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New Findings on Patient Portals

September 28th, 2011 No comments

Several times a year, Greystone.Net conducts its own primary research on a hot industry topic. Recently our study on the use of patient portals concluded, with more than 40 organizations participating. The results reveal a number of useful findings for both healthcare marketers and vendors:

1) Based on a high response rate and a large number of verbatim comments, it is clear that patient portals are an extremely hot topic in our industry. Only 3 in 10 respondents actually have a patient portal in place, however, although 2 in 10 are in the process of building one.
2) There are many drivers of patient portal adoption, but none bigger than healthcare reform, which was cited by two out of three respondents as being the most important factor. Other big motivators are “competitive pressure” and “marketing/promotion”. What is noteworthy are the items that were not major motivators: “patient requests” and “physician satisfaction”, among others.
2) Those who have a patient portal are finding it useful for increasing loyalty and streamlining communications, but not lowering costs.
3) Epic was the most popular “vendor of choice” among both those who have built a patient portal and those who have not.
4) There appears to some confusion among those without a patient portal, as several said they would consider using vendors who do not currently have a patient portal offering.
5) Those without a Patient Portal need to overcome significant barriers in terms of finances, resources, and administrative buy-in in order to build one.

Greystone.Net’s research panel is not reflective of all hospitals/health systems, and members tend to be larger and more Internet savvy than the general population.

Our next special survey will cover the topic of Web Governance, Organization Structure, and Staffing. Greystone promise to share all results with participants and to keep any data confidential. If you or someone in your organization would like to participate in future research, please visit http://www.greystone.net/oth/Page.asp?PageID=OTH000573.

Social Media: A Plan is not a Strategy

May 31st, 2011 No comments

One of my favorite board games is Stratego. For those not familiar, this is a game that is similar to chess, except in Stratego you don’t know the identity of your opponent’s pieces. The goal in Stratego is to capture your opponent’s flag, and victory requires (according to Wikipedia) “collecting information, planning, and strategic thinking.”

My little brother was never able to beat me in Stratego, with the exception of a few parent-mandated gimmes. Our games usually ended with the board and game pieces thrown across the room. Why was he never able to beat me?*

Because he had a plan, but I had a strategy.

It is important to understand the distinction between these two words. According to dictionary.com, strategy is the “utilization of all available forces, through large-scale, long-range planning and development, to ensure security or victory.” Planning, on the other hand, is “a scheme or method of acting, doing, proceeding, making, etc.” In Stratego, having a strategy meant that I aligned my pieces with several intermediate goals in mind, the accomplishment of which would lead to ultimate victory. Someone who approached the game armed only with a short-term plan, i.e. thinking only in terms of turn-to-turn movements, would not stand a chance.

At Greystone, we frequently come across hospitals and health systems that claim to have a social media strategy, when in effect what they really have is merely a plan. How can you tell the difference? Here are some good questions to ask, as discussed in our recent OpenSpace conference:

1) Does your approach to social media incorporate tactics for all employees, not just those in your department?
2) Are you able to describe how you will use existing and emerging tools to accomplish the key goals you have set?
3) Are the goals and benchmarks you have set in line with key objectives of your organization?
4) Is your outlook for social media long-term in nature, ideally covering a period of at least one year?
5) Does your plan include a process to identify gaps between your organization’s needs and current capabilities, and how you will develop tools and resources to cover them?

When it comes to social media, planning is crucial, but it is not sufficient. To create a successful strategy, you must take things a step further. Start by setting measurable goals that align with corporate objectives. Then create a series of tactical plans for all your tools and resources that will help you accomplish these goals, and finish by establishing processes and procedures to identify new or missed opportunities. By following these steps, you are setting yourself up for success and creating a comprehensive social media strategy. Unless, of course, someone comes along and throws the board across the room.

*There are now several Stratego or Stratego-inspired apps available on iTunes, so an online rematch may be in order!

Born in 1992

October 11th, 2010 No comments

This Fall, the entering college class will graduate in 2014 (those born primarily in 1992) and I worry we won’t be ready for them as healthcare marketers and Web strategists unless we start right now. Is your organization ready? Does your organization have a strategy to get ready?

Most of these new college students are part of the post-email generation – those who grew up in a digital world and who think technology is just too slow. According to the Beloit College Mindset List, the class of 2014:

• has never seen John McEnroe play professional tennis
• has never known a time when Korean cars weren’t on American roads
• know Fergie as a pop singer, not a princess
• has only heard Nirvana on the “oldies” radio stations
• has never known the Supreme Court without Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Their reality and their experience base are so different than ours. As we develop increasingly more sophisticated Web sites, should we really be concentrating on mobile strategies and apps? Five years ago, YouTube had just launched, yet today, Americans watch 31b videos on YouTube each month. What is the next YouTube and how do we prepare for it? Many of our organizations still block employees’ use of social media Web sites. How will we communicate with the latest generations if we don’t even let our employees access the very tools that the new generations rely upon every day? That policy is wildly dangerous from a long-term perspective. And for those health systems putting-off the development of patient portals that encourage patients to conduct business with them electronically, time is running out. Soon your organizations will be effectively obsolete to many in the coming generations. They won’t have time for hospitals and health systems who can’t  leverage today’s standard tools.

