Healthcare marketers have a central role in population health

We can assume an important role in marketing population health initiatives. Promoting greater adherence and increasing patients’ participation in their own care is especially essential for those with chronic conditions – and marketers have exactly the skill sets needed for promoting positive changes in these patients’ behavior.

NDP founder and principal Susan Dubuque, along with two marketing professionals from leading healthcare enterprises, spoke to this topic at last month’s HMPSS conference. Their session, titled “Marketing’s Role in Behavior Change,” generated tremendous interest, drawing a standing-room-only crowd.

Much of Susan’s presentation was based on her recent book, Gearing Up For Population Health: Marketing for Change, published by the Society for Healthcare Strategy and Market Development (SHSMD). During the session, Susan punctuated her insights and information with practical stories and examples from her co-presenters, who demonstrated how they have implemented the principles Susan champions.

I was particularly intrigued by the examples and practical applications for using fear, humor, emotion, and rational thinking to drive engagement. As an example of using fear as a motivator, Susan showed a brief European video warning of the dangers of driving at excessive speeds. It was a powerful example that grabbed attention, and Susan showed how the same principal can be applied to healthcare by focusing on common patient concerns. I left the session with a much greater appreciation of how healthcare marketers can indeed make a greater contribution to their organizations’ most important initiatives.

Session attendees clearly were similarly impressed. Several of their post-session questions had to do with when and how to use various “appeals” such as fear and humor for optimal effect on patient behavior. As Susan explained, that’s where marketing skills come to bear. Fear, for example, is used regularly in healthcare marketing and can be a strong and compelling motivator – as long as marketers find balance in their appeals and make sure they are appropriate to the threat level.

Additional questions from session attendees related to figuring out which services and health behaviors to target. There seemed to be an underlying theme to many of these questions: How do we carve out a role, since we’re not clinicians or epidemiologists?

The answers to these questions and more can be found in Susan’s book, which is available at the American Hospital Association’s online store. SHSMD members can also view a recording of Susan’s presentation by visiting the SHSMD webcast site. Healthcare marketing professionals who weren’t able to attend Susan’s HMPSS session are strongly encouraged to leverage these resources.

That’s because population health gives provider organizations their best shot at improving the lives of those who consume the most care while simultaneously curbing the rise of healthcare costs. By adding their skills to those of clinicians and epidemiologists in population health efforts, professional marketers have an unprecedented opportunity to directly and positively impact their organizations’ performance and the well-being of our most vulnerable patients.