Top 5 Healthcare Marketing Trends to Watch in 2019

2019 Healthcare Marketing TrendsWhen asked about their top concerns for 2019, most healthcare executives say they need innovative ways to connect with consumers, demonstrate value, use data effectively and keep people healthy. In response, many thought leaders are publishing predictions for 2019 in healthcare and healthcare marketing.

I know what you’re thinking: So many lists but so little time, right? As executives, we love to read, but it can be difficult to find actionable information in a sea of trends and predictions. That’s why I’ve taken time to dive deep into the issue and emerge with what I see as the top five trends to watch in healthcare marketing for 2019:

  1. The deliberate and intentional use of data: Using data to drive decisions is a top theme in all aspects of healthcare marketing. It includes the strategic use of predictive data and analytics to identify consumer intent (what they plan to do or buy) and impact the resulting action. Along the same lines is the use of artificial intelligence (AI), which can sort through huge volumes of data to monitor consumer activity and pinpoint trends that marketers can quickly act upon. AI is in position to help transform healthcare in the same way, by perusing data patterns to identify possible health risks ahead of time. This allows for a greater emphasis on prevention, minimizing costs, and better patient outcomes.
  1. Personalized experience: As stated by Ad Age, “People still crave meaning and connection more than ever.” Consumers respond to relevant, relatable, authentic content that feels as if it were created just for them. This is another way data can drive our thinking, our communication and our creative content, so we are executing targeted marketing strategies that offer a better user experience. And we are seeing new ways to customize through voice search, web applications, chatbots and video – all high-performing trends for more personal communication.
  1. Brand culture: Healthcare employees are joining consumers in searching for an authentic brand culture – a company’s core values, practices and behaviors – that they can align with and support. Such a culture promotes a human focus, offers a positive experience, and conveys overall health and wellness. It also provides innovative services that are convenient (e.g., outpatient expansion and retail locations) and accessible (e.g., telehealth and virtual care). A branded culture is engaging and meaningful, and it provides a purpose-driven connection, not just a bottom line.
  1. Attainable well-being: The focal point here is on keeping people healthy versus simply treating illness. We call this the lifecare model. Lifecare is about inspiring and supporting decisions that encourage healthy lives, which involves putting the consumer at the center and collaborating with community partners to encourage and deliver better health beyond traditional methods. We see this in the rise of population health management, value-based care, consumerism, preventive health through wearables, fitness, nutrition, and the emphasis on strategic partnerships that expand access to health across communities. Our efforts should concentrate on making health a lifetime consumer goal, while still addressing acute and chronic healthcare issues where needed.
  1. Agile marketing: Agile marketing is data-validated, customer-focused, highly collaborative and quickly adaptive to continuous change. “Agile” is a term that has traditionally been associated with software development, but it’s building momentum in all industries for achieving higher productivity, innovation and alignment with multiple teams. According to AgileSherpas’ State of Agile Marketing Report, nearly two-thirds (61%) of traditional marketing teams report plans to start an Agile implementation within the next 12 months.
Top 5 Healthcare Marketing Trends for Executives to Watch in 2019 Click To Tweet

The link among all these trends is the strategic intent on which they are based. All themes are deliberate, authentic, thoughtful and targeted. Mass communication will not deliver the same results. As consumers become savvier and start to demand relationships over transactions, our healthcare marketing efforts should follow suit.

At Dobies Healthcare Group, a strategy-first healthcare marketing firm, strategy is part of our company ethos. It is a practice embedded in everything we do, the way we think and the actions we take. As the framework for making better business decisions for ourselves and our clients, it is a deliberate, data-driven process by which we jointly define business goals and develop the road map for achieving them.

For more information on strategy-first marketing for healthcare, contact Dobies Healthcare Group.

Reader Tip: To read more current industry trends, I recommend downloading “Healthcare Trends 2019.” This Healthcare Leadership Intelligence Report from B.E. Smith presents key findings on influential trends from a survey of hundreds of healthcare executives. Survey topics included Industry Directions, Career Factors, Talent Management and Leadership.

About the Author

Julie Amor, Chief Strategy OfficerJulie Amor, MHA, President and Chief Strategy Officer for Dobies Healthcare Group, has 30 years of experience elevating healthcare brands. Share your thoughts with her by tweeting @DobiesGroup, connecting with us on LinkedIn, or by commenting on our Facebook page.

The Consumer Quest for Well-Being

This edition of our #lifecare blog series explores how products that enable consumers to take more control of health needs are creating a “well-being” state of mind.

Woman in yoga-meditation pose with graphical overlays indicating wellbeing consists of good food, exercise, medicine and heart rate health.There has been a notable uptick in consumer use of products, services and web/mobile applications that cater to their increasing desire to maintain an overall healthy state of being. The connected wearable device category alone reached 453 million users in 2017, and it is projected to nearly double by 2021 (findings available here for Statista subscribers).

With consumer adoption of these “well-being” tools on the rise, one would think health systems and health plans would more proactively create and use well-being models to engage consumers. On the contrary, health systems and health plans have been slow to embrace such tools due to skepticism that they will change behaviors.

The motivational factors and support systems behind consumer resources for well-being data and counsel have yet to be orchestrated as part of a continuum that consumers can connect with in a meaningful, sustainable manner. Most likely, we will see growth in well-being funded by more external (non-healthcare) industry investments and non-traditional partnerships. This is telling, in that these new entrants clearly believe there are opportunities to capture and interact with the consumer. Although health-related products are nothing new, their scope and ubiquity are becoming grander and more pervasive.

The American Hospital Association, in its 2018 Environmental Scan, asserts that this elevated consumer “health ownership” is increasingly driving individuals to view healthcare through a consumer (rather than patient) lens. New expectations for a better experience enabled by technology are driving healthcare organizations and startups to find ways to embed technology into care delivery and lifestyle improvements that create a stronger sense of well-being.

