Category Archives: Marketing Leadership

What Americans have to say about healthcare

Survey FindingsPerspectives, expectations and insights for healthcare marketers. 

Want to know what the average American thinks about your tax exempt status? How they’re using online ratings to choose doctors and hospitals?  The importance of smart phones and mobile apps for managing health?

Join Rob Klein, Founder & CEO, Klein & Partners; William (Bill) R. Gombeski, Jr., Director of Strategic Marketing, UK HealthCare; and me at 11:30 am CST on a January 22, 2015 webinar for an examination of key consumer perspectives revealed through Klein & Partners’ latest “kitchen sink” research.  The survey asks Americans a variety of questions about different healthcare topics – from their opinions about the Affordable Care Act to use of retail health clinics.  We’ll talk about the findings and explore the implications for healthcare marketers.

The webinar is sponsored by the Forum for Healthcare Strategists.  There is no charge for Forum members; others pay $125.

Register here.

The Zen of Making Lists

listsTrue confession. I’m a compulsive list maker. Every morning over the first cup of coffee, I transfer all of the must-dos, want-to-dos and don’t-want-to-dos from my head to a clean, dated sheet of paper in the spiral bound notepad that accompanies me everywhere. This ritual, which began early in my healthcare marketing career, serves to control the excess noise that sabotages personal productivity.

Once every exhaustive action is out of my brain and on paper, focus kicks in and the course of thinking, conferring, learning, creating and decision-making finds its natural flow.

This morning, even my list has lists – subcategories of activities needed to navigate work, home and holidays during this zany month of December. I gave up on the concept of “work-life balance” a long time ago. If you want to understand balance, You Tube Nik Wallenda’s high wire walk across the Grand Canyon or Chicago skyscrapers. It’s spellbinding – and nerve racking – to watch him balance life and death on a straight, thin wire perched somewhere between the heavens and a long fall to earth.

In real life, how does one create equilibrium between “It’s a Wonderful Life” and “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest?” Where balance is more about keeping the roller-coaster wheels on track than walking a tightrope? For me, making that daily list – and checking it off – is track maintenance.

So, one of the tasks on today’s docket is figuring out how to pack a single carry-on suitcase with the clothes and accessories needed to careen from work and leisure in chilly New York City to a family funeral in Virginia followed by a return trip to NYC and off to client work in sunny southern Florida – all in the next six days.

Balance? Only in my dreams. But I wouldn’t trade this wonderful, crazy life.

What’s your strategy for internal communications?

megaphoneHealthcare leaders recognize the importance of internal communication to create awareness, understanding and support for organizational change. And it goes without saying that “change” is the new watchword of the health industry. From cost reduction initiatives, to the creation of new ventures and partnerships, to care transformation initiatives, the magnitude of change for healthcare workers is significant.

So how do health system executives rally the troops to gain support for large scale change initiatives? By developing a stellar strategic internal communications program that engages staff and rallies support from internal audiences.

Join me on a November 12, 2014 webinar to learn how CenterLight Health System (New York) did just that. I’ll be moderating a panel discussion featuring Connie Tejeda, VP for Corporate Communications & Public Affairs at CenterLight, and Kim Fox, VP with Jarrard Phillips Cate & Hancock. Among the discussion topics:

  • How to build a sustainable program with the resources you already have
  • How core messages can ground and focus your efforts
  • How to help managers inform and connect with staff
  • How CenterLight Health succeeded in getting staff on board

The webinar is sponsored by the Forum for Healthcare Strategists; registration is complimentary for Forum members ($125 for non-members). Can’t make it on the 12th? You can also order the recording.

Follow the link below to register.

Creating a Stellar Internal Communications Program
Wednesday, November 12, 2014
11:30AM – 12:30PM (CDT)

For more information call 312.440.9080 x 23.

