I used to hear that health care was behind other industries when it comes to digital technology adoption and delivering immersive consumer experiences. It may be behind CPG, retail, finance and travel, but it is by no means slower. The industry is evolving quickly, largely because it is finally putting the consumer at the center of its ecosystem, as opposed to the health system, provider, channel or technology. The moment the consumer becomes the center of an industry ecosystem, the opportunities and the challenges become fairly consistent and industry agnostic.
Like the other industries, health care now has the ability to capture consumer data across clinical, claims, biometrics, behavioral, demographic, insurance, administrative and cost. At the same time, technologies have increased access, improved quality and lowered the costs associated with telemedicine, always-on communication, sensors and wearables.
For the first time, health systems have another meaning for the title CMO. In addition to the chief medical officer, there is now also the chief marketing officer. Today, health care is as much about communication, convenience and always-on engagement as it is about treatments and outcomes. This has pushed the traditionally peripheral functions of marketing and advertising to the center of its operating model.
This fundamental shift isn’t a mere accident but an organic response to the broader industry dynamics that have evolved. Consumers are increasingly forced to shoulder additional health care costs as health networks shrink. At the same time, outcomes and clinical results are driving health system profit margins, leading networks to prioritize wellness over bringing in more patients.
As a result, consumers are demanding better experiences, control and choice. Consumers have thrust themselves to the center of this ecosystem and expect the same values of choice, convenience, cost effectiveness, control and experience offered by other industries, such as retail, banking, hospitality and travel. They are assuming ownership of their health and wellness, while taking advantage of information and technology.
The brands that respond with agility will survive, while the rest will perish.
As health care adapts to a digital world, it can learn from the mistakes of other industries. The most common: the temptation to manage digital as an external entity. Large enterprises must believe and subscribe to the concept of “health care in a digital world” for a “digital consumer” who no longer differentiates between the physical and digital. Everything is now digital, including the services needed to take care of consumer health. That’s a subtle but important difference.
The health care industry should avoid channel hysteria. Just as in data-driven marketing, it’s understandable how health care companies want to become multichannel as a brand. However, consumers don’t see channels – they care about the experience, value and the story brought to them. In other words, they want immersive omnichannel and seamless experiences that drive participation and behavioral change.
With 40 million consumers looking for health information online every month, the need for always-on engagement through precise, relevant and contextual content cannot be understated. Consumers no longer wait for information; they proactively seek and find information at a time, location and touchpoint of their choice.
For brands to be successful in driving behaviors and engagement, they must understand consumers’ context – the who, where, when, why, how and what – and use it to influence and inspire every piece of content seamlessly across channels.
Brands’ ability to predict consumers’ care and wellness needs, along with giving them what they need before they know they need, it will differentiate the winners from the losers.
If you thought retail, CPG and finance were fragmented, look no further than health care to feel better. It has an increasingly broken ecosystem with multiple isolated entities, ranging from health systems and hospitals to payers, providers and pharmaceuticals.
Each part is independent and engages with individual consumers, and perhaps even puts individuals at the center of their own respective highly guarded worlds. The end result though is still an isolated experience that is far from ideal and seamless.
There is a need to break down the traditional barriers, leverage the availability of data and technology to create pipes and stitch together the consumer experience through the journey. This may begin when a consumer researches a condition and seeks an appointment, all the way to the doctor’s office, receiving medication and completing rehab.
This requires breakthrough partnerships and innovation across data, content and technology.
To deliver a seamless experience, health care companies must drive convergence across organizational functions, skills, data and technology.
They must watch out for organizational silos across marketing, finance, strategy and technology, which can impact the consumer experience.
Most health care enterprises are starting to bring talent from other verticals, which is understandable. At the same time, the DNA of the traditional physician needs to evolve because they need to think and operate like a marketer who measures the significance of consumer experiences and conveniences with the same yardstick as clinical results and outcomes. It’s a mindset shift from encounters and transactions to building loyalty, brand advocacy and lifetime value.
I call it the “universal human context” for every individual that inspires and influences more personalized and relevant communication through a sleuth of marketing technologies.
While all this may be new to health care and the traditional health care professional, this is not new to consumers, who are now used to living and enjoying their convenience and choice in this complex digital world.
The key for everyone in health care is learning from the mistakes made across the other verticals to get to the same destination faster and more efficiently.