In his 2011 book, “Joe Public Doesn’t Care About Your Hospital,” author and healthcare marketer, Chris Bevelo placed “wellness” at the top of the brand positioning hierarchy.
“Most people don’t need laser surgery or a new physician,” he said. “Most people do have some level of interest in living healthier lives, however. A message focused on health and wellness is a message relevant to a lot more people.”
Bevolo also explained that the challenge with wellness messaging is that nearly every organization can pursue this position. “The key is to jump out there first and stick with it … Don’t just talk about wellness, but build offerings and content that support the brand and that will consistently keep you ahead of the pack.”
He was right. But, that was then.
The shift from wellness to convenience
With the wellness messaging fully penetrating healthcare brands nearly six years later, our focus has shifted to something more relevant to today’s healthcare consumer: Convenience.
Interact with patients on their terms, not yours
The data doesn’t lie. The Advisory Board Company’s report, What do Consumers Want from Healthcare?, outlines data that should raise the eyebrow of any discerning healthcare marketer. According to the report:
- Respondents value access and convenience more than provider credentials or seeing the same provider each time they visit the clinic.
- Respondents prefer email visits over a clinic near errands or one near work.
Have you ever been told by your primary care physician that they can see you today at 2:15 p.m. – right in the middle of your important meeting? I have. And, 9 times out of 10, the important meeting will take precedence.
At the risk of using myself as a research subject (a mortal sin for marketers!), I’m doing so because the data tells me I’m not alone. Like me, your patients still need care. And, we will search for other places to get it without succumbing to the expense of an emergency department or urgent care.
So, how can we keep these patients in our system? There’s really only one way: Introduce more convenient alternatives to the primary care physician. Then, make them more appealing than the other options available in the market.
Think beyond the primary care physician
Today, more than 3,000 retail clinics are in operation and 1 in 3 consumers has used one (PricewaterhouseCoopers). The appeal of these clinics is obvious: I can see a provider and get a prescription without making an appointment for one, low fee. And, I get to do it on my own time.
Of course, it’s not enough just to claim that your health system has convenient offerings. At some point, you’ve got to show considerable proof in order to win the race for convenience. Common convenience claims include:
Walk-in retail clinics
Many health systems are taking an “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” approach by partnering with chains like FastCare to place providers in convenient locations like grocery stores. Even better? We’re meeting consumers where they already are (running errands, shopping for groceries) instead of hassling them to come to us.
What’s more, “The retail clinic-health system relationship fosters continuity of care, interdisciplinary collaboration, cost control and accessibility to suitable support, including after-hours usability,” according to Contemporary Clinic.
Extended primary care hours, including evenings and weekends
This is not a new subject, but few providers are promoting extended hours well. What does it mean? How much will it cost? Where do I go? We have a responsibility to educate our patients about the conveniences our health system offers, whether or not it is a position we are able to claim in the market.
Online appointment scheduling
By the end of 2019, Accenture estimates that 66 percent of U.S. health systems will offer digital self-scheduling. And, up to 64 percent of patients will schedule appointments using digital tools. Those who enter the online appointment-scheduling race first, will win.
Virtual Healthcare Visits
The tipping point has arrived with large health insurers now providing coverage for virtual healthcare visits. As of 2016, 72 percent of hospitals had telemedicine programs. And, the number of virtual doctor visits rose from 1 million in 2015 to 1.2 million in 2016. (Wall Street Journal).
More, more, more
If you have more of anything than the competitor – more locations, more physicians, more specialists, more available appointments, these messages could supplement your convenience messaging. However, make sure these messages are paired with a stronger convenience claim that is even more relevant to your consumer.
Get there first
The good news for healthcare consumers is that many health systems can make these claims. But, it’s only the health system that positions itself as the convenience leader first and who delivers convenience best, that will truly be able to “own” this coveted position in market.
Much like the “wellness” of 2011, the “convenience” of 2017 will soon be replaced by another more important, but equally as relevant topic in the future. But for now, the health system that can successfully climb and conquer this mountain first in your market will prevail.