IT: The Holy Grail of health care marketing?

3 Aug

Marketing health care is marketing a service – quite different than product marketing. Radically different, in fact, especially when it comes to health care.

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Services marketing is about delivering great service and then telling the story. To deliver on the promise, marketers need to manage the tangibles and elusive intangibles of the brand. This service delivery extends to just about every interaction with the organization – from how a patient was greeted at registration to how easy it is to follow the bill once the patient receives it. Great service in health care starts with the mission and vision, and works its way down.

Leonard Berry, author of Management Lessons from Mayo Clinic: Inside One of the World’s Most Admired Service Organizations, says:

When a company’s service is excellent, customers are more likely to perceive value in transactions, spread favorable word-of-mouth impressions, and respond positively to employee-cross-selling efforts.

Cover, Management Lessons from Mayo Clinic: Inside One of the World's Most Admired Service Organizations

So in health care, a marketer’s role becomes helping to manage those tangible and intangible elements. Websites and advertising are relatively easy – those are tangible. But just one hospital admission for one patient could result in hundreds of intangible interactions – with a person who is sick or injured. How sympathetic was the tech when he drew blood? How quickly did a staff member answer the call button? Was the food hot? Not so easy to manage.

That’s where healthcare IT, and health information exchange and electronic health records, could be the Holy Grail. By allowing greater automation of clinical processes, and less duplication, it can help health care providers deliver better service with greater accuracy. Greater data availability and tighter key performance indicators mean easier-to-spot, easier-to-fix problems.

The whole goal of HITECH, according to Dr. David Blumenthal, is “‘meaningful use’ of EHRs — that is, their use by providers to achieve significant improvements in care.” If a provider can report, in aggregate, better outcomes — fewer infections, fewer falls, fewer drug interactions — that’s better marketing.

Dr. Denis Cortese, retired Mayo Clinic president and CEO, alludes to the role health IT can play:

The best physicians and healthcare providers are part engineers and part artists. The engineer sees the problem and applies technology to fix it. … The artist knows when the patient needs a warm smile, reassuring words, or a gentle hug. It’s the artists who make every patient feel welcome, comfortable, secure, hopeful.

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