Customer engagement: The new imperative for health care


Greetings! My name is Kelly Miller and I am a marketer at SAS, focused specifically on the health care industry for 8 years now.  And what an intriguing industry it is!  Technology and market demands have led to dramatic changes, and now that health care reform is driving innovation, it's become even more interesting (it’s also one of those industries that happens to affect every single American). My role at SAS is to manage field marketing campaigns and generate leads for the health care team, and I'm part of a larger group of marketers that cover multiple industries, personas and solutions.

Being part of that larger group enables me to borrow best practices from my peers in industries like retail, financial services, pharma, etc.; but until now, I didn’t realize just how much health care would need to start imitating the marketing practices of those other industries. As I look back at some of our marketing plans for health care from several years ago, the end goals really haven’t changed all that much. In addition to enabling customer retention and marketing optimization, SAS solutions still help health care organizations detect fraud, improve outcomes, gain efficiencies and cut medical costs. SAS’ top goal is still to help our customers provide better care at a lower cost. But until now, customer intelligence just didn’t play a big part. With health care reform, that may change - consumers will now play a far more significant role in the health insurance decision-making process…and insurers will need to embrace tools that help them understand and engage with individuals.

While the Affordable Care Act will expand access to coverage to millions of Americans, there several provisions that will go into effect simultaneously on January 1, 2014, creating the potential for disruption of insurance markets in many states. Along with this new layer of regulatory complexity, there’s a HUGE degree of uncertainty facing insurers. Millions of new individual purchasers will enter into the market. Some employers may consider “dumping” their health care plans. Consumers will demand tailored products and services, going against the former one-size-fits-all mentality of health care. With all the controversy and ambiguity surrounding reform, what health insurers should know is that to be successful in this unfamiliar retail environment, they must quickly develop the ability to connect in a way that drives value for the individual, rather than for the group purchaser.

Health plans will need to make better use of their data - but do they have the capabilities to join the masses of other consumer-centric companies that trust their data and use it to drive business decisions? First, many insurers just don’t have much experience with data-driven marketing efforts. The extent of their consumer-directed marketing activities is typically limited to initiatives that drive acquisition and program engagement, or are focused on just a few methods of outreach. Second, their business model was never built around what consumers want or what they are willing to pay for; instead, it has been structured around what employers and consultants think is best.

No matter the industry, customer-centric organizations all seem to have one thing in common: a commitment to using customer data and predictive analytics to power the complex decisions they make on a daily basis. While marketing departments are just one of many within health plans, they are quickly becoming very significant. The question is – are health plans ready to build a deeper understanding of their members? If other industries – like the airlines, financial services, and telecommunications – could undergo regulatory changes and transform into consumer-driven organizations, who says health insurers can’t? Besides, engaging consumers in their own health and influencing their choices will no doubt create lasting value and measurable outcomes.

My goal with engaging in this blog is not only to highlight the increasing importance of customer analytics for the health care industry, but also to learn! Over the next few months I’ll share updates on the industry and how SAS is helping address the challenges. Let me know what you think by leaving a comment, or sharing my posts with others. In case you can’t tell, I love being a marketer AND focusing on health care - it ranks right up there with my love for Tar Heel basketball and Chicago adult dodgeball leagues.


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Kelly Miller


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