Healthcare Steals a Page From Retail’s Playbook

Healthcare Steals a Page From Retail’s Playbook

Shrinking budgets combined with increased competition in the healthcare industry make gaining market share harder than ever before. In this interview, Buxton senior vice president, Bill Stinneford, explains how healthcare leaders can work smarter, not harder, to grow their market share and push through the competition using traditional retail philosophies and patient analytics.  

Q. How are you seeing the healthcare industry change?

A. There’s obviously a lot of ways the healthcare industry is changing, but what I really see are ever-shrinking budgets and an industry that’s more competitive than ever.  So now the question is, how in the world are you supposed to compete? You’ve got to do more with less, but again, how do you do that? That’s causing some to struggle.

But, probably the biggest way I’m seeing the industry change is in the use of data to make decisions. Healthcare systems have tons of great data, but the majority don’t know what to do with that data. Determining how to unlock the insights within that data to make smarter decisions, to have greater return on investment and to not waste money will have a tremendous impact on the industry.

Q. What other industries are influencing healthcare strategies?

A. Clearly retail. Take the example of urgent care. The factors that explain urgent care centers’ performance are exactly the same as they are in retail – you better be convenient, you better be close, you better have lots of the right kind of patients and potential patients that live and work in close proximity and you also have to understand your competitive landscape.

Gone are the days of people driving down to the medical district. If my child gets sick at two in the morning, I want to go to somebody that’s close. I’m not going to go to the big hospital complex, I’m going to go to an urgent care facility.

The same thing is becoming true with primary care. Instead of driving 30 minutes across town, I want to go to a doctor who is 3 minutes away from my house and who I can develop a relationship with. So the best systems are acting like retailers and treating primary care and urgent care as the front doors and the spokes that eventually feed patients into the hub, which is the hospital.

Q. What is the one mindset that all great retailers have in common?

A. The one mindset that all great retailers have in common is the importance of truly understanding their customers. They want to know not just demographically what their customers look like, but also understand how their customers live their lives as consumers and do it in a way that allows them to find where everybody else that looks like their best customer lives.

The retail mindset is not just about understanding customers at an overall level, it’s about understanding that as a retailer you might have a lot of different customers, all of whom are different types of people who might buy different products.

Take HEB for example. Some customers might buy all of their groceries from there while others will only visit the deli or produce section. Those are subsets of customers and if you really want to be smart about how you talk to prospective customers, where you put stores, and how you merchandise those stores, you want to understand not just a consumer’s overall likelihood to be a customer, but also their potential to be a customer who buys these products. When you understand that, you can then tailor marketing messages so they will feel like you’re talking directly to them.

Healthcare is very similar. You are a patient in a specific health system, but are you a primary care patient? A sports medicine patient? An orthopedic patient? Are you all three? What do all those patient profiles look like? Once you know what those profiles look like, you can look at each facility and determine what specialties and services to provide that are in the most demand at each location.

Q. How can healthcare leaders apply a patient centric strategy?

A. Healthcare leaders can apply a patient centric strategy by first committing to learning everything they can about their patients. But they have to understand that their data alone is not sufficient; it’s the combination of their data with psychographic and lifestyle characteristic data that will unlock the insights and reveal the patterns in the chaos that explain who their best patients are for each type of service line. Once you know that, you can identify other households that are not currently patients but match the profile of your existing patient base.

Once you have the right data, the right tools and the right analysis to communicate that information, you can centralize your data-driven insights and give those tools to the people in the field. You have given them a way to visualize results and to understand that everything is connected by and related to the patient.  

Interested in learning more about what healthcare organizations can learn from leading retailers? Watch our 30-minute webinar “How to Apply a Retail Mindset to Healthcare."