The Society for Healthcare Strategy & Market Development (SHSMD) has released this year’s edition of “Futurescan: Healthcare Trends and Implications,” designed to provide healthcare marketers with key insights into the issues that will impact your organizations over the next five years.
To help marketers put the report’s prognostication into practice, Insight had a conversation with SHSMD President Larry Margolis. The industry veteran of more than four decades shared expert perspective on this year’s study and how today’s hot-button topics translate into tomorrow’s strategic plans for healthcare marketing strategists.
“To be a successful healthcare marketer in today’s environment, you can’t just be tactical, you have to be a strategist...”
—Larry Margolis, President, SHSMD
How have you seen the marketing role change during your career?
In health care, marketing has not historically played the kind of role that it plays in consumer industries. In a lot of ways, the role of marketing and strategy within hospitals is fairly young. When I started 40 years ago as a hospital administrator, we had a director of public relations, and that was it. We didn’t have to worry about admissions because there weren’t issues like length of stay that drove our decisions. It was probably the mid- to late-’80s before hospitals started creating marketing departments, and the first TV ads started appearing around that time.
Senior leadership at that particular point in time didn’t grow up in a marketing environment. For the hospital administrators being trained at the time, marketing wasn’t a core part of their education. Today, we have this new group of leaders who have seen the development of the industry and understand that brand and marketing are important. As a result, I’m seeing more marketers who are part of the core of their organizations.
How are marketers getting more involved in strategic decisions?
I’m seeing the role of marketing being elevated in many organizations, which is manifest in the emergence of positions like chief marketing officer and chief strategy officer. These roles are becoming important and valued members of the organization’s senior leadership team—and at SHSMD, we believe they need a seat at the table. Marketing leaders can be a real catalyst in effecting change as they have an eye on the trends that will help their organizations plan for the future. Effective chief marketing and strategy officers are having an impact on things like patient experience and operational changes to make their organizations more nimble and address the increasing consumerism in health care.
There’s a lot of talk about the shift from volume to value. From your perspective, how are healthcare organizations making the shift?
There’s a lot of discussion on volume versus value, and while the transition is beginning to happen in some markets, the reality is hospitals are still being reimbursed mostly on volume. I’m reminded of the HMO experiment in the early 1970s, when we all thought health care was going to change dramatically. Obviously, that never happened. At the end of the day, today’s marketer has to try and balance both objectives and remember that your brand is key. There are so many disruptors and challenges with increasing consumerism and healthcare choices, and your brand is more important than ever to maintain loyalty and lifetime value.
Do you feel the creative aspects of healthcare marketing are getting lost or overshadowed by the need for strategic thinking?
No, I think it’s even more important. The need for creativity hasn’t been diminished at all and in fact, it’s more critical than ever. Healthcare leaders are realizing that their brand positioning is vitally important when it comes to consumer choice. As long as consumers still have a choice, then we can influence that choice through communications, which requires strong creative skills. Creativity aligns well with design thinking, improvisation, and the strategic skills needed to be nimble and exceed the rate of change in health care.
What is the “Futurescan” report, and how can it help healthcare leaders?
We’re proud to partner with the American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE) to produce this annual examination of key healthcare trends. It is an important tool for any strategist. By understanding these trends and their implications, strategists and senior leadership can make sure their plans are in sync with changes on the horizon. Another by-product of the report is leveling the playing field as it gives organizations an indication of what colleagues around the country think about critical issues.
How does “Futurescan” reflect SHSMD’s mission to educate and equip its members to thrive in what Dr. Morrison describes as a “new era in health care”?
Our mission is to provide high-value, professional development resources for all sectors within the healthcare community. What I like about “Futurescan” is that it provides a guide to address the trends that are within your control. SHSMD and the ACHE work very hard to identify the trends impacting healthcare leaders and find authors who can address those particular issues. This year’s report features expertise from authors across several disciplines—including renowned futurist Ian Morrison, PhD, and Cleveland Clinic Chief Wellness Officer Michael F. Roizen, MD, among other thought leaders—to help navigate this season of unprecedented change. Dr. Morrison often says, and I completely agree, that there’s been more transformation in the last five years than he has seen in his entire career.
What issue or trend in this year’s report stands out from the others?
We’re seeing new players enter the market that are outside of traditional healthcare system. This includes CVS, Walgreens, Walmart, and others who are disrupting the relationship with local healthcare providers and carving out a piece of the healthcare pie. With consumers gaining control over their insurance plans and demanding increasing transparency and convenience, healthcare marketers have to think about the patient experience more than ever to differentiate their brands, foster patient loyalty, and compete against these new healthcare players.
Looking ahead, how will the healthcare marketer’s role continue to change as a result of the transformations highlighted in the “Futurescan” report?
It’s becoming much more complex. To be a successful healthcare marketer in today’s environment, you can’t just be tactical, you have to be a strategist—at every level within the organization. We have to be proactive and find ways to enhance the patient experience. For example, if a marketer is going to promote same-day or next-day appointments, you have to begin thinking about the operational issues the hospital needs to consider in order to be successful when marketing the program. This transformation requires an understanding of data analytics, which is certainly at the forefront of everybody’s mind right now. Capturing and leveraging all of the data available with electronic health records is critical. This allows marketers to make important decisions and deliver return on investment for their marketing and communication dollars. As change expert Todd D. Jick, PhD, of Columbia Business School notes in the report, “Winners will be the executives who can best manage and lead their organization through a world of continuous change.” With all of this transformation in so many areas, marketers have to be incredibly nimble. It is dependent on senior leadership to have the vision to evaluate the business model and make necessary modifications—and you can’t wait years to do that.
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