The healthcare industry is dramatically changing. It’s happening because of technology, politics, economics, and empowered consumers. Today’s consumers are connected, juggling multiple devices, on the go, and want their voices heard. They crave information and connections—practically in real-time. This is every organization’s new business reality.
A few savvy marketers have coined a term about this age—the “Relationship Era.” As empowered consumers access social and digital platforms to voice opinions, the days of mass, one-way marketing are gone. It’s a two-way relationship now. The healthcare industry, ironically, hasn’t exactly been the best in developing “relationships” with patients, members or consumers. It’s been a bit of a machine pushing you through the process. Whether it is doctors with increasingly limited face time or the cloud of uncertainty over insurance fees and processes, the healthcare industry hasn’t gotten high marks in personal relations. But that’s changing. Marketers must understand how to create valuable, personal and engaging relationships with their consumers. And it’s going to require completely rethinking your approach—across people, processes and technology.
An article in last week’s Wall Street Journal headlined, “When Email is Part of the Doctor’s Treatment,” was another reminder of the Relationship Era. It talked about how many consumers today expect their doctors to communicate through email, text, social media and other non-traditional outlets. The article cited doctors that have embraced digital channels and believe they make their practice more efficient and patients more satisfied. That’s good for business. That’s cultivating patient relationships. But the article also cited a medical professional who avoids those channels in favor of phone calls and office visits. He had his reasons. And I’m certain he is an excellent doctor. The problem is, in the relationship era, that won’t cut it.
Of course, I realize that with digital communications comes the all-important privacy issues and responsibilities. No one wants private medical information in the wrong digital hands. No doctor wants an email or text misinterpreted that leads to a patient taking the wrong action. But the shift is occurring. Consumers today communicate across multiple devices, are mobile and have access to more information and services than ever before. We Google. Text. Tweet. Pin. Post. Share. Email. And all in real-time. An entire generation and culture is being conditioned to on-demand access and sharing. Businesses must adapt.
It’s not just doctors, of course. Today’s empowered consumer is reshaping how every health and wellness business, organization and brand interacts with consumers from insurers to retailers to health and wellness products. It’s forcing businesses to meet and engage with their consumers when and where they are—and consumers are constantly moving between their offline and online worlds. Is your organization providing a consistent brand experience across all touch points?
So what is a marketer to do? I’m sure for most reading this you’ve already started to embrace this new reality and adapt. For those that haven’t, here’s five suggestions how marketers can lead their organizations to succeed in the “Relationship Era.”