19 Mar 5 ways healthcare reform is changing healthcare communications
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, signed into law in 2010, is designed to decrease the number of uninsured Americans and decrease the costs of care. The Act outlines changes that will take place in phases through 2020 (when, for example, the Medicare Part D “donut hole” gap in coverage will be closed once and for all). But the changes are already well underway. They are changing how consumers seek, receive, and pay for care. They are changing how professionals deliver, track, and get compensated for care. And they are changing healthcare marketing, medical advertising, and healthcare PR in five key ways.
1. More consumer education
One inevitable result of the Affordable Care Act is more healthcare consumers. And a significant number may be patients with limited or no previous experience with the healthcare system. At a time when we have a shortage of healthcare professionals. These patients need education—on disease prevention, diagnosis, and treatment; wellness; adherence; monitoring; and their rights and responsibilities as empowered patients. Medical marketers have the challenge, opportunity, and responsibility to address these needs.
2. More consumer promotion
In addition to patient education, expect to see more direct-to-consumer and direct-to-patient promotions. Again, it’s inevitable. With more patients accessing the system and fewer healthcare professionals acting as gatekeepers, healthcare marketers are promoting more directly to consumers and patients—to help make them aware of their choices…and to help influence their choices.
3. More HIT
HIT, EMR, HER—these are topics of the day…and for a few more days to come, no doubt, since the Affordable Care Act mandates that practices implement electronic medical records. There are more EMR companies every day. And they all need to do more marketing to rise clear of the clutter and clatter. Plus, every pharma company, every medical device manufacturer seeks to integrate their product—somehow, someway—with the universal EMR system that doesn’t quite exist yet.
4. More metrics
This is the era of measures: ACO, Medicare 5 Star, HEDIS, PQRS, PCMH, CAHPS, Joint Commission… Hospitals get graded. HCPs get graded. Compensation is tied to quality and efficiency, as assessed by the government, payers, nonprofit organizations, and consumers. And consumers check the report cards. I guess they figure: If I’m going to read Yelp reviews of pho restaurants, I can probably read reviews of the urologist I’ve been referred to.
5. More solutions
There’s more than a bit of the Chicken Little syndrome running rampant. “It all too much: Too many changes. Too fast. Too complex. Too murky.” (Does the “conversation” still include senior death panels?) But the fact is, driven by the Affordable Care Act and other changes, we are seeing innovative solutions to the delivery and measurement of health care, and different ways to communicate with both HCPs and patients. One example is the shared medical appointment (SMA) concept, where a group of patients meets together with an HCP. When I first heard of this concept, I thought: What? People with whom I share a diagnosis now share a medical appointment with me? But it turns out that the SMA is quickly gaining traction – not only because it enables fewer doctors to see more patients (instead of seeing 6 patients for 10 minutes each, the HCP can spend an hour educating a group of 10 patients) but also because it gives patients more access to their HCP and more time to learn about their condition. And, consistent with the concept of sharing, patients in a shared medical appointment may actually share more about their symptoms and treatment progress than they would one-on-one with the HCP.
How about you?
Those are five changes we’re seeing as a result of—or certainly spurred by—the Affordable Care Act. How about you? What healthcare reform-driven changes are you seeing in healthcare marketing