SAN DIEGO--Today when almost all payment and delivery models co-exist in every market, marketing approaches to cancer care services must respond to all payer models, including managed care and fee-for-service, said Karen M. Gilden, a senior consulting associate with Oncol-ogy Associates, Inc., Warrenton, Va, and the editor of Cancer Management.
"One of the biggest challenges of health care marketing today is stretching marketing budgets to meet the different buying models presented by the 'old' payment system as well as the new managed care model," she said at a symposium sponsored by the Society for Ambulatory Care Professionals and Health Technology Assessment of the American Hospital Association.
"Some experts say that when 30% of employers in your area are operating on capitated contracts, it is time to switch marketing strategies from the old environment to the new," Ms. Gilden said, citing Terrence Rynne's work Healthcare Marketing in Transition.
She acknowledged that this approach begs the obvious question: Is there a role for marketing to consumers in a true managed care environment? After all, if everyone is locked into a set of providers, to whom would you market? Ms. Gilden insists that marketing remains important, citing the work of Eric Berkowitz, a marketing expert at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and the author of the 1996 book Essentials of Healthcare Marketing.
"Berkowitz believes that, eventually, all surviving systems and all providers will once again be open to all users. The operative word here is 'surviving,'" Ms. Gilden said. Berkowitz notes that employers are increasingly edgy about restricting choice, since workers believe that quality comes with choice. Consequently, the current environment of limited choices is probably going to be a transitional phenomenon.
What Consumers Want
If managed care isn't a significant portion of an institution's business, marketers need to keep in mind how individual consumers choose a hospital. In his latest book, Rynne lists the most important consumer criterion as the perception of quality physicians on staff.