Marketing Hospitals to Women with Chronic Conditions
// By Kathy Selker //
Telemedicine is more than a nascent trend — it’s here to stay. This article explores how new technology, such as wearables, can help patients with chronic conditions better monitor their health — and how marketers can connect with and drive preference among these chronic care patients before a crisis happens.
According to the CDC, nearly half of Americans have a chronic disease. Women tend to be affected earlier in life than men, and thus need care longer. For health care marketers, this is an important opportunity: Hospitals and health care systems that can build meaningful connections with chronic care patients before a health crisis will find themselves top-of-mind when a need for critical care does arise.
New health care technologies such as wearables, live-video conferencing, and other forms of telemedicine can help chronic care patients monitor their conditions and get the help they need. If deployed strategically, they can also help hospital systems drive preference among chronic care patients.
A Whole-Care Hub Model
To build a deep connection with chronic care patients before a moment of crisis, hospital systems must develop — and market — holistic, whole-person care models. Recently, the number-one takeaway from the 2019 JP Morgan Healthcare Conference was the shifting role of the health care delivery system from a provider mindset (selling services) to a platform mindset (being a hub for health care and health services in the community).
What does this mean, practically? Rather than reacting when patients present with a health problem, health care providers should also be well-life guides. Dan Michelson, CEO of Strata Decision Technology, describes how important actionable data is to this shift: “Similar to how analytics are being used in a practical way in baseball to determine where to throw a pitch to a batter or position players in the field, health care providers are pushing for practical data sets presented in a simple, actionable framework. That may seem obvious, but it is simply not present in many health care organizations that have been focused on building data warehouse empires without doors to let anyone in.”
Women and Wearables
We need to build the proverbial doors. One way to collect data while also empowering patients to take control of their own health care information is through wearables. According a recent report from Rock Health, wearables users were more likely in 2018 (30 percent) to use their wearable to manage a diagnosis than they were the previous year (20 percent). PwC reports that wearables that generate health data are particularly favored by women. This shift represents an opportunity for patients and doctors to work collaboratively to manage a patient’s diagnosis using individualized data; for example, a woman living with diabetes might track daily blood sugar and insulin with an app — which records data she can then share with her doctor.
Reduce friction in your patient transactions by offering digital delivery of services — and then emphasize these in your marketing materials. Hospitals that don’t offer this innovation will lose market share to health systems that do.
Further, hospitals would be wise to capitalize on telemedicine trends that have gained steam in recent months. According to the Rock Health report, telemedicine continues to rise: 75 percent of respondents reported using at least one form of telemedicine (phone, email, live video, text, or picture/video sent) to consult with a health care provider remotely. Rates of live-video conferencing are also up, at 34 percent. 2018’s Chronic Care Act extended telemedicine coverage to Medicare Advantage patients, a move that could be in part responsible for growth in this area.
But patients in rural areas are only half as likely as their urban counterparts to use live-video conferencing. This represents a niche ripe for hospital marketers: These rural customers constitute a demographic that could benefit greatly from telemedicine but isn’t using it — yet. It’s up to marketers to show them how. Keep in mind that some people might find telemedicine intimidating; informational sessions or accessible how-to materials are useful in facilitating adoption.
A New Billing Code Could Help
A new billing code could help hospitals promote the use of wearables to improve lives for patients with chronic conditions. Code 99490, introduced in 2015 and then updated in 2017 and again in 2018, allows health care providers to bill for “non face-to-face care coordination services,” and, since the latest update, includes compensation for physicians who review patient data, such as information from wearables and health-tracking apps.
This means a new opportunity — and financial incentive — for hospitals and health systems to incorporate telemedicine into their patient care. Since patients love wearables, and wearables generate important health data, it’s a win-win for both patients and providers. If your health system isn’t yet gathering data from wearables and using it to improve patient care plans, there’s no time like the present to improve your system.
The future is now. Hospitals that build whole-care hubs, incorporate telemedicine and digital delivery of services, and efficiently use data from wearables will pave the way for individuals looking for a patient-centered journey.
- Tailor your message to your demographic — even if it doesn’t look how you expect. A 65-year-old woman in rural Iowa might not recognize the relevance of an ad that boasts a health system’s new technology — especially if that ad features urban tech-savvy millennials.
- Don’t forget to be human. Craft clear messaging about the digital services your hospital offers; emphasize what benefits those services will provide to patients and prospects. Too often, hospitals get caught up in reporting on their latest and greatest tech. Instead, consider how that technology specifically improves the day-to-day lives of your patients; for example, a video-chat feature may allow a stay-at-home mom to get a needed prescription while her newborn naps.
- Consider incentivizing wearables use. Empowering patients in their health journey while collecting valuable health data is great, but it won’t happen if patients don’t record that data. Consider an incentive program that rewards patients for using their wearables. Bonus points if the reward, like a gym membership discount, emphasizes your hospital’s whole-person mission.
Kathy Selker is the president and CEO of Northlich, an independent, full-service marketing and advertising agency, and the author of www.AimForThe80.com, a blog about marketing hospitals to women. Follow Kathy on Twitter @kathyselker.