jewish community studies

If You Ask, We Answer: Part 2 – Healthcare

Continuing our series about the common questions that our clients ask us:  our first post focused on the higher education sector.  We now turn our focus to healthcare.

When my kids ask me what I do all day, I respond with, “We answer questions.”  I give pretty much the same response to adults, because while it sounds simple, it captures the essence of my work.  That’s why The Melior Group is in business.

So when it comes to our healthcare provider clients like hospitals and health systems, what kinds of questions is Melior answering, and how are they using the information?

If we build it, will they come?

Investment in facilities, programs and services is costly, and our healthcare clients need data about consumers to support their decisions.  Hospital planning departments and their consultants provide the market information (how many people live in the area, insurance status, etc.); Melior’s work focuses on gathering insights into consumer attitudes and behavior. We ask questions of the market such as:

  • Is there a need in your community for said initiatives?
  • When making decisions for this type of program/service, what are your criteria for selection?
  • If the program/service offers these menu items, how likely would you be to consider using it?
  • What would make you more likely to use it?

With the answers given, Melior is able to guide clients to make “go/no go” decisions, and, if the decision is “go”, to develop a product that is responsive to consumers’ needs and preferences.

Is our consumer-directed marketing and outreach accomplishing what we want it to accomplish, and if not, what can we do to make it better?

We often work with clients when they are developing their consumer marketing strategy.  They may need to evaluate their current brand status, as well as elicit input for future marketing campaigns.  We ask questions of consumers such as:

  • What is important to you when you are making decisions about healthcare?
  • What are your impressions of the different providers in the market?
  • How do you gather information about healthcare providers?
  • What is your reaction to current advertising and other messaging from healthcare providers?

The answers help our clients to develop marketing communications which are believable, distinctive and have the potential to resonate with desired audience segments.

How can we better serve our surrounding community? 

This is an important question for our nonprofit healthcare clients, which are usually mission-driven.  They take their missions seriously, and want to hear, from the audiences they are committed to serving, how they are doing.  As such, we ask questions of those audiences such as:

  • Do you perceive this provider as the “go to” resource for your family’s health needs?
  • Does this provider treat all patients with the compassion and respect that they deserve?
  • Is this provider doing all that it can to improve the overall health of the community?

Though sometimes the findings can surprise, and even hurt, they can provide a starting point for improvement and rededication to meeting mission goals.

In addition to the questions we ask, our rigorous approach to figuring out who we need to reach in order to gather the information we need, and determining the best methodology for gathering information, is central to our work.

Our research can help healthcare providers explore all of these issues and more.  Give us a call or shoot us an email and let us know how we can help.

For more information please contact Elizabeth Cohen at [email protected]/215-545-0054 ext. 103

I Don’t Care What You Think Until I Think That You Care

“I don’t care what you think until I think that you care.”

I heard that quote and I can’t stop thinking about how perfectly this applies to health care, specifically to consumers’ thoughts and attitudes about the kind of health care they are seeking.

Over the years, The Melior Group has conducted thousands of focus groups with consumers about their decision-making and preferences for providers. The word “quality” gets used a lot. We hear some version of the statement “I want to go to a hospital/doctor/other provider that is known for delivering high quality care”  in every single focus group.

So what does “high quality healthcare” mean?

I’ve asked this question in more ways than I can count, searching, searching for clarity.

Because every time I would ask that question, I would get what I believed was a naïve answer – something like:  “A quality doctor is someone who listens to me,” or, “ I want to go someplace where I can really talk to my doctor.”

After hearing some version of this for the umpteenth time, I told myself that if I could only ask the question right, then I would get a “better” answer, like “quality healthcare means there are good outcomes”  or “quality means practicing evidence-based medicine.” 

I told myself that the consumers who were focused on doctors’ communication skills and “bedside manner” were missing the point:  to my mind, healthcare “quality” had nothing to do with interpersonal skills.

And then I heard that quote.

It was really an “ah ha” moment.  Of course!  As a patient, why would I value what a doctor was recommending to me – even if he/she was amazingly credentialed, the leading doctor in that field, educated at Harvard, yada yada – unless that doctor seemed to care enough about me to attempt to really get to the bottom of my particular problem, and my goals for treatment?

