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Monday, March 29, 2010

Time-starved Consumers Seek ‘Brand Butlers’

The convergence of consumers with limited time and the ease of providing mobile online services is creating a new class of service-oriented “brand butlers,” according to consumer insights firm defines brand butlers as brands that focus on assisting consumers to make the most of their lives, as opposed to the traditional branding model of selling consumers a lifestyle or identity.

Although identifies the growing sophistication of mobile online services as crucial to the development of brand butlers, the company advises that offline services such as permanent or pop-up branded spaces and lounges tied to a specific event (music festival) or location (airport) can qualify as brand butlers. also advises that brand butlers go above and beyond top-quality products and services, so providing excellent customer service is not enough on its own to become a brand butler.

Learn more about their 8 key brand butler categories at Time-starved Consumers Seek ‘Brand Butlers’

Thursday, March 25, 2010

President Signs Health Care Reform Act; Now What?

This week, President Obama signed into law the most significant social legislation since the 1960s. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (H.R. 3590) extends health insurance coverage to 32 million uninsured Americans ― at a cost of $940 billion over the next decade. The legislation ensures that by 2014, nearly all Americans will be required to be insured, and by 2016, the majority of the uninsured (30 million people) will be covered.

To do this, the legislation expands Medicaid to cover families making as much as $88K a year. It also creates state-supervised exchanges to expand coverage access to individuals and small businesses. Other goals of the legislation are to improve affordability and accountability, crack down on waste, fraud and abuse, and ensure fiscal sustainability.

What Didn’t Get Passed? There is no government-run insurance plan. People can buy coverage through the state exchanges, but these will be private, nonprofit plans.

How does this impact the major health care players? Some of the key tenets are described below:

  • Extending Coverage for all Americans – On one hand, it is believed that the bill will benefit hospitals because more people will have insurance and hospitals will have to provide less charity care, which should result in fewer ‘write offs’ and a reduction in bad debt. However, expanded Medicaid enrollments could be a mixed blessing because Medicaid often pays hospitals less than the actual cost of care.

  • Improving the Quality and Efficiency of Care – It provides incentives for doctors, and hospitals that improve quality while providing for better coordination that helps to reduce harmful medical errors and healthcare-acquired infections. The bill will also provide payment reforms so providers are rewarded for the quality of care they provide, rather than just additional tests or treatments. And it rewards innovative practices where doctors and nurse practitioners provide more primary care that is coordinated with every doctor or specialist involved with a patient’s care.

  • Focusing on Prevention – This legislation will promote prevention, wellness, and the public health and provides an unprecedented funding commitment to these areas. It directs the creation of a national prevention and health promotion strategy that incorporates the most effective and achievable methods to improve the health status of Americans and reduce the incidence of preventable illness and disability in the United States. It increases prevention and wellness services for Medicare beneficiaries by waiving co-payments for most preventive services and by fully covering an annual wellness visit and personalized prevention plans for American seniors on Medicare.

  • Expanding the Healthcare Workforce – The act will fund scholarships and loan repayment programs to increase the number of primary care physicians, nurses, physician assistants, mental health providers, and dentists in underserved areas of the country. With a comprehensive approach focusing on retention and enhanced educational opportunities, the Act combats the critical nursing shortage. And through new incentives and recruitment, the Act increases the supply of public health professionals so that the United States is prepared for health emergencies.

  • Transparency and Program Integrity – Doctors with financial interests in imaging services, like MRI services, must inform the patients in writing that they can obtain the recommended imaging service from a person other than the referring physician, and provide a contact list. The Act also requires all drug companies, device, and medical supply manufacturers to fully disclose and report any gifts they make or financial arrangements they have with doctors, a physician practice or group. Providers enrolled in Medicare, Medicaid and CHIP programs will undergo increased scrutiny for new compliance requirements. The bill calls for increased governmental auditing and revenue oversight requiring providers to become more efficient and accountable for utilization, quality and cost of care.

  • Funding the Program -- Funding for the landmark legislation will come from a variety of initiatives, including increased Medicare taxes for high-income individuals and an excise tax on insurers offering high-premium plans. In addition, hospitals agreed to help pay for the costs of the legislation and will contribute $155 billion over 10 years, primarily through lower Medicare payments. Health systems will also see reduced disproportionate share funding payments and cost-saving provisions resulting from program cuts for high-cost, less efficient hospitals in high cost markets. Moody’s Investors Service speculates that not-for-profit hospitals will struggle with reimbursement and efficiency pressures under health care reform legislation, triggering spending cuts, mergers and changes to revenue streams.

Most of the initiatives won’t take effect until 2014; however, the time for health systems to address both short and long term implications of the legislation is now.

Coming next: What to Expect from Industry-Leading Health Systems

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Study Reveals Majority of Young Women Go On-line First with Health Questions

A February survey conducted by Harris Interactive on behalf of iVillage found that women heavily rely on the Internet as a health resource before turning to a family member or visiting a doctor. Anonymous peer networking and sharing common experiences is what drives women online for health matters, with 4 out of 5 (82%) saying there are reasons to feel uncomfortable when discussing health concerns or questions with friends or family members. Over half of women (59%) said that discussing health concerns with people they know can be embarrassing.

Click here to read more at HealthLeaders Media Marketing Weekly.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Guest Blogger: John Marzano, VP External Affairs, Orlando Health

Marketers Must Lead Health Systems in Embracing New Media

Orlando Health took the better part of a year in developing a strategy to participate in the social/digital environment. In November 2009, with full support of organization leadership we launched our plan with both a Facebook ( and You Tube page ( To date, we have acquired more than 3,800 fans to our page and have over 4,000 views on You Tube for a special heart month video called 'move it' as well as other videos featuring tours of our facilities and physician expertise.

Overall, we looked at some best practices (Mayo Clinic, University of Maryland Medical System) and took a measured approach while setting very realistic parameters, guidelines for use, and expectations as part of a new communications platform that addressed the mix of traditional and digital forms of communication to engage our target audiences. In addition, we seamlessly moved two FTEs into roles that support this strategy and help us stay current with the technology.

First steps were to develop a credible presence for the organization through use of video, educational opportunities for fans to participate in, including RSVPs to health events, etc. Also, we developed a data bank of physician expert videos on a variety of clinical services that strategically drive our business. Third, we made it fun by incorporating campus activities and other special events to generate buzz, feedback, and affinity for our programs and services. Finally, more recently, we uploaded media stories and new advertising campaigns to give our fans another opportunity to hear our brand message and story.

I think an intense focus on ROI at this stage is premature. Right now it’s about engaging target audiences with another tactic/tool to communicate about the organization, build brand awareness, and build a fan base – in this case, to those that already want to hear from you. Once a good fan base is onboard, then utilize cross marketing opportunities and new modalities available from the social sites to begin to steer appropriate call-to-action, response and potential business.

Currently, site analytics available offer some measurement of success and have told us that approximately 80% of our fan base are women 25-44, which by the way fits nicely into Orlando Health’s core target audience of women 25-64.
It also paves the way to engage a younger demographic for potential new business in the future. Video views add to the analytics and show us how many are watching our physicians tell the clinical story of the organization.

Common sense tells us that with anything in the digital age, we can expect the technology to evolve and change many times over. As marketers and communicators, we're expected to take the lead, adapt to our markets and move to where the potential business is moving. ROI measurements will come soon enough. Let’s establish credibility with a sound strategy first.

John Marzano is the vice president for external affairs at Orlando Health, a health system in central Florida that includes Orlando Regional Medical Center, the Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women & Babies, the Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children, and MD Anderson Cancer Center Orlando and other hospitals and patient care services. He can be reached at