The shift in reimbursement toward value-based and population health models is also calling upon providers to bring the consumer into the decision-making process, creating greater awareness and engagement. Most recently, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) threw its weight behind data sharing designed to put patients at the center of health decision-making. In April, CMS announced it may begin requiring hospitals to share electronic patient records with other hospitals, community providers and patients. While the specifics of the rule have yet to be finalized, CMS’s Data Driven Patient Care Strategy provides a clear look into the future of healthcare. According to CMS Administrator Seema Verma, “The [strategy] will empower patients with the information they need as consumers of healthcare to enable them to make informed decisions about the care they need.”

With consumers becoming more involved in health/healthcare decisions, significant healthcare marketing and branding opportunities are at hand. Click To Tweet

With consumers becoming more involved in their health and healthcare-related decisions, significant healthcare marketing and branding opportunities are at hand. Healthcare providers have ways to engage consumers at deeper levels than ever before. To make true emotional connections with customers, organizations are developing strategies closely aligned with their corporate cultures to enable and promote an authentic brand experience. Hospitals and health systems across the country are changing their names and logos to reflect a focus on health as opposed to illness. They are demonstrating authenticity by becoming more involved in healthy initiatives in their communities through corporate social engagement. And they are focusing more and more on company culture – character inspired through leaders and demonstrated through core values – to promote consumer centricity in every interaction.

As consumers continue their quest for health as a state of well-being, we see the opportunity for health systems and health plans to embrace the future of healthcare as a consumer-centric industry tasked with keeping people healthy for life, rather than simply delivering care when they are not. Only then will they begin to show authenticity in their promises to consumers, ultimately increasing their overall impact today, and for generations to come.

Authors’ Note: For health system and health plan leaders who want to explore this topic in greater depth, I invite you to read our white paper, “The Emerging Lifecare Model: How consumerism is driving industry collaboration toward health and lifecare as a new strategic platform.” In the paper, we define lifecare as a new brand position that establishes a consumer-centric ecosystem offering integrated health-related services across the full continuum of consumer needs. We also explore lifecare as a platform strategy, as well as its implications on current and future opportunities for partnerships that make a meaningful difference on population health and well-being.


About the Authors

Julie Amor, President and Chief Strategy OfficerCarol Dobies, CEO and Founder of Dobies Healthcare Group

Julie Amor, President and Chief Strategy Officer for Dobies Healthcare, co-authored this article with Carol Dobies, our CEO and Founder. Julie and Carol each have deep industry experience that includes 30 years of building and elevating healthcare brands. Share your thoughts about this article by tweeting @DobiesGroup, connecting with us on LinkedIn, or by commenting on our Facebook page.


Consumer Demands Give Rise to Telehealth Adoption, and the Value is Becoming Evident

This edition of our #lifecare blog series explores how the rising consumer demand for telehealth is better preparing healthcare providers for long-term sustainability.

In “The Emerging Lifecare Model: How consumerism is driving industry collaboration toward health and lifecare as a new strategic platform,” we define lifecare as a new, consumer-centric ecosystem that offers integrated health-related services across the full continuum of consumer needs. Today’s consumers are demanding more information about their health, and they are increasingly willing to rely more on technology and virtual connections as part of a holistic lifecare experience. Enter telehealth.

Commonly thought to mean a specific clinic service or technology, the word telehealth actually refers to a broad strategy—more specifically, the means or methods used to enhance care delivery and education. Telehealth is integral to creating a consumer-centric ecosystem because it facilitates virtual connections across the care continuum (as illustrated below).

The American Hospital Association predicts nearly 27 million virtual doctor consultations will occur by the year 2020—nearly double the number of visits in 2015 (16.6 million). The same report states that nearly 78% of consumers are interested in receiving healthcare virtually some or most of the time. According to Fierce Healthcare, 76% of patients prioritize convenient access to healthcare over in-person interactions with their providers. These findings, coupled with the nationwide primary care provider shortage and large rural population, underscore how telehealth is becoming an increasingly viable—and necessary—solution.

Studies show the vast majority of healthcare consumers want virtual access/telehealth options. Click To Tweet

Telehealth and Rural Healthcare

For all areas of the U.S.—and particularly rural areas—telehealth has the potential to:

  • Attract customers through convenience
  • Expand reach to underserved populations
  • Increase operational efficiency and provider capacity
  • Improve the cost and quality of care
  • Advance consumer-centric branding and strengthen patient loyalty

Rural healthcare presents challenges that telehealth is uniquely positioned to address. Geographical distance in rural areas limits access to providers—family physicians as well as specialists—resulting in delayed care, more advanced diseases and higher death rates. At Sanford Health (the nation’s largest rural, not-for-profit healthcare system), technology and telehealth are cornerstones of improving health. The system of 45 hospitals and 300+ clinics has adopted an array of technological solutions to provide high-value care to a population of approximately two million individuals. Through telehealth, Sanford Health specialists connect with critical access hospitals to consult on a variety of issues, so patients in need of specialized care can now receive treatment sooner and closer to home.

Another innovative rural health system, Bryan Health (based in Lincoln, Neb.), offers emergency, inpatient and specialty consultations through its telemedicine program. The system, which serves rural communities in four states, provides numerous telehealth services to address challenges specific to rural healthcare and hospitals. The program provides participating hospitals access to licensed pharmacists and dieticians, infectious disease physicians, and medical staff peer-review/consultative services—all of which ensure quality and compliance with state and federal regulations.

