HealthCare Marketing Moves From Multichannel To Omnichannel

As originally published in AdExchanger on the shift in healthcare from MultiChannel to OmniChannel Marketing

It’s staggering to see the pace at which digital technology is changing the traditional and highly regulated world of health care.

The industry has moved from massive health systems with weeks-long waits for an appointment to a world of wearable, sensors, telemedicine, genomics and mobile apps that provide convenience and care where consumers are, at a time, location and touch point of their choice. It’s modern health care that focuses on health and wellness rather than sickness and treatment.

The ability to receive digital treatment, find a doctor and make an appointment with a mobile device or use sensors to remotely monitor a relative’s movement has taken less than a decade to achieve. Despite regulations and a fragmented ecosystem, the trifecta of data, content and technology conspired to make all of this happen.

But this evolution is not without the struggle to meet the growing consumer needs and expectations. Most health systems and pharmaceutical brands still grapple with the growing number of channels and touch points. At the same time, consumer expectations have evolved to a channel-agnostic and consumer-centric view where they demand nothing less than omnichannel experiences. While the former largely revolves around the channel, the latter is largely consumer-driven.

With this mindset shift, health care joins many other industries in its quest to deliver experiences that will drive behavioral change. Most, however, are still struggling to deploy these omnichannel strategies at scale for a simple reason: We are all operating on top of an increasingly broken and fragmented ecosystem that is focused on either channels or technology, rather than being channel-agnostic or consumer-centric.

The shift requires fundamental change that is part of what I call the first principles of an omnichannel strategy.

Driving Health Care Convergence

There is a need to break the silos and bridge the fragments across the broader ecosystem, as well as within health care organizations. Health care is arguably one of the most fragmented industries because the entire experience is isolated across health systems, hospitals, providers, pharma and payers.

The need for convergence exists at the macro level, within these independent entities that from a consumer standpoint should be connected under a single umbrella because everything contributes to an individual’s care. At the same time, each organization needs to break the silos across finance, strategy, technology, operations and, now very importantly, marketing, a growing vertical within health care. There is a sub-micro level of convergence that will be also needed as marketing grows its influence.

This vision of a connected health care marketing ecosystem requires convergence across data, technology and communication, as well as skills and operating models.

A Unified Data Strategy For A Universal Health Context And Profile 

Perhaps the biggest catalyst behind the health care evolution is the rise of connected health care data. It encapsulates everything from clinical and biometrics data to behavioral and financial data.

But more than the volume, variety and velocity of this data, it is the need to connect the dots and converge across these silos. Health systems need a connected data strategy that drives data harmonization and convergence because data is the linchpin that stitches together the consumer’s journey. The challenge and opportunity are found in data mastering and matching abilities, tying offline data to online behaviors and connecting medical and clinical data with nonmedical behavioral and demographic information to infer and predict health behavior and conditions.

Organizations that are able to master this science and connect this data science to the art of communication will inspire action and participation, building brand loyalty and maximizing lifetime value.

Content And Communication Strategy

If you thought content and communication were king for most industries, think about what it would mean for health care or an individual’s “health.” There is no doubt that communication is the next horizon of innovation in health care. There is no better place than health care to leverage context-driven content that changes consumer behavior and drives participation to improve individuals’ health.

The cliché “right message to the right person at the right time” could not be more appropriate. The ability to leverage a consumer’s context to predict future health conditions, while inspiring and influencing every piece of communication that drives action just at the right time, is the ultimate milestone.

Brands need to develop a content strategy and framework that is channel-agnostic and driven by consumer behavior and inflection points through the journey. Once marketers have this data- and insight-driven content strategy defined, they need the ability to syndicate, distribute, measure and optimize the content seamlessly across channels wherever the consumer may be in an “always-on” way, breaking the traditional mindset of time-bound push campaigns.

Together with data and marketing technology, content is the linchpin for enabling these always-on omnichannel consumer experiences, for these are the only components of the ecosystem that are channel-agnostic.

Connected Planning Using Content, Data And Technology

Health care companies must establish a planning process that inspires data-driven marketing that connects content, data and technology with a central focus on the consumer.

It’s breaking away from a multichannel planning construct that is channel-driven to basing plans and strategies on data and consumer insights, which are used to determine the right content across the consumer journey, especially focusing on inflection points required for consumer behavior change.

That may include content that is planned against non-adherence to medical advice as a behavior or content that may address stigma or fear.

Consumer Obsession

Most importantly, there must be a fundamental mindset shift from mobile-first and channel-first to human-first. It’s a shift from technology and channel obsession to consumer obsession.

I was once told by a C-suite health system executive that we cannot think about health care experiences in the same way as retail or finance because the focus here should be about clinical result and outcome and not convenience or the broader consumer experience. After all, providing care services is not the same as selling groceries, clothes or other daily products.

I couldn’t disagree more. The health care industry needs to be as much about consumer experience, convenience and cost as clinical results and outcomes. As it’s evident from the Ubers and Airbnbs of the world, it’s not the technology but the consumer experience and the subsequent mass adoption that ultimately disrupts and redefines the category. Consumers are getting used to these seamless experiences in a complex digital world and do not see health care any differently.

Ironically enough, while most industries including health care talk about omnichannel consumer experiences, the only part of the ecosystem that is truly operating and behaving in an omnichannel way is the consumer. Everyone else is multichannel at best.

These core principles may not be all one needs to become omnichannel, but these are certainly fundamental when embarking on the journey. Otherwise, omnichannel will continue to be an abstract theory.

In many ways the health care evolution is the same movie played over and over again. The key is to learn from the mistakes made by the other industries and get to the same spot but with more efficiency, effectiveness and speed.