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Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Nonprofit Hospitals Showing Financial Improvement, says Moody’s

Despite challenging economic and credit conditions, bond ratings at 20 nonprofit hospitals and health systems have been upgraded since late 2008, Moody's Investors Service said in a new report that identifies common factors that have contributed to their success.

"While downgrades will likely continue to outnumber upgrades in coming months, we expect some upgrades will continue to occur as some hospitals continue to navigate through these times better than others," said Moody's Associate Analyst Jae Choi, author of the report: Diagnosing Not-for-Profit Hospital Upgrades: Rating Upgrades Continue Despite Challenging Industry Credit Conditions.

Read more at HealthLeaders Media.

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Providence St. Vincent's Breast Cancer Awareness Video Goes Viral

The employees and physicians at Providence St. Vincent Medical Center became YouTube stars when they donned pink gloves and danced to promote breast cancer awareness. Just goes to show you that even serious topics can be approached from a positive and creative point of view.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Using Traditional Media to Drive Web Traffic? Remember a Few Simple Rules.

Healthcare marketers increasingly use traditional print, billboard, broadcast and direct mail to drive consumers to on-line resources. This integrated approach is quite effective in engaging audiences to learn more about services and act on ‘calls to action.’ It also provides the marketing professional with data to measure the effectiveness of marketing campaigns.

Christopher Boyer offers a few simple guidelines to make your integrated campaign more effective and create a much more satisfying consumer experience as they move from one marketing medium to the next:
  • Offer a short URL
  • Send them to the right page
  • Get to the point

Learn more about this and other on-line marketing strategies on Chris Boyer’s blog.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Market Research Study Focuses on eHealth Trends for Consumers and Health Professionals

Healthcare market research firm Manhattan Research recently released Taking the Pulse® Hospitals, a research study that focuses on the behaviors, attitudes, and future interests of consumers, physicians and nurses as relates to their use of technology for health. The market data comes from over 10,000 in-depth interviews, and is tailored for use by hospital and health system marketing teams.

A few eHealth trends as a preview of Taking the Pulse Hospitals:
  • Almost 160 million U.S. adults go online for health information
  • About 35% of the U.S. adults use social media for health and medical purposes
  • 64% of U.S. physicians use smartphones.
  • Approximately three out of four U.S. nurses recommend health websites to patients.

The research study was designed to support hospitals and health systems that are re-evaluating strategies for communicating with patients and stakeholders. It includes topics such as the health resource media mix, physician-patient relationship and connectivity, social media, electronic health records, mobile phones and applications, email newsletters, practice technology profile, and patient education.

You can download a complimentary white paper discussing the latest trends in how consumers and healthcare professionals use the Internet for health at

Friday, November 27, 2009

Webcast on Cardiovascular Service Line Strategies for Marketers

HealthLeaders Media Marketing Weekly is hosting a webcast on Cardiovascular Service Line Strategies for Marketers on Thursday, December 3 from 1 pm to 2:30 pm eastern. The 90 minute session features case studies presented by Kim Menefee, senior vice president of WellStar Health System in Marietta, Georgia, and Pete Turner, vice president of business development for Community Health Network & Indiana Heart Hospital in Indianapolis, Indiana. I’m privileged to share the virtual panel with both; together we’ll explore how an integrated approach to developing and aligning business, clinical, brand and marketing strategies can enhance and grow cardiovascular services.

For more information about the webcast, click here to visit the HealthLeaders Media website

Monday, November 16, 2009

Report Projects Moderate Growth in Retail Clinics

Despite the recession, overall growth of the heathcare retail clinic market has increased approximately 15 percent in the past two years, according to a new report released today by the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions. Retail clinic market growth, however, will likely slow to 10-15 percent from 2010 through 2012 and will accelerate above 30 percent from 2013-2014, according to the report.

Retail Clinics:Update and Implications suggests that four factors will likely contribute to the sector’s growth:
  • Increased use and satisfaction by consumers
  • Increased use and acceptance by commercial health plans and large employers
  • Increased services provided through the retail medicine model
  • Increased demand for preventive and primary health care services as a result of health reform and consumer demand

According to the report and Deloitte’s 2009 Survey of Health Care Consumers, 33 percent of consumers indicate they are willing to use a retail clinic, especially younger and middle-aged working adults. Moreover, 30 percent of respondents are likely to use a retail clinic if it would cost them 50 percent less than seeing their physician. Most retail clinics currently operate in retail pharmacy settings (82 percent), or as a department or wholly owned subsidiary of the host organization, such as a grocery store (12 percent) or big-box discount store (6 percent). Notably, 2009 has seen increased activity by acute care organizations entering retail medicine via contractual arrangements with drug store and grocery chains.

Today, core services at retail clinics typically include preventative health screenings, prescriptions and over the counter (OTC) therapeutics and uncomplicated primary care. However, the retail clinic business model is capable of supporting additional revenue streams (zones) unrelated to its core operations, including medication management, employee wellness, chronic care management and health insurance.

Brand Management Requires a Comprehensive, Robust Framework

Brand management is an essential core competency for healthcare organizations seeking growth, market differentiation and competitive sustainability. And the creation, building and management of brands requires a comprehensive, robust framework to guide brand strategy, brand alignment and brand performance.

At this past week’s Chief Marketing Officers’ Innovator’s Studio work session, Mike Eaton, vice president for Navvis & Company, and Rob Klein, President of Klein & Partners, presented a 6-stage structure for brand management, and led the group on a discussion regarding the complexities and opportunities for building a powerful brand portfolio. Here’s a glimpse into their workshop session.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Walgreens Hosting Diabetes Wellness Clinics with Free Testing at In-Store Events Nationwide

Walgreens extends its position as a retail health services provider with free diabetes testing at more than 1,500 locations. The events began last week, Nov. 9-13, and continue Nov. 16-20 at most 24-hour Walgreens stores.

Each of these locations is hosting a six-hour walk-in clinic offering free blood glucose testing, or for individuals diagnosed with diabetes, free A1C testing. Free pharmacist consultations are also available. Walgreens also announced it will donate $1 to the American Diabetes Association for every test performed at its Diabetes Wellness Events, up to $100,000.

Walgreens is the nation’s largest drugstore chain with more than 70,000 providers and fiscal 2009 sales of $63 billion. The company operates 7,045 drugstores in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. Walgreens' diversified portfolio includes retail drugstores, Walgreens Health Initiatives Inc. (a pharmacy benefit manager), Walgreens Mail Service Inc., Walgreens Home Care Inc., Walgreens Specialty Pharmacy LLC and SeniorMed LLC (a pharmacy provider to long-term care facilities). Walgreens Health and Wellness Division includes Take Care Health Systems, providing worksite health and wellness centers and in-store convenient care clinics, with more than 700 locations throughout the country.'

To find out if there are events in your market, visit or call 1-877-W-and-You (1-877-926-3968).

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Marketing and How Social Software Aligns

In his blog, Community and Social Media, Chris Brogan lines up “all the old fashioned marketing “Four P’s” to illustrate how social software can interact.

