More patients are choosing to postpone or delay healthcare procedures, increasing the pressures on hospital marketers.
Despite what some people say, healthcare is not immune to a down economy. On the surface, you might think healthcare isn’t affected by a bad economy. If you’re sick, you’re sick. And you have to seek treatment. But this is not necessarily the case.
In a recent study by Thomson Reuters, postponement, delay or cancellation of treatment increased sharply in 2009 with 26% of households cutting cost and citing it as the most important reason to delay treatment. In the past, lack of time was the number one reason to delay treatment, but the down economy has caused that to change. This change began to be felt beginning in June- July 2008 and has increased during the past year.
The study showed the increase in postponement of care increased in all groups with the smallest increase occurring in older households. And it increased across all income levels.
As one might expect, physician visits took the biggest hit, followed by elective procedures and minor injuries or illnesses. But also, substantially down were lab/diagnostics, x-ray/imaging and non-elective procedures. And as you would expect, care for children was least likely of all services to be deferred.
Another finding that will impact hospitals’ bottom line is that within the past year the number of households dropping their health insurance coverage increased about 30%. So yes the downturn in the economy negatively affects the healthcare industry and hospitals, which in turn, increases the pressure on hospital marketers to grow market share in a declining market with fewer resources.
Unlike beer drinkers, who drink when things are good to celebrate, they also drink when things are bad to forget how bad things are, healthcare consumers will postpone or delay needed heath care services. So it’s imperative for healthcare marketers to get the most out of every dollar spent. And make sure the message resonates with the consumer.
It’s certainly not an easy task. But in a declining market, it’s imperative we’re on the top of our game.