The Future of Health Care (Marketing) Is Community

flickr: alicegop

I’m presenting at the 4th Annual Health Care Social Media Summit October 16-18. My topic is Health Care Reform Meets Social Media: Cultivating Online Communities to Prevent and Manage Illness.*

We settled on this topic last March, and I’ve been thinking a lot about it since – and doing a ton of research, including interviews with some of the people most involved in online communities.

I have become more and more convinced that the future of health care itself, and marketing specifically, lies in community. Here’s why.

Hospitals are on the financial brink

Regardless of who is elected in November, health care transformation is coming. A number of factors are pushing hospitals to the financial brink.

  • Spending more than 18% of GDP on healthcare is unsustainable.
  • The size of the federal budget deficit is unsustainable.
  • Annual increase in the Medicare budget is unsustainable.
  • State Medicaid programs are unsustainable.
  • Continued transfer of costs to employers and consumers is unsustainable.

Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement nationally averages less than 90% of actual costs

Already Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement nationally averages less than 90% of actual costs.

At the hospital in Oregon where I also work as a part-time director of marketing, 70% of all our patients are funded by Medicare or Medicaid. As 10,000 baby boomers each day become eligible for Medicare, the losses will increase.

Our fastest growing source of bad debt is from commercially insured patients who are simply unable to pay their huge deductibles.

There are a number of other factors, but the key driver is hospitals all over the country are losing money, and an economic rebound is not going to solve the problem.

The best hope for sustainable health care today

The best hope for sustainable health care today is the Accountable Care Organization (ACO) model. When hospitals, physicians and other health care providers manage a community of patients with a fixed budget, the traditional healthcare model is turned on its head. The focus is on collaboration, not competition. Wellness, not sickness.

Imagine a world in which your goal is not to steal patients from other hospitals (Read about our NEW open MRI! Our emergency room has a shorter wait! Recover 20% faster with our joint replacement program!) but instead to collaborate with other hospitals to determine how and where patients will receive the best care. It’s going to change everything.

There are many communities in health care

There is much more to say about this, and I will in upcoming blog posts, but back to my point that the future of health care is about community. There are many communities. The patient community. The health care community. The physician community. The community of diabetics. And more.

The future of health care, and of health care marketing, lies in connecting, engaging, sharing, educating, helping, encouraging and working with these communities. In other words, building communities. These are special skills, the skills we’ve hopefully been learning as we’ve developed social media.

These are the skills of the future.

The conference is presented by Ragan Communications and hosted by Mayo Clinic Center for Social Media.

How we help

Hive Strategies helps health systems create HIPAA-compliant online communities for better health, lower costs and greater loyalty.

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