Chris writes, “I didn’t exactly lay out step-by-step plans, but maybe you can infer a bit from what we started with. You’ll notice something. The tools aren’t all that spectacular and amazing, except that they make performing certain tasks simpler than it used to be. Instead, the potential and the wonderment are all inside the human part of the equation.”

“What’s exciting about how social media and social software aligns with marketing is that there are new opportunities that far surpass the old methods for marketing, and that’s where the magic truly hides. Marketers do have to understand the tools, but more so, here’s a quick list of what else needs to be understood.” Read more at: Marketing and How Social Software Aligns

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Monday, November 9, 2009

Chief Marketing Officer's Innovator's Studio

Today's CMO Innovator's Studio work session addresses head-on how operational, clinical, business development and marketing misalignment undermines brand performance, wastes marketing dollars, and can result in negative ROI; and, conversely, how alignment can create a powerful, relevant and differentiated brand-driven culture –transforming an organization from one that simply ‘promotes a brand’ to one that ‘delivers the brand.’ Here are the opening discussion slides - more to come.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Brand Mastery to be Explored at Upcoming Innovator's Studio

The Chief Marketing Officers’ Innovator’s Studio convenes this week (November 9 & 10) in Chicago. This session’s deep dive topic – The New Brand Mastery – is significant and timely given the changing nature of the health industry. Increasing consolidation among providers, physician alignment and integration activities, emerging retail models, growing consumer expectations, new media channels, the new economics of health care reform – all play part in the complex dynamics shaping competition. And all have implications for health system brand strategies. On the agenda:

  • A brand excursion to Whole Foods Market in Lincoln Park, led by Maggie Bahler, Regional Marketing Director and Executive Marketing Coordinator for Whole Foods. There we’ll learn how the retailer achieves company-wide alignment to its brand strategy while emphasizing local market connections (sound like a familiar challenge?).
  • Jen Wagner-Mauk, Executive Director of Brand and Marketing for Affinity Health (Menasha, WI) and Megan Manahan, Vice President for Marketing and Communications with Mercy Health Partners (Toledo, OH) will share their journeys in repositioning their health system brands, including methods for creating brand alignment and commitment across their organizations.
  • Mike Eaton, vice president of the brand and marketing consultancy for Navvis & Company (St. Louis, MO), and Rob Klein, president of Klein & Partners (Hinsdale, IL), will facilitate a Brand Mastery Workshop, where they will frame out an approach to creating a comprehensive, robust brand leadership method – and put everyone to work brainstorming, prioritizing and designing innovative approaches to meet the brand challenges of the changing competitive landscape in healthcare.
  • Rob Klein will also share research results from a recent Omnibus survey. This consumer ‘kitchen sink’ study focused primarily on healthcare reform with selected other topics of interest.

You can follow session highlights on Twitter at #iscmo.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

When it Comes to Social Media Influence, What's to Believe?

In the last week alone, I’ve read or seen presented conflicting opinions on the influence that social media exerts when it comes to selection of healthcare services. In one study, consumers reported little influence. Yet another, a Spring 2009 Ad-ology Media Influence on Consumer Choice survey, reports that social media plays a part in 40% of hospital and urgent care center visits, and impacts 50% of 25-34 year olds when it comes to selecting a hospital or urgent care center.

Of course, the primary reason this is so among this age group is that nearly 30% of their hospital visits are maternity related. Blogs, forums, discussion boards are heavily used among expecting Moms.

So, what’s your experience?? Are you using social media to target younger health care consumers?

Friday, November 6, 2009

Ruth Colby Honored for Professional Excellence

Please send congratulations to Ruth Colby, chief strategy officer and senior vice president of business development at Silver Cross Hospital in Joliet, Ill., for receiving the 2009 Award for Individual Professional Excellence from the Society for Healthcare Strategy and Market Development (SHSMD) of the American Hospital Association. She accepted her award from SHSMD President Diane Caslow during the Society’s Annual Conference this past month in Orlando.

Ruth was cited as a talented and innovative strategist who has successfully challenged her organization to push the boundaries, developing strategic alliances with academic medical centers, physicians and new niche-market entrants such as MinuteClinic. She and her team spearheaded the hospital’s IMatter program—a unique approach that rewards women for completing preventive health screenings by giving them discounts at local retailers.

In 2008 Ruth successfully led her organization’s efforts to obtain state approval for a $400 million replacement hospital at a new campus. As part of this project, she was instrumental in developing an innovative approach to addressing the healthcare, economic and social needs of Joliet’s East side neighborhoods. She created the Silver Cross Healthy Community Commission, a 501(c)(3) organization that provides independent oversight of the hospital’s ongoing commitment to the community. This year she led the effort to establish a freestanding emergency center in her market—the first such center licensed in Illinois.

SHSMD’s Award for Individual Professional Excellence is the highest honor the Society can bestow on one of its members. What a wonderful and deserving candidate!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Lynne Cunningham's Book Reviews

What a treat to open my email and find a post from long time friend and colleague Lynne Cunningham with the Studer Group. That’s because – for years now - Lynne has provided many of us in the healthcare marketing field with the invaluable service of reading and reviewing many, many books and articles. I am thrilled to share Lynne’s reviews with you and hope you’ll find them helpful in building your marketing leadership resource library.

Here are a couple of Lynne’s recent summaries:

Chasing the Rabbit: How Market Leaders Outdistance the Competition and How Great Companies can Catch Up and Win, by Steven Spear. How can companies perform so well that their industry counterparts are competitors in name only? Although they operate in the same industry, serve the same market, and even use the same suppliers, these “rabbits” lead the race and, more importantly, continually widen their lead. In Chasing the Rabbit, Steven J. Spear describes what sets high-velocity, market-leading organizations apart and explains how you can lead the pack in your industry.

Lynne’s take: Another good book to help you focus on process improvement efforts. The book includes lots of healthcare examples. There are also great examples to study to learn more about how to focus and spread best practices.

Excellence in the ED by Stephanie Baker. For years healthcare professionals believed creating excellence in the emergency department was next to impossible. And it's true that too many patients, too few resources and too few hours in the day add up to big challenges. Yet where there's a will—and a team of passionate, caring staff members—there's most definitely a way. By implementing proven, evidence-based tools and techniques, leaders can overcome the excuses and create an ED where employees and physicians want to work and patients want to receive care.

Lynne’s take: This book includes great case studies and testimonials. Learning Points at the end of each chapter reinforce key concepts. This is the textbook for how Hardwiring Excellence meets the Emergency Department. ED staff and physicians will instantly be able to relate.

You can browse through more of Lynne’s book reviews and recommendations at

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Twitter Apps for the Public Relations Pro

Is micro-blogging part of your public relations tool kit? While industry-insiders debate its longevity and surviving business model, the public relations industry is still experimenting with how to best use micro-blogging. Much like other forms of social media, the industry still grapples with how to best use the medium to create brand buzz and fully engage consumers.

There are a number of apps to help you tweet more efficiently and, thus, more effectively. Learn more at RushPRNews: Twitter Apps for the Public Relations Pro.

Friday, October 16, 2009

What is the State of Healthcare in Your State?

The cost and quality of health care, as well as access to care and health outcomes, continue to vary widely among states, according to the 2009 state scorecard report of the Commonwealth Fund Commission on a High Performance Health Systems.

