As the world of health care changes at a rapid pace, Chief Marketing Officers who take an active role in their organizations’ budgetary and strategic planning processes can better tailor and target their marketing efforts for more accurate expectations and improved results—but only if they do their research.
While there is a whirlwind of uncertainty surrounding healthcare reform and reimbursement models, it’s safe to expect reductions in Medicare reimbursements in the near future—which typically means smaller hospital marketing budgets.
In an era of dwindling resources, it’s important for CMOs to be involved in strategic and budgetary planning to ensure that their CEOs and the rest of the C-suite set achievable, impactful goals. These goals should be based on a firm understanding of a hospital’s community, capabilities and market dynamics. Here’s an overview of these key areas that can make or break your marketing plan.
Know Your Market
Healthcare CMOs who know the ins and outs of their markets can help their organizations identify proper benchmarks and set realistic objectives based on factors like market share and physician employment models.
For example, if a market sees 2,000 heart surgeries every year and your hospital is responsible for 1,000 of them, gaining 10 percent of the market share will require a major action—such as hiring a new physician who brings his or patient base and reputation with them—as opposed to launching an advertising campaign.
When analyzing the market, CMOs can save a lot of frustration and better understand where to drive resources by asking the following questions:
- What percentage of specialists in the market work for our healthcare system?
- What percentage are self-employed or work for other systems?
- How many of a certain procedure were performed this year?
- How many were performed the year before?
- Is the volume of procedures increasing, decreasing or staying consistent?
- Is this is a growing market, or do we need to acquire some of the market share from a competitor?
Knowing the answers to these questions can help CMOs present a compelling case to other executives when asking for more authority over or leeway in their marketing plans and projects.
Know Your Patients
CMOs with a clear understanding of patient healthcare journeys can anticipate when those patients are making healthcare decisions and what factors influence those decisions. With the continued growth of consumer-driven, high-deductible healthcare plans, hospitals will find themselves in close competition with freestanding imaging and surgery centers as patients look for more cost-effective options.
In some cases, managed care plans may wholly dictate patient decisions and drastically narrow the networks that exist in a hospital’s marketplace. Furthermore, value-based agreements may require that hospitals meet certain performance criteria—many of which contain customer service and access components—in order to receive reimbursements. Understanding the mechanics of value-based contracts can help CMOs ensure that their organizations are receiving the maximum reimbursements while expanding their service offerings to a wider consumer base.
Additionally, if CMOs can accurately identify patients in the community who will require a certain service, they can tailor their organizations’ communications to deliver timely messages to inform those patients’ decisions.
Know Your Health System
Knowledge of market dynamics and patient journeys are important factors for CMOs to consider, and the third leg of the stool is just as critical. This involves understanding your physician and payer networks, referral patterns, new models of care, and other dynamics within your organization.
For example, driving traffic toward service lines can become problematic if the hospital doesn’t have the capacity to service an influx of patients. If a hospital’s physicians are exceptionally busy or booked far into the future, it may not be a good idea for the organization to drive more traffic to that particular service or procedure.
Also, is your organization involved with a population health or medical home initiative? If so, how is that manifest in your marketing communications efforts and how are you measuring success? How informed and engaged are your employees, physicians, and other stakeholders? These are the types of questions a marketing executive must be able to answer to successfully embrace opportunities and address challenges in today's healthcare landscape.
By knowing the market, the community and the capabilities of the hospital, CMOs can begin a well-informed dialogue regarding planning and budgeting with their CEOs and other members of the organization. Explaining their research to the C-suite can prevent the implementation of impractical goals, so it’s important for the CMO to engage with the CEO and CFO early as the organization builds its budget and market volume projections for the year.
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