Health Care – Seize the Consumer Marketing Opportunity

By: Mark Johnson, Vice President, Team Solutions, Valassis
Published Thursday, Oct 27, 2016

Health Care – Seize the Consumer Marketing Opportunity

Today, health care marketers are facing an increasingly complex marketplace. They struggle between the desire to provide best-in-class care and meet their balance sheet objectives, while attempting to manage commoditization pressures due to the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

Anyone attending any number of health care conferences in 2016 could have mistaken them for big box retail events with the constant, recurring theme of “consumerism” coming from keynote speakers. That’s right -- consumerism. Consumers are treating health care providers more like retailers than ever before. Many heads of household or “Chief Wellness Officers” (CWO) are likely to compare providers before purchasing a health care service. Being the first provider to touch the CWO, will be essential for creating brand growth, lifetime value and increased share of market. In fact, it was found that 67 percent of those with deductibles between $500 and $3,000, and 74 percent of those with deductibles higher than $3,000, have tried to get pricing information before obtaining care.1

The historical “first touch” model that most baby boomers experienced was at their primary care office or an emergency room. Today, that first touch can occur at any number of places including e-visits, urgent care centers, retail clinics and via wellness apps, in addition to traditional models. Marketers who fail to understand the importance of reaching consumers who shop based on value, service and convenience, could see their brands negatively impacted, resulting in millions of dollars in lost sales.

If you represent a traditional health care provider, these aren’t the only trends you will need to address. According to the 2015 Deloitte Center for Health Solutions Survey of U.S. Health Care Consumers,2 “retail” health is on the rise and here to stay. Respondents to the survey stated that top reasons for visiting a retail health clinic were:

  1. Flu Shots/vaccinations
  2. Non-urgent treatment
  3. Health screening
  4. Chronic health management

Health care marketers should take note, as all of these needs have historically been met by traditional health care providers. Respondents were also asked about their reasons for choosing a retail clinic as a provider of health care services. Their responses were as follows:

  1. Convenience
  2. Open after hours
  3. Speed of appointments
  4. Cost

The good news is that the industry is quickly learning how various demographic groups are consuming and purchasing health care products and services including the attractive but elusive millennial. According to a PNC Health Care Survey, 3 millennials are seeing primary care physicians 23 percent fewer times than their boomer counterparts.  While they are interested in leading a healthy lifestyle with a focus on diet and exercise, they view doctor’s office visits as inconvenient; are less likely to think ahead about health care; and, to top it all off, they are more inclined to negotiate health care costs.

What should this dynamic consumer set mean to health care marketers? It means they need to examine their current marketing plans to ensure they reach and activate this valuable demographic with proven strategies.

The rise of telemedicine, bedless hospitals and virtual doctors are also taking a toll on the traditional health care model. These emerging business models could threaten balance sheets and marketers must be prepared to address them.

While general branding through traditional media platforms is essential in local markets, it should be viewed and used as only one key strategy. Because ubiquity in messaging is needed to meet the evolving demands of the health care consumer and marketplace, health care media spending increased 47 percent from 2011-2015 to almost $2.4 million, according to Kantar. Of that, broadcast represented 48 percent and newspaper and magazines made up another 26 percent.

The bottom line is that health care marketers must locate, reach and activate consumers using targeted online and offline strategies and tactics. They have the opportunity today to lead and transform their company’s messaging to reach the influential CWO -- and they can’t afford to miss it.


1 More people are shopping around for health care than you might think; Rebecca Plevin (March 2015)

2 2015 Deloitte Center for Health Solutions Survey of US Health care Consumers

3 PNC; Five Ways Tech-Savvy Millennials Alter Health Care Landscape