Population health is an opportunity

Population health is a top concern, but it represents an opportunity

The Affordable Care Act has affected everything for hospitals, including the struggle to be financially successful.

Notably, however, it prompted the switch from a fee-for-service reimbursement model to a pay-for-performance one that emphasizes the value of the healthcare service.

This in turn has prompted hospitals to take population health more seriously because their reimbursements are now dependent on the success of outcomes. For that reason, hospital CEOs have listed population health as one of their greatest concerns.

Population healthHospital CEOs now need their hospital systems to be further integrated into their communities, working with local organizations and instituting programs that help population health. By doing so, hospitals earn more money based on the pay-for-performance reimbursement. Better population health means a better bottom line.

While many administrators see this as a hindrance, it can actually be an advantage for hospitals looking to steal market share from its competitors. It represents an opportunity to create preference.

Hospitals struggle to create preference

Traditionally, hospitals have grown organically. A new facility creates a new audience, whether if it’s at a new location or represents a new specialty. A system starts with a name usually associated with a location, a founder or a prominent contributor from the community.

Hospitals rarely see themselves as marketers who are creating for preference as much as they are seeking awareness. They also often consider the internal audience (physicians, staff, contributors) more than they do prospective patients. They take the care of their patients seriously, as they should, so they focus on acquiring talent, technology and new training.

But the changing landscape of healthcare, especially when it comes to reimbursement, has made investing in the hospital brand more important. There is now more competition, with greater regulatory oversight and technologies creating savvier patients.

Hospitals now have to think of themselves as a true brand, analyzing the competition, conducting market research and putting more dollars into their marketing. The competition has simply gotten too fierce. The world has also gotten more complex.

Population health is an opportunity

The regulations surrounding the Affordable Care Act can be confusing for the hospital, the patient and even insurance companies. Those are the ones forcing the pay for performance model because they don’t want to pay out as much money. Insurance companies also want to see better population health because it results in fewer claims.

The knee-jerk reaction is to promote the hospital’s various partnerships and programs to raise the community profile of the hospital. That’s all fine, well and good. But those alone don’t raise preference. They are simply the proof points to your brand promise.

Population healthThe danger is that hospitals will sport brands that are all about better health and caring medical professionals. But those aren’t the reasons to prefer one hospital to another. They are just definitions of a hospital.

Instead, the process of increasing preference is to find the emotional triggers that make those things – including the overall healthiness of a community – important to the prospective patient. Why are those important? What are the drivers for those patients so that they choose your hospital?

Creating preference

The key to gaining preference is to be early in a prospect’s decision tree. The earlier you are positioned, the greater your preference. The struggle for hospitals is that no one wants to think about a hospital. It spells danger, risk and potential death. Instead, you must be important enough to prospective patients that, when they need a hospital, they have already chosen you. Even if it’s subconsciously.

To accomplish that, hospitals must avoid the clichés and trite messaging that comes with most hospital branding. A few tips:

Understand your competition. To be a true choice, you have to be truly different and better in your messaging. If your main competition has messaging focused on caring and expertise, you have an opportunity. Audiences filter out those messages because all hospitals claim to care and have expertise. Those messages mean little.

Go deeper. Most marketing stops at the wants and needs, but those can be fulfilled by any number of healthcare providers. True preference is created when you understand the reasons why those wants and needs are important. That means uncovering the precepts that drive behavior and the self-identification those audiences treasure. Aligning your brand with that belief creates audiences who are incapable of choosing anyone else because they would, in effect, be choosing against themselves.

The opportunity with population health exists because hospitals can be more important to communities. They can position themselves differently. Improving population health offers a gateway to a meaningful brand that goes beyond traditional hospital marketing. It means the promises of your hospital have changed and now you have the proof points to show for it.

Your hospital is now in the results business. Think about that as a hospital brand.

Medical device marketing and branding

How to steal market share in medical devices

By Tom Dougherty

The medical device category is highly competitive and complicated for sure, but growing market share is a difficult task. It’s easier but by no means a given when you have a proprietary disruptive technology. I hate to use the terminology of disruptive technology because it is part of the ethos of a category that pretends even the most minute innovation is disruptive.

It is quite possible that the medical device category is the most self-deceived category of goods in the world. The medical device marketing of manufacturers pretend that those companies have product superiority and back up the claim by depositing a tome of obscure and dense clinical studies along with trial results on the desk of the prospect.

Clinical studies and their results are important support points for product usage. They are. But they have almost no effect on switching a loyal user of your competitor’s products unless the technology is a true groundbreaker. With the time lag between R&D and a completed clinical trial, are your shareholders willing to wait that long for a substantive movement in market share? There is a different and more effective path to stealing share.

What is going on in medical device marketing?

First, we must look at the current medical device marketing practices. For the most part, they are not marketing at all. They are simply sales support. There are almost no meaningful messages that are different and better from the competitors. Everyone looks and sounds the same, and uses the same sterile language that passes through the fine sieve of the legal department.

