So. The Supreme Court has upheld the Affordable Care Act (ACA), ushering in a wave of reforms that promise to fundamentally transform the American healthcare system. However, no matter how the system changes in the future, people will not; while location and demographics may change drastically, everyone will still ask for the same basic things from their healthcare delivery system. From urban academic medical centers to rural community hospitals, every health system can benefit from tapping into the common wants, needs and passions of Americans across the country.
1. People will tolerate inconveniences in healthcare – for now. Until your archrival down the street implements their new EMR system, or if your website is anything but helpful but at least it’s better than the hospital across town, you may be able to force your patients to suffer inconvenient and archaic scheduling systems and mind-boggling billing systems. But given the opportunity to cut bait and go to another provider who offers more convenient and flexible healthcare solutions, what do you think your patients will do? What would you do?
2. Most people still go where their doctor sends them. Which means a robust physician marketing program is in order – and don’t take for granted your employed physicians are sending patients to your hospital. (Check the referral patterns. You might be shocked.)
3. People in small towns and big cities are turning to the web in record numbers for health content. How’s your SEO? What’s your YouTube strategy? Since the Internet is now a critical part of nearly everyone’s healthcare decision-making process, properly promoting your web presence is crucial. Make sure you inventory your online health content, including third party health content and your own branded content—your physicians, your services, what is available at your hospital and your providers.
4. Quality awards and ratings don’t resonate with most people. We healthcare professionals love our third party awards. We know the work that goes into our accreditations and the value to our patients. But most people don’t know or trust the growing number of quality awards. If your brand is not known for quality, your consumers are likely to view your awards as suspect. (In focus groups when we test ratings messages, people often say, “Anyone can get an award if they pay enough money for it.”) There are exceptions, of course. But don’t expect your work to be done by simply tacking on a ratings logo to your ad.
Yes, folks in San Francisco may have different preferences than folks in Oklahoma City. And within each healthcare market there are unique opportunities. But at the end of the day, people are people. They want to be healed, they want to be cared for, and they want that healing with as little disruption and headaches as possible.
What about your market? Do your patients value the same things we mentioned? What’s different about your audience? What are you doing to appeal to them?