I am fortunate to have a cousin whose professional career and innate intellectualism has made him a trusted and respected healthcare futurist. David Shulkin, MD recently served as the Secretary, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (appointed by President Trump). Before that, he was the VA’s Under Secretary of Health (appointed by President Obama). He was also President, Morristown (NJ) Medical Center, President and CEO at New York City’s Beth Israel Medical Center and Chief Medical Officer, Temple University Hospital. Areas of expertise include artificial intelligence, behavioral health, consumer engagement, data analytics, genomics, robotics, telehealth, value-based purchasing, and veteran’s health care and benefits.
While David’s background is impressive, his most significant qualification for me is that our fathers were brothers.
David recently published Fourteen Ways Healthcare Will Change in a Post-COVID World. The article describes how various segments of the healthcare delivery system — from suppliers to architects to pharmaceutical companies — will respond to the new realities. I’ll summarize some of the changes he predicts with an eye towards where future healthcare marketing jobs may be.
1) Home Care and Advanced Illness Management
According to David, “Companies that support care in the home environment will see further demand for their services.”Many COVID patients cared for at home or upon discharge require intensive services. Should the pandemic continue, hospital systems will be less likely to care for all types of patients in their facilities. Home health providers will expand services in the new healthcare economy and will require skilled marketers to build web pages, create patient education and collateral materials and manage advertising. Larger companies will seek creative specialists, content and campaign marketing specialists, proposal writers, data analysts and B2B marketing specialists.
2) Supply Chain and Direct Manufacturing
Companies that address shortages of personal protective equipment, medications and other essentials will grow dramatically. Marketers skilled in technical writing and versed in topics such as CNC machining, 3D printing, manufacturing, public affairs, regulatory affairs and investor relations will find increased opportunity in this sector.
3) Acceleration of B2B Healthcare
David notes that many patients, cut off from their regular providers during the crisis, learned to get what they needed from businesses. David notes “Companies, large and small, that are B2C (think Capsule, CVS Health, PillPack, and Walmart) will likely thrive in the post-COVID world.” CVS is currently promoting rapid COVID-19 testing. A quick search on the CVS webpage shows jobs available in experiential marketing, behavior marketing, product management marketing, behavior change marketing, marketing analytics, digital communication integration, copywriting and more.
4) Employee Support and Recognition
The heroic efforts of front-line doctors, nurses, therapists, cleaning crews and other essential employees can’t be celebrated enough. No doubt most every healthcare marketer has written stories of employees’ personal sacrifice and organized events honoring their compassionate service. David writes “Companies that support, protect, value, and recognize their staff will be competitively advantaged as we enter the post-COVID world.” Jobs at companies providing staff recognition programs and other reward programs will grow in significance. While not specific to healthcare, skilled marketers who understand CRM, app design and UX, technical writing, web design, strategic communications and copywriting will have great opportunity in this market segment.
5) Re-designed Healthcare Facilities and Strategy
David notes that current hospital design will change considerably, as they will need more isolation rooms and clinically ready space available for surges in infectious patients. “In addition, open nursing stations, shared bays in emergency rooms and recovery rooms, and the scarcity of places where staff are protected will need to be addressed.” Consulting groups that understand hospital environments and the growing financial pressures they face will be positioned for growth. They will seek experts in CRM, patient experience, healthcare business development, public relations, external and internal communications, copywriting, analytics, technical writing and more.
6) Digitization of Healthcare, Interoperability, and Data Management
“With so many patients unable to easily access their physicians and hospitals as a result of their curtailment of elective care, the inability to have easy access to their health information has become a significant issue,” says David. Companies skilled in helping patients access their protected medical information will grow rapidly. Jobs in marketing, sales and government relations are prevalent in these growth-oriented companies.
7) Teleworking, Virtual Meetings and Services, and Telemedicine
Many of us already work from home and connect via Zoom. This may become the status quo as health systems reduce operating costs. According to David, “Many people may now view virtual conferences and medical education as a default way of interacting with colleagues and companies. Telemedicine will of course be the biggest winner as we find our way out of this crisis. Provider to provider consults are also going to be more important than ever and companies that provide physician to physician e-consults are going to see rapid growth.” These companies will hire brand and creative specialists, content and campaign marketing specialists, proposal writers, data analysts, B2B and B2C marketing specialists, sales staff, proofreaders and more.
8) Predictive Tools, Surveillance Systems, and Artificial Intelligence
As most were unprepared for the COVID pandemic, “There is going to be much greater investment in tools that allow for rapid testing and data surveillance to earlier identify future health crises,” says David. “Companies that concentrate on diagnostic testing and those that can utilize artificial intelligence, machine learning, and predictive analytics will be in a good position to provide needed services to healthcare organizations.” Careers in companies within this segment include B2B and B2C sales, public relations, product management, web design and more.
9) Patient Empowerment
David notes “Companies that work directly with patients to interact with the healthcare system and have more control over their decision making are going to be increasingly relevant.” Companies offering online medical content, customized medical solutions, patient engagement platforms, and assistance with choosing providers for their conditions will grow as healthcare consumers seek greater empowerment. Jobs in this sector are in digital marketing, product marketing, corporate communications, government relations, analytics, business development, copywriting and more.
10) Integrating Social Determinants and Behavioral Health
The aftereffects of the COVID crisis will be with us long after the pandemic subsides. Millions will be dealing with the consequences of anxiety, depression, economic hardship and social isolation. Companies that provide virtual treatments to address anxiety and post-traumatic stress will be in greater need. Marketing jobs will include community relations specialists, marketing liaisons, content writers, branding specialists, social media specialists and business development specialists.
In summary, the economic and social consequences of the pandemic upon healthcare organizations will be far-reaching. Financial losses will be staggering as, according to David’s blog CNN: Hospitals Face Financial Disaster, health systems could lose up to $2,800 per coronavirus case. But the larger impact will certainly come from lost revenue as a result of the cancellation of elective cases and the reduction in non-COVID patient activity seen by health care providers.
Healthcare marketing jobs will still exist, but most likely, there will be fewer and fewer within the brick and mortar of hospitals, clinics and surgery centers. The silver lining is that many new opportunities in the healthcare marketing field will become available to those who seek them.
James Shulkin has been a member of WHPRMS since 1999. He is the principal at Windflower Consulting.
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