Monday, November 7, 2022

An X-Ray of Healthcare Marketing


To quote Matthew Kobach (@mkobach), "Twitter is a key that unlocks thousands of doors, some of which you never even knew existed." As a member of the Twitterverse for 13 years, I always enjoy meeting new people and learning from them. I recently connected with Michael Krivich from Illinois, and invited him to appear here on my Blog in a Q&A discussion about marketing. Highlights of our conversation follow a brief introduction.

Michael J. Krivich, MHA, LFACHE, is a retired healthcare business and marketing executive with over 40 years of leadership experience in healthcare providers and vendors and is a Life Fellow American College of Healthcare Executives. He continues to write two blogs that are read daily in 52 countries, with a combined viewership exceeding 22,000 views monthly.

QUESTION: You’re currently retired, but if you knew years ago what you know now about life and the covid pandemic, what would you have chosen for a career path if you could have a do-over?
MICHAEL KRIVICH: I would stay in healthcare but choose to be a hospital CEO based on what I have learned over the years and the pandemic. If you think about it, because of the pandemic, you learned that you only need a hospital for three things: acute complex medical care, emergency room, and ICU. If you have a family, you may need a provider with a NICU or PICU.

Other than that, consumers can get all the care they need in an ambulatory care setting that is far more convenient, higher quality, and cost-effective than in a hospital. Patient engagement and experience is critically important to differentiate and survive in a retail, medical environment.
With all the primary market research I have done over the years, changes in hospital market share are more related to physician admitting behavior. Doctors move patients around to hospitals that have less of a hassle factor in their ability to practice medicine. Nothing is done in a hospital unless you have a physician’s order. A hospital is a building full of stuff that can’t be used unless the doctor says so. We can’t walk into a hospital and say give me an MRI because my shoulder hurts.
The engagement of the physician and their experience in practicing medicine at the hospital keep the hospital open. Physicians admit patients, not hospitals. Hospitals don’t close because of reimbursement levels; hospitals close because physicians lose confidence in the hospital and admit their patients elsewhere. The hospital can’t bill insurance or the government if there are no “heads in the beds” or outpatient service use: no patient bill, no money.

The last item is an unrelenting patient care focus. It’s not just saying we are patient-focused; it’s creating the culture, care, and operational processes by providing the necessary resources to BE patient-focused. It’s not a saying or a brand tagline. It’s the DNA of the hospital and a recognition that we serve patients, not the patient who serves us.

These three items are not separate activities as they create synergy and guide everything that a hospital does: how it plans, operates, and engages the patient, employee, and physician. If the hospital wants cost-effective care and margin to grow, it’s about delivering on the Triple Aim: the right care, at the right cost, in the right setting.

QUESTION: You wrote a post on your blog entitled, “What is the Patient Hospital and Brand Experience Like When You’re a Patient?” Can you please share highlights?

(Read the full post here:

MICHAEL KRIVICH: What triggered this post was being a patient at two different hospitals in the same hospital system. I had the opportunity to compare the patient experience at various times, and experiences were very different and at opposite ends of the experience continuum from great to terrible.
It led to my three questions for the basis of the post.

(1) Based on your marketing messages internally and externally, was the patient experience based on your messaging (we care, convenient, focused on you, etc.) delivered consistently throughout your experience?
(2) Was your brand promise fulfilled?
(3) Was the patient experience at every step of the care process delivered consistently and on message?

How the hospital or system delivers the brand promise in the patient experience is not an either-or proposition. In a hospital system where patients can receive care at multiple locations, the patient experience must be delivered consistently across all the system sites of care.

There is a vast chasm between what marketers say the experience is to the reality of what the patient experiences. Until a hospital marketer experiences care as a patient and sees firsthand the disconnects, I don’t think they fully understand what’s going on. That creates brand dissonance in the patient’s mind and is essentially marketing to senior management. Personal experience is the best teacher for marketers in healthcare.

