In the face of so many changes in healthcare, competition among providers for healthcare dollars continues to mount. It makes sense that providers are targeting some of the most profitable service lines — e.g., Cardiology, Orthopedic and Oncology — in their quest to assure their competitive positions going forward. In order to win their “fair share” of patient revenues, providers ranging from community hospitals to academic tertiary care centers have developed the capability to perform once cutting-edge procedures such as cardiac catheterizations and joint replacements. The result is a leveled playing field, achieved through widespread training and the development of relationships with affiliated specialists.

In the eyes of consumers, there is a perceived “commoditization” of certain tried and true, no longer leading-edge services. Through focus groups and quantitative research, The Melior Group has learned that while consumers have a clear perception of which hospitals are “best” in their region — usually, large tertiary care centers with academic affiliations — they often prefer having these “commodity” procedures done at a hospital they may not perceive as the best, but as “good enough” to get the job done. Their preferred provider may also appear more advantageous in other ways, e.g., more convenient, cost-effective, familiar, etc. If their referring physician recommends the hospital, all the better and more confident patients often feel about their choice. The result is that medical pioneers in these now commoditized services can find themselves competing with community hospitals for the same patients and procedures.

The Melior Group believes that, given these new realities, all provider institutions — regardless of whether they are large multi-specialty healthcare systems, specialty hospitals, or small community hospitals — need to ask themselves the following questions in the lead-up to marketing planning:

  • Do I understand enough about my patients’ decision-making for healthcare services, overall and for individual service lines? Do I understand how priorities, impressions of providers, and information gathering about healthcare services have changed — or not — over the past few years?
  • For these high volume service lines and commoditized services, has my hospital identified the patients that we want to attract? Have we made the case, operationally and in terms of our marketing messages, for why we are the best option for those target markets?
  • Is my institution getting its fair share of patient referrals from the medical community, whose opinions can drive patients to or away from my hospital? Have we made the case, in terms of quality of care, ease of referrals, etc., – for sending referrals our way?

In light of the tightening competition for what are now readily available, standardized procedures, it is incumbent upon healthcare providers to gain a deeper understanding of their patients’ decision-making process.