Imagine you’re starting on the journey to having a child. To choose your doctor, you log into a secure website, create a profile with information about your needs and preferences—from your insurance to your schedule to whether you want a practice that accepts your birth doula—and request data on waiting times, quality measures, and patient reviews from area doctors who match your criteria.

This is the service that Dr. Stephen Klasko, MD, MBA, President of Thomas Jefferson University and CEO of Jefferson Health, and his Digital Innovation and Customer Experience (DICE) team are piloting with their technology partner, General Catalyst.

And this is the future of what customer-focused healthcare engagement looks like. Highly personalized and relevant, it uses data not to market to prospective patients, but to address their unique needs and solve their real-world problems. In turn, it creates a better experience and a higher chance of a successful and sustainable customer relationship.

Organizations Must Be Ready for More Healthcare Disruption

“A category 5 disruption is coming to healthcare,” says Dr. Klasko. “We have a once-in-a-lifetime chance to change from a business-to-business to a business-to-consumer model, or outside disruptors like Amazon or smaller upstarts are going to come in and do it for us.”

This disruption stems largely from a rapidly evolving customer journey. Across industries, from banking to retail, the way customers get information and make decisions has changed dramatically. And while patients have not demanded they be the focus of healthcare to date, Dr. Klasko warns the tipping point is here.

So while many in healthcare have been focused on the promises and challenges of technology and big data, we must not overlook the equally revolutionary change of the customer journey.

Today’s Customers Want Information to Make Decisions—Not Sales Pitches

According to a New York Times article on a recently released report from Forrester, today’s marketers have more data about their customers than ever before. Yet, due in large part to the deluge of online advertising, those same customers also have less tolerance for being sold to than ever.

In addition, the report’s lead author, Jay Pattisall, says that communication channels—and the costs associated with them—have “exponentially exploded” while it’s become harder to reach audiences. Indeed, recent research from Google shows that it takes 50 to 500 touchpoints for a consumer to make a purchase. At the same time, the greater focus on rare and chronic diseases in biopharma is shifting efforts toward local-level marketing through micro-targeting and micro-influences such as specialists, caregivers, patient advocates, and patients themselves.

This changing customer journey will have a profound effect on every facet of our dynamic and uncertain health ecosystem, including healthcare marketing and engagement.

Insights Professionals Are the Key to Authentic Engagement

As data gets bigger and technology and artificial intelligence more ubiquitous, people are craving the intimate, the human, and the authentic. According to the Forrester report, more than 55% of consumers will consider company values when making a buying decision.

And when it comes to empathy and values, authenticity matters above all. The Forrester report notes that organizations will be successful when they are authentic in choosing and expressing values, and collaborative in co-creating experiences with customers and employees. This comes from getting out into the community to talk to people at a different level in order to uncover barriers to success organizations can help remove.

That’s where insights professionals come in. They are the bridge between technology, data, and human empathy—and thus the key to achieving authentic empathy in marketing as well as broader innovations that can serve patients.

Insights professionals can help organizations do three key things to create effective engagement:

1. Shift to a Customer-Focused Approach

“When competition increases and people have more choices, they become more demanding and expect to have more control over their overall experience surrounding their healthcare,” says Barbara Kahn, PhD, Professor of Marketing at The Wharton School and Executive Director of the Marketing Science Institute. “To compete in this world, organizations must deliver experiential value over and above just the direct patient/provider interaction.” The overall customer experience with the healthcare provider, Dr. Kahn explains, should inspire hope and trust, but also be delivered as conveniently and efficiently as possible.

Insights professionals can design and interpret both quantitative and qualitative studies that help to understand the nuances of what people value most and help organizations co-create messaging and solutions for greater relevance and impact. They can also redesign success metrics to help organizations measure success based on customer-focused metrics such as satisfaction, medication adherence, and health outcomes.

2. Understand Customers in the Full Context of Their Lives

“Understanding the patient journey within healthcare is necessary, but it is not sufficient,” says Glenna M. Crooks, PhD, author of The NetworkSage: Realize Your Network Superpower and Founder of The NetworkSage consultancy. “We must also understand what’s happening in the rest of people’s lives.”

According to Dr. Crooks, the typical patient journey map captures the patient’s interactions with three to four different people. Yet one patient she worked with who was in the hospital for just 26 hours for a hip replacement interacted with 47 different types of people.

For people with chronic diseases or mental health disorders, the network of professionals and family or friend caregivers can be even more vast and complex. A mother whose child has autism spectrum disorder, for example, manages multiple school administrators, teachers, and counselors as well as private psychologists, physicians, and others. The time and stress from managing such a large network can affect the mother’s work, home, relationships, and health.

Insights professionals can use advanced analytics techniques to understand the real burden of illness, including people’s broader emotional, financial, transportation, professional, and other needs. This, says Dr. Crooks, can lead to better educational information and support services for patients as well as stronger reimbursement rationale for innovative solutions and wraparound services.

3. Think Strategically About Delivering Messaging That Speaks to the Real Customer Value

Insights professionals can analyze data to better understand the context of messaging in customers’ lives. This can both improve initial engagement and establish the transparency needed for long-term trust.

Dr. Klasko explains that while broad claims such as delivering patient-centered care or being the #1 hospital are the current standard, healthcare providers should instead focus on the end result specific to patients’ individual lives. For example, when data tells a health system that a prospective knee replacement patient is a marathon runner, messaging should be targeted to deliver transparent statistics on how fast the system’s patients typically get back to long-distance running.

To learn how to unravel the changing customer experience within the redesigned health ecosystem and find out about the latest trends, best practices, and technologies that can help your organization build successful customer relationships, join the Intellus Worldwide 2020 Summit. The Summit will be held at the Philadelphia Marriott Downtown in Philadelphia, PA from April 29 to May 1, 2020. Keynote speakers include Dr. Crooks, Dr. Kahn, and Dr. Klasko.
Register now >

  • Joanne French

    Joanne French, founded Innovuse, Inc., Content Marketing Agency last year and hosts a podcast for women business owners called Women Interviews. She is also the Program Committee Chair for Intellus Worldwide, an organization committed to serving the needs of Insights Professionals. Joanne helps companies bring big ideas to life through organizational development, marketing strategy, and action planning. She has facilitated hundreds of workshops and interviews with senior-level executives at Fortune 100 companies. Her research and strategic planning guided numerous brands to peak performance during her 25+ years career.


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