaningful content
• Emotions are contagious and appealing and humans love to share it
• Movement grabs your attention – the power of peripheral motion is
ingrained into our DNA

People have very different ways of absorbing information. Some prefer to read and others to hear or see it visually. Because video is capable of imparting information in any and all of these ways, it allows you to effectively convey your message regardless of the viewer’s learning style.

So, if you aren’t currently using videos in your marketing, you’re missing out on an incredible opportunity to connect with your audience. Engage with them and get your message out there!

Five Ways Online Videos Can Drive Healthcare Traffic

June 25, 2014

There are a myriad of ways that hospitals and physicians can successfully use video to build traffic to websites. At the same time, videos can also create a sense of trust and credibility for the hospital or practice. This provides the opportunity to engage viewers in an interesting and meaningful way and becomes a powerful tool for building brand loyalty.

Physician Promotion

119%One of the most prevalent ways to use videos of physicians is on physician profile pages. Videos can provide a sense of the physician’s emotions and personality which allows viewers to more readily connect with them. A potential patient that experiences a sense of connection is more likely to visit a hospital site than to trust blind luck that the relationship will be a good one. According to research conducted by Google, YouTube traffic to hospital sites has increased 119% year to year. And over 30% of patients who watched an online video booked an appointment.

Service Promotion

Videos also allow a hospital or physician to introduce the key services and treatment options they provide. Patient testimonials are a great way to reinforce this information because they provide believability and proof of successful treatment. While not a promise, it allows health seekers to identify with them and entertain the belief that they might have the same outcome.

Patient Education

Education is a natural fit for video. Information can be communicated in an easily understandable way that resonates with the viewer and can be viewed repeatedly or as needed. This is especially useful for preparations for surgery, after care instructions and information on dealing with specific conditions.

Recruitment

Videos are excellent tools for recruitment for physicians and allied staff. You can essentially provide a “slice of life” to give prospects a sense of what they can expect if they decide to join your hospital or practice. This allows prospects to make an initial decision about whether this would be a good fit for them. If so, it will encourage them to investigate further. This is an especially valuable tool for rural hospitals and practices as they try to garner attention in a very competitive landscape. For a harried physician in a larger market, communicating the benefits of a smaller market can entice them to take a second look at the community as well as the hospital or practice.

Public Relations

Videos are a valuable resource for public relations and for communicating about upcoming events and announcements. On social channels, videos significantly increase engagement which translates to more viewers and clicks – all good PR. In fact, Facebook recently announced that video views doubled in the past six months and that it will now deliver more video to people who have shown an interest in viewing such content. Secondly, sharing interesting/entertaining content in a video format increases the chance of news outlets picking up your information. And last, video allows you to humanize your organization and culture, thereby increasing buy-in from viewers who may want to interact with your hospital or practice or come to work for you.

So, if you aren’t currently using videos for healthcare marketing, try implementing them in one of these ways and see what a difference it can make in engaging patients, physicians and staff, as well as consumers.

Key Points to Help Your Healthcare Marketing Connect with Patients

June 16, 2014

Since we were young we have been taught the importance of sharing. Today that is easier than ever to do with email and multiple social media platforms. And for the healthcare industry, sharing health information is becoming more of the norm. A recent Pew Report stated that 26% of adult internet users have read or watched someone else’s health or medical experience and 16% have gone online to find others who share the same health concerns. One study found that people trust health information shared by hospitals and doctors online 10-15% more than by other patients they know.

Hospitals and physician practices need to consider how key points or stories about their care can be distributed in a way that is compelling and easy for people to share with others. Sharing is about relationships – give and take. Knowing who shares and why is an important first step. A New York Times study found that:

  • 94% of study participants consider how information they share will be useful to the recipient
  • 84% share because it is a way to show support for issues they care about
  • 69% share information because it allows them to feel more involved in the world
  • Only 49% share to inform others of products and try to change opinions

The study found six personas for sharing; altruists, careerists, hipsters, boomerangs, connectors and selectives. Their personas are based on four segments defined by:

  • Emotional motivations
  • Desired presentation of self
  • Role of sharing in life
  • Value of being first to share

One key point to increase sharing is to appeal to consumers’ (patients’) needs to connect with each other and not to a brand. Yet it seems that healthcare marketing is often missing the mark. A Spark Report found that although 41% of respondents said that social media would affect their choice of a medical facility, hospital, or doctor, only 18% of Facebook posts by hospitals are for the public while the rest target employees. Other key points to increase sharing include trust, simplicity, humor and urgency.

The Pew report states “that patients and caregivers have critical health information — about themselves, about each other, about treatments — and they want to share what they know to help other people.” Before your next post or email, check your content based on the above criteria and ask yourself if you are engaging your patients or just sending them information.

 

What is your persona?

  1. Altruist – Helpful, reliable, thoughtful, connected
  2. Careerist – Valuable, intelligent, network
  3. Hipster – Creative, young, popular, cutting-edge
  4. Boomerang – Reaction, validation, empowered
  5. Connector – Creative, relaxed, thoughtful, making plans
  6. Selective – Resourceful, careful, thoughtful, informative

 

Why Hospitals and Healthcare Providers Should Focus on Patient Engagement and Activation

May 15, 2014

Patients who are actively engaged in their healthcare are more compliant in following physician instructions regarding their medications, diet, exercise levels, etc. This behavior typically leads to better outcomes and lower costs.

 Why is this important? Over 50% of patients fail to take their medication as directed because they have a hard time understanding instructions. Some patients lack the confidence to make decisions concerning their options or emotions cloud their ability to process information. Regardless of the reason, everyone benefits if patients are actively engaged and there is a focus from healthcare providers on educating patients and involving them more fully in making decisions about their care.

 In a recent TedMed online event regarding patient engagement (activation), the discussion revolved around how to inspire patients to participate in their healthcare. In 2004, Judith Hibbard and researchers from the University of Oregon developed a scale to measure how likely patients are to take a role in their own healthcare. It involves four stages:

  • believing that their role as a patient is important
  • having the confidence and knowledge necessary to take action
  • taking action to maintain and improve one’s health
  • maintaining these behaviors even under stress

 Some options found to increase active patient engagement include:

  • using a team-based approach so that patient self-management is consistent and reinforced by all team members
  • providing tailored coaching to patients based upon their level of activation
  • allocating different resources to different segments of patients so more help can be efficiently provided to those patients who are less able to manage their care
  • tracking progress so that patients can see their success

 Hibbards’ research and analysis found that patients with lower activation scores incurred costs from eight to 21 percent higher than those patients with higher activation scores. Since then, research indicates that people with a higher activation score are less likely to visit an emergency room, be obese or smoke, and more likely to save providers money.

Today, these outcomes – for both patients and providers – are crucial in our evolving healthcare environment.

Important Considerations for Developing Physician Websites

April 2, 2014

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.

Increase Hospital Reimbursements by Marketing to Reduce Costs

August 14, 2012

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

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

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

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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