Commentary

The Retail Mindset: How Consumer Choice is Impacting Marketing Strategy

Healthcare has been in a state of transition over the past several years, as three key trends have impacted how consumers view and utilize healthcare. Hospitals, health systems, providers and health plans have found themselves having to adapt to meet the growing demands of consumers. 

To be truly successful, marketers must also keep up with the new consumer-based healthcare experience, and develop strategies to keep pace with the ever-changing landscape. Specifically, healthcare marketers have had to adapt more of a B2C approach, rather than B2B. There are several reasons for this:

The Health Insurance Marketplace. With the passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), many consumers are now buying healthcare through newly formed exchanges, rather than through their employer. This is partly due to the fact that employees’ share of healthcare costs have risen 50% over the past five years. Accessibility is also playing a role in non-employee health plans. The number of insurers set to sell health plans on healthcare exchanges in the upcoming open-enrollment period is 25% higher than for 2014, according to the Department of Health and Home Services.

Quality Over Price Equals Value. With consumers spending their own money, they are much more involved in their overall care management. Price Transparency has allowed consumers to shop around and research costs of procedures online. For example, a patient who needs an Endoscopy, a procedure that is usually not 100% covered by health plans, is more likely to look at the costs of the procedure and be more selective with the provider based on cost. It is important to remember that, while cost is a consideration, consumers also take into account the quality of care. 

The Mobile Revolution. Consumers are embracing the ability to control their healthcare decisions and, given the access to technology and information, are taking a more active role in their care. By 2017, says Research and Markets, 50% of mobile users are expected to download a health app. Just recently, in fact, Apple debuted a new Healthkit app as part of the company’s iOS 8 mobile operating system. It’s not just consumers that are embracing mobile health technology. The HIMSS Mobile Technology Survey estimates that 80% of physicians are using mobile technology to provide patient care. 

How are marketers evolving to this new reality? Successful healthcare marketers are developing ways to connect with consumers and establish relationships with them.

Specifically, communications are becoming more targeted and relevant for each consumer. There are fewer mass communications and more specific, patient-driven messages. Some companies are taking this concept a step further with micro campaigns and targeted digital content strategies.

Several leading brands are leveraging content marketing, particularly when targeting large target audiences that are active online, such as baby boomers. A good example of this is Humana’s My Well-Being, a content platform that generates targeted content, while strengthening the company’s brand positioning in an engaging way.

We are also seeing some major healthcare brands creating a direct retail experience for consumers. Aetna created a program that is provided to members of Costco, the popular membership warehouse club. 

United Healthcare has taken this concept further and is selling Medicare plans through 30 pop-up retail stores and 1,400 shopping mall kiosks. Florida Blue, a nonprofit Blue Cross and Blue Shield plan, has debuted nearly a dozen retail stores, where consumers can shop for health plans, ask questions about a claim, and even see a nurse to have their blood pressure checked.

Marketers need to take note of these developing trends and recognize that the consumerization of the healthcare industry will continue to evolve. To be successful, the smart companies will need to stay one step ahead of this evolution with smart, nimble strategies that deliver a level of personalization that will keep consumers engaged.

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