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Owning The Other P’s of Marketing — Part One

Claiming that “marketing as a business driver” is an exciting best practice for health marketers to celebrate sounds, on the surface, silly. Marketers in other industries would just assume that marketing’s function is, in fact, to drive business goals (or more specifically, maybe, revenue growth and customer retention). Yet those of us who have been hanging around hospitals and health systems for any amount of time know that marketing has traditionally not always been valued or even practiced in a way to drive actual revenue or business in our organizations. Of course, that’s been changing, and in our latest book, Joe Public III, we use the extent to which leading marketing organizations in our space are driving business with their efforts as one of the reasons we believe we’re experiencing the end of “hospital marketing.” (The “end” meaning the end of considering hospital marketing as something lesser – less sophisticated, less progressive, less effective – than marketing in other industries. Great “hospital marketing” is really now just great.)

In the book, to demonstrate how we’ve progressed in this area, in the book we used the tried and true definition of marketing that contains the four “P’s” – product, place, price, and promotion. It’s this last P that the vast majority of health system marketers have been focused on, and it’s the emergence of our role driving the other three that helps reflect how, finally, marketing is being more thoroughly leveraged to drive business objectives in hospitals and health systems.

For those trying to figure out the best way to help influence product, place, or price as part of your organization’s marketing mix, here are potential areas of focus for these “other” Ps. This week we’ll look specifically at product and place, and next week we will share more ideas about price and how you, as a healthcare marketer, can help your organization determine the financial value of your brand.

Product: Marketing’s role in improving access

One of the greatest challenges facing hospitals and health systems today is access. For many reasons, providing services to our targeted consumers and patients when, where, and how they want to engage those services is maybe the number one business issue many systems face. The issues related to access are many – lack of primary care providers, limited brick and mortar entry points, clunky or non-existent virtual offerings, specialists who are six months out for the next appointment, long wait times for urgent care or ED visits. The list goes on and on. In addition, there is a growing realization that if you want utilization for specialty care, surgical care or tertiary care – those “mid-to-bottom of the funnel” services that provide the highest financial return – health systems must pull those patients in first at the top of the funnel, through virtual care, retail care, urgent care, emergency care, and other “immediate” access points. This has led to a rapid expansion in these services across the industry, as well as innovative ways to address access through new models such as free-standing EDs, microhospitals, or in the case of Intermountain Healthcare, a “virtual hospital.” According to an article in HealthcareIT News, the new service Connect Care Pro includes 35 telehealth programs, 500 caregivers, and provides basic medical care as well as advanced services such as stroke evaluation, mental health counseling, intensive and newborn critical care.

In a number of health systems, marketing leaders are being asked to tackle the access issue. There’s a realization that to best understand access challenges and their overall impact on the organization, there must be a holistic understanding of the consumer or patient journey, and where access points play the most pivotal role in that journey. Marketers typically have the best vantage point from which to understand that journey, and to understand what, exactly, consumers desire at each point along the way.

Your “products” – in this case the health and clinical services you offer your communities – are only as strong as your customers’ ability to access them. As a marketer, you have a critical role to play in helping your organization unlock access and dramatically impact your organizations business objectives.

Place: consumers are increasingly “getting their care where they get their bread” 

In the classic marketing definition, “place” typically refers to the geographic locations or channels an organization uses to deliver its products or services. When considering employers as a priority marketing stakeholder, care may still be delivered in the same geographic (or virtual) locations as it is with individuals, but building direct care relationships with employers certainly represents a traditionally untapped channel for health systems. In the past few years, leading systems such as Cleveland Clinic have built relationships with companies such as Lowe’s to offer customized, exclusive care delivery that is seen as a benefit to both parties. As health systems continue to explore provider-sponsored health plans, will employers take on a significant role as the primary healthcare purchaser. And as Modern Healthcare recently reported, health systems are expanding their direct-with-employer relationships, cutting insurance plans out of the equation. The 2018 article cites Adventist Health’s partnership with Whole Foods as serving as a springboard for expanded employer targeting:

“Now the 19-hospital system is looking to scale the care navigation expertise developed while caring for Whole Foods employees to its Medicare accountable care organization.”

In these and other examples, leveraging the power of your organization’s brand, understanding the needs of employers, and leveraging data to support these relationships each constitutes an area for healthcare marketers to lend their expertise. Leading systems are dedicating marketing and sales roles to B2B customers, with some focusing one or more marketers on employers alone. As the healthcare industry continues to morph and the relationships within the sector continue to shift, marketers will have an increasingly important role in shaping how employers are yet another key “place” where services and value are delivered.

April 19, 2018
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