The report, Aiming Higher: Results from the 2009 State Scorecard on Health System Performance, is a follow-up to the Commission's 2007 State Scorecard report; it ranks states on 38 indicators in the areas of access, prevention/treatment quality, avoidable hospital use and costs, healthy lives, and equity.

In 2009, Vermont, Hawaii, Iowa, Minnesota, Maine, and New Hampshire lead the nation as top performers on a majority of scorecard indicators. Leading states set new, higher benchmarks on a majority of indicators. Conversely, states in the lowest quartile often lag the leaders on multiple areas and the gaps have grown wider in multiple areas.

"Leading states have raised the bar for better access, quality of care, and reducing disparities," said Commonwealth Fund Senior Vice President and study co-author Cathy Schoen. "Where you live in the U.S. matters in terms of your health care, and it shouldn't.”

The sharp variation across states spans access, quality of care, costs, and lives. For example, rates of hospital readmissions (within 30 days of a previous hospital stay) among Medicare beneficiaries ranged from a high of 23 percent of hospital admissions in Nevada to a low of 13 percent in Oregon. The percent of adult diabetics getting recommended preventive care ranged from a low of 33 percent in Mississippi to a high of 67 percent in Minnesota as of 2006–07, a new high. On these and other measures, the lowest ranked states would have to improve 40 percent to 100 percent on average to achieve the performance of top ranking states.

The scorecard points to substantial opportunities to improve. If all states could reach the level achieved by the top performing states:
  • Twenty-nine million more people would have health insurance—cutting the number of uninsured by more than half;
  • Nearly 78,000 fewer adults and children would die prematurely every year from conditions that could have been prevented with timely and effective health care;
  • Nine million more adults age 50 and older would receive recommended preventive care, and almost 800,000 more children would receive key vaccinations;
  • Five billion dollars could be saved annually by avoiding preventable hospital admissions and readmissions for vulnerable elderly and disabled residents.

You can download the report Aiming Higher by clicking here. An interactive map that allows users to look at and download individual state information and compare states on various measures is available at

Thursday, October 15, 2009

One Third of Adults Use Social Media for Medical Information

The Health 2.0 market grew substantially over the past year – 35% of adults in the U.S. now use social media for health and medical purposes. This translates into 80 million consumers creating or consuming content on health blogs, message boards, chat rooms, health social networks and communities.

A minority of consumers still report being influenced by social media; however, this differs depending on the health need or disease state. People with certain illnesses or health conditions (e.g. mental health, fibromyalgia, etc.) rely on and are influenced by user-generated content more than others.

These findings come from Cybercitizen Health™ v9.0, a 2009 study of 8,600 adults conducted by pharmaceutical and healthcare research company Manhattan Research.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Want to Know How Long You'll Wait at the ER?

There's an App for That!

HCA's East Florida Division is using RSS feeds to post emergency room wait times on electronic billboards. They've also recently launched an iPhone app (iTriage) and texting service which pinpoints local ERs, wait times and provides directions. The bottom line -- company spokesman Ed Fishbough reports substantial increases in the number of patient visits across 12 regional hospitals since the advent of the campaign.

HCA has 5 billboards up today and 5 more planned for the coming 2 weeks.

Learn more at Fast Company.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Study Concludes Retail Clinics as Good as Doctors' Offices for Routine Care

When it comes to routine illnesses, retail clinics run by CVS, WalMart and others provide care that is as good as and more cost effective than doctors, hospitals and urgent care centers, according to a recently released study by Rand Corporation. Research findings debunked criticisms levied by the American Medical Association and American Academy of Pediatrics regarding the quality of care provided by the convenience care retailers, when it found no major differences in key clinical practices such as follow-up or prescribing habits.

What was different? The cost of providing the care was less – in some cases, dramatically so – than for the same services provided in more traditional medical sites.

The study was published in September in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

Friday, October 9, 2009

SHSMD 2009 Brand Mastery Presentation

Brand alignment across administrative, clinical, business development and marketing functions can transform an organization from one that simply 'promotes' a brand to one that 'delivers.' Joel English (BVK), Rob Klein (Klein & Partners) and I had the pleasure of talking on this topic at last week's SHSMD conference. Here are our slides from that session.

Lee Aase's WHPRMS Presentation

If you can't make today's Wisconsin Healthcare Public Relations and Marketing Society's meeting, you can still check out Lee Aase's presentation on "Why Social Media are Essential to the Future of Health Care, and How You Can Get Started."

You can also hear Lee at the 13th Annual Healthcare Internet Conference in Las Vegas, November 2 - 4, 2009.

Top 10 'Game Changing' Medical Innovations for 2010

What breakthrough medical innovations can we expect to see in 2010? The list was unveiled this past week at the Cleveland Clinic’s 2009 Medical Innovation Summit in Cleveland, Ohio. Cleveland Clinic clinicians and researchers spent months evaluating new developments in medical technologies, devices and therapies to arrive at a select group most likely to reshape healthcare.

Here is their Top 10 in 2010.
  1. Bone Conduction of Sound for Single-Sided Deafness: 
A new non-surgical, removable hearing and communication device designed to imperceptibly transmit sound via the teeth to help people with single-sided deafness.
  2. Low-Volume, Low-Pressure Tracheal Tube Cuff to Reduce Ventilator-Associated Pneumonia: A device that dramatically reduces the risk of ventilator-associated pneumonia and death in the hospital ICU by providing continuous effective airway seals.
  3. Continuous-Flow Ventricular Assist Devices: Tiny 3-ounce devices surgically attached alongside the heart that quietly and effectively take over the pumping ability of the heart.
  4. Non-Vitamin K Antagonist Oral Anticoagulants:
Predictable and well-tolerated alternatives to the oral anticoagulant warfarin that provide a more convenient—and safe—way for patients to dose themselves and prevent blood-clot formation.
  5. Fertility Preservation through Oocyte Cryopreservation:
A rapidly-improving technology that allows eggs of a healthy woman to be safely frozen and stored, ready to be thawed and fertilized at a later date.
  6. Forced Exercise to Improve Motor Function in Patient’s With Parkinson’s:
Pedaling at 90 RPMs on a tandem bike to dramatically improve motor functioning of patients with Parkinson’s disease.
  7. Outpatient Diagnosis of Sleep-Related Breathing Disorders:
Self-contained, reliable, at-home sleep-monitoring devices for screening, diagnosing, and treatment assessment of sleep-related breathing disorders.
  8. Oral Thrombopoeitin (TPO) Receptor Agonist that Stimulates Platelet Production: A recently approved drug that stimulates production of cells in bone marrow that form platelet cells in the blood.
  9. Devices for Occluding Left Atrial Appendage to Reduce Stroke Risk:
Device alternatives to long-term warfarin use that can prevent clots from developing in patients with atrial fibrillation.
  10. Whole-Slide Imaging for Management of Digital Data in Pathology: A technology for creating digital pathology slides with excellent image quality that can be viewed, stored, streamed over the Internet, and analyzed on a computer.

