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Designing Digital for “The Strategy That Will Fix Health Care”

In case you missed it, in the fresh off the press October 2013 issue of Harvard Business Review, Michael E. Porter and Thomas H. Lee set off with a very grand statement, “The Strategy That Will Fix Health Care“.

In the interest of full disclosure, in the beginning of this piece the two authors basically just restate the Affordable Care Act like it is their fresh idea. However, the thesis of the article explains The Value Agenda approach to healthcare, which is defined as maximizing value for patients by moving to a high-value health care delivery system with six components. These include:
Value Agenda

Very early in the article Porter and Lee take a small swipe at HIT and healthcare consumerism stating “Health care leaders and policy makers have tried countless incremental fixes–attacking fraud, reducing errors, enforcing practice guidelines, making patients better “consumers,” implementing electronic medical records–but none have had much impact.”

I’d like to take this moment to say: What? I’m not an EHR vendor by trade, but I’d say that, at the very least, tornado and other natural disaster victims have found the digitization of medical records to have had profound impact. Yes, EHR is just one source in hundreds of data sources a healthcare provider needs, but I’d say that the EHR is pretty important to component 6 of the Value Agenda. Also, putting the value to patients at the center of strategy is creating a healthcare consumerism strategy, which, believe it or not, cannot happen if you wish to create the Integrated Practice Units explained in Component 1.

Okay, rant over. I’m done pretending that I am smarter than the Harvard strategists.

The Value Agenda for the Healthcare Marketer

What follows is my interpretation of the Value Agenda approach for the healthcare marketer and anyone else tasked with starting dialogue with patients and unknown consumers. As with most strategies, the marketer’s role in the Value Agenda approach is at the very beginning. Digital media is front and center in this dialogue since online is the healthcare consumer’s first source for information since online is anonymous, interactive, and tailored. The dialogue and value starts there.

So let’s figure out what the Value Agenda approach is all about.

“[The Value Agenda approach] requires a shift from today’s siloed organization by specialty department and discrete service to organizing around the patient’s medical condition. We call such a structure an integrated practice unit [IPU].”

This statement is basically at the heart of the business analysis portion of digital strategies I have created for our healthcare clients. Many healthcare organizations still organize the business of healthcare, and the digital infrastructure that supports that business, without the user in mind. Healthcare organizations often organize in such a way that makes sense to them and not to the patient. However, if we are to maximize value to patients, then a reorganization is in order. This reorganization needs to start where the conversation with patients starts: online.

Maximizing Patient Value in Digital Assets

The healthcare provider’s website has an information architecture (navigation). This information architecture is often organized by how someone within the organization would separate the content to make sense for them. This is typically done by facility, specialty department, or service line. The web content is often ripe with terminology and phrases that clinicians use. This is not the way that unknown consumers (who you want to become your patients) self-select healthcare information to find their provider or choice. Again, the key is to maximize patient value from the very beginning of the conversation with unknown consumers

It is impossible to be all things to all people online. I’ve never seen a marketing budget that could support that type of scope. However, it is possible to interpret a healthcare organization’s business goals, or most strategically important IPUs in Harvard speak, into an appropriate consumer digital experience. The key is to isolate those target markets and IPUs of strategic importance and journey map those digital experiences accordingly. Here are my suggestions:

  • Attracting unknown consumers from valuable target markets to important IPUs starts with content. We all know that content takes time and thought leadership to do well. Integrating healthcare information from a third party data broker like Krames Staywell or WebMD allows a healthcare organization to obtain a wealth of content with less time commitment. This provides quick access to A-Z content without a large time investment. This way, if sports injuries traditionally cared for under orthopedics is not a key IPU for your organization, an unknown consumer can still come to your site and find that information.
  • Once the syndicated content is available to provide a wide array of healthcare information with a smaller content creation time investment, a healthcare system should then invest in the creation of unique content that is specific to their target markets and strategically important IPUs. For example, a digital hub for cancer care can include online health chats facilitated by oncologists, Ask a Doctor Q&A, Podcasts, Tools & Quizzes, Healthy Learning Modules, Research, and patient guest bloggers. Women’s services is another very important area of focus since mom is oftentimes the family CEO. Digital content tailored at providing value to mom is critical to that end. Show true thought leadership.
  • This information can then be placed into a hubs specific to women’s services and cancer care, for example. Many think this requires the creation of microsites when really hubs within a website can be given vanity URLs. This is the best of both worlds. This eliminates any potential breaks in the journey, information between hubs can be cross-linked as needed, and the vanity URL provides an easy gateway directly to that hub as needed.
  • You would then convert unknown consumers using the four most important conversion tools on a healthcare provider website: Register for Classes, Find a Provider, Find a Location, and Register for an Appointment. Check out my previous post on these conversion tools.

Have any other questions for me on digital strategy and the Value Agenda approach? Please comment below.

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