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The New Era of B2C Healthcare Marketing

AcxiomSeptember 09, 2015

It’s no secret our healthcare system is ailing. Diagnosing and effectively treating its current afflictions is, well let’s just say it’s complicated.  While I’m reluctant to add to the chorus of panaceas, I firmly to hold to the point view that the problematic issues with healthcare should be framed in trends, and their solutions aimed at shifting those trends towards sustainable improving outcomes.

“Wait a minute,” you must be asking yourself, “…what does any of this have to with marketing or Acxiom for that matter?”  With healthcare as the subject, answers to that question can infinitely vary and swiftly become mind-numbingly microscopic.  At a high level though, the answer resides in the core value of Acxiom’s customer centric solutions, which provide powerful predictive insights into market trends derived from precise data on individual consumers, which in turn empower marketers to effectively impact not only what influences behavior, but also how to personalize such engagements.  Consider two problematic trends that Marketing could play a vital role in driving a positive shift:

#1 – Sickcare vs. Healthcare

The resources in our care delivery system are primarily concentrated on Sickcare, treating disease as it arises, rather than Healthcare, which truly would focus more on proactive prevention.  Perhaps the most pernicious symptom of the problem is out of control costs.  According to the latest analysis from CMS U.S. Healthcare spending is on the rise again, predicted to grow 5.8% annually on average through 2024.  With GDP growth averaging 2.2% over the last 5 years and Healthcare’s share of it already at 17.4%, or nearly $3 Trillion (that’s 3 times 1000 Billion!), it’s no wonder concerns over medical cost inflation are surfacing once again.

The looming tragedy is that the majority of systemic cost is bound up in treating sick individuals, burdened with preventable chronic disease. Although this problematic trend has been widely understood for quite a long time and is the key driver behind the galvanizing initiative of the Triple Aim, broadly effective trend altering solutions have yet to emerge.  If major cost drivers are ultimately preventable, then earlier detection is key to shifting the trend toward a system of Healthcare necessary to drive better outcomes.

#2  – Rise of Consumerism

Given the market economy in the U.S., for a rise of consumerism to be viewed as a problematic trend would seem counterintuitive.  While that’s certainly true over the long-term, currently, nothing, not even the powerful forces of innovation or public policy will have the radical disruptive effect consumerism will have on healthcare.  It’s an enormous issue because few organizations in the provider and payer spheres are prepared for such trends as the steep enrollment increases in employer sponsored defined benefit plans.  These ‘private exchange’ plans will instantly provide a variety of choice in health insurance for employees, whose participants Accenture predicts will increase from 6 million currently to 40 million lives by 2018.

Indeed, the consumerism trend is well under way by health plans shifting risk to members via co-pays, high deductibles, and co-insurance.  Inducing a 401k effect in the market, consumers are seeking value and opportunities to exercise discretion with their first dollars.  However, most large-scale provider and payer organizations continue to struggle with the fundamentals of customer centricity.  With expectations set by cutting edge personalized technology experiences, executing effective consumer engagement at scale will require more than strategy, but the right enterprise class infrastructure as well.

Marketing Health will be vital.

Talented marketers have always been able to capture imagination, ease resistance, and facilitate decisions; these days, those feats must be accomplished through expert advocacy, resonant narratives, and social connection.

The technically savvy of the profession are well-positioned take a leading role in developing consumer-centric innovations.  While the recent shift to personalization in marketing has been well established, the healthcare sector is only waking up to it

Leveraging marketing to personalize engagement and deliver transparent and seamless experiences will be vital to success.  Back in college, in his initial address to our of health education class, our professor equated the subject to “health marketing.”  If prevention and personalization are key to achieving the Triple Aim, perhaps the healthcare sector ought to take inspiration from Ted Levitt’s remarkable observation made long ago in The Marketing Imagination, “Customers buy hopeful expectations…” and develop a discipline for Marketing Health.