Telehealth and Value-based Care: Real-World Impact

Telehealth has the potential to impact the overall cost and quality of care on a large scale. As part of the ongoing transition to value-based care, many health systems and hospitals are exploring options and enhancing their care models with telehealth as a value strategy. For example:

  • Columbia Memorial Hospital is working to reduce readmissions by sending telehealth kits home with high-risk patients upon discharge. Kits include Bluetooth-enabled scales, blood pressure cuffs, pulse oximeters, and a smartphone with an app for patients to check vital signs daily and communicate with case managers as needed. The hospital reports roughly 20% improvement in readmissions among patients most likely to be back within 30 days. According to mHealth Intelligence, results like that can help a typical hospital avoid $500,000-$1,000,000 in CMS reimbursement penalties.
  • Cleveland Clinic partnered with American Well for telehealth technology solutions to address urgent care in a virtual environment—a strategy so successful it has since been expanded to cover a range of services across 40 departments. The hospital is also developing an app to help chronic back pain patients self-manage their conditions outside the hospital or clinic setting. In yet another chronic care and remote patient monitoring initiative, the hospital is creating new ways to integrate data from consumer devices with Apple’s HealthKit to monitor blood pressure and facilitate video visits for care coaching.

The True ROI of Telehealth

Despite the enormous potential of telehealth to positively affect patient compliance and outcomes, it can be tempting for health systems to “wait-and-see” while the industry churns through various reimbursement models. The current business case for heavy investment in services that keep patients out of hospitals—and reduces overall revenue—can be difficult to make. In many cases, reimbursement incentives are not sufficient to encourage many to embrace high-value strategies and services such as telehealth.

Advisory Board recommends measuring telehealth ROI by focusing beyond reimbursement. Metrics that complement direct revenue address telehealth’s effect on overall program performance, so understanding and taking the right measurements can better position health systems for future success:

  • Consider brand impact and patient loyalty. Virtual visits go beyond attracting new patients; they spur demand for subsequent services. Brand loyalty and its corresponding revenue have measurable value. Likewise, offering the flexibility of remote visits and virtual monitoring may help retain existing patients.
    The unsung ROI of telehealth: Stronger brand impact and greater patient loyalty. Click To Tweet
  • Enhance efficiencies through a streamlined workflow. By optimizing telehealth capabilities, providers can more quickly respond to requests for consultations (compared to less dynamic platforms, such as in-person visits).
  • Optimize patient management to achieve cost savings. By emphasizing metrics such as reduction in readmissions, calculations such as short-term penalty avoidance (see Columbia Memorial Hospital example above) can be a boon to a business case.

With new consumer and market demands come new innovation—and disruption. As consumers gravitate toward providers who are innovative in delivering convenience and access, successful healthcare leaders will effectively leverage telehealth as part of an overall strategy to keep their organizations relevant and competitive while building sustainable, long-term value.


About the Authors

Carol Dobies, CEO and Founder of Dobies Healthcare GroupJulie Amor, President and Chief Strategy OfficerCarol Dobies, CEO and Founder of Dobies Healthcare Group, has been bringing healthcare brands to life for 35+ years. Carol co-authored this article with Julie Amor, President and Chief Strategy Officer for Dobies Healthcare Group, bringing more than 20 years of experience elevating healthcare brands to our firm and our clients.

Share your thoughts about this article by tweeting @DobiesGroup or commenting on our Facebook page.


Healthcare Consolidation: How Non-Traditional Partnerships are Improving Consumer Options

photo of puzzle pieces being put togetherIn our first #lifecare series blog post, we addressed how consumer knowledge shifts are driving change. Through advances in technology, in particular, consumers have better access to information about their health and are playing a more prominent role in their health-related decisions. They are responding with increased demand for more and better information.

To keep pace with this demand, traditional and non-traditional entities are joining together to provide lifecare solutions that benefit the consumer as well as the industry. In a whitepaper we co-authored with HealthScape Advisors, we define lifecare as a new, consumer-centric ecosystem that offers integrated health-related services across the full continuum of consumer needs.

In this post, the second of our 2018 lifecare series, we explore how mergers, acquisitions and affiliations – formal and informal – are rapidly transforming the healthcare industry. They are giving rise to enhanced, consumer-oriented product offerings, many of which include incentives for healthy consumer behaviors, as well as new opportunities for deeper engagement between providers and consumers. This is a logical progression in the lifecare model’s consumer-centric approach.

While consolidation efforts between traditional providers (i.e., horizontal integration) continue to make waves, the mergers and affiliations between traditional and non-traditional players (i.e., vertical integration) are perhaps more intriguing. According to the American Hospital Association’s 2018 Environmental Scan, we can expect more of these vertical partnerships. They not only address consumer needs, they benefit providers by offering access to new capabilities, and they aid non-traditional entities by granting access to larger patient populations.

This #lifecare series focuses on how consumerism is driving change across the healthcare industry. Click To Tweet

These types of affiliations range from large organizations merging with or acquiring others, to organizations of any size joining with unlikely partners to provide innovative, value-added solutions.

One example is Quest Diagnostics. Quest, a lab test leader with access to more than 20 billion test records, recently partnered with Safeway and Ancestry.com to provide consumers with convenient access to a variety of testing services. While Quest has been active in empowering consumers through its direct Patient-Initiated Testing product, it has further expanded access to physician-prescribed testing through neighborhood Safeway locations. Approximately 50 Safeway stores offer onsite lab services for these tests. Ancestry.com, through its AncestryDNA service, identifies and quantifies an individual’s ethnic origins based on DNA testing. Quest provides genotyping test services, which ultimately can provide insight into family health history.

Another example making headlines is the pending acquisition of healthcare insurer Aetna by CVS Health. While the $69 billion deal announced in December 2017 has yet to pass antitrust review, the implications of such a combination are significant. Together, the companies could provide most basic consumer health services. The new organization aims to transform the consumer healthcare experience using the analytics of Aetna combined with CVS Health’s physical presence at 9,700 retail pharmacy clinics and 1,100 walk-in clinics nationwide.