A lively healthcare marketing discussion in New York City

What a treat it was this past week to join the smart folks from National Research Corporation and their super smart healthcare marketing clients at NRC’s Market Insights Fall Consumer Collaborative in New York City.  We spent two days delving into healthcare research findings, exploring changes in the healthcare industry and brainstorming ideas to advance marketing practices.

I had the opportunity to lead a discussion on Customer Decision Journey Mapping – a method to help healthcare marketers discover the touch points or “moments of truth” that most influence consumer decisions to select, use and advocate for healthcare services, providers and brands.  By gaining deep insights into how consumers learn about, seek and evaluate healthcare providers – and how they judge the experience – marketers can better focus marketing investments on activities that convert seekers to brand loyal customers.

The slides from that session are embedded at the end of this post.

On a side note, I thoroughly enjoyed seeing the new One World Trade Center from my room on the 32nd floor of the conference hotel.  What an impressive building!

Evidence-based Healthcare Marketing: Rethinking Measurement

Save the dateHealthcare marketers face increasing pressure to make the most of their marketing investments.  The C-suite wants accountability for outcomes – volume, revenue, greater customer loyalty – and assurance that the health system is strengthening its competitive position.

The bottom line is that marketing is becoming more science than art.  Today, sophisticated tools and marketing analytics provide great insights into customer needs, values, drivers and behaviors.  They inform our decision-making, shape strategy, focus investments.  When actionable information is combined with rigorous planning, innovative ideas and disciplined tracking, marketing executives quickly close the accountability gap.

Welcome to evidence-based marketing.

On July 10, 2014, I’ll join Marian Dezelan, Chief Marketing Officer, and Chris Boyer, AVP Digital Marketing Strategy, for North Shore–LIJ Health System (Great Neck, NY) on a webinar to discuss how an evidence-based approach to healthcare marketing can better focus your strategy and produce measureable results.  Marian and Chris will share how North Shore-LIJ’s marketing department applies evidence-based marketing techniques for personalized targeted marketing, patient engagement and making the most of marketing data.

Sponsored by the Forum for Healthcare Strategists, the webinar is scheduled from 11:30 am to 1:00 pm CDT.  The session is complimentary for Forum members; non-members can participate for $125.

I hope you’ll join us.  In fact, gather your team, order in lunch and make time to learn together.

Click here to learn more about the webinar and register for the program.

Are you seeing greater consumer scrutiny of healthcare prices? You will.

eye drops 3More and more, I hear from healthcare colleagues that the number of consumers inquiring about healthcare prices is increasing. Some just want to know what a specific procedure or drug will cost. Others want to understand their out-of-pocket contributions. And many, many more complain about prices and pricing structures that, quite frankly, just don’t make sense.

It’s ironic that I ran across this Huffington Post article – More Proof that American Health Care Prices are Sky High – just when my husband called to let me know that the price of the eye drops prescription I had asked him to pick up was $208.00. Our health insurance company wanted to consult with the provider about alternatives before approving and paying for the script. It was 7:30 in the evening and the doctor’s office was closed – meanwhile my eyes are nearly swollen shut from the overabundance of pollen we’re experiencing this year. So we shelled out the $208 and will spend the next few days making multiple phone calls to try and align this patient’s needs with the doctor’s recommendations and the insurance company’s procedures.

I was curious about the cost of the drug when I read this blog post regarding the latest data from the International Federation of Health Plans, an industry group representing health insurers from 28 countries including the United States. The author’s point is that American patients pay the highest prices in the world for a variety of prescription drugs and common medical procedures.

So I looked up pricing for the eye drops on drug retailer websites from several countries, including the UK and Canada, and found that prices for the very same prescription (brand name, strength, dosage, etc.) were significantly less – around $40 (with free shipping). That’s about $8 per ml, whereas we paid $41.60 per ml. I’m talking about a bottle of eye drops that barely stands 1½ inches high. The pharmaceutical people have some explaining to do.

