By Steve Koch

Recently, we had the opportunity to attend the 18th annual Healthcare Internet Conference. We might have had the shortest commute of anyone at the conference, as it took place just up the road from us in Scottsdale, AZ. With four keynotes and 56 breakout sessions across seven tracks, there was quite bit of knowledge and experience shared over the 2+ days of the conference.

We’ve had a week to digest everything we learned and have identified ten key takeaways from the sessions we were able to attend. In this blog post, we’ll review the first five and their implications for healthcare marketers. We’ll review the second five next week.

Takeaway #1: In order to be successful, you must start with your hospital’s “why” and define how it is different than your competitors.

[Learning from the Fringe: Uncommon and Innovative Insights Come From Uncommon and Innovative Places. Paul Szablowski, Texas Health Resources.]

Szablowski’s keynote brought a lot of great insight as it kicked off the conference. And his example of starting with the “why” could not have come at a more appropriate time for the healthcare industry. As providers develop new messaging strategies to communicate with consumers in this new era, centering their communication on their “why” will be key to success. This concept (from a Ted Talk a few years ago by Simon Sinek titled “Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Action”) takes the position that most marketing focuses on the “what” and “how” of a product, while most consumers make purchases decisions based on the “why” – they want to engage with products that have a purpose that aligns with theirs. The TED talk is worth the 18 minutes. It might just inspire your next marketing strategy.

Takeaway #2: Healthcare has a Net Promoter Score of 10.8. Lower than all industries except utilities, Internet service providers and cable companies.

[Learning from The Fringe: Uncommon and Innovative Insights Come From Uncommon and Innovative Places. Paul Szablowski, Texas Health Resources.]

Another gem from Paul Szablowski. Net Promoter Score (NPS) measures how likely consumers are to recommend a brand to their friends or colleagues. When you look at Healthcare’s 10.8 Net Promoter Score and compare it to brands like Apple or Google who are over 80, you see the opportunity. Already, research tells us that almost 75% of consumers rank reputation and personal experience as the top drivers of provider choice. And, as consumers take an even large role in their healthcare decision-making, NPS will become an even more important indicator of future provider success.

Takeaway #3: According to Pew, only 4% of healthcare consumers post reviews.

[Your Audience: Observations of US Healthcare Audiences in Online Social Behavior. Dean Browell, PhD, Feedback and Ryan Squire, Kindred Healthcare]

After hearing this statistic, our first thought was around the huge opportunity that healthcare has to activate the reviews of the 96% of consumers who aren’t posting. Squire gave a great case study from Kindred Healthcare that showed the effects of encouraging reviews. As of 2012, the organization had accumulated 942 reviews over a seven-year period, with a 2.1 (out of 5) average. After initiating a campaign encouraging reviews, Kindred added 1,597 reviews in just one year and raised their average to 4.1 out of 5. Logically, this makes sense. More often than not, consumers aren’t going to be motivated to leave reviews unless they have a poor experience, which can lead to a low average. By encouraging reviews, a brand is more likely to hear from its satisfied consumers. And this does make a business difference. According to research presented by Browell and Squire, 89% of people say that reviews influence their purchasing decisions and four of five consumers reverse purchase decisions based on negative online reviews.

Takeaway #4: We must apply the retail customer journey to healthcare.

[CRM: Cutting Edge Integration with the Web. Terri McNorton, Ochsner Health System and Christopher Catallo, Healthgrades]

This message couldn’t have been more appropriate given the current environment. As healthcare continues to evolve from a business-to-business model to a business-to-consumer model, a true “Retail Care Imperative” has emerged for providers, as noted in KaufmanHall’s Fall 2014 report. As consumers approach their healthcare purchase decisions as they do their day-to-day purchase decisions, the retail journey will provide a foundation for organizations to develop an understanding of their patients’ journey. As Catallo reminded us, if a healthcare system isn’t already adopting some of the principles that retail-focused organizations use to understand consumers, it’s time to start.

Takeaway #5: According to Google, 56% of consumers would switch to providers who have online appointments.

[Tipping the Scale: Gaining Executive Buy-In and Delivering the Goods. Grant Sanborn, HCA’s Capital Division, Ochsner Health System and Mark Valkenburgh, Google]

This is a great example of how consumers are bringing their retail experiences and expectations to healthcare. In a nutshell, if we don’t make things convenient for them, on their terms, they’ll go elsewhere. This aligns well with the 2013 CEB book “The Effortless Experience: Conquering the New Battleground for Customer Loyalty.” This book took the position that reducing customer effort is the key to customer experience success. It reported that 96% of consumers who reported a high-effort experience with an organization reported being disloyal as a result of the experience. The convenience of offering online appointments as opposed to the often cumbersome process of making appointments via phone is an obvious place to reduce effort. Where else on the patient journey can hospitals and hospital systems reduce effort?

It’s a question that all providers must ask themselves in this new era. So, there are our first five takeaways from HCIC ’14. We’ll have our second five later this week. But, we’d like to hear from you. What did you take away from HCIC this year? What thoughts do you have on our takeaways? Let us know in the comments.

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