Is marketing a dirty word or the linchpin of healthcare reform?

by Frank Tiedemann on August 14, 2013

Judging by content analysis of recent publications, online group discussions, and government pronouncements marketing is close to a dirty word in the realm of healthcare reform. Oh, I don’t mean one of George Carlin’s seven dirty words. Rather it’s apparent that marketing is a non-existent term in the reform vocabulary.

All the emphasis has been on cost control and process improvement to create better, predictable clinical quality. All of which are highly desirable in healthcare to be sure. But at the end of the day they mean nothing if there are no patients. Or as Peter Drucker so elegantly said,”Nothing happens without a customer.”

So how can healthcare regulators, hospitals, physicians and other providers forget the patient. I don’t think it’s a temporary phenomena. Throughout my career as a hospital and system CEO I found consistent apathy among medical staff, governing boards and employees towards our efforts to market our services. The field of dreams, built it and they will come, was an ever present rival to systematic, scientific marketing.

So here’s the thing, healthcare reform is predicated on improving the patient experience, improving the health of populations, and improving care at less cost per capita–the triple aim. Aren’t these marketing goals? Or at the very least, aren’t these goals that marketing concepts and tools can help achieve?

Finding patients and generating revenue to sustain a healing mission is still necessary, even vital, under healthcare reform. We have the tools. Do we have the will and the leadership?

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