In fact, all of us who work in this industry do – about how prices are established, why there is so much variation across providers, products and services, why it cost so darn much. As healthcare marketers, we’re removed from pricing decisions, which are core to branding, positioning and marketing strategies for both wholesale (contracting) and retail (out of pocket) relationships.

Personally, I hope we see consumers ask more questions – and demand more answers – about the price of healthcare services and goods. And I hope we as an industry will have good answers.

It’s time to bring pricing into public view.

Part 4. Invest to build a high performing healthcare marketing team.

Marketing Team 2
Final post in a four-part series.

Marketing resource allocation planning is critical to assuring that limited marketing funds (and FTEs) are focused on marketing initiatives that have the best potential for driving revenue growth, improving overall business performance and positioning health systems for long-term success. Parts 2 and 3 of this series described the first two decision points in resource allocation modeling:

  • First, what businesses, clinical programs or market expansion initiatives offer the best opportunity for growth and profitability?
  • Second, within priority programs and service lines, what strategies and tactical initiatives will best achieve marketing goals?

The third decision point is: what infrastructure investments are required to optimize marketing performance and ROI? In other words, what capabilities, technologies, skill sets, business partners, processes and tools are necessary for the marketing team to effectively execute marketing strategy? Building a high-performing marketing team and the systems to support them are strategy-critical investments that will generate significant returns over the long term.

What should you consider?

  •  Structure, staffing and skill set of the marketing team. Is the team optimally organized and staffed to execute and manage against strategic priorities? Do they possess the skills required in today’s complex and competitive world – including business analytics and strategic thinking skills? Can they mobilize and align clinical, administrative and other functions to execute marketing strategy? Are they fluent in digital media and skilled in web, social networking and mobile technology platforms?
  • CRM and call centers. Next, evaluate the capabilities, systems and processes to capture and respond to customer inquiries (both consumer and physician), and to capture, analyze and manage customer level data. Today, marketers are moving toward integrated customer contact centers that better leverage call center, web inquiry and CRM capabilities in order to connect customers with services, capture data to improve marketing decision-making, and measure the effectiveness of marketing investments.
  • Digital marketing capabilities and systems. One of the biggest challenges facing marketers today is the pace of change and shift in investments required to ramp up digital marketing. Web, search, social media and mobile marketing are no longer optional – nor should they be secondary priorities. There is no better time to stop funding tactics with marginal returns (among my favorites are billboards) and plow those dollars into the staffing, training and systems to become digital marketing experts.
  • Decision support systems. The key question for marketers is “do we have the information needed to inform our decisions about strategy, investments and outcomes?” Competitive intelligence, market research, trended performance data (e.g. volume growth, revenue, margin, etc.), market projections, industry trends, segmentation studies and other robust information sources are vital to effective marketing decision-making.
  • Business partners and outsourced support. What to build in-house versus what to outsource is often a tough question. The rule of thumb is that if it’s not critical to core operations or a core competency in which you’re willing to invest and nurture, then outsourcing is probably the best alternative. Business or outsourced partners include advertising agencies, digital marketing firms, call center operations and research firms, among others. A periodic review of contract terms and performance is always a good idea.
  • Shorten your “to do” list. Often, one of the more difficult tasks for marketers is to eliminate activities that do not contribute to growth and improved competitive performance. But in today’s environment, “squeaky wheels” must give way to an evidence-based approach to marketing investment. The key to success is focusing your time – and dollars – on fewer, more impactful activities.

Conclusion

More than ever, chief marketing executives are being held to a higher standard of accountability for return on marketing investments. A disciplined approach to marketing resource allocation planning is required to understand what programs, services or segments will best drive growth and improve business performance, and what activities and support systems will contribute most to those initiatives.

Both top-down and bottom-up approaches to marketing resource allocation planning are necessary; top down for strategic marketing planning across a health system’s portfolio of service lines and growth initiatives – and bottom up to develop specific marketing plans and budgets within each priority program.
Most important, perhaps, is to use a data-informed approach to gain organizational commitment to stay on strategy.

Read the series: