6 things health care marketers should know about health care reform

Ready or not, here it comes! Health care reform that is. After talking with other marketers at the WHPRMS annual conference last week, I realized health care reform scares everyone. The hard truth is your patients and consumers will expect you (your hospital or health system) to know how to implement health care reform by 2014. Even though we know that there are still more questions than answers, health care reform will affect every person in the U.S.–whether employed, unemployed, insured or uninsured.

So, how will your hospital or organization handle it? Here is a list of topics I gathered from the breakout sessions on health care reform that we will eventually need to address:


According to a recent report from the American Hospital Association Committee on Performance Improvement, aligning hospitals, physicians, and other providers across the care continuum is described as a shifting paradigm from competition to interdependency. According to the report, “Aligning providers is essential to true partnerships and care coordination. For example, during a Medicare demonstration project, Wenatchee Valley Medical Center held preliminary meetings with all providers and acted on their suggestions, provided shared savings incentives to group physicians, and shared data, including testimonials from patients.”

Health care reform will involve change at every level of your organization and those changes need to be integrated throughout. In fact, I’m sure you’ve seen a few aspects of this already.

There was some talk about hospitals and health system’s eventually becoming Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs). Jennifer Armstrong Gay, director of communication strategies for American Hospital Association says accountability and integration will be an integral part of the new health care landscape. “Quality improvements, cultural changes, cost reductions, patient satisfaction, and ACOs play a major part of how health care will shift in the future.”

Steve Benton, president of the Wisconsin Hospital Association says ACO regulations are universally “panned.” “Hospitals and physicians will have to recognize, embrace and leverage their growing interdependence to create organizational structures and incentive models that are strategically aligned and mutually rewarding.”


With branding, it’s important to understand your brand’s value proposition how you will continue to deliver and support it when health care reform comes in to play.

Jennifer says it will be important to be able to communicate “your hospital story” in light of health care reform. This can be a great branding tool. “It’s more important than ever that we create a drumbeat of positive hospital stories,” she says. “The Wisconsin Hospital Association is doing a great job of that through its annual community benefit report-it’s a joy for anyone to read those life-changing stories.”

Rally up your staff

If your hospital hasn’t discussed and prepared staff for reform, you could really be missing the boat. Are you helping them to understand and prepare for the changes ahead? Jennifer says health care marketers should be communicating health care reform to staff and patients alike. “It’s our jobs as marketers to really understand health care reform and what it means to our community.”
Your physicians and staff are the ambassadors for your hospital. Jennifer says to make sure you are developing a communications plan to teach them over the next two years what they will need to know.

Educate your patients

Patient education, wellness programs and disease management will be more important than ever before. Organizations that fine tune their patient and/or community education and look for new ways to reward compliance will have an advantage.

Online social interaction and relationship building

Yes, we all know that social media and HIPPA regulations tend to scare us but social media is an opportunity to engage with your patients and develop a brand personality. Also, make sure your hospital is developing and tracking your patient visits, how they utilize your services and the feedback they give you on how you’re doing. All of that should be tracked in a database.


We’ve all heard this more than enough. Health care reform will force us as health care marketers to develop metrics that prove we are measuring ROI and ROE. Make sure you have the tracking tools in place to prove and justify your marketing budget in the future.More organization planning and overall system strategies will be of most importance in the future of strategy for the health care organization you work for. Marketing will be in an ideal position to think strategically about the implications of these changes on your internal and external audiences. Do you think you could provide more opportunities to help patients and staff achieve a greater understanding and acceptance of health care reform? What have you already done to communicate health care reform?

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