The changing face of healthcare marketing- An interview with Michael J. Krivich, FACHE, PCM, Founder and Independent Consultant-the michael J group

October 20th, 2014

The healthcare marketing industry, as with any service oriented industry; has changed a lot over the years. And as with any industry, change creates disruption. Healthcare marketing comes with its own set of hassles, woes and grey areas. The industry in itself is a fledgling one, with over 80% of internet users seeking health related information-online. It has progressed from traditional marketing techniques and has embraced modern and effective methods such as digital and social channels well. As with any service oriented industry, patient care has become critical and essential for any player to stand a chance in the competition. It is essential to understand the needs of the consumer rather than expect them to come to you.

Healthcare marketing and Michael Krivich

Michael Krivich is a leading healthcare marketing expert and has had an exemplary track record of creating some of the best marketing campaigns for leading hospitals and markets around the world. His LinkedIn profile is among the top 1% of most viewed profiles. He has seen the shift that happened in the healthcare industry when they moved towards digital marketing and has been instrumental in it as well. With a dominating presence online himself, he has a wealth of information which we would like to share with you. Here is an excerpt of the interview we had with him.

Strategic Marketing Services – Let’s start off with a basic question. What are the common challenges that you face as a healthcare marketer today?

Michael – I wish there was a simple answer to that question! Healthcare marketing is a challenge all over the world. There is no question about that. The challenge for most healthcare marketers today, if we are talking about marketers working in hospital systems and not generally B2B, most efforts of hospitals and associated systems have been a marketing communications effort, running ads and such and not truly marketing as it is today.The challenge is that the markets have changed; individuals have started paying from their own pockets, and as that out of pocket expense grows, the govt, employers and insurers expect them to be careful and to be involved in making choices by themselves. In return, they are exhibiting consumerist shopping behavior. The market has shifted from a provider dominated market to a consumer-centric, semi-retail market. So what that basically means is that healthcare marketers need to be do more consumer oriented marketing, do more research than in the past, because of the choices available and the fact that people are paying more for the same services.

Strategic Marketing ServicesThat is a very valid point. With the increase in influence of digital marketing and social media marketing, the consumer has a say in everything!

Michael– Exactly my point! I came across an infographic the other day that said [tweetable]41% of people who are searching for a healthcare service provider will use the internet[/tweetable] and social media as part of the decision making process to make a choice. They are looking for providers and what they have to offer. Most hospitals have a digital presence but most of them are nowhere close to being consumer friendly. [tweetable]Most hospital websites in the US are not even optimized for mobile![/tweetable]

Strategic Marketing ServicesHow did you overcome these issues? We know that you are an industry veteran who has done traditional marketing such as print and TV ads and then progressed towards digital marketing. What are your suggestions on investments in digital marketing and customer-centric conversations?

Michael– It is more about experience and price rather than many other things. It’s about the consumer and not about the hospital or the health system or the doctor anymore. The only way marketers can overcome these challenges is to increase their knowledge base. I learn constantly. I look at other industries and what’s going on there, and how can I apply that to healthcare. I’m constantly on webinars by the American Marketing Association, reading books, plus using Twitter, Google+, Facebook myself heavily and understand how these tools can be used in a hospital system and marketers have to do the same.

Strategic Marketing ServicesData is an important part of marketing. How do you think healthcare marketers can use big data ethically, since using data is a grey area, so how do you think marketers can use data ethically? Have you been using data?

Michael– Oh yes, I use data all the time! I recommend that hospitals use data. As soon as we say data, people raise their hand and say, oh that’s protected, and to that I say, as long as you are not releasing protected health information in the data you’re fine! You can always go into a hospital’s database and look into a particular service area on a global level. Take data from the CDC and match that data with your data and look for  patterns in it. That’s how you can use data and there’s nothing out there that stops you from doing so, you just can’t use protected data. You know there are 20 people who have a particular illness in a particular area and you only send to them specific information- that you cannot do.