Learn more at their website ( where you can also download a PDF of Top 10 in 2010.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

The Performance Edge: 13th Annual Healthcare Internet Conference

The 13th Annual Healthcare Internet Conference is coming up soon. Healthcare marketing executives, webmasters, social media strategists, IT managers and others will convene November 2 – 4, 2009 at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas to learn more about emerging trends and prevailing practices in all things digital.

Headliners include Lee Aase of Mayo Clinic, political pollster Mark Allen, social media expert Shel Holtz, Kelly Faley of Sharp Healthcare, David Feinberg of New York Presbyterian, and Grad Conn of Microsoft. They’ll be joined by a few dozen other experts presenting on topics such as:
  • An Enterprise Approach to Physician Web Search Development
  • Maximum Impact; Minimum Dollars
  • Driving a Great Brand from the Inside Out: Creating a Dynamic Intranet
  • Digital Trends and the Evolving Patient-Physician Relationship
  • Five Principles to Survive Six Product Launches in Twelve Months

This is a must-attend event for marketers leading their organizations into the digital age. The conference’s signature sponsors are Greystone.Net and StayWellCustom Communications.

For more information including registration instructions, click here.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Guest Blogger: Rob Klein

Parking is Healthcare

Parking may not seem like it is related to healthcare; rather more a “retail” mentality. But parking is healthcare. Recently, while conducting focus groups for a hospital that is developing a new outpatient cancer facility, I asked cancer patients about their recent experiences using the existing facility (starting with parking). Apparently, physicians get the best spots on the first level and patients often have to circle up towards the top (and exposed) level.

Not too fun in the rain and snow, as one cancer patient put it. And another added that she wasn’t feeling well after chemo and forgot where she parked her car. Valet is so expensive, she commented. When she got to the parking deck she couldn’t find her car. Luckily a security guard in a golf cart picked her up. It took quite a while riding around every level clicking her electronic door opener on her keys before her car lights came on. She added, all I wanted to do was go home.

Another patient said to me that parking and walking to the facility takes so much time and he wasn’t sure how much of that he had left.

The point is while we may not look at parking as part of hospital quality, patients certainly do. For hospitals to evolve and grow they should take a page from both the retail and banking worlds. Remember when “bankers’ hours” was a negative phrase? Bankers’ hours no longer exist because banks finally embraced a more retail service model.

Parking can be a hassle when you’re healthy; just imagine looking for your car right after chemotherapy.

Rob Klein is president of Klein & Partners, a marketing research firm dedicated to keeping your brand healthy. Rob can be reached at 630.455.1773 or Learn more at

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

It's Time to 'Man Up' about Men's Health

At last week’s annual SHSMD meeting in Orlando, I joined a group of colleagues at a luncheon discussion table led by Phil Smith of Kansas City-based Prairie Dog. The topic – The Ascent of Man: The Boomer Male is About to be Heard Big Time in Healthcare Marketing – was intriguing, especially in an industry where women make or influence 80% of healthcare expenditures.

So here’s the situation – compared to women, men die younger. They begin to suffer from heart disease and stroke at least a decade earlier than their female counterparts. Are 1½ times more likely to die from heart disease, cancer and chronic respiratory illnesses. Are four times likely to commit suicide and twice as likely to die from alcohol-related deaths. These are diseases that can mostly be detected and treated with success before it’s too late.

What stands in the way? Men’s reluctance to seek medical care. They make 30% fewer trips to the doctor than women, are 38% more likely to neglect cholesterol levels, and overlook – or avoid – screenings for male cancers.

“We’re ‘probe-aphoic,’” said one of the men sitting at our table. Which is another way of saying that attitude matters. A recent article in the Chicago Tribune on Masculinity and Men’s Health cites several research studies that reveal men’s reluctance to seek medical care may have a lot more to do with conforming to masculine ideals of self-control, risk-taking, pain tolerance, competitiveness and independence than we often acknowledge. In fact, in these studies, high masculinity scores correlated with low scores on health behaviors.

The bottom line – to reach men, the messaging has to appeal more to male ideas about controlling fears, providing for family, retaining virility, achieving success and playing harder than to general ideas regarding prevention and good health. Brands such as Viagra and Flomax have certainly brought these issues into the light of day.-

Where there is unmet need, there is marketing opportunity. The bigger challenge for marketers targeting boomer males will be breaking through with a value proposition and brand messaging that gets their attention.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Lessons Docs Could Learn From Retail Clinics

“Fast, convenient flu shots here” read the poster that caught my eye while strolling briskly from the C to B concourses this morning at Charlotte Douglas International Airport. I needed a flu shot and certainly wanted it fast and convenient given 40 minutes until my next flight.

“I’m here to give you some business,” I said to the nurse manning the kiosk. To which she replied with a smile, “And I’m here to give you great service. I’ll have you out of here in 4 minutes.”

True to her word, I filled out a very short form, handed over my credit card, rolled up the sleeve, winced at the needle stick and walked away in less than 5 minutes. “Thank you and have a nice flight,” she said.

Before I got to the gate, there was an email message on the iPhone thanking me again for my business and providing an electronic notation for inclusion in my medical record. “Please provide this document to your physician to update your medical record regarding the vaccine you have received.”

It’s ironic that the most difficult part of this whole transaction will be figuring out how to forward the note for the medical record on to my primary care physician. I don’t have an email address for the office. In fact I’ve never received an email – or even snail mail for that matter – from my doctor (well, with the exception of the occasional bill). This is the same office where I couldn’t get in for a flu shot because those are only provided two afternoons a week for patients that aren’t being seen for other reasons.

Don’t get me wrong. I do like my doctor, but would love to send him and all his practice staff off to retail boot camp – just until the light bulb comes on about the customer-centered conveniences and courtesies of the retail model. Until then, I’ll be getting more of my routine health care needs met in the retail clinics.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Guest Blogger: Chris Bonney

When decisions regarding facility design, patient flow, registration systems and other design, process or policy issues are made, who is sitting at the table as the voice of the customer? Who evaluates the impact of those decisions on the customer experience? Once again, I am pleased to offer the insights and perspectives of long-time colleague Chris Bonney on this topic.

Tracking the Eyes That Count

I was at a meeting of some architects recently. In demonstrating their capabilities, they showed how they'd solved a tough design problem on a hospital expansion project by clustering treatment rooms in a way that increased operational efficiency and reduced construction cost. Sounds like a win-win proposition, doesn't it?

Only nowhere in the process was there input from the patients who'll be using the facility. And therein was laid the foundation for what is likely to be a history of low patient satisfaction with this facility.

No one checked to see if patients would object to all those treatment room with their curtain doors facing the same public area. No one checked to see if patients would understand the confusing and blandly colored wayfinding signage necessary to navigate the facility's labyrinth of interior corridors, none of which have visual cues to set them apart from each other. They didn’t consider that older patients might need covered places to sit down every fifty yards or so as they walk in from the parking lot in the rain, or whether they’ll even find their way through the three poorly marked left turns necessary to get into the facility’s parking lot.

Navigating the health system is challenging enough for most people even when they have all their faculties. But add advancing age, declining eyesight and hearing and the stress of whatever condition brings them into your healthcare facility and you multiply the opportunities for confusion, anxiety, anger and failure.

