Some recent statistics about chronic illness in America:
-- Per the CDC, half of U.S. adults have a chronic disease. A quarter of adults have two or more, and three in four Americans over age 65 have multiple chronic conditions.
-- Chronic disease strikes men and women at equal rates, but it tends to affect women at a younger age than men — which means they experience greater disability over the course of their lives.
-- Women are frequently the main (and unpaid) providers of long-term care for those with chronic disease.
-- According to analysis by McKinsey, about 90% of patients with chronic disease remain loyal to the system that first treated them for their condition.
That last data point is where marketers who don’t focus specifically on health systems can apply a basic principle of healthcare marketing to their own challenges: If you can meet the customer precisely at the moment of greatest need, and fulfill that need in a way that addresses all aspects of the customer experience, you stand a good chance to earn a customer for life.
A recent study by Aetna showed that women want patient-centered healthcare that treats the whole person, not just a specific problem.
How does this translate to other industries? Most products or services fulfill a specific need: We market restaurants and food brands because people need to eat. We market CPG products because people need to clean their homes and wash their clothes. But meeting these needs fulfills other human requirements as well: Eating brings people together. A clean home makes the people who live in it feel happier.
By stepping back and taking a wider view, it becomes clear that satisfying more than one dimension of customer need is key to long-term loyalty.
The trick in all marketing is to find the sweet spot between when a person first has a need, but before they’ve chosen how they’ll meet it. In a health system, primary and specialty care providers are uniquely positioned to connect with women after they’re diagnosed with a chronic disease but before they need critical care. That provides two distinct groups to market to: current patients and prospective patients.
For other industries, that translates to current and prospective customers.
Again, principles of healthcare marketing apply. As more health systems start to focus on patient-centered care — and to advertise it — the chance that patients will be poached by other systems rises. Health systems can combat that threat with in-office advertising that meets women when they’re already thinking about their health, with email marketing and with content-rich blogs about specific conditions. Competitors may still be providing care on a service-line basis, which opens a communication opportunity focused on personalized treatment.
Marketing messages focused on patient-centered care, showing the elimination of common pain points like care coordination, can drive interest and volume.
The upshot of all this, no matter what the industry: Focus on providing customer-centric care to earn the kind of deep loyalty that will keep them coming back for life.