Through closer alignment with doctors, pharmacists, and other healthcare professionals and health benefits companies, the companies are pursuing the creation of a platform that focuses on consumer well-being and ultimately reduces costs. From a consumer perspective, here’s how this particular consolidation might affect the healthcare setting:

  • Streamlined Consumer Services: From primary care to outpatient services, consumers may find a more streamlined experience focused on their needs. In addition to convenient access to a health provider for minor illnesses, collocated pharmacies are expected to include space for wellness, vision and hearing exams and care, nutrition education, and medical equipment. While the expansion into tertiary services such as vision and hearing exams may be years in the making, the ramifications for consumers and providers alike are evident. Payers are moving closer to the consumer and the communities they serve through these partnerships, while consumers are gaining more convenient access to care and, ideally, reduced costs for all parties.
  • Lower Costs: If CVS MinuteClinics combine with home care services—and ultimately offer telehealth—this arrangement could encourage preventive care to take place in a setting with lower costs than hospitals and other formal settings. With today’s steady rise in healthcare costs for consumers—and no reversal in sight—this is an appealing position. This goal was highlighted in the joint statement released by the two companies: “This transaction fills an unmet need in the current healthcare system and presents a unique opportunity to redefine access to high-quality care in lower cost, local settings whether in the community, at home, or through digital tools.”

At the heart of delivering streamlined, coordinated care is access to patient data. If done well, the combined company will have a holistic view of the patient’s needs and services provided—across medical and pharmacy areas—providing powerful insight and building valuable knowledge. While the logistics and execution of this deal, should it be approved, will be challenging, the upside holds potential to bring lifecare ever closer to the consumer.

At the local community level, other partnerships are making impressive inroads as well. Bryan Health, a Nebraska-based nonprofit health system, recently released a Compendium of Best Practices that illustrates how hospitals in the region have created innovative approaches to improve the health of their communities. Affiliations with fitness centers, schools, city governments, businesses and others are extending care beyond hospital walls to promote wellness and meet consumers’ desires to be more proactive in their health.

As healthcare leaders continue to pursue cost and operational efficiencies while meeting higher consumer expectations, real opportunity lies in industry collaboration. Whether on a large scale or small, focusing on consumer health and well-being will ultimately benefit everyone.


About the Authors
Julie Amor, President and Chief Strategy OfficerCarol Dobies, CEO and Founder of Dobies Healthcare GroupJulie Amor, President and Chief Strategy Officer for Dobies Healthcare Group, brings more than 20 years’ experience elevating healthcare brands. Julie co-authored this article with Carol Dobies, our CEO and Founder, who has been bringing healthcare brands to life for more than 25 years.

Share your thoughts about this article by tweeting @DobiesGroup or commenting on our Facebook page.


The Rise of Platform Strategies: How Healthcare Consumer Knowledge Shifts are Driving Change

cellphone with icons symbolizing connectivity

Together with HealthScape Advisors, we recently coauthored a white paper called, The Emerging Lifecare Model: How consumerism is driving industry collaboration toward health and lifecare as a new strategic platform. In the paper, we explore how healthcare strategies are shifting, creating a transformation in the financing and delivery of consumer services.

Think of lifecare as a new, consumer-centric ecosystem, one that offers integrated health-related services across the full continuum of consumer needs. One key industry driver is a knowledge shift—from consumers as passive recipients of healthcare information to consumers as active, informed participants in health and wellness.

This fundamental shift in how consumers acquire and value knowledge is transforming how healthcare is delivered—and it represents a trend that transcends healthcare as well. Industries of all kinds are adopting platform strategies that allow consumers to take center stage and command a stronger presence in the marketplace than ever before.

Platform Strategy: Value through Consumer-Centric Connectivity

Before the Apple iPhone made its debut, five mobile phone manufacturers dominated the industry, controlling 90% of mobile phone profits worldwide, according to Harvard Business Review. These five major players—Ericsson, LG, Motorola, Nokia and Samsung—were seemingly here to stay, while the iPhone was little more than a twinkle in Apple’s eye. In 2007, the introduction of the iPhone changed everything, and within eight years, the iPhone took its place as the dominant global leader in the mobile phone space, controlling 92% of global profits by 2015.

How did Apple do it—was the iPhone so groundbreaking that it sent others on the path to near irrelevancy? Was iPhone technology far superior to the competition? The answer is yes…and no. On the surface, the core product was not much different than its competitors. It was not the first smartphone, and initially it could not run third-party apps. The iPhone made phone calls and took decent pictures; it delivered the same basic functionality as the other devices.

What was groundbreaking—and what drove the other, once-innovative devices to the brink of irrelevance—was Apple’s strategic approach. Rather than producing a device that connected people for communication and commerce (a pipeline strategy), Apple created a product based on a broader platform strategyan ecosystem that creates value for participants by connecting them across the spectrum, from producers (e.g., app developers) to consumers, while providing the consumer with ever-increasing options and control.

Apple began welcoming others to develop on its platform and opening itself to a community of innovators, providing a centralized location for every participant to connect and experience value on their own terms. Rather than trying to control the customer experience, Apple focused on facilitating connections and opening a vast new realm of possibilities, particularly after its App Store launched in 2008 (when more than 10 million apps were downloaded the first weekend). The App Store, even in its earliest and most primitive versions, is a clear example of platform strategy.

Companies such as Apple, Uber, Amazon and Airbnb deliver value through platforms—they are connecting consumers with producers and providing myriad choices traditional “pipeline” companies cannot deliver without significant shifts in strategy. In addition, platforms can provide a transparent channel for customers to give feedback on products, further motivating producers to provide positive experiences. In this model, the consumer is at the center, and has a degree of choice and control that was once inconceivable.

