Tailor Communications to Patient's Situation

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Creating and maintaining organizational awareness is one of the most important aspects of achieving the ultimate customer-relationship-management goals of attracting and retaining patients and improving their health and loyalty.


With little differentiation in a market characterized by decreased spending and mature traditional services, healthcare organizations must effectively brand their programs and services to earn a solid market position.


One approach to achieve this recognition and "provider of choice" status is situational segmentation. Used within an integrated customer-relationship-management model, this strategy identifies individuals in specific healthcare situations in a closed-loop feedback model that tracks and responds to changing consumer needs.


Segmenting the healthcare market by situation means promoting different messages about the same hospital and service line. For example, a man seeking a cardiac checkup because of a family history of heart disease requires a different message than a man seeking care because he is experiencing a heart attack. Same service line, very different situation.


Situational segmentation involves developing communications that will prompt the consumer to choose your provider. These programs, grouped into four categories, emphasize the continuing trends of wellness and health maintenance, but also accommodate disease management.


These campaigns often use a combination of electronic and direct mail channels, which could include a personalized letter, direct mail brochure or matrix mailing programs, with feedback and tracking mechanisms such as a coupon for a program or service. They should also be part of the organization's Web site. Surveys have shown that healthcare consumers overwhelmingly favor direct mail over TV, newspaper and radio advertising. USA Today reported that more than 22 million adults went online for healthcare information last year and the number is expected to grow to 33 million this year.


The four categories of situational segmentation are:


Education management. The organization builds awareness with a "We're here and this is what you should know about your health and healthcare options" message. It informs consumers about physician referral programs, emergency center capabilities, specialty services, free seminars or tours. It is an ideal way to reach individuals who are new to the community.


Wellness Management. The organization promotes wellness with the "You might have a potential health risk, and here are preventive programs and screenings to help," message. It informs consumers about programs such as general health checks or health risk assessment to determine health status, when to have a mammogram or prostate cancer exam or cholesterol or blood pressure screenings.


Disease management. The healthcare provider wants to help better manage disease with the "We believe you or someone in your family is dealing with a chronic health problem. Here's how we can help," message. Mailings are for seminars, classes and screenings on heart disease, breast cancer, stroke, cigarette use, back pain, hearing or vision loss.


Intervention management: The healthcare provider responds to an acute healthcare event with, "We know you needed healthcare recently, and want to help you modify your lifestyle and medical care for optimal results." Messages could include information about warning signs of heart attack and stroke and how to seek prompt care, treatment, home healthcare and weight control.


Situational segmentation can help healthcare organizations qualify and channel exactly the right individuals to the proper products or services at the appropriate time. The healthcare organization that is more aware of and responsive to individual needs is the one that will achieve stronger market positioning and awareness.
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