So what does caring in the medical setting mean? Does it mean…

Wearing a button that says “Ask me”?
Making small talk in the examining room?
Claiming, in advertising, that each patient is more than a number? 

I don’t think so.  Rather, I think that my focus group participants have got it right:  by listening — really listening,  restating the information to make clear that they have heard what their patient is saying, and asking the right questions — medical providers convey caring.  In so doing physicians are  better able to diagnose the real problem, and to suggest a treatment approach that a patient will be more likely to comply with.

Now that sounds like high quality healthcare.

Elizabeth Cohen is Vice President of The Melior Group, and our lead consultant in our work in the health care sector.

For more information please visit our Healthcare page or contact Elizabeth Cohen at [email protected] / 215-545-0054 x103.

Referring Physicians

Hospital Regional Appeal Improves Using Market Research

Without the resources to out-spend its competition, an in-city hospital sought a market research partner who could help them improve their image in their local community. In order to maximize the spend, they were in need of smart and efficient direction.

The Melior Group targeted both consumers and primary care physicians to uncover how to convey the hospital’s unique story and build its patient base. Research results helped to direct the hospital towards a new partnership plan, an improved referral process and a deeper focus on the people whose lives were changed for the good…read the full article here.

Elizabeth Cohen is Vice President of The Melior Group, and our lead consultant in our work in the health care sector.  For more information please visit our Healthcare page or contact Elizabeth Cohen at [email protected] / 215-545-0054 ext 103.

Healthcare Providers Face New Brand And Spend Challenges As Some Medical Procedures Become Commoditized: PART 2

If a given service line and/or procedure generates high patient volume and is profitable, hospitals and healthcare systems can be sure that there will be stiff competition for those patients. So, how do providers attract their fair share of volume?

In the previous post, Melior identified three broad question areas that healthcare marketers should consider before finalizing a marketing plan. Successful hospital marketers know that marketing research can answer those questions. In this follow-up blog post, we recommend some approaches to consumer research that can provide guidance for development and execution of marketing strategy.

Focus groups

To really understand how patients make decisions and their impressions of and willingness to consider area hospitals/health systems, Melior continues to recommend focus groups with consumers as a first step. In this intimate forum, where participants can be screened to insure that all have had some experience with, for example, cardiac care, we can ask questions such as “which hospital in your area is best for a given procedure/service line,” and “where did you/your loved one actually go for this procedure.”

As it so happens, the answers to the above questions are often contradictory. One of our clients — a regional tertiary care provider that has invested heavily in its cardiac service line — learned through focus group research that despite many consumers’ recognition of its capabilities and reputation, other factors such as perceived better access, and their personal physicians’ recommendations, trumped these positive impressions and drove patients elsewhere for cardiac services. Rather than going to what they perceived was the “best” option, many consumers chose a provider that was “good enough” to meet the need…and more advantageous in other ways.

In a focus group, we can explore these contradictions in a free-ranging line of inquiry, and develop evidence-based hypotheses to explain what we’re hearing. In a typical telephone or online survey – with predominantly closed ended questions – we would just have to accept these contradictions and rely on conjecture to understand them. After a series of focus groups, our client decided to focus more of its localized messaging on ease of access to specific physicians.

Quantitative survey of catchment area consumers

Many of our clients do need quantitative data in order to understand the prevalence of what was heard in focus groups, and to satisfy internal audiences who control marketing dollars. Qualitative findings can be used as the basis for a quantitative survey of consumers, the purpose of which can be to measure and track the standard concerns – e.g., awareness, impressions, decision-making priorities and inputs, etc. – as well as to test the hypotheses that were developed in the qualitative phase. Some clients even try out positioning statements or other creative approaches in such a survey.

This quantitative data can provide the additional confidence needed to formulate positioning and messaging strategy for the service line. These findings also allow for development of market segments – based on demographic, experiential, attitudinal, and other data – which can help providers identify specific groups to target based on common characteristics.

To learn more, visit our previous postHealthcare Providers Face New Brand And Spend Challenges As Some Medical Procedures Become Commoditized, PART 1.

In our next healthcare post we’ll explore the role of physicians in consumer decision-making, and make the case for why physician relations are an integral component of consumer marketing strategy.

For inquires, please contact The Melior Group at (215) 545-0054 or by email [email protected]