The #lifecare model embraces consumers as active participants in health and wellness. Click To Tweet

This model is equally applicable to healthcare. Epic Systems Corporation recently announced its shift from Electronic Health Records to “Consumer Health Records” (CHRs). Epic CEO Judy Faulkner, in an interview with Healthcare IT News, discussed the company’s approach, which includes, “removing the barriers between clinics, hospitals, and other areas of consumers’ lives” to create a more collaborative, consumer-centric platform. This move signals a larger shift, one that uses software as a “central nervous system” to connect otherwise disparate patient information (such as social health determinants, eating and sleeping habits, and other factors that impact health)—all with the consumer at the center.

Another example is Brighter, a healthcare software company. Through its Digital Health Plan Platform™, Brighter seamlessly connects patients, providers and payers using a single platform to:

  • Empower consumers with price, quality and service transparency, verified patient reviews, online appointment scheduling and electronic appointment reminders
  • Enable providers to maximize participation in carrier networks by more efficiently and effectively marketing their practices to new patients and maintaining direct connections with existing patients
  • Help health insurance carriers and benefit plan administrators increase member satisfaction and engagement while reducing costs

In December 2017, Cigna announced its acquisition of Brighter. Building on the existing relationship between the companies, Brighter’s digital health platform will allow Cigna to accelerate and expand its provider partnerships and consumer initiatives.

Another recent example involving Apple, three leading EHR providers (Epic Systems, Cerner and AthenaHealth), and 12 medical institutions across the country illustrates how Apple continues to pursue and expand its platform strategy, specifically in the health space. The functionality on Apple’s preinstalled Health app, still in beta, will allow users to access medical records from participating clients—including Penn Medicine, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Johns Hopkins, Geisinger Health System and others across the country—as well as at Cerner’s onsite employee health clinics in Kansas City. By linking the Apple Health app with various patient portals, users will be able to view their allergy information, immunization records, lab results, prescriptions, vitals and procedure details, along with other metrics in the app like steps, sleep and nutrition.

According to Apple.com news, leaders at both Apple and Cedars-Sinai say the primary goal for this initiative is empowering consumers to live healthier lives by making sure each individual has access to his or her own medical/health information.

Consumer-Centric Platforms as Strategic Imperatives

Platform strategies may use physical platforms, such as websites, portals, apps and other tangible assets. They may involve formal or informal partnerships that facilitate collaboration between multiple entities, such as a hospital, clinic, community health center or local government (or some combination therein). They may also include nontraditional players who are now entering the healthcare space.

Whatever the structure, it’s important to realize that technology—and the way individuals acquire and consume knowledge—is driving a transformation in strategy. It is changing the way industries design products and deliver services. Companies that keep consumers at the center of their ecosystem will ultimately emerge as industry and market leaders.


About the Authors

Carol Dobies, CEO and Founder of Dobies Healthcare GroupJulie Amor, President and Chief Strategy OfficerCarol Dobies, CEO and Founder of Dobies Healthcare Group, has been bringing healthcare brands to life for 35+ years. Carol co-authored this article with Julie Amor, President and Chief Strategy Officer for Dobies Healthcare Group, bringing more than 20 years of experience elevating healthcare brands to our firm and our clients.

Share your thoughts about this article by tweeting @DobiesGroup or commenting on our Facebook page.


 

The Emerging Lifecare Model: A Platform Strategy for a Healthy Future

For organizations that operate within the U.S. healthcare system, change has become inevitable. Several major market forces are converging to change the size, shape, and scope of healthcare financing and delivery. Born from the premise that population health management must adapt to emphasize prevention as well as treatment, healthcare is now actively transforming into lifecare. Engaging people in their desire to remain healthy—beyond just receiving treatment when they are not—is the newest requirement for sustainability in the industry.

Market forces converge, shifting the healthcare landscape to lifecare.

Market forces converge, shifting the healthcare landscape to lifecare.

Imagine what a health system or health plan model built from the ground up would look like today. Instead of reflecting the long-standing industry focus on supply and demand for service, coverage and revenue churning, the new business model would likely be an evolutionary adaptation—an enterprise capable of meeting increased consumer demand for services that engage people in health throughout their life spans using innovative and effective channels.

In a white paper we recently co-authored with HealthScape Advisors, we call this the lifecare model – a new approach to meeting the full continuum of consumer needs related to staying healthy over time and ultimately creating healthier populations. By its very nature, the lifecare model cannot succeed in a vacuum; it is achievable only through collaboration. To seamlessly connect dots along the continuum of care, as well as the life span of the consumer, lifecare integration requires new partnerships between health systems, health plans and a host of other organizations at the local, community level.

The Lifecare Model: Creating an Ecosystem to Foster Healthy Lives

In this innovative model, consumers and suppliers (including payers) of comprehensive health services connect on a platform. An article published in the Harvard Business Review titled, Pipelines, Platforms and the New Rules of Strategy, notes that companies such as Apple, Uber and Airbnb have successfully unlocked the power of platforms. “Platform businesses bring together producers and consumers in high-value exchanges,” explain the authors. “Their chief assets are information and interactions, which together are also the source of the value they create and their competitive advantage.”

In the healthcare industry, the platform acts as a hub, facilitating interactions through which consumers can actively and continuously engage in their health. The ideal environment allows competitors and other players in the health space to become collaborators, working together on behalf of the consumer. Public and private partnerships provide greater access to community-based life products and services such as healthy foods, fitness programs and health education. Preventive health and wellness programs become more accessible and personalized, leading to increased engagement and utilization.

New #lifecare model creates sustainability for enterprises operating in today’s health industry. Click To Tweet

Lifecare is about inspiring and supporting decisions that encourage healthy lives, which means the focus on health must (1) put the consumer at the center, and (2) extend far beyond traditional delivery and financing systems. Schools, churches, libraries and grocery stores can all be viewed as community partners working to promote health, as can employers, community centers, ancillary providers and many others. More consumer engagement with these partners will lead to more interactions with all purveyors and payers along the continuum, making lifecare a highly sustainable, consumer-centric model with real potential to make a meaningful impact on individual and population health.

