In a time in which the future of healthcare seems to include precious few sure things, industry leaders and marketing professionals can nevertheless count on a handful of likely developments that will make the use of targeted, multichannel content crucial to bolstering their brands.
How We Got Here
Before we attempt to peer into healthcare’s future, it will be useful to revisit the recent past and remind ourselves how we arrived at this pivotal—and uncertain—moment for the industry.
Since the Affordable Care Act (ACA) became law in 2010, it has been a lightning rod. Supporters praise its effect on lowering the rate of uninsured individuals, as well as its coverage of preventive services and elimination of lifetime maximums and denials of coverage based on pre-existing conditions. Opponents decry the law’s individual mandate—its cornerstone provision—higher premiums for many individuals, employer coverage requirements, and lack of consumer choice.
In early May, the House of Representatives passed the American Health Care Act, a bill intended to repeal and replace the ACA, along partisan lines. After several attempts to replace and/or repeal the ACA failed in the Senate at the end of July, Congress has set the matter aside for now, though President Trump has threatened to “let Obamacare implode,” which could involve executive actions affecting vulnerable state exchanges. The ACA may still be law, but the future of healthcare remains foggy.
The Surety of Uncertainty
One thing about the process to overhaul healthcare is clear: It rests on shifting sands. Despite the legislation process’s unpredictability, however, several outcomes and growing trends seem like safe bets regardless of the result, including:
Providers’ slice of the government reimbursement pie will shrink. Whether lawmakers opt to repeal and replace the ACA concurrently, repeal and replace it later, or work on bipartisan fixes, the result will likely mean less money for Medicaid. This will require providers to reduce dependence on federal reimbursements and shift payer mix by targeting campaigns to those who are commercially insured.
Consumer self-pay will continue to rise. For more and more individuals, insurance coverage will come in the form of high-deductible health plans (HDHPs) with health savings accounts (HSAs), which will continue to put significant pressure on acute-care and pediatric hospitals to successfully grow market share in the commercial insurance space. For many consumers with HDHPs, their ability to pay hinges on their capacity and willingness to contribute to their HSAs—no sure thing.
Retail, consumer-driven healthcare will keep expanding. The drive to attract patients who are able and willing to pay for services will force providers to embrace new models of care.
Survival of the Smartest
With reduced reimbursements from government payers all but certain in the future, hospitals can’t waste a moment to refine their ability to target the markets that are essential to their financial future. How and where hospitals meet the patient populations they serve will continue to evolve, but there’s no doubt that content will drive the effort and data will become more important than ever.
This begs the question: Are you putting the right message in front of the right decisionmaker at the right time, via the right channel? That’s a question analytics can answer—and when it comes to healthcare marketing, now more than ever, it’s the only question that matters.
Backed by data, you can use a blend of communication channels—research shows a mix of traditional media, such as print, and newer tools, including social media, works best—to reach would-be patients with greater precision than ever before. That sort of data-driven, meet-consumers-where-they-are marketing can give you an edge when, for example, an active empty nester who’s been considering knee replacement decides to have the surgery with your hospital top of mind.
A data-powered and personalized approach to marketing that embraces a wide range of communications options—in other words, embracing the future while respecting what’s worked in the past—is just what your hospital needs to thrive in healthcare’s brave new world.
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