Sweating The Small Stuff and Corporate DNA

Although I agree with the book on Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff for your personal life, I would disagree from a patient communication perspective. I believe most healthcare people dislike the word marketing. They don’t want to think about communications as marketing (which of course has some HIPAA implications if they did). But, the fact is that you are competing for mindshare and trying to get the patient’s attention to do something (otherwise you are just communicating to fulfill some checkbox).

Let’s just think about a few key points in communications:

  1. Choosing the right word. There are lots of examples of how industries and/or companies have reshaped a single word or phrase to have new meaning and new positioning. It matters. Telling stories that evoke emotion and create a call to action have power. There are the classic bad examples such as calling a car a Nova which when exported to Spanish speaking countries means “no go”. And, traditionally, a lot of our health care terms are more negative such as prior authorization or only mean something to someone in the industry such as network.
    • Used cars have become pre-owned vehicles.
    • Online forums have become communities.
    • Generics have become unadvertised brands.
    • Mail order has become home delivery.
    • Employees have become associates.
    • Members have become patients.
    • Is formulary better than preferred drug list?
  2. Determining when to communicate. Depending on your family and your conditions, it is possible that you get at least one communication per month (if not more) from some entity within the healthcare process – managed care, hospital, primary care, specialist, retail pharmacy, mail pharmacy, specialty pharmacy, pharmacy benefit manager, employer, disease management company. The reality is that you are going to pay the most attention to a communication when it is timely. For example, telling me that some group of physicians will no longer be in my network doesn’t matter to me if I don’t go to them today. When I go to choose an allergist and find out that the best one in the state is no longer in network, then it matters, but I have long forgotten that communication.
  3. Coordinating multiple channels. Thinking through a communication and where people will look for information – website, inbound IVR, live agents, employer. It is important (to optimize success) to think about how patients receive and digest information and coordinating information. Nothing is more frustrating than hearing one thing but getting a different answer in another mode of communication.
  4. Using personalized preferences. You make yourself “sticky” and create loyalty by learning about your patients…and using that in how you interact with them. What do they do with information? How do they use information? How do they use healthcare? When do they respond to calls? Do they use the Internet?

It’s not easy, but it is essential. From a healthcare perspective, the industry continues to march down a path where differentiation is going to be in the way the company treats and interacts with the members and patients. Which brings me to the question of corporate DNA.

Are there things embedded into the culture of a company that all things being equal make the experience or outcomes with one company different from that with another? It is an important but difficult to prove question. We did a lot of analysis at Express Scripts to try and prove this. For example, if plan design and population was exactly the same, would a company have a different generic fill rate with us than another PBM?

This is where the small stuff matters. How people answer the phones at the call center. How patients perceive the company and the type of experience they have. How logic is coded in the system. Additionally, this is where I think you see the link between corporate culture and company results. Positive cultures where people love their work, enjoy coming to work, and want to make the company successful have a spillover effect on the customers.

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