Remember “Brubaker,” the movie where Robert Redford arrived undercover as a new prisoner to get a glimpse of life in the penitentiary he’d been hired to clean up? Put yourself in the patient’s shoes. Take a walk around your facility wearing a blindfold, wearing someone else’s eyeglasses, wearing earplugs or with a cast on your leg. Start out on the street where the bus lets people off, or at the farthest point in the parking lot. Do it in the daytime and at night. Do it in a wheelchair. Spend some time in each of your waiting rooms just listening. Pick a random ER patient and observe that patient through his or her entire stay at the hospital. Sit in a patient room and listen to the staff conversations outside.

After you’ve done all this, you might be surprised how different your impressions are from what they are now, and how many new ideas you’ll pick up. You could learn a lot from your customers.

Chris Bonney is president of Bonney & Company, a Virginia-based marketing research firm. He can be reached at 757-481-7030 or by e-mail at:

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Recommended Reading for Chief Marketing Officers

Looking for reading recommendations? The following offer healthcare CMO’s interesting perspectives and good insights on the topics of creative thinking, marketing, brand, competitive strategy and leadership.
  • Marketing as Strategy: Understanding the CEOs Agenda for Driving Growth and Innovation by Nirmalya Kumar
  • The Shift: The Transformation of Today’s Marketers into Tomorrow’s Growth Leaders by Scott Davis
  • Management Lessons from Mayo Clinic by Kent Seltman and Leonard Berry
  • The New Rules of Marketing and PR by David Meerman Scott
  • Marketing Metrics: 50+ Metrics Every Executive Should Master by Paul W. Farris, Neil T. Bendle, Phillip E. Pfeifer, and David J. Reibstein
  • Social Media Marketing: An Hour a Day by Dave Evans and Susan Bratton
  • Orbiting the Giant Hairball by Gordon McKensie
  • Judgment: How Winning Leaders Make Great Calls by Noel Tichy and Warren Bennis

These should keep you busy for a while. Have recommendations of your own? Please pass them along!

Monday, September 28, 2009

How Do You Know When You Have a Brand?

At an Innovator’s Studio work session for Chief Marketing Officers, someone asked guest catalyst Kent Seltman (recently retired Mayo Clinic CMO) about the difference between a brand and a well-known name.

“You know you have a brand,” said Seltman, “when you can leverage it to gain something.” It’s a great insight, and poses a question that healthcare CMOs should stop to ponder: is your brand an asset that can be leveraged for competitive gain?

Many health systems have invested in brand building. Some have succeeded in creating stronger brand identity. A few have improved market position. Only a handful have fully realized the substantial, measurable advantage of a fully activated brand strategy:
  • Strong brands influence consumer choice
  • Strong brands attract and retain the best talent
  • Strong brands create contracting, partnering leverage
  • Strong brands shape referral patterns
  • Strong brands build customer loyalty
  • Strong brands better weather economic cycles

On his blog, author Seth Godin described a marketing asset as a “tool or platform, something you can use over and over without using it up. In fact, it’s something that gets better the more you invest. Running an ad is an expense. Building a brand people trust is an asset.”

Godin goes on to explain that Amazon’s marketing assets are two: “a brand people trust, and a one-click shopping relationship with 50 million people.” Can you boil down the essential elements of your brand’s competitive strengths in such a distinct fashion?

The charge to CMOs is an unwavering focus on driving growth – a great brand provides powerful leverage to do so.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Regaining Trust is Prime Objective for Big Brands

“In the world of branding, trust is the most perishable of assets.” So begins the lead article in Business Week’s September 28, 2009 special report on 100 Best Global Brands. The story here is that consumers have lost considerable trust in brands – and in business overall – in the economic tailspin of corporate greed, recession, job losses and tanking home values.

Not surprisingly, financial services and automobile brands tanked. And other long-respected brands – Starbucks, Sony, Harley-Davidson and Dell dropped in the rankings. Google and Amazon were the big winners, having gained 25% and 22% respectively in brand value since 2008. Other winners included Zara, Nestle, Apple, H&M and Ikea. Coca-Cola still holds the #1 post, followed by IBM (#2) and Microsoft (#3).

Smart CMOs are going on the offensive to restore reputations – and brand value. “Trust and transparency” are key areas of focus according to McDonald’s global chief marketing officer Mary Dillon (McDonald’s rose from #8 to #6 in the rankings). Companies like Ford, American Express, and others are re-engineering their marketing departments to embrace new media and leverage digital tools to listen, reach and engage consumers in new and open forums. They are rediscovering the strategic value of public relations and pumping up PR budgets. Investments in social media are eclipsing other marketing initiatives.

So what can healthcare CMOs take away from this news?
  • Brand is a critical lever for growth, profitability and competitive performance
  • Consumer values and behaviors toward brands are changing
  • Trust in the brand – in the company – is paramount to success
  • Reach and frequency may not be as effective as listening and engaging
  • Marketing resources are shifting from production and placement to people and places

It’s a great time to watch CMOs that are stepping up as ‘chief brand stewards’ and accepting the charge to lead companies into a new consumer world, restore trust and turn the tide on economic performance. Lots to learn.

Guest Blogger: Chris Bonney

You Talkin to Me?

We know that consumers aren’t all alike, that different consumers have different value to us, and that they have different interests and expectations.

Then why do so many marketers continue to speak to them in the same voice or the wrong voice?

Over the years I’ve reviewed or evaluated hundreds of advertising campaigns. Some have been exceptionally good. But a lot of them—at least half or more—fly completely past the non-verbal consciousness of the target audience, that recess of the brain where you want your name to be planted, because they don’t know enough about the target audience to know how to talk to and connect with them.

In the 1980s most hospitals settled on women as the primary target audience. Hospital ads that had once included a rainbow of faces, ages, genders and races began to be populated instead by scenes featuring clusters of “girlfriends” and hackneyed vignettes of knowing mothers counseling apprehensive daughters. The target audience got it. They recognized and even applauded that hospitals were finally recognizing their role as household healthcare gatekeepers.

For all the sister-girl-friendliness of these campaigns, a lot of these new ads didn’t work much better than the old ones. The basics were all there: pictures of women sharing life experience; lots of information; and recommendations for particular hospitals or programs. You’d have thought they had this problem licked.

But they didn’t. Most missed the mark because they: 1) treated woman as if they are all alike; 2) they just took their old campaigns, repainted them “pink,” and sent them back out again; and 3) they wrote copy for women that assumed that women were just men in dresses.

Here are a few thoughts to keep in mind:
  • Everyone resents being pandered to, especially when it comes to age and gender.
  • Women process information differently than men.
  • Women can tell when men are writing the copy. (Vocabulary and logic don’t ring true.)
  • Women’s lives are different today than they were twenty-five years ago.
  • Women’s lives are different at age 25 than they are at 35 or 45 or 55 or 65. If you want to communicate effectively to women, speak to the circumstances and emotions of life stage, not age.