Fall is a great time for reflection. So this Fall, each of us should look at our broader Web strategy – not just our Web sites – and pledge to get ready for generations of future patients, physicians, volunteers, employees and donors — those who most likely won’t be routinely visiting our Web sites or reading emails from us, but will still want to communicate in new and undefined ways. There is a great future out there for our taking. Kind of makes you wish you were born in 1992.

The link between transparency and privacy

Lately I’ve been thinking quite a lot about transparency in the online world. Transparency is, after all, one of the basic tenets of social media. You must be transparent to remain credible when it comes to social media. That’s been taught to all of us as we’ve jumped into the social media world. When social media first started on the scene, the ideal of transparency really ignited me. I thought the world would be changed over night. Power to the people, and all that. Organizations would now have to be transparent to their customers, and to the world. However, here we are five years later and we all have learned a lot. I’m not quite as optimistic on that ideal anymore. I do think the bar on transparency has been raised over the past few years, as there are many stories of companies being held to task by interested parties. And the amount and speed with which we all have access to information is still staggering to me. However, I also think that there is still a long way to go on full transparency.

Transparency and privacy are two principles that tend to go hand in hand in the online space. There is a thin line between the two. Is transparency equivalent to full disclosure? Is someone not being transparent when they desire to protect their own privacy? In order to be transparent, do you give up your right to privacy? These are some of the questions I’ve been struggling with recently. Paul Levy, CEO of Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital in Boston, is currently struggling with this very thing as well. Here is a man who through his very successful blog has pushed for transparency in a very public forum. He is a master at developing an online persona that is professional, transparent, and personal. I, and countless others, have always held him in high regard for this. Yet, he is now facing a private matter which is questioning his very effectiveness on his fight for transparency. Is it fair that the question of his lack of discretion may be the one thing that ends his push for more transparent healthcare? I don’t know. What I do know is now I’m reticent to use the one blog that I held up as a shining example of a transparent hospital CEO, because I know there will be at least one audience member that will attack it. For all of us that are out there pushing for social media, for transparency, there are plenty of critics that are just looking for reasons and examples to cite that will slow the tide of change.

I don’t know in Mr. Levy’s case where the blame, if there is even any, will land. I’m not sure where his fight will end, but his is just one example of the delicate balance we all lead being humans with a desire for privacy in a very transparent online world. Our civilization is smack dab in the middle of probably the biggest sociological shift in decades, if not centuries. The rules are not defined. It’s all still rather messy. It’s something I personally struggle with in my own online brand and persona, and I know many of you do as well. I’m curious, what are your thoughts?

Results of recent study on Web budgets

May 3rd, 2010 No comments

Greystone is pleased to announce the results of our recent survey on hospital/ health system Web budgets. We sent the survey invitation to more than 100 healthcare marketers, and received responses from 65. (please note:  Greystone’s research panel is made up of hospitals or health care systems with at least one FTE dedicated to the Web, and members tend to be more “Web 2.0 savvy” than other hospitals and health systems)

Here are some of the major findings:

1)  From a revenue perspective, some hospitals/health systems report an increase over the previous year, while a nearly equal number report a decrease. (To be exact, 25% reported increasing revenues, 36% reported declining revenues, and 25% are holding steady – the rest are either “Don’t Know” or “Other”)  Academic Medical Centers appear to be weathering the storm better than other types of organizations, with nearly half reporting increased revenue in 2010.
2) Regardless of declining hospital revenues and cuts to marketing budgets, hospitals/health systems continue to increase their spending on the Web. Interestingly, we found that more hospitals with declining revenues are increasing spending on the Web compared to those with increasing revenues. We believe this is a strong testament to the organizational acceptance of the Web as a cornerstone for marketing and operations.
3) Eighty percent of the participants in our study are increasing spending on Social Media in 2010. SEO and SEM are also popular areas where our respondents are increasing spending.
4) Hiring is a mixed bag, with approximately one in three looking to hire and one in three currently in a hiring freeze. The good news for healthcare marketers: very few of our respondents (3%) expect to lay off people in Web departments this year.

Many thanks to our panel respondents — those of you who participated will soon receive a complete copy of the results.  If you would like to be part of future studies like this one, click here to join the Greystone.Net research panel.  In return for your participation, we promise to share the results, and to contact you no more than once per quarter. Our next study will focus on trends in hospital/health system intranets.