What Kind of Business Is Healthcare – Marketing to the Future? – Healthcare

If health care is a business, why as an industry are there so many organic problems? Could these organic problems be as simple as there are too many people making decisions and there is no clear vision for the future of the industry?Have you ever had the opportunity to go to a healthcare conference? There are many people teaching us about best practices, quality improvement, clinical pathways, and customer satisfaction, but who is in charge and who can make these changes?The reality is that there is no one playing nice in the sandbox. Remember when a child was told by the mom please share the shovel and pail when at the playground with the other children? As adults, we need to share or at least come to some common ground. The reality is that hospital administrators are constantly “negotiating” in their communications; with the physicians, and with CMS and other state and local regulators, and of course, labor unions, and their own management team. The understanding needs to be that all of these elements are a TEAM and we need each other to be successful.Close your eyes and “pretend” that you are a Marketing Manager in a fortune 500 company and need to attract customers and grow profits. We start with the definition of business marketing, which is to identify with meeting human and social needs, or another definition for business marketing is to meet the needs of profitability. What is the marketing strategy of healthcare? We have all taken company surveys for example; a new car, a restaurant, a computer, and so on. The goal of most companies is to try to achieve perfect scores. Perfection is the goal and achieving a four out of five is not good enough for most organizations. In healthcare, the logic is to use the mean score as a benchmark, which makes the mean the acceptable score in many facilities. The logic is then that the facility is hitting the norm and there are no critical issues necessitating making changes.All companies have a product to sell and all companies have challengers. The differences in healthcare are that that focus needs to be on creating ownership and until the system realizes someone needs to be in charge there will be conflicts and inferior service.The following statistics were part of a study conducted by the Commonwealth Fund and recently published in the online version of the Health Affairs journal:• The number of people who are underinsured has grown 60% to 25 million over the past four years.
• The fastest growing segment of the underinsured is middle and upper income families. The rate of underinsured for those with incomes of $40,000 or more nearly tripled to 11%.
• The highest rate of underinsurance is in families with incomes under the poverty level (about $20,000), at 31%.Based on the national average in 2008 the average cost for health care per person was $8,000 with employers paying on average $4,479 (Easey, 2, 2011).Using these statistics, if healthcare was a for-profit business how would the organization try to capture these opportunities. Marketing is about meeting the needs of the customer and until we start asking the customer what he or she wants and needs, we will not be able to formulate a competitive business strategy.There needs to be a fresh approach and creation of a culture that believes and lives the vision of the healthcare business. In many circumstances, the vision is not clear and until we live the vision at all levels within healthcare we will continue to have problems. We need to get back to basics and business fundamentals.The business model starts with how we address our consumer. If we all started calling the consumer a customer instead of a patient or resident that would be a start. Thinking as owners will allow us to focus on the needs of the customer and then apply marketing strategies that will lead the way in a new approach and will set the path for improvement.Customers respond not only to the product but also to how he or she is being treated, the follow up to treatment, and consistency. Programs need to be regimented with defined results, with service recovery techniques that correct the problem. The solution is having a no tolerance policy that is supportive of good behavior, but not to be punitive. Focusing on why these changes are necessary for our mission, along with showing that these changes will bring success and profits is a start in a culture change path. A multi-disciplined approach is required to serve customers in any business. Someone must “own” the customer’s needs and follow up proactively. Whether it is the Food and Nutrition department, Nursing, or Security, using the most prominent customer “ownership” focused strategies is paramount in leading the way to great customer service results. Building on success stories, recognition, and rewards around hospitality is also required for this needed cultural change.Marketing strategy, organizational culture, and customer satisfaction are the basic building blocks to successful businesses. Customer satisfaction is not a task; it is a state of mind. Every health care encounter these days, as a customer, reminds us we that are accepting this inferior business model. How we got here is not as important, as how we find our way back on to the path of successful healthcare business leadership.