The health care business is in a period of upheaval. Particularly for the companies that provide insurance and health care management services to employees and individual consumers, there are four very significant trends that dramatically are affecting how health care coverage is marketed in the United States.
1. As the national debate between providers, insurers, pharmaceuticals, regulators and hospitals escalates in intensity, health care companies are likely to need enhanced “balancing” skills to align resources and markets–and to do so quickly and within regulatory guidelines.
It is not difficult to imagine a situation in which an entire provider network might suddenly become unavailable, or an entire state in which the economics of health care delivery shift dramatically and quickly. This possibility speaks to the need for flexibility and speed in the ability to shift marketing focus, and to the availability of processes and tools to enable that need.
At the same time, that national debate might very likely to devolve into an all-out battle for the hearts and minds of Americans as they form opinions and choose sides, fueled by aggressive media exposure–and overexposure–to the issues. Direct marketing communications could become a much more important component in the brand experience as health care companies look for avenues in which they can reach consumers in order to advance their viewpoints and agendas.
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2. The aging population is changing the marketing landscape dramatically. There really is no such thing as a “typical” senior. Some sit and knit, some still work productively, and some spend their time in search of enriching life experiences. This growing (and wealthy) segment of the population already has begun to exert enormous influence over virtually all aspects of daily life in the U.S.
Recognizing and addressing those individual viewpoints and the consuming/buying motivations they engender will be critical for marketing success in all businesses but especially in health care. Segmentation will become increasingly important, and the industry will move closer to a model of true “one to few” marketing communications.
3. Consolidation in the industry is creating new, more aggressive competitors with deeper pockets. Some of these competitive pressures can appear suddenly, removing the opportunity to plan accordingly.
The victors in these skirmishes will be the health care companies that already have deployed the technologies, processes and people required to be both proactive and reactive. Instead of a focus on either acquisition or retention, it will be necessary to become skilled at both, and effective execution will provide the winning edge.
4. Brand is becoming more important as the surviving major players seek to differentiate themselves in an industry overtly regulated to minimize product and pricing variation. Provider networks and service will become more important than ever, and messaging key member and prospect segments to communicate those advantages will be critical to achieving growth and retention objectives.