3 Major Themes in Healthcare That Will Matter, Regardless of Obamacare’s Future

At SHSMD 2017, healthcare marketers are trading tips and grappling with changes that are fundamentally shifting the way healthcare is marketed and delivered.

Healthcare in America is in flux. The legislative volleyball game happening in Congress over the future of Obamacare encapsulates perfectly the sort of volatility that sits at the doorstep of many healthcare organizations.

Ceci Connolly, president and CEO of the Alliance of Community Health Plans, noted in her keynote address at the Society for Healthcare Strategy & Market Development (SHSMD) 2017 conference that the Affordable Care Act, or “Obamacare,” has repeatedly been put up for repeal and replacement. And while the latest effort in the Senate has failed, President Donald Trump has promised more repeal-and-replace attempts in the future.

Given this climate of passion, sensitivity and activism, where are healthcare marketers placing their energy and focus? Three major themes will continue to impact healthcare no matter the circumstances: accountability, meaningful outcomes and improved experiences.

To enhance healthcare and slow down (or at least get more results from) our $3.2 trillion-plus in annual spending, programs must double down on these three themes. That’s true whether you’re a healthcare provider, marketer, strategist, pharmacist, payer, government agency or healthcare consumer.

After roaming the halls, attending sessions and talking with real marketers and operators in healthcare at SHSMD 2017, here’s how I see these three areas affecting healthcare marketing and strategy going forward.

1. Accountability Matters on Both the Patient and Provider Sides of the Equation

Accountability isn’t new, but it’s more in fashion than ever. We have seen this across all areas of healthcare, with value-based incentives, population health surveys, physician reviews and payer discount strategies.

This will keep evolving in the provider, payer and pharmaceutical space.

Our industry needs to drive consumerism and give healthcare consumers, medical professionals and other audiences the types of productive, innovative and meaningful experiences seen in verticals such as retail, finance, and travel and leisure. But it cuts both ways, while providers must evolve and refresh the patient experience, the industry is also finding ways to hold consumers more accountable for following preventive medicine, adherence and compliance best practices. This has just begun, and technology is helping to evolve this healthier-living model with tools and devices such as Fitbit, iPhone and countless apps.

The healthcare marketer and strategist’s focus on accountability will continue to evolve with design thinking, population health, appointment follow-up communications, digital tools and more personalization. For marketing and strategy, legislation won’t change the need for an organized content marketing system and digital strategies to drive better education and engagement.

2. Outcomes Need to Be Matched with Inputs

At SHSMD, the Manifest Life team was inspired by the customer experience presentation from Mayo Clinic’s Sandhya Pruthi, M.D. She developed a breast cancer treatment app that allows physicians and patients to collect patient inputs and marry these with tiered decision-making algorithms to approach treatment and outcomes.

Other pursuits on the horizon? The rise of genetics, population health, and communication before, during and after care remain a critical focus of healthcare strategists and marketers. And, as Connolly noted, the industry still lacks firm data to tie drug pricing to outcomes.

3. Experiences Must Evolve with Expectations

The consumer experiential landscape of healthcare is slowly catching up with other categories. Healthcare marketers are recognizing that their patients are turning to mobile phones before anything else—and it’s not just millennials. Consumers of all ages have higher expectations for immediacy, and conversations are no longer exclusively expected to be in-person.

The healthcare industry must meet audiences where they are, not the other way around. That means engaging on social platforms with existing and potential patients through web-based interactive tools and apps. All the while, healthcare marketers must recognize that consumers are fickle engagers. Content is no longer a one-and-done brochure; rather, it’s an evolving strategy that requires rigorous monitoring and optimization.

Take this example of how poor experience can catch up to an industry: An eight-minute wait to hail a taxi was once the norm. Today, if you wait longer than three minutes and the driver is not trackable, it’s unacceptable.

Expectations around healthcare experiences are catching up to this mindset. Millennial and baby boomer audiences want better, more satisfying healthcare experiences. That can translate into having better access to health information, receiving healthcare virtually, and benefitting from improved and more original health content, medical professional collaboration and innovation.