New Provider Marketing Realities

Three articles from different sources highlight just how different providers’ needs are for marketing in today’s emerging retailized health care marketplace.

Why is this important for doctors of chiropractic? Because as the health care marketplace increasingly functions like a retail marketplace, providers and systems will have an opportunity–if not a need–to have a more direct relationship with their patient/customers. And the basis and content of that relationship is significantly different than ever before.

The first of the three articles is an interview with two current and former CEOs of health plans and startups talking about the ‘future of disrupted health care.’ Two pertinent observations and predictions stand out:

  • Health care and the sharing economy. This dynamic highlights the reality that there’s enormous duplication of web-based platforms used by providers and hospitals. Efficiencies are gained when platforms are shared.
  • Small is beautiful. This pithy quote highlights the fact that a big reason why health care is under such disruption right now is because startups, entrepreneurs and other ‘small’ operators are able to bring new service and delivery models, technology and data management applications directly to consumers. They don’t have to go through health plans and providers any more.

The second article is a Forbes piece on The New World of Healthcare Marketing: A Framework for Adaptation. It also is an interview with someone who consults with health care companies on marketing strategies. A couple of the dynamics that are highlighted seem common-sense, but many providers haven’t organized around these realities.

  • Demographics are changing. A much more nuanced approach needs to be taken to marketing and communications. Ethnic changes to the US population are resulting in a very diverse spectrum of patient/consumers, and the aging of Baby Boomers and consolidation of Millennials into distinct cohorts means that one approach is unlikely to work.
  • Technology rules. For most chiropractors, the role of technology is relatively minor compared to mainstream Western medical practices and treatments. But there are hundreds and hundreds of startups and entrepreneurs across the country who are looking at ways of diagnosing, treating and managing many of the problems that DCs focus on. They may (so far) lack some of the vocabulary specific to our profession, but they are, instead, focusing on consumer vocabulary. The implications are profound.

Several observations made involve specific recommendations. All providers–including doctors of chiropractic–need to understand some basic, de facto laws of the new retail health care marketplace:

  • Massive investments in shared information and metrics are required. This is a real challenge for the chiropractic profession, but if we can’t figure out how to develop a model for consumers that effectively explains our patients, our outcomes, and quantifies/qualifies our value, consumers who are being given those types of information by other providers will vote with their feet, marginalizing the profession even more.
  • Business models must change. Consolidation, aggregation and merger are driving a reconfiguration of those in the marketplace, and those providers who work in relative business isolation from their peers will find it harder and harder to compete.
  • New competitors are entering the marketplace. New technologies are going to revise every aspect of health care. It’s impossible to overstate the extent or significance of this.

The third article is a Huffington Post piece on digital marketing. Mayer Gupta, SVP at Healthgrades, offers “5 Cs” for digital marketing that are worth focusing on: Consumer, Context, Content, Commerce, and Convergence.

These five can be visually represented like this graphic created by Mayer Gupta:

5Cs of Digital Marketing

It views the five areas of focus by the outcomes of any effort, rather than a prescription for processes (the original four ‘Ps’ of promotion: Product, Price, Place, and Promotion). A brief summary, as a way to describe the effects your efforts create:

  • Consumer: The consumer is connected, informed, collaborative, and more empowered then before; they are an extension of your brand, and their persona, buyer’s journey and experience must be at the center of your strategy.
  • Context: Knowing and understanding behavior at every point in your relationship. It’s about knowing not just the who, what, where, and when, but most importantly the why of consumers’ wants and interests.
  • Content: Influenced and inspired based on the context of your customer relationship.
  • Commerce: Where anything is purchased or exchanged–any action step–anticipating consumer needs is critical. Convenience always wins.
  • Convergence: This last, and perhaps most challenging aspect is to see how every aspect of your work focuses on the consumer. Processes in organizations, even smaller provider offices, tend to be siloed and evaluated by different sets of criteria. By placing the consumer at the center of all considerations (operational, financial, service/amenities, etc.) it’s more possible to achieve the convergence of efforts needed to really offer your customers a synthesized, ‘whole’ and congruent experience.

So what’s the takeaway for the average chiropractor? There are probably at least five basic areas of potentially important thinking and planning.

  1. Be clear about who your customers are. Defining your target demographics is key, because no one can be all things to all people, and where you set up a practice can impose some of these considerations. But once you know who your customers are, everything else can fall into place.
  2. Align with others who have similar values and goals. Providers forge alliances with those who share values, backgrounds, business acumen, etc. Being in business with others helps stabilize any business model and permits support and internal diversification, while minimizing individual vulnerabilities and shortcomings.
  3. Understand your customers don’t just want care. Today’s consumers, especially the younger demographics, have a kind of ‘ecosystem’ orientation to their choices of resources, relationships, services, and commerce. There is rarely such a thing as a ‘single Millennial.’ There is almost always a cohort of social relationships that each individual represents. They see their own interests in the context of that cohort. You should too.
  4. See your practice as a system of exchanges. Health care used to be a one-way process: providers gave care to patients. No more: successful businesses across every sector of commerce–including and even especially health–are more and more being defined as systems of exchanges. Chiropractors are vastly more educated about spinal and neurologic health than their patient/customers. So that is one side of the exchange. What does the other side look like? That will depend on your customers. But commonly there is an interest–if not a requirement–in providing feedback, developmental input, and other ways where your own customer feels more empowered as a co-designer in their care.
  5. Understand that therapeutic relationships are dynamic. This isn’t just about knowing someone for a long time. Many DCs understand that a symptom-based case management approach is self-limiting and only a partial way to benefit from chiropractic. An ongoing therapeutic relationship changes based on patients’ needs, and the more providers create a bilateral, open-ended process of co-participation and co-development of clinical strategies with their patient/customers, the more likely they are to be successful as their very dynamic and evolving customer set grows, matures, and extends itself.
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One Response to New Provider Marketing Realities

  1. You make a great point about having to market to different demographics in different ways. Traditional marketing is still effective to older demographics.

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