Industry Trends

healthcare’s year to go on offense

Industry Trends

innovate and drive change to ensure patients have meaningful relationships in 2023

healthcare’s year to go on offense

an opportunity you can’t miss

It has been a challenging few years and a particularly hard 2022, socially, economically, and personally. But 2023 represents an opportunity like few others that have come before it in healthcare. I will not mince words, this is the year for healthcare provider organizations to go on offense

the data

Let’s start with the data. The pandemic and the macroeconomic climate created unique and anomalous trends in healthcare– a true confluence of events that has not been seen in our lifetimes. Some poignant examples from our friends at Trilliant and their Compass blog here:  

They write, “Despite an overall return to pre-pandemic activities (e.g., travel) and the increase in new provider entrants (e.g., retail care), routine care volumes are lagging below pre-pandemic levels.” and that, “From 2018 to 2021, average patient volume for routine care was down 11.2%." (Trilliant)

That is not insignificant of loss in care, and notably, the type of care that prevents later more acute illness – primary care. So while there has been some aggregate recovery, much of that recovery is attributable to continued COVID care and testing. “COVID-19-related care represented 47% of urgent care visits in Q1 2021, creating an illusory rebound in demand for healthcare services.” (Trilliant) Ultimately, that means the trend noted in 2021 likely continued into 2022. Patients that lapsed in care will not simply return without a concerted effort by the providers to motivate their patients to come back and complete their standard routine care. “Demand for primary care services is below pre-pandemic levels in 62% of metropolitan CBSAs.” (Trilliant)

new entrants

To make matters more interesting, there is not only the pandemic hangover, but new entrants in the space are beginning to make real strides. “The entrance of retailers like Amazon, CVS, Walgreens, and Walmart in the healthcare market coupled with the evolving preferences of healthcare consumers for convenient and affordable care present notable challenges for traditional healthcare providers." (Trilliant) So all those people who need routine and preventative care now have cheaper, more convenient, and more familiar options available to them. 

Between the big four retail players, they can also attract different audiences. “The average patient seen by Walmart is 31 years old, 17.1 years younger than Walgreens, and 7.5 years younger than CVS. Consistent with CVS and Walgreens, Walmart’s patient population is mostly female (62.4% female: 37.6% male). The reasons for seeking care at Walmart differ from Walgreens and CVS patient panels. While preventive medicine accounts for double-digit amounts of volume at CVS and Walgreens (39.7% and 17.5%), preventive medicine at Walmart accounts for just 3.6% of volume, behind strep and influenza testing (16.2% and 8.2%).” (Trilliant) Not only are they covering wide age spans, but they are also attracting patients for different types of care. As a consumer, this is amazing for competition and (hopefully) driving down costs. But, as a healthcare provider organization, this means the new entrants are hitting all the primary demographics you target – with a level of experience and price that you have not competed with before. 

the path forward for you, the health system

It sounds bleak, but there is hope. There is hope in going on the offensive and getting aggressive to retain your patients and attract new ones in your area. There is still an advantage in being an academic, multi-modal health system or integrated delivery network – you can service almost all patient needs and keep them within your system. The ability to solve multiple problems for a single person makes you an attractive choice, BUT you must match the retail organizations in other aspects of the experience. Otherwise, the new-age healthcare consumer will choose them more often than they do not. 

So how do we solve this experience gap? First, let’s get in front of our patients and how they prefer to interact with providers and when they want. I’m sorry, but traditional media and sponsorships will not cut it. You need to send emails, texts, and notifications regularly to stay top of mind for your patients and for any prospects who have expressed interest in your organization. The goal is not to get your consumer to make a decision now (like e-commerce) but to influence the decision they will make in the future. 

If I can pick up my over-the-counter allergy meds AND get my flu shot in the same place at the same time, you need to give me some pretty compelling reasons to go somewhere else. Using modern digital marketing, you can create the feeling that you know who I am and what I need – and use that to make sure I choose you the next time I need a primary care visit, a knee replacement, or a flu shot. Make the patient feel like you are anticipating their needs and providing them superior care to what they may get elsewhere. It is all about THAT experience, and mastering it creates loyalty. That is something that retail organizations have been doing for decades and indubitably are taking advantage of as they enter the healthcare space. 

So what do you do? You go on offense because there has been no better time in recent memory. You have nothing to lose and so much to gain.

go on offense 

What does it mean to go on offense? It means becoming proactive; it means not just reacting to the market, your patients, or your competitors; it means re-prioritizing your strategies to put engagement and experience at the top of the list. Here’s how you start:

  1. Create proactive and engaging relationships with your customers
  2. Meet your customers in the digital channels they want and prefer
  3. Use your data to personalize outreach and speak to them individually
  4. Make digital marketing an enterprise priority because the above are not possible without it

You have an opportunity to change healthcare right now. Push yourselves to innovate and drive change to ensure patients have meaningful relationships focused on proactive and preventative care – something that will create better outcomes for all of us and bring care full circle. 

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