changes in hospital marketing

The Challenge of Being Transparent in Hospital Marketing

abstract medical health care innovation concept background

Hospital marketing professionals have a range of inordinate challenges before them when it comes to promoting a facility or system in an effective way.

These challenges stem from a variety of causes: healthcare, in today’s world, has become increasingly political and polarizing; consumers largely view healthcare as a commodity and facilities as interchangeable; consumers feel detached from the healthcare process beyond self-diagnosis and choosing a doctor; the labyrinth that is medical billing overwhelms, confuses, and discourages patients.

Transparent communication in hospital marketing can alleviate many of these problems, but that poses a challenge in and of itself. How can hospital marketing pros be more transparent in their communications to earn the trust of their target audience and communicate differentiating quality?

The Obstacles to Transparency

Being transparent and clear about a hospital’s benefits and offerings can be difficult for facilities for a few reasons:

  • Many hospitals don’t want to “pull back the curtain,” so to speak, on medical billings, including cost of services
  • Healthcare in general has become politicized
  • Hospitals offer a wide range of services to a wide range of people
  • Consumers aren’t always willing to talk about their health
  • Costs become difficult to comprehend, especially when insurance companies are in the discussion
  • All services and physicians are not created equal

 

There are also many different stakeholders in the process. It’s not just the patient; it’s the patient’s family, insurance company, physicians and employers. These agents can interfere with clear, open communication.

Creating Transparent Communication

The most effective hospital marketing strategies overcome transparency issues and offer differentiation when it comes to their competition – even if they operate as a de facto monopoly in a given area.

One suggestion for perhaps being more transparent is being open with statistics and conveying them in a direct, easy-to-understand manner. For example, be honest about infection rates, medication error rates, and any other statistic about healthcare that your target audience would be interested in. Do so in a clear way without using jargon. Saying, “A typical post-surgery infection rate is one in 1,000” is acceptable, but it’s not quite as good as saying, “One out of every 1,000 patients who undergo surgery will get an infection.”

One might think that being forward with such knowledge could be negative, but the opposite may be  true; it is a positive way to establish trust and differentiate a facility from the rest.

Another suggestion for transparency is to be clear and open about what the hospital truly excels at – the hospital’s competitive advantage. This is not to imply that a hospital is “bad” at other areas, per se, but it does state, clearly, that consumers have one main choice when it comes to quality care in this particular area. By focusing on strengths, a hospital can begin to set itself apart in a meaningful way.

Additionally, a hospital can be open about the process it uses to bill and charge patients for their services. Many hospitals are loath to reveal specific costs and pricing information, which is understandable. Even if that’s the case, though, finding a compromise or middle-of-the-road path can reap benefits. Consumers are far more likely to choose a hospital that at least makes an attempt at clarifying the billing process and revealing the nature of costs and prices for services.

Having that particular conversation is, in a word, frightening for many in the healthcare profession, but it needn’t be. Transparency ultimately wins the hearts and minds of a consumer, and the more transparent hospital marketing professionals are, the better their results will be.

Consult with a hospital marketing agency like TotalCom to learn more about how you can expand transparency and deliver more effective messages.

 

Hospital Marketing: A Decade of Change – Behind Us and Ahead of Us

The changes that have occurred during the past 10 years are amazing!  The 2000’s have been a remarkable decade for consumers.  And the marketing implications are enormous.      

Josh Bernoff of Advertising Age recently wrote an article listing some of the dramatic changes that have occurred since the start of 2000.. It’s interesting to look at the changes he cites and consider the marketing implications of those changes.

In 2001 Bill Gates, referred to the decade as “The Digital Decade”. What a prophet he has proven to be.  To prove that he was right, consider some of the numbers:

  • When the decade began, there were 2.6 million broadband households in the U.S. – one in 40 homes.  Now there are 80 million – two thirds of the population.
  • In 2000, there were no DVRs.  Today they are in 31 million and 51 million HDTVs.
  • There are now 270 million mobile phone subscriptions in the U.S. – out of 307 million adults.  In 2000 there were practically no smartphones.
  • Portable digital music players now reach 76% of all households.  In 2000 the iPod had not been introduced.
  • There are now over 350,000,000 active Facebook users.  There were none in 2000.
  • Google just celebrated its 10th anniversary.  Ten years ago, Google wasn’t a noun or a verb.
  • Spending on digital marketing has grown from $6.2 billion in 1999 to $25.6 billion or 12% of all marketing expenditures.
  • In 2009, consumers spent 34% of their media time online.

To look back at these numbers, it is truly amazing how things have changed.  And the next decade will bring other remarkable changes.  All of this has certainly changed the nature of marketing.  These numbers can’t be ignored.  The consumer is very different today than he/she was just 10 years ago.  Our marketing strategies, patient service models and communication methods must change to reflect this very different marketplace.

The consumer has more control.  The consumer is more active in the marketing process.  The consumer is more demanding.  Expectations are higher.  And the liabilities from not being responsive to the consumer are much greater.

Today is indeed a different world and a different marketplace than it was 10 years ago.  We look back at the last decade and realize how dramatically things have changed. And that’s why healthcare marketers must be different and must do things differently.

All the changes create great and exciting opportunities.  There is a lot to learn, a lot to explore and a lot to do.   Out task is harder in many ways, but the opportunities are greater too. What a decade it’s been!  And just as we consider the changes of the 2000s, the next ten years will be yet another decade of change and challenge and excitement.

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