Chris Bonney is president of Bonney & Company, a Virginia-based marketing research firm. He can be reached at 757-481-7030 or by e-mail at:

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Peter Drucker on Marketing

Few explain marketing and the purpose of business like Peter Drucker. Here are several distinguishing quotes:

  • …the aim of marketing is to make selling superfluous. The aim of marketing is to know and understand the customer so well that the product or service fits him and sells itself.
  • Knowledge work is not defined by quantity. Neither is knowledge work defined by its costs. Knowledge work is defined by its results.
  • Whenever you see a successful business, someone once made a courageous decision.
  • The purpose of business is to create a customer.
  • A company's primary responsibility is to serve its customers, to provide the goods or services which the company exists to produce. Profit is not the primary goal but rather an essential condition for the company's continued existence.

And my all-time favorite:

  • Because the purpose of business is to create a customer, the business enterprise has two—and only two—basic functions: marketing and innovation. Marketing and innovation produce results; all the rest are costs. Marketing is the distinguishing, unique function of the business.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Building the Case for Brand Alignment

“The New Brand Mastery: Integrated Business, Brand and Marketing Strategies to Drive Growth” is the topic title for a session that Joel English of BVK, Rob Klein of Klein & Partners, and I will be presenting at this year’s annual SHSMD conference (Orlando, Florida; September 30 - October 3, 2009). Our premise is three-fold:

  1. First, the central and foundational asset in competitive strategy is an organization’s brand and the leverage it provides to drive growth, profitability and customer loyalty

  2. Second, organizational misalignment – across operational, clinical, business development and marketing functions – is the primary cause of brand under-performance and wastes marketing dollars

  3. Conversely, brand alignment results in a powerful, relevant and differentiated brand-driven culture by transforming an organization from one that simply ‘promotes a brand’ to one that ‘delivers the brand.’

During the session, we’ll provide a multi-dimensional exploration of brand as an essential business strategy for healthcare organizations, present a framework for developing, activating, growing and protecting the brand as a strategy-critical asset, and illustrate return on investment in terms of volume, revenue and market performance.

Our session is scheduled for Friday, October 2, 2009 from 10:15 to 11:30 am. To learn more about this year’s SHSMD Conference and download a schedule of events, click here: SHSMD 2009 Conference.

I hope to see you there – stop by to say ‘hello’ at The Strategy Group booth in the exhibition hall.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Guest Blogger: Chris Bonney

Does Patient Satisfaction Count?

I had a chance a while back to speak to a group of hospital CEOs from around the country. Most came from large hospitals that are part of integrated regional health systems. Because the role I play for many of my clients is to be the consumer’s voice, I asked the group, among other things, to tell me how much impact they thought hospital food and the way patients saw their rooms being treated by the housekeeping staff had on patient satisfaction.

No one could answer this question or even speculate about any connection between these services and patient satisfaction. Instead, they asked me, “Why should we care about patient satisfaction?”

I suggested that maybe my question was inappropriate because a hospital CEO is concerned with higher-level issues. No, they assured me, that’s not it, and took me to task for ducking their question, “Why should any hospital executive care about patient satisfaction?”

I tell this story not because I believe hospital marketing managers don’t understand the value of customer feedback, but to remind you how important it is to communicate to your internal stakeholders, especially senior management, the value of marketing, the importance of patient feedback and the connection between patient satisfaction and a hospital’s position as a provider of choice.

“Choice” turned out to be the defining element or, more specifically, the missing element in my CEOs’ logic. Not one of the CEOs in my audience professed to believe that patient satisfaction has any meaningful bearing on the success of the hospital or on clinical care or outcomes. Even more surprising, considering that most of these CEOs work in highly competitive markets, not one was willing to accept that patient choice is a meaningful variable.

You might say these perceptions are the reflection of executives old enough to have come along before marketing hit its stride; a few are. But most are young enough to know better. Almost every one of them said their hospitals do patient satisfaction research. But they don’t give the findings any more than cursory attention.

I challenge you to find new ways to demonstrate the value and impact of patient satisfaction.

Chris Bonney is president of Bonney & Company, a Virginia-based marketing research firm. He can be reached at 757-481-7030 or by e-mail at:

Friday, September 18, 2009

Innovators' Studio Welcomes New CMOs

The Chief Marketing Officers’ Innovator’s Studio welcomes two new participants. They are: Karina Jennings, Vice President for Regional Marketing and Communications at Providence Health Services, Washington/Montana (; and Anissa Davenport, Vice President for Marketing and PR at University Health Systems of Eastern Carolina in Greenville, NC (

The Chief Marketing Officers’ Innovators’ Studio will hold its next working session on November 9 and 10, 2009 at the Catalyst Ranch in Chicago, Illinois. The focus of the intensive is The New Brand Mastery, which will address head-on how operational, clinical, business development and marketing alignment can create a powerful, relevant and differentiated brand-driven culture –transforming an organization from one that simply ‘promotes a brand’ to one that ‘delivers the brand.’

Whole Foods marketing executive Maggie Bahler will be a guest catalyst for the brand mastery work session scheduled November 2009. For more information about the Fall intensive call Kathy Gibala at 636.536.9443.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Another Day at the Ranch!

Here's a photo from today's session at the Innovator's Studio Social Media Intensive in Chicago. Many thanks to the health systems and catalysts that made this 'deep dive' a success!
(Our studio sessions are held at the Catalyst Ranch in Chicago, Illinois)

Follow the Innovator's Studio Social Media Intensive on Twitter

Twitter was abuzz (or should I say atweet) with real time conversation, insights and ideas generated by the participants and catalysts at the Innovator's Studio Social Media Intensive in Chicago. The deep-dive continues today. Can't be there? (neither am I) You can follow the conversation on Twitter today at

I picked up lots of good leads and links from yesterday's tweets. Enough to feed my research habit for a while!


Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Brand Value Proposition: Real or Scripted?

Yesterday I spoke with a nurse who called to tell me a 'funny story.' She had just left a mandatory staff meeting where the nurses, secretaries, nursing assistants and others on her unit were called together to talk about the hospital's brand.

At the meeting she learned that the health system where she works wasn’t stacking up when it came to patient satisfaction scores. Which is concerning, considering that they are consistently recognized on Top 100 lists and are a Magnet hospital, to boot. So throughout the organization, work teams and units were being called together to learn that the hospital’s brand stood for ‘excellent patient care’ and that a comprehensive initiative was being undertaken to improve HCAHPS ratings.

At first, she told me, everyone nodded their heads. “Great,” a colleague said, “we’ve got a lot of ideas for how we can provide better care.” Recommendations eagerly popped out -- such as better collaboration and communication between the ER and the unit to create seamless hand-offs during the admission process, adjusting staffing to provide more support during the labor-intensive periods when new admits come on the unit, and assuring adequate supplies so that nurse could stay at the patient bedside rather than wander around the building to find basic patient care necessities.

Another nurse brought up concerns about four separate patient safety issues and suggested they discuss how those could be avoided in the future. “But wait,” says the meeting chair, “we’re not here today to talk about patient safety, we here to fix our patient satisfaction scores.”

My friend reported that she then noticed the managers and speakers at the front of the room shaking their heads as each suggestion from the floor was raised. “We can’t do that at this time.” “The ER will never change their practice regarding transfers.” “This isn’t what we’re here to do today.”