Often, the copy in medical device marketing ends up being written by the legal team and lacks any direct claims of efficacy and little comparative examples. It ends up sounding like an insurance contract. Couple all this with the mandatory page of footnotes, source material and legal disclaimer, and you can begin to see the problem: No one will read it.

Medical Device marketingInside of your own halls, executives whisper about the power of the sales representatives. In many ways, based upon current practices, sales reps are your most valuable resource. They are more important than your brand.

For this reason, it’s not unusual to see a rep change jobs and take many loyal customers with them. The brand serves the sales rep and not the other way around. This is a recipe for disaster. If, at the end of the day, loyalty is based upon the power of a personal relationship then your greatest asset is a mercurial value. One that has the tail wagging the dog. This is not how it should be nor is it how it has to be.

Think about this. You began as a manufacturing company. You make things. Your heritage goes back to engineers and many of your top executives are still cut from the same cloth as the founders. These founders were visionary people. They were the Steve Jobs of their category and an earlier generation. But they differed from Jobs because they were not natural marketers. They were inventors. Tinkerers. Creators. They believed that if you build a better mousetrap… well, you know the story. Steve on the other hand represented both camps. He had a visionary’s creative drive but he also understood the emotional connections needed to sell.

Your founders would have considered themselves successful simply because they invented the better mousetrap. Jobs considered it a failure until he had market dominance. Even your brand’s early successes are misleading. The category was less crowded and it was easier to differentiate products. Today? In most instances, you can hardly slide a piece of paper between competitive products. Differences are simply hard to see and much of today’s medical device marketing reflects that.

What’s wrong with engineering?

What happens in companies top-heavy with engineering types? They become companies like yours. They believe that purchase decisions (and the procurement of medical devices) are rational choices.

They believe that decisions are evidence based and that the hospital administrators and the clinicians are most swayed by clinical data and clinical studies. They don’t understand that ALL purchase decisions (and I mean all) have their roots in emotional cues. It gets complicated because, after an emotional decision is made, decision makers rationalize their choices. They backfill and support their emotional connection with rational data.

But that is not how they chose. That rationale happens only after the choice.

If you want proof, think about this. If purchase decisions were rational then the best product (based upon evidence) would always be the market leader. Look around your category. How true is rationality as a predictor of success? The real question to ask is why do human beings prefer the things they prefer? The answer is a simple yet subversive one.

How to be persuasive in medical devices

Human beings look for order and consistency in their lives. We all strive to eliminate conflicts that exist between what we believe to be true about ourselves and the actions we take.

balanceWe seek this equilibrium and avoid these internal emotional conflicts. Persuasion finds its roots in this belief about self. All things being equal, we prefer to buy and use products and brands that reinforce our own self-concept.

The emotional choice wins even in a B2B business such as medical devices. The few who do have give an emotional reason for choice are almost always the market leader. (That is, if the emotional choice is important.) It might be time to evaluate where you and your products stand in preference, and adjust your medical device marketing.

Even your founder would have taken all the necessary steps to steal market share.

Medical Center and Rehab Hospital Marketing

Rebranding a Hospital 

By Tom Dougherty


Rebranding a hospital The Bryn Mawr LogoBryn Mawr Rehab Hospital: Providing the Latest in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. Bryn Mawr Rehab Hospital is a center of excellence for rehabilitation care and a pioneer and leader in the field of physical medicine and rehabilitation. Rebranding a hospital is not easy work.

Located in Malvern, PA, Bryn Mawr Rehab Hospital (BMR) is an acute rehabilitation hospital specializing in a variety of innovative programs and services for people with physical and cognitive disabilities and injuries.

About Bryn Mawr

BrynMawr Mark in Rebranding a hospitalTreatment teams provide individualized programs for patients with conditions such as brain injury, stroke, spinal cord disorders, orthopedic injuries and post-surgical rehabilitation, multiple sclerosis, amputations, arthritis, Parkinson’s disease and chronic pain. Our goal was to help this great medical center compete for the trust of patients in an highly competitive marketspace.

Located quite a distance from downtown Philadelphia, BMR sits on a tranquil and serene campus, but it is on no public transportation route and allows limited access to city residents who often do not own an automobile. The market is crowded and Philadelphia is blessed with many terrific choices and world class rehab hospitals, of which BMR is counted.

The Challenges in Rebranding a Hospital

This was a complicated case as it involved a host of decision makers and influencers from primary care and referring physicians to case workers and family members.

Behavior Modeling

Rebranding a hospital the behavioral modelTo better understand this decision process we analyzed the market in-depth and developed decision trees to help graphically pinpoint brand preference opportunities. The Stealing Share Behavioral Modeling process is designed to illuminate the key motivators and belief systems that influence choice. It is used to graphically provide a scaffolding to understand behavior. The results are also used in the quantitative research that we commission to identify and quantify the emotional triggers and switching behaviors.

The Work and Brand Architecture

The final recommendations and positions helped define the brand from the patients perspective.

Rebranding a hospital and the brand architectureThe resulting work made for better brand clarity and increased preference and was exemplified by the new suggested tag line.

Rebranding a hospital the market chart

Bryn Mawr is now owned and opperated by Main Line Health

 Read how to measure opportunity here