The lifecare platform strategy connects community partners in a virtual, consumer-centric ecosystem.

The lifecare platform strategy connects community partners in a virtual, consumer-centric ecosystem.

Disruption through Innovation

Equally important to the lifecare vision is the ability of enterprises to create disruption in the traditional sense, where innovative operating protocols and collaborative marketplace alignments take on new meaning within the enterprise. As pressure to reduce cost of coverage and care continues, many enterprises are responding with new product and service innovations, usually in the form of technology solutions. Healthcare disruptors come poised to compete – but they also carry real, actionable potential to enter the market as good collaborators for the lifecare platform model.

Some disruptors are focusing on integration with community agencies to facilitate better access to services that help people stay healthy. Others are bringing new distribution channels into markets outside the traditional framework, including targeted product offerings toward technology-oriented consumers. From consumer-facing solutions such as telehealth, digital health coaching, virtual health memberships and integrated lifestyle modification networks – to provider-focused solutions like prescription monitoring for physicians, predictive analytics for home health clinicians and more – innovation that identifies and tracks how consumers will expect service and care in the future will come to enterprises that focus on staying ahead of others in the race.

Growing venture capital interests in the healthcare industry are further fueling disruptive innovation in mobile and virtual healthcare, financial services, and a range of “big data” and health analytics initiatives. This, coupled with high levels of consolidation and accelerated diversification strategies among several large insurers and health systems, signals that we should anticipate the emergence of new, innovative and consumer-oriented solutions. Potentially, venture funds will find healthy investments in lifecare transitions and underwrite innovative disruption to strengthen platform strategies now underway. More importantly, they may invest in creating entirely new ones in the future.

In other words, the ability of present-day healthcare enterprises to remain innovative and build alliances with consumers via marketplace disruption throughout the next decade will drive the new, consumer-centric approach. And, as the healthcare market continues to evolve toward the consumer, there too will be unique and creative responses to meet the expectations of this new era.

#HealthcareConsumerism is driving industry collaboration toward health & #lifecare. Click To Tweet

Building a Lifecare Platform Strategy

Developing a lifecare platform strategy is complex but necessary, and the time to begin your planning is now. With the health industry’s rapid transformation into consumerism, population health, value-based reimbursement and even empowering consumers to monitor their health in their daily lives, healthcare entities that are slow to embrace a collaborative, consumer-centric lifecare model will get left behind. Particularly as mhealth, virtual health, wearables and other types of consumer health technology become more and more sophisticated and commonplace, we need look no further than the state of today’s taxi industry to see the effects of responding too slowly to disruption and the rise of consumerism.

Successfully creating your new business model design requires a firm commitment to strategic business planning, organizational readiness assessments, collaborative partnerships, cultural alignment, consumer engagement and brand authenticity. There is no universal approach – the scope and application can and will vary from one enterprise to the next, but all will have at least one common denominator: collaborative partnerships – even among organizations that once viewed themselves as competitors – with a shared vision of keeping people healthy throughout their lives. Acute, episodic, bricks-and-mortar-based care will always be needed, but it is no longer enough. The wave of the future involves reducing illness and injury by making healthy living more pervasive in everyday life.

How will your organization adapt? For in-depth insight that may help you answer that question, download “The Emerging Lifecare Model: How Consumerism is Driving Industry Collaboration Toward Health and Lifecare as a New Strategic Platform” [white paper].

About the Authors

Julie Amor, Chief Strategy OfficerCarol Dobies, CEO and Founder of Dobies Healthcare GroupJulie Amor, Chief Strategy Officer for Dobies Healthcare Group, brings more than 20 years of experience elevating healthcare brands to our firm and our clients. Julie co-authored this article with several industry thought leaders: Carol Dobies, Chief Executive Officer and Founder of Dobies Healthcare Group, and a 25-year brand and marketing advisor; Arjun Aggarwal, a co-founder and Managing Partner at HealthScape Advisors who has more than 25 years of experience helping health plans and health systems understand the demands of a constantly evolving healthcare marketplace and plan for the future; and David Gentile, Senior Advisor at HealthScape Advisors and the former President and Chief Executive Officer for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Kansas City.

Share your thoughts about this article by tweeting @DobiesGroup or commenting on our Facebook page.

The Rise of Consumerism in Healthcare Calls for a New Strategic Platform

New Executive Briefing Explores the “Lifecare Model” for Health Systems and Health Plans

Kansas City, Mo. – June 20, 2017 – In a merging of the minds between strategy experts for health systems and health plans, Dobies Healthcare Group and HealthScape Advisors have co-authored a white paper called, “The Emerging Lifecare Model: How Consumerism is Driving Industry Collaboration Toward Health and Lifecare as a New Strategic Platform.”

The paper, which was released today, outlines four broad shifts in the rapidly evolving U.S. healthcare industry and discusses how these changes will lead to demand for a new model of care, which the authors call “lifecare.” In this innovative model, consumers and suppliers of comprehensive health services form collaborative partnerships – with each other and with other community-based organizations – to meet the continuum of consumer needs related to staying healthy over time, thereby creating healthier populations.

It is a platform strategy for healthcare – a seamless, single domain for consumers to access services across an intricately connected ecosystem of organizations that play a role in promoting physical, emotional/behavioral and even spiritual health. The paper’s authors suggest the collaborative lifecare platform strategy not only represents an opportunity to make a meaningful impact on individual and population health, it also paves the way for future success in today’s increasingly consumer-driven healthcare industry.

“Engaging people in their desire to remain healthy – beyond just treating them when they are not – is the newest requirement for sustainability,” said Julie Amor, Chief Strategy Officer at Dobies Healthcare Group. “Lifecare is about inspiring and supporting decisions that encourage healthy lives, which means the focus on health must put the consumer at the center, and extend far beyond traditional healthcare delivery and financing systems.”

