Healthcare has been going high-tech for some time—in 2014, clinical healthcare IT spending alone had already reached $15.6 billion, and was anticipated to increase by 42% by the end of 2019 (Communications for Research). The biggest expense for providers is Electronic Health Records (EHRs), clocking in at 62% of all clinical IT expenditures. Telemedicine makes up 23% of these expenditures and continues to grow as app-based care and creative approaches to home health were primary focal points in 2019.
Even though providers and payors are spending a lot of money on healthcare technology (healthtech), this also means that the market has been flooded with new products, services and solutions in a short amount of time. There is a high cost to switch or add technology, both from a financial perspective and because disrupting healthcare settings with new activities can have major repercussions for patient wellbeing.
To cut through the noise and prove their value, healthtech marketers need to be acutely aware of the unique considerations that influence how their prospects and customers perceive the value-add of technology. These four important factors should inform the pillars of your brand messaging from the very beginning of your marketing efforts.
1. People’s Lives Depend on Healthcare Software
Whether you’re selling a telehealth solution, a connected care app, the best EHR on the market, a scheduling application or anything else used in a healthcare setting, you’re selling part of a process of care that either directly or indirectly supports someone’s health. Even if the healthcare software you’re marketing isn’t keeping someone’s heart beating or replacing an amputated limb, it still plays an integral role in keeping people alive and well.
Arguably, the stakes are higher in healthtech, because human life is directly impacted by whether or not the product works the way it is supposed to. Many of the products and services on the market today were created in response to death, illness or harm that humans suffered as a result of previous technology failing or not working the way it claimed it would. While the technology you are marketing may not be literally “life or death,” certain language, benefits or value that is common in other types of technology marketing may come across as insensitive or callous in a healthcare setting. For example, talking about revenue or “the bottom line” may need to be handled differently, since revenue in healthcare is often generated by people experiencing less-than-ideal health conditions.
2. Reimbursement Models Have Shifted from Volume to Value
The medical model of healthcare has, traditionally, been based on providing as many services as possible that may benefit the patient. However, as costs have risen and more research has been done on healthcare “waste,” investors, MCOs, insurers and providers have begun operating on a value-based model. Claims of “value-based care” are everywhere and are becoming increasingly common ways to market healthtech, though the healthcare sector is still catching up.
There’s a lot of talk around shifting to value from volume, but many providers and healthcare stakeholders don’t yet know what that shift means for them. Successful healthtech marketers have already begun to define what value-based care is and how that technology, product or solution assists in delivering it. New, multidimensional approaches to messaging and what pain points/value points resonate with different personas—providers vs. payors vs. patients—is becoming even more critical.
3. Providers Have Been Burned by Technology – A Lot
Technology is well integrated into the healthcare system already. As of 2017, nearly 9 in 10 (86%) of office-based physicians had adopted an EHR, and nearly 4 in 5 (80%) had adopted a certified EHR. Much like marketing technology, the healthtech landscape was flooded in the 2010s, with little insight or guidance from industry experts about which technologies were worth investing in—and which would only cause more headaches.
Historically, the vast majority of providers have reported not liking the functionality of their EHR, although that trend is shifting. Medical technologies, including EHRs and beyond, are expensive and time-consuming to implement, and can severely disrupt medical workflows that rely on timeliness and accuracy to save lives and provide good treatment. Taking this sense of urgency into account when developing messaging and the customer experience map is vital because the strongest, most successful technology providers need to be able to follow through on promises to implement new systems with minimal disruptions. Having clear messaging points around implementation and onboarding that are provable with testimonials, satisfaction scores and more can separate the wheat from the chaff.
4. Payors Are Balancing Passion with Practicality
The reality is that healthcare systems in the United States and other countries are businesses—they are required to turn a profit and demonstrate value to shareholders and stakeholders, whether those be private investors or public government entities. Reimbursement systems are complex and unwieldy, and administration and operating expenses can completely blow out already-slim profits. However, people receiving medical services do not care about profits—they only care about getting better. Healthcare is also intrinsically different from many other services, as people may be able to survive just fine without the latest and greatest CRM but not without dialysis or prescription medication.
This precarious juggle between people and profits regularly puts payors in a bind. How do they hold providers accountable to standards of efficiency and quality without looking like “the bad guy” in the public eye? Healthtech can help solve some of these issues by streamlining communication, ensuring data accuracy, automating repetitive manual processes and more. Healthcare tech marketers who can help create messaging for payors that focuses on the intrinsic social good value of the technology rather than emphasizing how much money it will save can help payors more easily navigate this delicate balance.