Strategic Marketing ServicesIn healthcare, the hospitals; pharmaceutical companies become bigger than the cause of providing healthcare. What is your take on that?

Michael– That’s about it, it’s true. Providing healthcare is the ultimate goal here. I have been with hospitals a long time. Those who get into healthcare are in it to provide the service. You’re not going to get rich being here! It’s about the mission. It’s about the value that you bring to help people. The underlying truth is this. Be it any hospital system, doctors, clinicians, researchers, they start to believe everybody says how great they are and that’s the situation when the brand becomes bigger than the cause. They forget what their roots were, and where they have come from. What I am seeing now is that with the changes, brand is important, but healthcare marketers are starting to understand; what is the value proposition of the hospital or the doctor or the health system brand, how does that meet the needs of the community, patients, what value are they bringing and they are focusing on increasing the awareness of the brand. They are moving away from ‘wow, we are great, because we are so and so’, and to ‘here’s how we bring value to you’. All of healthcare is migrating to that and that is a stronger definition of the brand and a better connection to the brand to the original mission.

Strategic Marketing ServicesHow important is regional marketing to healthcare? Do you use a blanket approach to a particular area or do you use data and get into the roots of the area and create a plan for it and do your marketing?

Michael– That’s how you have to work! It’s not necessarily what happens. Sometimes it’s the lowest common denominator and people just throw things out there. People should be looking at the service area, understanding the incidence of disease in that particular area. It’s because healthcare is evolving. Marketers still have a responsibility to put heads in the bed! You got to work with your doctors in a push-pull marketing environment to put heads in the bed. On the other side, we have to manage the demand meaning where is the most medically effective and cost efficient setting. This is where healthcare gets turned upside down.

The hospital is the last place anybody wants to go to, it’s the most expensive setting, so healthcare marketers will now be doing a number of things; they will be generating demand, but as we move into the future, they will be managing demand. The person getting a service within the hospital network need not be at the hospital, they could be at a radiological diagnostic center. It could be any number of places of care  that may not generate revenue for the hospital but for the network, under a risk sharing agreement. It gets back to the IHI Triple Aim,the Right Care, Right Place,  and Right Cost. That’s what’s going to happen. Healthcare is local, and it will always be local, and there will be a little shaking up of the system here. We don’t need so many hospital in a geographic area duplicating services and treatments. I think in the future, hospitals will be smaller, far more specialized. Hospitals  are going to be at the bottom of the food chain as they shift from being a revenue center to a cost center.

Strategic Marketing ServicesYou have worked with a lot of hospitals, do you have any thoughts on patient/consumer experience management?

Michael– Oh yea I do! Hospitals and the experience is everything now. The experience is not from the view point of the hospital or the health system, it is from the viewpoint of the patient or the healthcare consumer which means it is not isolated. It’s not just about coming in and getting admitted. The consumer experience is about managing every touch point, from the very first time they find out about you, may it be your website or direct mail, to when they are done.

The important thing to note here is that an individual is only a patient 1/3rd of the time they are with you and that is when they are getting treatment. Prior to that and post that, they are healthcare consumers. Those touch points are just as important. What’s happening is that hospitals and health systems do not look at the totality of the experience and focus on one little minor thing that has a minimum impact, they don’t look at it globally, and that is not how you have to manage the consumer experience.

Strategic Marketing ServicesWhat is the role of social media in healthcare marketing?

Michael– I think it is critical. Social media is how you are going to engage patients. It’s not about throwing stuff out there, social media is about how you can reach out and touch someone personally and engage them. Hospitals and healthcare systems for the most part do a very poor job of engaging consumers.

They have created closed internally focused systems and if the healthcare consumer or patient steps outside this system, they lose the revenue. And never knew it ever occurred..

We would like to thank Michael for this wonderful opportunity to learn so much from your experience. Healthcare marketing is changing. If you want to know more about the challenges that are facing healthcare marketers and want solutions for them- CLICK HERE.

Here is the video for the entire conversation.

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