The retailization of healthcare forces marketers to take a new look at how they get patients into the doors of their facilities.
In the past, patients who needed specialist care, an imaging test, or even an inpatient hospital stay would call up their family physician, get a referral, and travel to the location or office the doctor recommended. Marketing this process was simple, as marketers had to focus primarily on their B2B audience—usually by ensuring that the hospital, practice, or clinic was attractive to referring physicians.
Today, however, the influx of patients newly insured under the passage of the Affordable Care Act—or the 10,000 Baby Boomers who become eligible for health insurance through Medicare each day—has turned that process on its ear. A new type of healthcare consumer has emerged, and this group is doing research to find health care that’s cost efficient, convenient, and effective. As a marketer, you now have to look at your healthcare organization with a retail mindset and help your consumers find the value in your products and services.
As a result, marketers are being pushed to think more like retailers. In order to attract patients to the practices and hospitals they serve, marketers have to make physician practices and clinics more convenient to patients to provide the information patients need.
Retailization Makes Patients Savvy Healthcare Shoppers
The ACA may give patients more choice, allowing them to do their research as they select providers. Because of this, they’re better informed than they used to be.
It’s like shopping for a television—patients have to know their options, compare, and choose the service that’s best for them. What that means for marketers is that there is a greater need to be transparent. This goes not only for the services you provide, but for the cost of those services as well.
It also means there’s a greater need to track patient satisfaction. If revenue comes in based on outcomes rather than volume, the importance of patient satisfaction rises drastically. Tracking this, whether through surveys, reviews, or other follow-up methods, allows healthcare providers to determine what areas need improvement and take necessary measures.
The best approach to marketing your hospital or healthcare provider in a system increasingly becoming like a retail market is to treat your patients like consumers. Be honest with them about what benefits you can provide, make clear the services you offer, and above all work to build a relationship. Patients are more likely to choose a provider they feel values their business, much like they’re more likely to shop at a store that makes them feel like welcomed customers.
Creating Convenience to Attract Patients
Convenience is a major factor for patients when making healthcare decisions. Time and money are precious resources, and new healthcare options such as MinuteClinics offered in many CVS pharmacies, as well as telehealth opportunities, allow patients to solve minor health issues quickly and cheaply. Pharmacies also offer continuity of care, which makes the care people receive at their clinics more reliable. With that continuity and convenience meeting patient needs needs, these clinics are becoming real competitors in the urgent care market.
The most important thing to remember about leveraging the retailization of healthcare to your advantage? Market yourself directly to the consumer. Be upfront and transparent about what you bring to the table. If you don’t, your competition certainly will—and you’ll be left in the dust.
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