Healthcare is a wide term that includes a range of undertakings- insurance coverage, workforce compensation, health information technology, and drug administration. Thus, healthcare matters require a great deal of understanding, experience, and manpower in order to be precise in delivering accurate solutions and as marketers in the field of healthcare, we need to have our finger on the pulse of each heartbeat.
According to the 2016 CMS data, National healthcare expenditures rose 5.3 percent in 2014 to $3 trillion, accounting for 17.5 percent of gross domestic product. Also mentioned is the fact through a study from Avalere Health that hospital ownership of physician practices moved up to 86 percent between 2012 and 2015.
However, the long years of experience in marketing have made me take a step back to assess the changes affecting healthcare since the introduction of ICD-10 and the Affordable Care Act (ACA) or known as Obamacare. In a short span of time healthcare providers have been impacted both positively and negatively – revenues have either gone up or gone down drastically depending on how prepared one was to deal with the changes introduced. Technology has also affected both positively and adversely- both in terms of infrastructure and the need to adopt and adapt new software platforms, and the social media platforms, reaching out to patients that healthcare practitioners had never done before.
From a marketer’s perspective business is as usual across industries given the up and down of markets. But when it comes to healthcare there our marketing perspective has to change when viewing the solo practitioner and the big giants of healthcare. Be they a small-time physician or a medical specialist in the field, the need to maintaining one’s reputation among their colleagues be it their competitor is always the most prominent and consistent.
Hence when trying to asses if only the big giants will survive the changes that have impacted the healthcare industry, we need to tread rather delicately- as we need to take into account not just a business that is there for profit, but it also takes into account a patient’s well-being that most healthcare practitioners have at heart!
So when we look at the big giants of healthcare who survive because they run their healthcare business based on lines of profits, looking at solo practices that have survived or adapted to changes as best as they can is pure because of the spirit and passion and dedication towards their patient’s well being. This is not to say that those who practice in the bigger hospitals are not caring towards their patients, but the way they are run and what is demanded from them, so as to meet targets, etc. can take its toll on the way they interact with their patients.
Added to this, is that small practices are often intimidated by the rules and regulations that govern them right from the way they practice to what they practice and even to marketing their own services as the marketing and advertising guidelines are imposed on them by their state licensing boards. They thus lose out on the benefits that positive marketing can bring rich rewards as it does for the big giants in healthcare. This makes it even more difficult for marketing healthcare executives to go out in the field and help them strategize ways in which they can further their practice be it for profit or even the well-being of their patients.
A change in public and private actions is causing a stir, creating more administrative burdens that cause small practices to shut down. I have witnessed many of the private practices during my marketing tenure with them get acquired by the larger hospitals and private centers. Managing set levels of transparency required by insurers and government with respect to cost and quality through government-enforced laws are seemingly difficult for solo practices, as they lack the infrastructure required to maintain these levels. Most times, such situations lead to hospitals and big physician groups buying small practices to retain their position.
Independent physicians do seem to have a difficult time balancing between offering value-based care while also focusing on the financial part. The enormous amount of paperwork to integrate patient details is only an addition to the present situation woes. Of course, EHR contribution has been massive, and there is a sincere hope that the EHR companies continue enhancing their systems to complement the present healthcare requirements. A shift in the insurance will see more patients being burdened under giant medical costs and this will, in turn, cost small practices, since patients may not have the money to pay off the balance.
Thus, regardless of the changes in policies, small practices would sustain in rural areas, as also in big cities, but they would need a considerable amount of change in their current way of practicing. So along with these changes, our marketing strategies have also had to change over leaps and bounds. The role of not just being an informer but also now guiding healthcare practices in what is best suited to what they can and cannot implement.
Helping them strategize their decision-making based on the external and internal factors at play- make the role of the healthcare Marketing executive not an easy task especially when dealing with small practices trying to survive among the giants. Thankfully, our task has been made easier as CMS has agreed to assist solo practices to adapt to MACRA and offer all the help required to them so that they are able to keep up with alterations that happen from time to time.
However, in the long run, what is best for the patient would need to be also surveyed. Convincing small practices that they do play a prominent role in the healthcare industry like helping reduce the overall medical costs on the federal services – is an uphill task given the small revenues with which they work with and also amidst the fast-growing specialty services that have been encouraged to grow either within or outside the giants of healthcare organizations.
So only time will tell if profits win or passion and the spirit of patient well being will either help make or break the small solo healthcare practices!