So what was the point of the meeting? To be instructed in the art of scripting. “Hello, Mrs. Jones, here at (anonymous) hospital, we’re committed to excellent patient care.” “I hope you found your care excellent.” “Is there anything else I can do for you for your care to be excellent?” And so on.

The whole theory, of course, being that the more they drop the word “excellent” within patient earshot, the more likely patients are to check off the “excellent” box on the satisfaction score sheet.

The rest of the shift, she reported, the nursing staff would jab and make comments to each other such as "I'm sorry to be three hours late giving you your meds tonight because the order was confused - but we give excellent patient care."

Now I have to believe that this was not the intent of the initiative, nor the intended outcome of the meeting, but something seriously got lost in translation. When the nursing team hears that it’s the patient satisfaction score and not the patient care that needs improving – well, I’m not laughing.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Service Line Strategies 09 Virtual Workshop

On September 24, 2009, HealthLeaders Media will bring together more than 20 service line experts for a unique, virtual seminar featuring cardiovascular, orthopedics, neurosciences and oncology tracks. The event offers healthcare marketing executives and service line leaders a great learning and networking opportunity without the cost and time commitments of travel. Health systems can register for individual or all four clinical program tracks.

Each track is designed to deliver content on the following topics:
  • service line delivery
  • medical staff development and physician relations
  • service line organization and structure
  • subspecialty program development
  • market share and marketing

Speakers include service line executives from Beth Israel Deaconess, Washington Hospital Center, Barrow Neurological Institute, Yale New Haven Hospital, Vanderbilt Heart and Vascular, among others.

For more details about the sessions, view the conference brochure at the HealthLeaders Media website.

Tess Niehaus Named President-elect for SHSMD

Tess Niehaus, vice president of marketing and communications at St. Anthony’s Medical Center in St. Louis, Missouri, has been named 2010 president-elect of the Society for Healthcare Strategy and Market Development (SHSMD) of the American Hospital Association. In her current position, Tess has responsibility for marketing, physician sales, government relations and volunteer services. Prior to joining St. Anthony’s she worked with BJC HealthCare, also in St. Louis. Tess has been an active participant in and contributor to Society events and publications.


Friday, September 11, 2009

The Chief Marketing Officer's New Agenda

Marketing executives have never had a more opportune time to better establish the discipline of marketing as a strategy-critical business competency for healthcare organizations.

The underlying basis for competition in the industry is shifting -- driven by the converging forces of healthcare reform, physician services restructuring, provider consolidations, consumer expectations, and networked information technologies. Changing economics are front and center, and make a compelling case for the role that marketers must play in an increasingly competitive industry.

What is the new agenda for Chief Marketing Officers? To adopt a market-making P & L mindset. To transform the discipline from promotions-oriented tactics to growth-oriented strategic leadership. To drive value-innovation across the health system. To crusade for customer-centered practices. To prepare and position organizations for long term success while simultaneously enhancing and growing the core business.

The imperative is three-fold.
  • First, to build a marketing organization that is strategic and focused on near-term enterprise growth as well as creation of future customers, products, and channels.
  • Second, to establish the critical relationships and linkages across the value chain (clinical operations, finance, purchasing, IT, physicians, partnerships, etc.) to orchestrate alignment to customer needs and company growth goals.
  • And third, to develop a results-oriented marketing operation that delivers on revenue growth and profit goals.

The next decade may well represent a period of signficant change and transformation in our industry. What great opportunity!


Thursday, September 10, 2009

'Energized Differentiation' Separates Great Brands from the Pack

A recent article published in Strategy + Business (The Trouble with Brands) summarizes findings from a massive study of consumer brand perceptions and the impact on corporate performance. The comprehensive examination revealed that consumers are increasingly focusing their loyalties and purchasing power on an ever-narrowing set of brands that are connecting to the public in more exciting and dynamic ways.

This brand phenomenon – coined ‘energized differentiation’ – is personified in high energy brands such as iPhone, Nike, Walmart, Whole Foods, Zappos and Axe, among others.

According to the authors, three primary factors separate high energy brands from the so-so lot:
  • Vision – how the company’s aspirations, reputation and values are presented to consumers
  • Innovation – how consumers perceive innovative design or function or content
  • Dynamism – how the brand persona evokes emotion and engagement

A critical finding of the study was the link between energized differentiation and financial earnings and stock performance. “The more energy they have, the greater consideration, loyalty, pricing power, and brand value (as a percentage of firm value) they command.” (Gerzema, Lebar)

In other words, the more energized the brand, the greater the preference and usage – and the more predictive of brand-driven growth.

The article is worth the read (click here), and will make a good journal topic for your next marketing team meeting.


Innovator's Studio to Host Social Media Intensive

Next week, the Innovator’s Studio will host a social media strategy intensive for hospitals and health systems seeking to leverage new media tools to support customer acquisition and growth strategies. The two-day studio will be held September 16-17, 2009 at the Catalyst Ranch in Chicago, Illinois.

The deep dive session has a star line-up of expert catalysts on board to work hands on with marketing, IT and strategy executives to accelerate health systems’ understanding, adoption and management of social media innovations. Among them are:
  • Lee Aase, Manager, Syndication and Social Media, Mayo Clinic
  • Ed Bennett, Director, Web Strategy at University of Maryland Medical System
  • Carla Bryant, VP, Brand/Marketing Consulting, The Strategy Group/Navvis & Company
  • Kevin Kriehn, Director, Digital Strategy, BVK
  • Albert Maruggi, President, Provident Partners - New Media/PR Consulting
  • Doug Pollei, VP, Internet Strategy and Corporate Development, IKANO Communications

“The session is structured to move quickly beyond the tools,” says Carla Bryant, “and focus on the employment of the tools in the context of an integrated business, brand and marketing strategy to drive growth and customer engagement.”

The Innovator’s Studio Social Media Intensive is not a seminar, and definitely not a lecture – but a hands-on, working laboratory where clients bring laptops, smart phones, and a burning desire to embrace new media in their quests to build future-ready marketing organizations.

Next week’s studio session is sold out. But if you want to learn more or join the waiting list for the next gathering click here: Innovator’s Studio Social Media Intensive.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The Marketing Mix: Fundamental, Yet Still Elusive

One of the first concepts taught in Marketing 101 is the marketing mix, otherwise known as the 4 Ps of marketing. The marketing mix is symbolized by an equation (Price ≤ Product + Place + Promotion) that encompasses all the activities and tools available for developing and managing marketing action plans.

What does this equation represent? In order for a marketing strategy to be successful, the value of services received must be perceived to be greater than the price paid for a product or service. And value is embodied in the sum total of elements – positioning, product design, accessibility, customer service, clinical quality, convenience, brand, etc. – experienced or perceived by the customer. Organizations can manipulate any element of the equation to optimize marketing outcomes (sales growth, market penetration, brand preference, etc.).

The dilemma faced by many healthcare CMOs is that, historically, healthcare organizations have over-invested in the promotions end of the marketing mix at the expense of the other elements of the formula that create true customer value. And they’ll be the first to volunteer that this all too often results in under-performance for marketing investments.

Still, the best of marketing evangelists often find themselves challenged to bring operations, administrative, clinical, financial and marketing people together at the table to define and clarify the value proposition, and to orchestrate activities across the value chain to bring a competitively differentiated offering to the market.

