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Consumer Driven Healthcare Is All About Marketing
by Russell Benaroya
October 2016 - Consumers need to do the right things for themselves in order for our healthcare system to work. That’s everything from making smart lifestyle decisions to understanding their benefits to spending those growing out of pocket dollars wisely. Unless individuals act in their best interest to take the steps necessary to pursue health, our healthcare system will fail.
We can’t pretend that healthcare will be overhauled through regulation and provider based incentives alone. Why not acknowledge that we need to aggressively market engagement to consumers? When it comes to healthcare we tend to back away from tried and true marketing models that influence our decisions daily. What are we afraid of? We don’t want to be seen as “marketing” and preying on people’s health status? We don’t want our outreach efforts to be too targeted at the risk of getting creepy (oh, we are so far away from the creepy threshold)? As a result, we don’t innovate around marketing in healthcare but expect results (behavior change, engagement) as if we did. Let’s break free from the shackles and put what we know works into practice so we can learn and iterate to success.
Can Consumers Get Over Privacy Concerns?
Is privacy the gatekeeper that inhibits healthcare marketers?
I ran a Facebook poll in prep for this Musing and asked the following questions (~20 responses with 80% coming from 35-54 year olds). I acknowledge it’s a small sample size and not scientific but I wanted to get a little feedback so this Musing wasn’t entirely my own.
1. What concerns you about privacy in healthcare?
52% expressed concern that their health status may be used against them but 48% either weren’t concerned or weren’t sure whether they should be concerned.
2. Under what circumstances would you be interested in sharing your health status?
94% said they would share their health status if it helped personalize their path to health and wellness. 29% indicated they would share looking for peer support.
3. What does healthcare privacy mean to you?
These responses all revolved around consent. If I give you consent, go ahead and use it.
There is a bit of conflict here. On one hand a majority of people expressed concern about sharing their health status but on the other hand a vast majority would share if it helped personalize their path to health and wellness. I think we can get over the privacy issue (regulations and HIPAA aside for a minute) pretty easily by creating an easier consent environment and liberating people’s data to be used in a format that is expressly designed to deliver a personal experience. In other words, let’s not let privacy be the unbending obstacle that has us retreat back to the status quo.
So what are the top 7 things we need to do as an industry to be better engagement marketers?
- Build Trust by Satisfying Customers’ Concerns. Healthcare is shrouded in mystery for most consumers. Many don’t even understand how their health insurance plan has their data. It’s unsettling but easy to overcome if you show how you are going to use that information to help the customer be more successful. The best way to show that is through testimonials – real people that received real value. For example, a health plan could launch a campaign on YouTube with members sharing experiences when their health plan provided them information that helped them receive better care, personalize a fitness plan, or avoid illness.
- Balance Engagement Between Gain and Loss. Economics tells us that we strongly prefer avoiding losses than acquiring gains. It is a term called loss aversion and it’s powerful. Why not balance selling the benefits of heath engagement with selling the loss experienced the cost sharing that a member will endure if they don’t engage?
- Know Thy Customer. There is a very big difference between a millennial and a baby boomer when it comes to using technology and sharing information. Engaging someone that is consistently connected to technology, always sharing, and real-time demanding is different from engaging someone who, well….isn’t. A common cliché in healthcare is, “Meet people where they are.” It makes sense.
- Tie Engagement to the Product of Health Insurance. More closely associate consumer health engagement with the insurance product itself. In other words, when a consumer buys their health insurance they aren’t just buying a policy. They are buying a roadmap of required actions necessary for that policy to give maximum value.
- Build a Brand Through Experience. No amount of billboards, ads on buses, or commercials will build the brand. Advertising is not brand building. Brand building comes at the choice moments when someone experiences your service (from customer service, to paying a bill, to earning a reward, to getting advice, etc.) Everything that we do needs to be about accumulating inspiring stories, memories, experiences that will compel someone to take an action with us vs. someone else.
- Show Up Where People Would Prefer You to Show Up. There is a big assumption in healthcare that it is a destination business. This territorial nature requires that people come to them rather than the other way around. Nonsense. The best marketers show up wherever people exist, such as grocery stores, health clubs, the office, Uber, Starbucks, Google, Facebook, etc. And the best marketers connect with customer where they prefer, not the other way around. Leverage channels where you can get some brand association and respect customers’ preferences to build from the outside in.
- Ask. The degree to which we assume that we know what people want, think, and will do is crazy. Let’s just do a better job of asking people what they want and then giving it to them. “What are your goals? What would you like me to do with your data? How can I best serve you?” The most important thing is that we can’t ask and then ignore.
Healthcare is sitting on a mountain of data that would make any good marketer salivate, but it’s not being used effectively. As an industry we have an opportunity to pioneer new methods of marketing that can improve the health of millions of people. Engagement is marketing and marketing is about using strategies and tactics to influence decisions. Let’s call it what it is and embrace its potential.
About the Author
Russell Benaroya is the founder and CEO of EveryMove, a recognized leader in combining big data and consumer design to energize the relationship between health plans and individuals. EveryMove’s proprietary technology platform, Tandem, is a health action driver that helps health plans and employers drive specific health actions to specific individuals to meet their business goals and the health goals of the consumer. Russell is a healthcare entrepreneur who transitioned from investment banking and venture capital in 2004 to begin a healthcare odyssey to improve the lives of 10 million people in 10 years. His experience spans building clinical practices, diagnostic and therapeutic services, and consumer technology companies all designed to activate individuals to live a healthier lifestyle.
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