What the “Super Stress Era” Means to Healthcare Marketers

Posted on February 7, 2013

mikem3_biggerBy: Mike Milligan, President

Did you know that we're entering the "Super Stress Era?" That's according to J. Walter Thompson's (JWT) annual forecast of trends report.

What does that mean for the healthcare industry as a whole - and why should we, as healthcare marketers, care?

I'm glad you asked.

According to the JWT survey, stressors are mounting and multiplying. That means stress will become even more widely recognized as a serious medical concern. As this trend continues, forward-thinking hospitals and clinics will ramp up efforts to address consumers' stress-related healthcare needs.

Keep in mind, "super-stressed" consumers may warrant a different approach to marketing and messaging, along with new variations on products, programs and services healthcare organizations offer. I'll give you a few examples.

  • Re-framing your message: When there's high potential that a customer will be stressed out by a specific topic, there's generally an opportunity to re-frame the experience and/or the message for people expecting something unpleasant. For example, Southwest Health Center developed an effective and humorous approach to spread the serious message of getting annual physicals and talking with a doctor.
  • Promoting proactive ways to fight off stress. One of the best stress-management tools is exercise. Consider developing a weekly exercise tip delivered by one of your healthcare experts. Post the video on YouTube and your website to keep consumers coming back.
  • Leveraging workplace well-being programs: Wellness programs aren't new to the workplace, but an emphasis on stress reduction is. Leverage opportunities to assist local businesses in helping their employees achieve a better work-life balance. Yoga and massage demonstrations are just two examples of how you might get involved (and build your brand).

When JWT survey respondents were asked what kinds of brands could play a role in reducing or preventing stress, the top three responses were healthcare (47%), financial/banking (44%) and fitness (38%).

Forty-seven percent of the adult population has spoken. That's a number worth responding to!

To see the entire list of JWT 2013 Trends visit Drew's Marketing Minute.

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You Have to Promote “Quality,” but How?

Posted on February 12, 2013

mikem3_biggerBy: Mike Milligan, President

Governmental requirements for transparency in healthcare have sent hospitals scrambling to define, defend and promote "quality." I don't have to tell you that report cards are being handed out that rank everything from clinical quality to cost index ratings, and the list goes on.

It stands to reason that these ratings are of interest to consumers. After all, who wouldn't want to know where a healthcare provider stands when their health - or life - is on the line?

This presents a tremendous opportunity for healthcare organizations of all sizes. It also presents a unique and often daunting challenge for healthcare marketers.

"Quality" is the umbrella under which everything from accuracy to aesthetics, cost to courtesy, reliability to responsiveness falls. So how does a marketer effectively communicate about a multidimensional intangible in a tangible way?

Market quality in a way your consumers and patients can wrap their arms around.

Easy to say. Difficult to do, right? Depends on your perspective.

Start by taking the complexities out of all of those report card rating systems and quality measures, and break them down into a message consumers can relate to. Here's an example of how we helped one of our clients personalize quality. This approach was also effectively used in TV, radio and print.

In the age of the empowered healthcare consumer, people are going to shop and compare healthcare options and research symptoms and diagnoses. They're also going to be extremely cost-sensitive. Those are givens. That means quality is no longer "assumed." It has to be proven.

Your hospital can beat the competition to the punch by taking the lead in defining what quality really means, and then promoting it. As a healthcare marketer, how you communicate it will make all the difference.

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Focus on RURAL Healthcare: Part 1

Posted on February 22, 2013

mikem3_biggerBy: Mike Milligan, President

Residents in rural communities have distinct healthcare needs that set them apart from urban Americans. That's a fact.

For example, a 2011 survey indicates that residents of rural communities are more greatly affected by chronic diseases - with more individuals living in households with heart conditions or diabetes - than their urban counterparts.

This should prompt an important and immediate question for all rural healthcare marketers. That is:

"Could our rural hospital or clinic benefit from targeting these consumers?"

Based on the work I've done with rural healthcare organizations, the answer is generally, "Yes." That response comes with a caveat:

Strategies to promote and improve rural health need to approach wellness and chronic disease risk reduction in new ways.

To be effective, marketers need to think outside of the "advertising box."  Possible strategies could include:

  • New technology, such as "virtual visits."
  • Consumer outreach models, e.g., telephonic and web-based.
  • Other venues and partnerships with local community-based organizations. For example:
    • Through a partnership with the National 4-H Council, UnitedHealthcare Community & State is sponsoring a youth engagement program to support one of 4-H's core values: healthy living.
    • Recently, UnitedHealthcare and Florida 4-H launched an Eat4-Health partnership to help fight childhood obesity.
    • While this partnership is conducted on a national scale, programs like this could be streamlined and targeted to the communities served by your hospital or clinic.

A lot of new (albeit not easily accessible) data is available on rural healthcare and its consumers' needs, expectations, pain points and hot buttons. It's data that can help direct your hospital or clinic in developing effective promotional and business strategies.

I'll continue to share it with you in my upcoming blogs.

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Rural Health: On Wisconsin

Posted on February 26, 2013

JohnCorpusHead6By: John Corpus, Vice President of Strategy

Improving healthcare in rural areas is not an easy task. Many rural areas have primary care provider shortages, long distances between hospitals, and a higher percentage of the elderly, Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement.

Although the amount of healthcare services in rural areas may be lacking, quality is not. Rural hospitals and most specifically, Critical Access Hospitals (CAHs), may not offer all of the services of a larger metro hospital, but the services they do offer are typically of equal quality.

Fortunately, there is a national membership organization, the National Rural Health Association (NRHA), which brings rural health clinics, rural hospitals and critical access hospitals together to address their common issues and serve as an advocate through lobbying efforts.

Wisconsin is no slouch when it comes to participating in addressing issues and improving the quality of rural healthcare. For example, Wisconsin US Representative Ron Kind, member of the House Ways and Means Committee health subcommittee, was recently selected as Chair of the Rural Health Care Coalition in the House of Representatives. The Caucus is a bipartisan group of over 100 members who focus on improving access to care in rural communities.

Representative Kind was a featured speaker at the NRHA's policy institute in Washington D.C. earlier this month. During the conference, he met with other Wisconsin rural health leaders: Tim Size, Executive Director of the Rural Wisconsin Health Cooperative; Jeremy Levin, Director of Advocacy of the Rural Wisconsin Health Cooperative; Bill Sexton, CEO of Prairie du Chien Memorial Hospital; Jim O'Keefe, CEO of Mile Bluff Medical Center in Mauston; David Hartberg, CEO of Boscobel Area Health Care; and John Eich, Director of the Wisconsin Office of Rural Health; among others. (Source: Representative Kind press release).

NRHA Selects Legato as Marketing Partner


One of the most overlooked, yet extremely important, aspects of rural healthcare success is rural healthcare marketing. Many rural hospitals forgo marketing, believing that they are the only entity in the region, and therefore, do not need to promote themselves. This could not be further from the truth.

Metro hospitals and health systems, especially now with healthcare reform and the move toward Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs), are looking to expand their footprint. Challenging rural hospitals for market share, or attempting to buy them outright, is an expected national trend.

Whether a rural hospital wants to remain independent or position itself in the best light possible for acquisition, it must have volume. As mentioned, marketing is integral to success, but marketing does not just mean "advertising." It does mean assessing business development practices, planning and strategizing, developing a formal marketing & communications plan and promotion through advertising, events and PR.

To this end, we are pleased to announce that the National Rural Health Association has selected Legato as their marketing partner, citing our proven ability to market rural hospitals in Wisconsin and across the nation. So, what can we say, but "On Wisconsin."

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