Yet when that kind of alignment happens, the return on promotional investments soars.


Monday, September 7, 2009

Marketing Lessons from Bumrungrad International Hospital

Thailand’s Bumrungrad International Hospital treats more than a million patients a year – 30,000 from North America. International patients from Europe, the Middle East, Asia and the Americas represent 42% of Bumrungrad’s volume and greater than 50% of revenues. So how did this Bangkok-based medical center become known as the mecca for medical tourism? The answer lies in a pretty straightforward value proposition - quality, value and access - and in a management perspective that understands the marketing power of needs-based segmentation, value innovation and brand experience.

Bumrangrad’s CEO, Mark Banner, and director of marketing, Kenneth Mays, were recently interviewed by Ravi Aron, a senior fellow with the William and Phyllis Mack Center for Technological Innovation at Wharton. You can listen to the interview and download a PDF transcript at Wharton's website. Click here: Bumrungrad Hospital: Expanding the Footprint of Offshore Health Care.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Have We Banned Brand Discussions from the C-Suite?

Recently a colleague asked my opinion on educational topics for healthcare executives focused on physician integration and alignment. We talked over the usual suspects - varied alignment models, integration frameworks, physician governance and leadership, transaction issues. culture - to which she asked, 'these are all important, but what isn't yet being talked about when it comes to the integration of health systems and physicians?"

"Brand," I replied. "No one is talking about the brand impact of large-scale physician integration strategies."

"Oh," she said, "but these are executives, not marketers. They're not really interested in brand."


Just imagine this conversation if we were discussing Apple, Proctor and Gamble, Starbucks. Can you see Steve Jobs dismissing brand as an issue central to a company acquisition? Howard Shultz declaring that brand is the lone responsibility of the marketing department?

The problems lies not in whether the C-suite is interested in brand, but whether it understands and embraces brand as central to creating customer value. When the first brand question raised is "what do we call the new physician enterprise?" rather than "what competitively unique, relevant brand value proposition will this combination bring to market to grow our business in new and exciting ways" then it's clear that brand is still seen as a communications tool rather than an asset to be leveraged for market gains.

Branding is a management perspective -- the totality of activities to define, shape and deliver customer perceived value. Are we to leave this to chance after spending millions to effect physician transactions?

In an earlier post (Keeping Your Brand Healthy After Physician Integration) I stated, "Assuming the average primary care physician sees about 5,000 patients visits a year, back of the napkin math shows us that a health system with 100 employed physicians brings in a half million visits or so annually – with 300 to 400 physicians that number can rise upwards of 2 million. Now assuming that brand impressions are shaped through familiarity and frequency of use, then it’s easy to see how a large employed physician practice can be the catalyst for building – or unraveling – brand reputation."

Brands drive customer perceptions. Customer perceptions drive business outcomes. This isn't a topic of interest for the C-suite?


Friday, September 4, 2009

TEDMED 2009: Wish I Could be There

“Where do Healthcare and Medicine Collide with Brilliant Minds and Uninhibited Imagination?”

This was a headline too intriguing to ignore. A click on the link and I landed at TEDMED 2009, a website promoting the gathering of an eclectic group of scientists, physicians, celebrities, business leaders, inventors and others to explore all things health and medical.

Topics run the gamut from famed neurosurgeon Keith Black on ‘non-invasive brain surgery’ to lifestyle guru Martha Stewart on ‘transforming care for the elderly.’ Speaker bios reveal astronauts, Hollywood producers, rap artists, designers, medical researchers, etc.

Dynamic people. Energizing Topics. This is not your typical healthcare conference. But what if it were? What if our industry trade gatherings did more to spark imagination than sustain imitation?

Unfortunately, I can’t make this conference (which is just as well given the $4,000 enrollment fee!) but enjoyed the brief journey through their website. If you do go – please let me know.

TEDMED 2009; October 27 - 30; San Diego, California

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Focus ROI on Financial and Strategic Outcomes

If marketing is to be valued as a core business investment, then the chief marketing officer must instill a rigorous, results-oriented discipline to set quantifiable goals and demonstrate ROI. Too often, marketing goals are either missing in action or stated in terms too 'soft' to get the CFO's endorsement. Performance measurements are often activity or process oriented, which while important for managing an efficient marketing operation, don't always link expenditures to business outcomes.

The bottom line is this: in the C-suite, only two sets of metrics count -- results related to financial performance and results related to strategic performance. Revenue. Volume growth. Market share. Profitability. Brand loyalty. Differentiation. Competitive sustainability.

We all know the challenges faced by healthcare CMOs when it comes to ROI -- information systems that aren't oriented to customer transactions or purchasing patterns, extensive variations in pricing and reimbursement, complex channel relationships, long buying cycles, etc. -- but, in my experience, the quest for the holy grail of marketing ROI is derailed at three key junctures.

1. Production of marketing plans that are really tactical 'to do' lists confined to marketing department activities

Many a marketing effort falters because actions are created and dollars expended without the strategic underpinning that aligns the organization's growth goals with market opportunities. This happens when marketing is disconnected from growth discussions, then called in after the fact to put a communications spin on the decision-making.

A strategic marketing plan is a derivative of the company's strategic plan -- addressing how the health system intends to grow, what markets it will serve and with what products and services, how it will create differentiation and sources of competitive advantage, how brands will be positioned, how the portfolio will be configured to optimize profitability, how marketing investments will be prioritized, what the expectations are for returns.

2. Marketing investments that overly-emphasize promotions as the primary customer acquisition strategy

At a recent gathering of healthcare marketing executives, the CMO for a well-known, national electronics retailer shared the business analytics that framed his company's marketing strategy and modeled how he could project (with great accuracy) changes in sales and profitability by manipulating various aspects of the brand strategy and marketing mix.

What he demonstrated was how a strategic balance of marketing investments focused on segmentation and targeting, product development, market expansion, channel relationships, pricing, customer experience and, yes, promotion, were required to drive business outcomes.

This means an investment in research methodologies that go beyond the awareness-preference studies so prevalent in our industry, and integrated business, operational, clinical, brand and marketing strategies that encompass more than promotions.

3. Lack of ownership at the executive team level for marketing performance

The nexus of the problem may well reside here if marketing is simply viewed as a functional department and not as a core business discipline and competitive competency of the organization. A marketing orientation is derived from an organizational culture centered on customer needs as well as the sum of organizational activities designed to create profitable exchange relationships by fulfilling those needs.

Marketing department activities have limited utility when access, capacity, pricing, products, customer service, clinical quality, physician relationships and other operational aspects of the business are out of whack. It's critical for the CMO, with the CEO, to drive co-ownership of the marketing goals, strategy and investments - and co-accountability for delivery and performance outcomes - across the entire executive team.

The end game is results

The end game is customer engagement that results in growth, profitability and sustainability. But without full engagement of the organization's leaders in establishing marketing performance targets, strategies and investments - and without agreement as to the strategic and financial metrics that spell success - the CMO is left to defend marketing department activities and expenditures that appear discretionary, rather than essential, to winning in the marketplace.