From a consumer perspective, lifecare engages those with chronic and acute needs, as well as those who are healthy yet desire engagement to maintain a healthy lifestyle. From a supplier perspective, it engages traditional providers that represent services typically included in employer medical benefits, as well as those that provide services outside of typical medical benefits but cater to the growing demand of consumerism.

Going forward, leaders at Dobies Healthcare Group and HealthScape Advisors say companies must overcome the mindset that views organizations with similar missions as competitors to instead become collaborators, joining together on behalf of the consumer to provide community-based health and life services.

“Embracing a lifecare-centric model provides the opportunity for organizations to redefine their engagement model with consumers to create long-term sustainability,” said Arjun Aggarwal, Managing Partner at HealthScape Advisors.

The paper is available to download at dobies.com/lifecare.

About Dobies Healthcare Group

Since 1992, Dobies Healthcare Group has offered highly specialized expertise in healthcare marketing strategy, branding and creative communications. The Kansas City-based company combines strategic marketing with creative communications to build healthier brands across the entire healthcare industry, from hospitals, health systems and payers to medical device manufacturers, associations and certifying boards.

About HealthScape Advisors

HealthScape Advisors is a nationally recognized healthcare consulting enterprise specializing in bringing strategic actions and sustainable value to customers throughout the planning processes. The consulting firm utilizes an award-winning data analytics platform to support its network of industry relationships, enabling the company to provide superior market driven strategies and innovative problem-solving to all engagements.

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Media Contact:
Sam Carlson
Dobies Healthcare Group
scarlson@dobies.com
816.595.6731

Three Solutions for Navigating Market Changes in Healthcare

picture of boat on the oceanNo other industry has seen quite the magnitude of change as healthcare. Today, nearly every facet of the industry is radically transforming as our core business focus shifts from illness to prevention. Providers and vendors are forced to transform their practices as they secure a meaningful role in the industry.

As I recently shared in an interview with the Kansas City Business Journal, “It always used to be about healthcare, and now we’re seeing it morph into life care … being able to take care of patients beyond just when they’re ill, but keeping them healthy for a lifetime.”

To build a sustainable and adaptable healthcare company in the midst of this changing market, healthcare executives should focus on strategy in three core areas: leadership, culture and fully integrated, consumer-centric care models. Let’s examine each of these three areas in more detail:

1. Complementary and strategic leadership

The right mix of personalities in the right executive positions at the right stages of growth is critical, especially in an industry undergoing widespread disruption like healthcare. In the book, Rocket Fuel, authors Gino Wickman and Mark C. Winters describe the explosive combination of two seemingly opposite roles: the Visionary and the Integrator.

The Visionary is the dreamer, the champion for innovation, the person who looks at the big picture and provides passion and inspiration to others. The Integrator is the complementary force to the Visionary, responsible for governing day-to-day issues, aligning the team with goals and engaging with clients. As the degree of market complexity increases, so too does the organization’s need to be a “visionary” in its approach and an “integrator” in its execution. By clearly defining these roles in your organization – and delegating responsibilities that take advantage of each individual’s strengths – will you be able to clear the obstacles keeping you from achieving your strategic goals.

2. Focus on culture

Chances are the vast majority of your employees come to work each day motivated by the good they can do in the lives of patients and those seeking information about healthcare. That mission to make a difference is a powerful ally because your culture is closely connected to your brand.

The rise and influence of the Millennial generation in the workforce is making the need for that cultural connection more prevalent than ever before. A 2015 Fast Company article reports that 50 percent of Millennials would take a pay cut to find a job and/or company that matches their values, and 90 percent of them want to use their skills for good.

The opportunity to use social responsibility as a brand platform is potentially very powerful, both externally and internally. Healthcare organizations can embrace corporate social engagement as a strategy for building brands, fostering loyalty and enhancing employee recruitment and retention. Your mission hasn’t changed despite the market transformation, but now is the time to truly integrate your mission with your culture and live your brand.

3. Emerging care models expand to focus on health and life

The visionary leader goes beyond the “sick care” model to establish a fully integrated, consumer-centric model of health and life services. Organizations must pivot to offering community-based services that encourage consumers to adopt new, healthy lifestyles. This means digitally connecting with consumers where they live, work and play using innovative telehealth options.

Think of it as putting a personal care provider in everyone’s pocket, extending care via smartphones to where it is most convenient for consumers. Or envision building a community-based continuum of healthcare and life services through public-private partnerships to emphasize access to healthy foods, fitness and health education—so much so that it becomes pervasive in people’s lives.

Virtual connectivity also encourages thinking beyond your immediate neighborhoods and examining the potential to directly contract or build referral agreements with specialty care centers across the U.S. for high acuity and complex chronic care conditions. As your organization embraces these and other new models of care, it is imperative that leaders adapt your organization’s culture and brand accordingly while empowering the whole team to skate to the new puck.

Look to the Future

Healthcare leaders must watch trends and study data to learn more about the market’s evolution—but they must also go further to find insights buried deep in the data and figure out what to do with them. In other words, you must be able to answer the age-old question, so what? Determine what matters amidst all the change and disruption. Take time to understand the transformation in the market and how best to adapt. Then, use that knowledge to drive results-oriented and future-focused change at your organization, and bring this new health model to life. The successful organization in the new healthcare world needs the vision to see the future, the flexibility to adapt to it, and a clear strategy to bring itself safely through it.

About the Author

Carol Dobies, CEO and Founder of Dobies Healthcare GroupCarol Dobies is the CEO and Founder of Dobies Healthcare Group, where she has been bringing healthcare brands to life for more than 25 years. Share your thoughts with her by tweeting @DobiesGroup or by commenting on the Facebook page.

