Skip to main content

Want to be notified as soon as we publish new content like the Quick Think? Subscribe here.

The Big Story: Providers need to adapt to compete with Amazon-One Medical Partnership

“The rise of consumerism driven by the pandemic spurred soaring demand for personalization and digital disruption in healthcare. Today’s traditional healthcare systems struggle with poor patient experiences, long wait times, lack of transparency and legacy technology.”

What it means for you

By Abby McNeil, Pattie Cuen, Kim Fox and David Shifrin

3-minute read

Delivering care? Check. Saving lives? Check. But are hospitals hitting the mark on the four issues noted above? Frankly, they’re struggling. Which opens the door for conversation about whether someone else might do it better.

Amazon is exciting as an exemplar of the ideal tech-enabled consumer experience and as a potential healthcare disruptor. But what, and how extensive will Big Tech’s role actually be? Certainly, it could complement “traditional” healthcare and slot into specific areas to solve discrete challenges – likely around the convenience elements of the patient experience.

In our new national consumer survey, we asked what people think about Amazon and the like entering healthcare. And, about what matters to people when they’re seeking care. Some results:

  • Four in 10 say it’s a good thing for Amazon and companies like it to enter healthcare. A plurality, but not a ringing endorsement.
  • When asked where they think Amazon could make some solid improvements, pharmacy and insurance were at the top of the list. Direct patient care was tucked in the middle.
  • Only a third listed patient billing as a top opportunity for Amazon, and less than a quarter thought the company could improve appointment scheduling.

All told, these numbers suggest that even if people aren’t sold on how hospitals manage the patient journey, they’re not looking to Amazon to do it all instead. So, in fact the door is wide open for you to advance your own initiatives in-house or partner with someone who can complement your strengths and help address your weaknesses.

Meanwhile, our survey shows that when selecting a provider, people prioritize getting the right care and having that care covered by insurance. Beyond those table stakes, though, patients want to feel listened to, cared about and prioritized over the organization’s interests. All questions of trust.

Translation? Your organization has a leg up on the tech companies. It’s your doctors and nurses and registration staff who are connecting with people in some of their most vulnerable moments. That’s a strength and opportunity.  Naturally, the landscape will evolve. We’re seeing evolution in real-time with the stunning rise of ChatGPT as both a tool and a talking point. Like you, we’re keeping an eye on those trends. But right now, there are ways to connect more deeply with patients through the living, caring people who are at the center of it all healing patients – without having to suddenly pivot because of a new technology.

Here are a few ideas for healthcare marketing leaders to optimize their efforts and draw a smooth line from marketing to the patient experience:

1999 called. It wants its billboard back.

Money’s tight. Focus on channels and campaigns that will actually deliver a positive ROI. You know this already but likely feel pressure to sponsor the nearest NBA team and plaster your logo up and down the interstate because that’s what healthcare providers do, and it feels good to see your name up in bright lights.

Give your competitors space.

As in, advertising space. The corollary of not chasing channels that don’t make sense for you is to let others do it and be comfortable with their campaigns. Does that mean you may get questions from leadership about why the other guy is visible all over town and you’re not? Sure. But ROI is ROI, and you’ve got better ways to show it.

Leading into the next point, articulate these ideas and what’s going on with the competition in meetings with your board and leadership team. Ensure your marketing plans alert internal audiences and decision-makers to anticipate competitor advertising and see it as a normal part of the equation. That will provide context and perspective as to why you’re zigging when others are zagging.

Educate and activate your leadership.

Effective marketing is tough because, as noted above, it’s easy to equate visibility with success. A natural inclination. Show your board and executive team the numbers and take the time to share the more subtle ways you’re reaching key audiences. If you’re targeting effectively, your board will never see it. That’s a good thing. Then, activate that board.  Immerse them in community engagement, both as a listening tool and a way to show that the organization takes its position in the community seriously.

Get digital right.

Digital marketing is central to effective strategic positioning. Digital marketing is marketing. Full stop. A deep, thoughtful approach to your online presence that is integrated across channels and built to provide personalized and targeted engagement is vital. But “digital” doesn’t end with your targeted advertising on Google and Facebook. It carries over to your own properties, such as scheduling. Get ahead of the competition and boost the patient experience with efficient digital tools that make it easy for people to receive care. Collect the data you need – in a transparent and responsible and legal way – and use that information to improve and streamline the care experience for patients. That’s what Amazon is doing, and it’s why people are intrigued by big tech getting into healthcare.

Pursue experiential marketing.

By that, we mean doubling down on every piece of the patient journey that instills a sense of trust, care and convenience. A good experience is the most profound and effective marketing campaign anyone could hope for. For your organization? Easy scheduling. Staff trained to discuss billing policies upfront. Clear signage. Simple messaging tools. A patient portal that’s not just a box-checking exercise in compliance. Videos and webinars with physicians so people can get a sense of the care team they’ll be interacting with.

Where Amazon hits the mark is with hyper-targeted engagement with users, clear information about services and products and ultra-simple ways to obtain and pay for products. Do they have billboards? Sure. A whole fleet of driving billboards in fact. But those visible signs of the brand’s presence only matter because they came long after the company figured out how to spend its marketing and digital budget getting people what they want. Not the other way around.

It’s a lesson worth taking to heart. And it’ll bring a smile to your patients’ faces.

Contributors: Isaac Squyres and Emme Baxter

Subscribe to Jarrard Insights & News