Not that long ago, when you weren’t feeling good, or something felt odd, or it was just time for an annual physical, you called your doctor’s office. You made an appointment, saw the doctor, and then waited a year for the next interaction. For some in health care, that’s surprisingly still business as usual. But for those paying attention to the extraordinary transformation happening between patients and providers, health care (and specifically health care marketing) will never look the same again. The power in medical relationships has shifted and patients—or more accurately, health care consumers — are now running the show. Moving forward, if doctors, hospitals, dentists, pharmacies, or anyone else in the health care sector wants to continue to grow, health care marketing can’t be an afterthought. It has to be the first thought.
Welcome to Patient-Centric Care.
It’s not uncommon for companies, or even business sectors, to have a long-term strategic vision. But in health care, that hasn’t always been the case. While marketing as we know it first showed up around 1910, it wasn’t until the late 1970s before doctors and hospitals really engaged in any kind of sustained consumer outreach. Even then, efforts were more a function of public relations and generating community goodwill than targeting patients with campaigns based on consumer research. Fast forward 40 years and, thanks to technology, competition, and a profound shift toward consumerism, health care looks completely different. Just follow the money.
In the late 1970s, U.S. national health care expenditure as a percentage of GDP was 6.9 percent. By next year, it will be more than 18 percent. In the past, health care was very much a “need-based” business. You got sick; you went to the doctor. Today, people are taking a far more active role in their health care. They’re advocating for themselves and their families in a way older generations haven’t before. And much like in other current consumer behavior, with that advocacy, patients are making their decisions with a far more informed opinion than their parents did. That’s why health care marketing is so crucial to reach today’s health care consumers before they are making those decisions.