Commentary

One-Hit Wonders

I was listening to the radio recently, enjoying a handful of songs that I hadn't heard in years. The station was playing a special block of popular oldies by artists who ultimately became known as "one-hit-wonders." Each had managed to produce one brilliant song that soared to the top of the charts.

Sadly, shortly thereafter the song's popularity waned, listeners moved on to the next pop smash hit being played and the single-hit artist gradually faded to oblivion (most likely relegated to performing that one song from Holiday Inn lounge to Holiday Inn lounge for the next 30 years). Regrettably, most simply gave up their music ambitions altogether.

It dawns on me that things may not be so different in the healthcare arena. After all, many healthcare providers, manufacturers and marketers have historically looked at patients as one-off customers. We focus on matching new patients to our healthcare products, addressing their immediate needs and then moving on to the next patient.

Granted, today's healthcare providers do devote more time to proving compliance; at least long enough to be assured reimbursement. But once reimbursement criteria is met, the interest and attention devoted to those individual patients typically begins to wane as new patient opportunities present themselves and take precedence. Then, just like the one-hit-wonder of the radio waves, many one-hit patients fall out of the spotlight and ultimately abandon their therapy altogether. And that doesn't benefit anyone.

In fairness, many providers simply aren't structured with resources to provide long-term attention to established patients. But could it be worth finding ways to keep those patients on the Top 100 chart? Wouldn't it be beneficial to gain more return from those in whom we invest so heavily up front? After all, the most demanding and time-intensive effort is spent on-boarding each and every patient and getting them established on therapy. Yet we do it time after time, reinventing the short-term patient base.

Could many of those patients return to our hit parade in due time if we just devoted a little extra attention and directed marketing efforts toward building long-term compliance and advocacy? Couldn't we all get more in return for that upfront investment (including the patient who invested time and energy into therapy)?

As marketers we've seen study after study showing that it is much less costly to grow business among existing customers than it is to acquire and establish new customers.

In my little corner of the healthcare world -- the world of home healthcare -- there are plenty of opportunities to reap the rewards of ongoing compliance. Supply replacement sales is a place to start. While they may not be big hits, when multiplied across a list of long-term patients and considering the relatively low investment required to maintain those accounts, it is unquestionably a sizable contribution to everyone's bottom line.

We stand to see another sizable hit, if we invest a little ongoing effort into building long-term compliance and loyalty through relationship marketing and education. This is especially true when it comes time to replace obsolete devices or when patients opt to upgrade to more sophisticated technology, greater functionality and increased comfort compared to their existing model.

Before you know it, the hits just keep on coming. And you've got more than one-hit wonders; you've established rock-star customers for life.

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