Pulling the Plug on Old-School Care Delivery Strategies – Lessons from Marketing
Many years ago, when Mac computers were little smiling boxes, I accidentally pressed the “yes” button when asked if I wanted to reformat my hard drive. A nanosecond later, my error sunk in, and I dove across my office to pull the plug before years worth of my company’s data was erased from this earth. Later, I became a product manager for a tape backup company. Because I had experienced the panic of data loss at such a personal level, I understood why preventative measures were so important. I was now marketing insurance for a possible future event. Not an easy sell. Nobody wants to pay for something that might happen, and even if they do, it doesn’t mean they’ll back up their computer everyday. Just as in health insurance, the consequences of taking, or not taking an action are so far removed from the decision point, itself, it’s like trying to get an 8-year old child to understand why regularly drinking soda, which tastes good and makes them feel good, may cause diabetes some day. Good luck with that.
We have become used to marketing and education on illness instead of health. Forget the “happy” ads promoting the benefits of a healthy lifestyle if you only eat well, exercise and live a balanced life with your perfectly happy family. Seriously? This is not our reality. What I see on TV is not what I hear in the doctor’s office or when I search for a health policy online. This disease is covered, that disease is not. This provider, not that one. Yes you can have a mammogram, but oh, not that kind. What is marketed vs. what is delivered are inconsistent – misaligned. Add to that, when you go to the doctor’s and hear things like, lose weight, quit smoking, or cut back on salt – without a specific, mutually agreed upon plan to get there – chances are, we won’t succeed. Changing lifestyle behaviors are not easy, even with help.
If we want people to change their behavior we must engage them in a way that matters to them. We must make the consequences of their decisions relevant to their life – RIGHT NOW – not what might happen 30 years from now. Recently I saw one video, sponsored by Stride Health, which is taking this long-overdue approach to health marketing by telling a young person’s story about the lifestyle choices he makes and why. Now, good marketing won’t solve healthcare’s problems, but it does provide instructive insights on how to reach different populations, build aligned health ecosystems, and how we might repackage healthcare delivery to better achieve the Triple Aim.
People demand convenience, choice and relevance. We now have the tools to deliver the individualized content consumers need, and connect them to the people, devices and community resources that can help them make real and sustainable lifestyle changes. We have the means to support them in their daily decision making. Buying insurance doesn’t make someone healthy, nor does getting an annual “wellness” exam ensure you or I will magically start managing a chronic health condition. It’s only the first step. We’re focusing on the wrong the problem. Engaging people on their terms, in their communities, and on a regular basis is the key to improving health outcomes and reducing the cost of care delivery.