Health Care Market Research Makes the ACA Work for You
Whatever else it may be, 2014 marks a year of landmark change, and unprecedented uncertainty, for the American health care consumer. Health care policy experts, marketing professionals, pundits and laypersons have made many estimations and predictions both for and against new reforms, but let us be frank— right now, no one knows exactly how health care reforms are going to shake out. And this makes your consumer base unsettled. Some are downright fearful.
The question, then, is how can you turn the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) into an opportunity?
For starters, you can be addressing the changes directly.
Your organization can take this time to develop and implement a marketing strategy that seeks to educate consumers (whether you call them patients, members, or shoppers) and to be transparent in its knowledge and its own uncertainties.
You can inform people about the changes you have undertaken as an organization, what those changes mean for the consumers you serve, how your costs (and theirs) will change, and how you anticipate their lives will be positively or negatively impacted.
Being up front about changes builds trust with your core customers.
Before you begin trying to reach out to health care consumers, it would be helpful to understand what your organization's own position on reform is.
Companies, like individuals, typically adhere to a set of values and espouse an ethos that affects how an organization faces change and innovation, and the Affordable Care Act is no different. Before you attempt to speak to consumers about the reforms, make sure that there is consistency within your organization.
Does your leadership believe that the ACA is going to be good for America? Why or why not? Is this belief reflected within the rest of the organization?
If you were to ask a public health officer or an administrator at a safety net trauma center, the answer to the first question would likely be yes. The ACA will take a segment of the population that currently uses many resources but reimburses very little, and provide them the means to access consistent primary and preventative care. Emergency room abuse, ICU admissions for preventable crises and acute bounce back rates are predicted to diminish (although a commonly held belief research indicates this hypothesis may not hold)
But ask the same question of an underwriter for a private health insurance provider being asked to predict actuarial risk on an individual versus population level for the Exchanges, or the VP of Human Resources for a Catholic health organization which now must provide contraception coverage in its benefit package, and you'll probably get the opposite answer.
As an organization, you need to develop an ACA strategy and "mission statement," of sorts. You need to speak with a unified, clear voice to your employee and consumer base.
Once you’ve established this voice, you can move on to interpretation.
Understand how the average consumer views changes within the health care industry.
Health care consumer research shows that only about 1 out of 4 Americans believe the ACA will have a positive impact on their health care.
In the data gathering for the 2013 c2b Consumer Diagnostic, we found that only 25% of people surveyed reported that they believe (either somewhat or strongly) that Obamacare will positively impact their health care.
That's not to say, however, that 75% of people believe the opposite. We found that a similar number of people (about 25% of respondents) believe the ACA will negatively impact their care.
The fact is that people don’t know what to think.
Over half of respondents were ambivalent in their expectations or said they didn't know yet what they believe. This presents an opportunity for your organization to educate people, shape their opinions and shepherd them through the changes.
Just be careful not to overlook your duty to your consumers by allowing yourself to become institutionally insulated or mired in political myopia.