Taking the Guesswork out of Hospital Costs

The Role of the Marketing Team in Hospital Price Transparency

Picture of woman reviewing hospital pricingAfter attending a Kansas City Healthcare Communicators Society (KCHCS) educational session, I began to think more about the role of marketers in hospital price transparency initiatives. Participants at the session joined in a lively discussion about consumer expectations for comparative data on healthcare costs. With many providers supporting price transparency, marketers are seeking additional resources to successfully communicate consumer-friendly information about hospital costs.

Launching a price transparency initiative in a hospital can seem overwhelming. This is due in large part to the fact that each patient’s healthcare needs are different, and cost structures related to testing and treatment can be complex – often with one or more third party payers – making out-of-pocket costs hard to understand for consumers. Hospitals, in particular, struggle to find the best way to share this information on a public platform. Below are five key takeaways to help hospital marketers take an active role in creating successful communication strategies for price transparency.

Take a lead role in interpreting cost information for consumers. If that doesn’t sound like a marketing function to you, think again. Just as they plan service line communication plans, marketers should be catalysts for collaboratively developing and implementing communication strategies for hospital transparency initiatives. Marketers have a much better understanding than their financial counterparts of consumer wants and needs. In addition, most have an innate ability to distil data—in this case, financial data—into information that is easy for consumers to understand.

Fortunately, some hospital marketers have already begun paving the way by presenting case studies on what works best when communicating hospital and healthcare price transparency. For example, HealthLeaders recently featured the launch of a new online price transparency tool at St. Clair Hospital in Pittsburgh. The groundbreaking tool allows patients to compare the cost of more than 100 different tests and procedures based on their specific insurance information. This is helpful for patients, and it allows St. Clair to establish a position regionally as an innovator in cost transparency.

Know and use existing resources. The American Hospital Association (AHA) has developed a resource called Achieving Price Transparency for Consumers: A Toolkit for Hospitals. The guide is designed to help hospitals evaluate their current efforts and provide samples of price tools currently being used by other health organizations. The AHA toolkit includes a Self-Assessment Checklist, which is an excellent starting point to help you understand which departments/personnel have likely roles in price communications. While many items on the checklist may not be within the purview of the marketing team, some fit the scope of work, which leads us to our next point…

Research the current consumer experience related to price inquires. Ask employees on the front lines (administrators and providers) how they usually address price inquiries. Get to know how the entire process is addressed operationally, from point of initial inquiry to the moment the final answer is conveyed. Audit the financial communications they provide. AHA also recommends placing a few “secret shopper calls” to document and analyze current performance and identify opportunities for improvement. With this type of information on hand, you will be better positioned to assist your organization by mapping out an action plan for improved responses and processes.

Support the financial staff’s ability to be consumer-focused. For consumers, healthcare costs can be difficult to understand. For hospitals and healthcare providers, price transparency involves as much of a cultural shift as it does an operational one, so this is a key opportunity for your marketing team to lead the process as both coach and catalyst. Take a proactive role in ensuring that all communication related to price is helpful, easy to understand and easy to access. You’ll need to take many different forms of communication into account: scripts for people who respond to price inquiries both by phone and in person, written materials, web content and apps, email communication, patient forms, and even the invoices should be examined and reformatted for clarity, consistency and ease of use. Establish and maintain open communication between the marketing team and the financial department so you know when updates need to be made to these communications.

Make appropriate recommendations for how your hospital can make price information more accessible. For example, AHA recommends offering multilingual communications if your service area includes ESL (English as a second language) communities, posting price information on your website and/or providing a customer-facing cost estimator tool, providing information to individuals as soon as possible upon request, and sharing price information with community health organizations.

The Healthcare Financial Management Association (HFMA) also offers a free resource specifically for consumers that you may wish to post on your hospital’s website. Understanding Healthcare Prices: A Consumer Guide educates patients about healthcare pricing in general (not specific to your hospital) so they understand how to obtain an accurate cost estimate. The guide is available in both English and Spanish.

The more transparent your hospital is – and the more helpful you are in providing clear, reliable price information – the more trusted your organization will be with consumers. As a marketer, you can help facilitate the delivery of cost information consumers want and need to make value-based decisions.

Mobile Health: Revolutionizing Technology at the Point of Care

Last week, we released a new white paper for one of our clients to highlight the growing use of mobile apps by specialty physicians. In tracking physician communication patterns over the past four years, we found mobile health technologies are steadily gaining ground as a preferred form of communication and information retrieval.

mHealth app usage among survey respondentsThe white paper explores a potential revolution in the application of technology to diagnosis and patient care. Of the 365 physicians who participated in our online survey, those who use mobile medical apps on a daily basis reported a difference in how they practice medicine – they use the apps to enhance at-the-bedside functionality, patient education, and even diagnostic capabilities. A breakdown of mHealth app usage among our survey respondents is shown to the right.

According to iTunes.com, more than half of all U.S. physicians have downloaded mHealth apps to their smart devices. We found hospitals and health systems that promote the broad use of new technologies in the workplace show more rapid physician adoption among both the younger and older generations. Current industry articles and surveys indicate Epocrates (pictured below), Medscape and Micromedex typically top the list of most-used medical apps by physicians.

Epocrates screen shot

The survey respondents’ wish list for mHealth functionality is long and includes the following:

– Access to electronic medical records
– Medical illustrations and information for patient viewing at the point of care
– Evidence-based references and protocols with easy search and read
– Patient reminders
– Dictation, coding and billing assistance
– Calculators

We believe many opportunities exist to enhance the physician practice through future development of mobile health applications. At Dobies Healthcare Group, we look forward to further exploring the evolving use of medical apps among physicians as an efficient accessory to the power of the brain.

Medical professionals: Are you using mobile health apps at your practice? If so, tell us about your experiences and what you hope to see for the future of mHealth. We want to hear from you!