Posted: 09 Sep 2022 Contributor: Ghia Marnewick
Specialty Healthcare Marketing: How to Optimize Specialty Services
Consumerism in healthcare has dramatically changed the way healthcare professionals should market and deliver their services. Today's consumers expect healthcare to be as innovative and digitally advanced as any other industry. Hospitals, health systems, and medical practices must evolve to meet these changing needs to remain competitive or risk decline.
As more healthcare professionals provide convenient online services and cut the red tape between doctor-patient communication, consumers no longer feel the need to visit the nearest option. Instead, they may choose a healthcare company that offers a consumer experience that meets or exceeds their expectations.
Even if you're happy with your current patient numbers, healthcare marketing isn't complete without a planned medical marketing strategy to keep your healthcare brand on top. Consider all the reasons a person might decide to change health care providers:
- Moving location and not having healthcare accessibility.
- Providers no longer recognize their health insurance.
- Higher costs for the same service.
- Limited or no access to same-day appointments.
- Limited or no access to direct communication with your doctor.
- Limited or no access to virtual health appointments (e.g., telehealth). Limited or no access to secure online appointment scheduling, bill paying, or medical records.
- Dissatisfaction with waiting time.
- Negative consumer experience.
- No access to remote patient monitoring features.
This is where the role of marketing in healthcare industry steps in to bridge any gaps that may exist while delivering premium healthcare. It's also why it's so important to have a planned, budgeted healthcare eCommerce marketing plan to reach new and returning consumers in your area at the right time.
5 Effective ways to improve the health system
Improving the quality of health care can be seen at both the macro and micro levels as something that requires radical, systematic changes throughout the health care system and as something that individual doctors can do for their patients.
Here are five steps primary care providers can take today to improve specialty healthcare efficiency for their patients:
1. Data collection and analysis of patient outcomes
You can't manage something if you don't know what you're measuring. The first step to improving the quality of care in your organization is to analyze your existing data to understand where the opportunities are. You need to analyze your patient population and your organizational operations to identify areas that need improvement.
This data can then be used to create a baseline for patient results. Indeed, the wealth of available data and IT-based systems should enable more connected, patient-centered care. While electronic health records (EHRs) are meant to fulfill this promise of more patient-centered care, in reality, most focus on documentation, better billing, and increased revenue.
2. Set goals and commit to ongoing evaluation
Once you've analyzed patient population data to understand their risks and studied your practice operations to identify areas for improvement, it's time to prioritize those areas and set goals. If you need help, there are many healthcare organizations with established quality and consistency measures that can guide your goal-setting process.
Improving the quality of healthcare is not a one-time, set-it-and-forget-it event – it is an evolving process. The key to accelerating any quality improvement process is known as the Plan-Do-Study-Act (PDSA) cycle. First, you plan the change, then you implement the change, then you observe and analyze the results, and finally, you act on what you've learned. Developed by Associates in Process Improvement, this model is a powerful tool for quality improvement in clinical settings.
3. Improve access to care
Access to care is the most important factor in improving the quality of health care and patient outcomes. Patients must have access to the right care at the right time to achieve the right outcomes. Unfortunately, about 9.6% of the population is still uninsured, which greatly limits patients' access to timely care, leaves them without preventive or primary care, and forces them into more expensive (and thus lower value) services.
Many experts argue that the current health care system is too fragmented to serve patients well—and that any efforts to connect, collaborate, and share information among organizations to create care that is more convenient for patients will also improve patient outcomes. The growing trend toward on-site clinics and robust workplace wellness programs exemplify easier and more affordable care.
4. Focus on patient involvement
Patients can be the best advocates for their health, but they must first be engaged and educated to be active consumers of health care. It's not an easy task, but it's one that primary care providers are more than willing to take on. Primary care physicians are better positioned to see the entire health care journey of patients than physicians who work in hospitals, specialty centers, or urgent care facilities.
It could be said that primary care physicians are in a strong position when it comes to the overall quality of care. They can act as the glue that holds all the different aspects of care together and supports the patient throughout the continuum of care.
5. Connect and collaborate with other organizations
Ultimately, healthcare organizations that truly want to improve the quality of their care should always be researching and learning from other organizations—in their region and across the country. Go back to the areas for improvement you identified and the goals you set and find other healthcare organizations that excel in those areas.
Challenges in specialty healthcare
The specialty healthcare industry is facing many changes that present new challenges for medical organizations large and small. In particular, rapidly evolving government regulations, the recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic, technological innovation, and patient expectations are creating a new environment where running a medical practice is not just about treating patients.
Looking to 2022 and beyond, here are the top four challenges facing the healthcare industry and how to move forward:
1. Cyber security
While ransomware, data breaches, and other cybersecurity concerns are nothing new in the healthcare industry, the 2020 Covid-19 pandemic has revealed just how vulnerable sensitive patient health information is.
The recent surge in digital health initiatives—such as remote doctor visits—is a major contributor to the dramatic increase in patient record breaches. As more healthcare functions move online in the coming year, it's important to ensure these processes are protected from external threats.
Simple steps like implementing multi-factor authentication and strong firewalls can help reduce the success rate of hackers.
2. Invoicing and payment processing
Medical practices cite patient collections as their main struggle in managing the revenue cycle, as patients are responsible for a greater portion of their medical bills. Providers should monitor patient payment preferences to help patients submit payments on time.
To meet patient expectations and improve the user experience, ensure billing statements are patient. You need paperless statements (eStatements) and different payment options. However, it is often difficult and expensive for medical practices to set up such internal billing and payment processing systems. Not only do they have to negotiate terms with each payment processor and build infrastructure (eg, patient portal, secure payment processing), but they also have to absorb the ongoing administrative costs of maintaining such technologies.
3. Price transparency
In addition to the difficulty of sending payments due to a lack of options, another major reason consumers do not pay their financial responsibility is the confusion caused by a lack of price transparency. On January 1, 2021, CMS implemented a new rule that requires hospitals to disclose the prices they negotiate with insurance companies for various medical procedures.
While some health care systems have decided to open up the pricing of their services most are still not compliant. As of February 2022, less than 20% of hospitals fully complied with the regulation.
4. Patient experience
The field of health insurance has undergone several significant changes in recent years. As more patients are responsible for more of their health care bills, they naturally demand better service from their providers.
Healthcare organizations will face increasingly tough competition to attract and retain patients who demand an experience matching the level of customer service they expect from other consumer brands. They require a simplified patient experience to perform "self-service" solutions to most questions, issues, or concerns and at the same time the most convenient for them. For healthcare organizations that offer different services in different locations, it is also important that every employee has access to the most up-to-date patient information from one centralized location.
Identifying the right healthcare marketing strategies is essential
When it comes to optimizing specialty healthcare services, especially in the digital age, it all starts with knowing your customer. This then translates to the marketing strategy that you'll be implementing and using to keep existing customers and patients happy while reaching out to a wider audience. Once you have got this sorted, the benefits will start speaking for themselves.