Here at Bottom Line, we recently had the opportunity to be a part of the 2016 Annual meeting of the Society for Healthcare Strategy and Market Development (SHSMD) in Chicago and the Wisconsin Public Relations and Marketing Society’s (WHPRMS) 2016 annual meeting in Madison, WI.
Nicole Singer, our director of client services, facilitated a luncheon round table discussion of strategic planning at SHSMD, and I presented a session on the intersection of healthcare public policy and marketing at WHPRMS. The similarities in the responses at both were striking.
As Nicole guided the round table discussion, she asked how many of the participants were aware of MACRA (Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015) and recent changes in HOPD (hospital outpatient department) reimbursements. Half had never heard of these policy issues, and the other half said they had heard about it, but did know much. I did the same in Madison, and only one person said he was aware. How about you? Do you know what MACRA is and how it affects your hospital?
The responses underscored the points we made in our WHPRMS presentation: WHPRMS Policy Geek Meets Marketing Maven. Think about it. Marketing tends to focus on consumers and purchasers. The public affairs people tend to focus on politicians and policymakers. Yet they talk to and influence one another. Public concerns and unrest create pressure for Congress to act, while politicians often use strident language that defines “reform” as “death panels” or an “end to Medicare as we know it.”
In our Madison presentation, we covered how to protect and enhance your brand by creating stronger links between your marketing communications and public affairs strategies, and how to strategically connect with public officials around key emerging issues. We also talked with participants about how to translate complex concepts about healthcare reform, reimbursement, quality and transparency into useful and meaningful messages that resonate with clinicians, employees, public officials, and most importantly, patients.
Looking forward, federal healthcare policies include shifting to new payment models, including bundling payments for related services. Federal savings would occur only if providers were paid less in total than under current law, either because they would be delivering fewer and less complex services or because they would be receiving less money per service. Making larger structural changes to health care programs could help the federal budget, but would have a range of effects on providers and beneficiaries. Will this potential conflict creates a downstream conflict between providers and patients?
As the “repeal and replace” debate plays out over the next several months, healthcare customers are likely to become more aware of the challenges the system is facing, and feel some of the ultimate burdens of the policy changes. How you communicate could be the difference between these two divergent perceptions:
- The health system is driving us broke – and my doctor and hospital are part of the problem.
- My doctor and hospital are part of the solution to a broken system.
Which perception are you likely to create with your hospital’s marketing and public policy efforts?
- Jeffrey Remsik, Bottom Line president and CEO