We’ve written quite a lot about health reform in its various forms including Meaningful Use, ACOs, ACA, and medical home. But a question that I received this week made me realize that I’ve never written specifically about health reform’s impact on your hospital’s online strategy.
Greater Organization Complexity
Merging, acquiring, and employing docs and the many flavors of business relationship between hospitals, clinics and insurers that are emerging under reform means that your brand is getting pretty complicated. This isn’t just a question about names and logos – your website has suddenly become the front door to a very complex and likely changing mix of doctors and services. Your job is to make it simple for every site visitor to get the information they want. I strongly recommend our webinar on using the Web to support complex organizations to dive into the topic in greater detail.
Promoting a Different Set of Services
The mix of services, where they’re promoted and who receives that promotion will be changing as changing payment models come into play. For example, primary care promises to be a central strategic offering as medical home models become the norm. Be prepared to provide better support for more service lines digitally and look to take those offerings to health consumers in new and different ways.
Increased Focus on Physicians
A new focus on employed physicians means many of you will be allowed to promote certain doctors for the first time and there’s now a strategic imperative to fill some waiting rooms! That means that you’ll be marketing physicians more than ever before.
Keep in mind, though, that marketing physicians doesn’t mean a bunch of advertising for hundreds of individual doctors. It means finding how to differentiate their practice and helping the right patients get connected to them. Most advertising should represent the organization or particular service offerings rather than physicians (see “Relationships,” below).
Wellness and Sickness
While we’ll need to help health consumers navigate the system when something’s wrong, nothing will be more profitable for our organizations in the future than keeping our patients healthy. Building digital tools and content that support good health and the management of chronic conditions will become very important. There may also be a role for digital-based communities for these areas as well.
Some of the changes coming along could make healthcare a very transactional business. Greater use of convenient care services and physician extenders mean that the relationship that was once central to primary care – that between physician and patient – is just not going to be as central in the future.
But the goal isn’t to make the system transactional. The whole point of medical home is to provide more coordinated care across a given patient’s needs.
We therefore need to replace (or at least supplement) the relationship between patient and doctor with one between patient and health system. How do we do that? Begin by providing a single point of access to a patient’s information through a patient portal across all of their interactions with the health system – primary care, specialists, emergency department, classes, and support groups. The system should also provide all of the important health and appointment reminders to the patient in a consistent, coordinated way. That is pretty difficult without a customer relationship management system that works across secure digital channels, traditional mail and inbound and outbound call center operations.
What Won’t Reform Impact?
Looking at all of those changes together suggests that the role of the Web is going to change pretty dramatically in the coming years. Today, we’re there to build awareness and support transactions. But in the future we’re going to have a greater role to play throughout the stages of a patient’s relationship with our organization, from health consumer – proactively reaching out, building awareness, guiding them to access the system in appropriate ways, and promoting wellness as the foundation of their relationship with the health system – to patients – being their gateway to the healthcare system, central point for coordination of care, conduit to support resources from healthcare professionals and peers and their road map for better management of their health.