TWEET THIS: Personal experience is the best teacher for marketers in healthcare. ~@mkrivich #MarketingTip #HealthcareMarketing #DebbieLaskeysBlog

QUESTION: You wrote another awesome post on your blog entitled, “Lessons from the Field – What is Your Hospital’s Story?” Can you please share highlights?

(Read the full post here:

MICHAEL KRIVICH: Across other industries, patients see and are familiar with brand content that tells a story. Those brands write compelling content that weaves a story giving the reader the answers to the “why us” reasons.

As an industry, hospitals must develop compelling content that engages and frames the patient’s experience. And that means storytelling assumes greater importance. After all, when one looks at the hospital and health system advertising, it’s still the shiny new building, panoramic views from the rooftop terrace of the lounge, smiling doctors, award logos, trophies, and modern equipment. But does that meet the needs of the healthcare consumer or patient looking for information?
Consider these important facts:
(1) Forty-one percent of the time, people look for information on the healthcare provider online. Looking for information is the key here.
(2) Hospitals have little differentiation regarding buildings, technology, medical services, etc. Hospitals all do essentially the same thing.
(3) Telling the hospital’s story can answer the patient's why choose us questions and is far more effective than being a “me too” who showcases all the hard things that all hospitals do.

Most medical care in a hospital can be provided in a more convenient, higher quality, and cost-effective setting. Since this is the case, the story becomes the reason why you should choose us.

QUESTION: This post from your blog was in response to the covid pandemic. It was entitled, “Why the Hospital or Health System Needs a Chief Engagement Officer.” While many industries may think this role is essential, please explain why the healthcare industry may be overlooked but should not be.

(Read the full post here:

MICHAEL KRIVICH: What is the hospital's or health system's plan to maintain patient and community engagement during the pandemic? As soon as the pandemic lessened, hospitals could not wait to get back to doing things the way they always did, especially around meaningful community and patient engagement, which was predominantly an afterthought before the pandemic.

Healthcare is not a one-off episode that hospital leadership likes to believe it is. Hospitals also “navel gaze” too much, focusing on what they need and want to do as opposed to what the patient needs or wants. There is a limited universe of new patients to fill beds, but all the marketing efforts focus on capturing “new patients.” Until hospital leadership understands what meaningful patient engagement is, it will be a never-ending chase for the new patient while their existing patient base finds other providers. Think of it this way, how are you engaged by the hospital or other healthcare providers you use regularly? Chances are you’re not. That is where the position of Chief Engagement Officer comes into being in order to create and unify the organization with a single focus on engaging in a meaningful way to keep the patient 24/7.

QUESTION: What are your three favorite brands, and why?
MICHAEL KRIVICH: Here are my three:
(1) BMW: Yes, I own a BMW, and I tell you what, the brand tagline should not be just "The ultimate driving experience." It should be "the ultimate driving and customer experience." I have owned a lot of different autos over the years, but I have never experienced customer service as I do with BMW. As a marketer, I am consistently amazed at the high level of service, the use of technology in that service delivery, a personal acknowledgment in the process, and it’s delivered exceptionally every single time. Besides, the car is a lot of fun to drive too. And they have Starbucks available while I wait for my vehicle during service visits.

(2) Proctor & Gamble: How they have created a recognizable corporate brand while doing it as a house of brands speaks volumes to their understanding of the consumer and market. I use several P&G brands, which consistently deliver on the brand promise and perform as advertised.

(3) Starbucks: This brand understands that it's all about the experience because, in reality, you can get a cup of coffee anywhere. It is about the experience, atmosphere when I go inside, service, and options. It’s the way that the coffee is delivered by a friendly staff that attracts me. It helps a lot with their convenient, accessible location and menu offerings too. Again, it’s another brand that no matter what location I go to, the experience will be the same. I wish those who work in healthcare would take a few pages from the Starbucks playbook about experience and engagement.

My thanks to Michael for sharing his marketing insights and for appearing here on my Blog.

Image Credit: Kristine Wook via Unsplash.

Connect with Michael using these links:

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