Health Care Marketing: SHSMD 2019 Recap

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Christine Varela

Sep 25, 2019

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Last week, Andrei and I travelled to Nashville to attend the 2019 Society for Healthcare Strategy & Market Development conference (SHSMD). The conference focused on health care marketing and trends we are seeing within the industry. These were some insights I found particularly interesting:

1. There continues to be a focus on how to improve the patient experience. Historically, health care has been late to respond to consumerism, but the time for expecting patients to simply conform to what works best for hospitals and providers is over. The industry is seeing more and more disruption from large companies outside the industry, who see an opportunity to better deliver on the aspects of patient experience where traditional health care companies fail. One example is how to make access to a provider more convenient. Providers, clinics and hospitals are being challenged to find innovative solutions to provider access in order to bridge the gap in their patients’ experience.

2. Another reoccurring trend was millennials driving change in the health care system – especially  as they begin to approach middle age. Their health care consumption is often just beginning as they near 40. Interestingly, and unsurprisingly to us marketers, millennials don’t show the same patterns of loyalty to providers and health care systems as previous generations. Millennials are driven by convenience, rather than brand or provider loyalty. They will shop around for clinics that deliver shorter wait times, better ease of access or locations, or the ability to connect virtually – a new and important challenge health care delivery systems need to continue to address.

3. One of the most prominent topics discussed this year was digital health care delivery. Cleveland Clinic is, not surprisingly, breaking ground in this area. They have set aggressive benchmarks to substantially shift in-person care to digital, on-demand care over the next five years. Currently, the company holding the most visits in digital care is Teledoc, with 3 million visits annually. Of course, Teledoc was set up specifically to offer digital and over the phone care, whereas hospital systems will need to help drive behavior change in its current patients, much like what Cleveland Clinic is doing.

4. One of the interesting aspects of the transition from in-person to digital care is the role communication and marketing will need to play. Communicators will need to help educate both patients and providers about the benefits of digital health care delivery. It will be crucial for these communications professionals to help mitigate fears – what might be perceived to be lost – as a result of a shift from traditional visits to digital visits, as well as communicating the benefits and value patients will experience, such as convenience, eliminating wait times, more time with a provider, etc.

5. Finally, how health care might surface in the upcoming election cycle was an imminent question.  From a policy perspective, public pressure for meaningful change in the affordability and transparency of health care continues to mount. There have been attacks on drug companies and insurance companies as a result of this pressure, but hospitals have largely stayed out of it. We may see the rhetoric change as the political season progresses.

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