You’ve just heard the news: Your hospital has entered into a contract to become an accountable care organization (ACO) or join a Medicare Advantage plan or a bundled payment program. What does this mean for you as a hospital marketer? It could mean your job as you know it may turn upside down.
When reimbursement shifts from a traditional fee-for-service approach to a value-based approach, the healthcare marketer’s approach shifts, too. Very quickly, marketers must learn about population health and develop programs with a wellness focus—and promote those right alongside the traditional service lines that focus on “fixing” healthcare issues in volume.
This is prime time for healthcare marketers to engage a more robust audience than ever before, and the key to success is unlocking the power to connect. By learning more about your patients, segmenting those patients into groups, and then focusing condition-specific messages to members of the patients, you’ll see benefits: You’ll identify those patients who could improve with the right support, teach patients the benefit of becoming an active member of their healthcare team, and help manage overall healthcare costs.
Creating a Population Health Marketing Program
So how do you reach an audience and change their behaviors?
Health care isn’t a one-size-fits-all industry, and the services your hospital provides need to better meet the needs of your patients. By segmenting your audience, you can identify specific areas that need extra attention and create programs that match those needs.
Develop Your Segmentation Groups
At its most basic, population health segmentation involves dividing patient populations into groups depending on known factors. For some marketers, this segmentation can based on demographics—using gender, age, and race to group patients into basic, wide groups. Others might focus on segmenting population based on risk levels—no to little risk, moderate risk, and high risk. Others still will divide patients into groups based on known medical conditions—those who are pregnant, people with diabetes, people with heart disease, people with cancer—and others could segment based on the rate at which they use health care.
Evaluate Your Resources
Once you’ve segmented your patient population, it’s time to take a step back. Get a bigger picture idea of who this group is, and try to understand how they currently use medical care, any economic issues that might impact their access to care, and environmental or cultural factors that impact health risks. Look into the community and see if programs or services already exist that you can partner with, and determine which services are missing for this population group.
Put Your Plan into Action
Patients at low risk for health complications might benefit from services such as e-newsletters that encourage general health and wellness or a magazine that keeps your services top of mind.
Those at moderate risk—either because they’ve been diagnosed with a health condition or they have unhealthy risk factors that increase their risk for a condition—might benefit from specific programs that can help them get healthy. Consider starting support groups, hosting seminars, or offering smoking cessation or weight-loss programs designed to help them get healthier.
Your high-risk patients, such as those who frequent the emergency department or have repeated hospital admissions due to life-threatening conditions, such as heart disease or diabetes, might benefit from specialized programs that educate them about how to better manage their condition. In this case, provide patients with materials that can guide them to better health, and consider creating a program where personal health coaches are assigned to patients to help the patients detect health issues in the earliest stages, when they’re managed more easily and cost-efficient.
The Bottom Line
The passage of the Affordable Care Act means that hospitals and other healthcare providers are tasked with providing measurable, high-quality health care. By providing patients—and your community—with the tools they need to get healthier, the care your providers give can be more efficient.
See how Tampa General Hospital is tackling their population health initiatives.