It’s not hyperbole to say that ddm has a very unique and insightful perspective when it comes to healthcare marketing. Our deep knowledge of the industry stems from strong relationships with healthcare thought leaders throughout the region.
One of those thought leaders is Josh Troast, Executive Director for Health Pointe in Grand Haven, MI. Josh provided us with his personal perspectives on the current state of the health industry, as well as insights into the importance of developing engaged physicians, the future of ambulatory care, and the increased use of digital technology.
Q: The pandemic has greatly impacted the healthcare industry and changed the way care is delivered. What are your thoughts about how telehealth and telemedicine will be used in the future?
A: Telemedicine has been brought to the forefront of many discussions, and the importance has been escalated due to the pandemic. I believe telemedicine is here to stay as an enhancement and patient satisfier. Additionally, we can collectively lower the cost of care by enhancing our telemedicine offerings. Healthcare is grappling with how to effectively incorporate and supplement the in-person experience and necessity of care with the telemedicine platforms. While there is utility with telemedicine there is still a necessity for in-person visits. So the challenge we all face is how to have both telemedicine and in-person care coexist in a way that meets the quality, safety, and patient expectations for care.
Q: During your career you’ve had numerous leadership roles. Can you lend your perspective to what leaders can do to continually inspire and engage employees? And how important is an engaged workforce within healthcare?
A: As a leader, I think of two things as important for myself. First, be a leader people want to follow. As a leader I need to emulate the values I want my team to stand for and I need to consistently demonstrate these values. That said, when I fail to uphold expected standards or values (you will fail at some point), be quick to acknowledge, apologize, and correct yourself. Second, be a vision caster. As a leader it is my job to assist the team with seeing where we will go. I believe some key components of vision casting are to have passion, be proactive with your strategic thoughts (don’t wait for others to tell you where you are going), and make the vision personal to yourself and those you are casting the vision to.
A leader is more effective with an engaged team around him/her. I believe as a team we can accomplish so much more than any one individual, but to fully maximize the potential of any team there must be engagement and direction.
Q: What are some ongoing challenges physicians face related to communication and engagement? What challenges do you anticipate in the future?
A: I think one of the biggest challenges facing our physicians is time management. In healthcare, physicians and other providers are the revenue producers and we need them seeing patients and providing care to make the machine work. That said, we also want them engaged in providing directional insight, learning new processes, and engaging in process improvement activities.
While healthcare is still in a fee for service world, pulling providers off-line for any activity comes at the detriment to revenue producing activity. As an administrator, I need to protect the providers time, but also engage them in very specific and value-added ways.
One of the largest challenges is a movement toward value purchasing of healthcare services while we still operate largely in a fee for service world. The variability that exists with the insurance companies’ quality initiatives can be a challenge to understand. Some insurances offer full risk models while others offer quality incentives based on reporting metrics. It is easy to be critical of the variability, yet the ability to be creative offers innovation and moves healthcare forward toward a more sustainable model of value-based purchasing.
Q: How has today’s digital world changed healthcare for the better? Do you believe digital access is important to consumers?
A: The digital world has benefited the patient in many ways. Patients have more control and access to their care and information in an increasing on-demand fashion. Healthcare is highly regulated due to privacy and compliance laws, but to keep up with patient expectations and the rest of world we need to continue to utilize technology to enhance the healthcare delivery and experience. This has been escalated even more in the last year of the Covid-19 pandemic where regulations were loosened on virtual visits and healthcare systems quickly responded with increasing capabilities. There will continue to be emphasis on the utilization of virtual visits because it is economical and offers patients convenience.
The success of virtual healthcare depends on a partnership between healthcare providers, insurance companies, and the government. All need to recognize the value, economy, and impact on patient experience to ensure success.
Q: You’ve worked in clinical practices, academic medical centers, and multi-specialty medical groups. What are some key issues that are common for all of them?
A: I think convenient access is vital to healthcare. A problem in modern healthcare is the reliance on the Emergency Department for care. This reliance comes when there aren’t alternative hours for care or when access isn’t available. One way to combat this is to create facilities that have the ability to house multiple commonly accessed services. It is inconvenient to be seen by a primary care provider and then be referred to a specialist only to have to wait weeks to be seen, including the potential for travel to a distant location. As healthcare continues to specialize and sub-specialize its medical offerings, we need to consider consolidating services in single buildings. This is not only a patient satisfier, but also a provider satisfier.
Q: What are your thoughts on very large organizations such as Amazon, Uber, and Google who are actively pursuing health and wellness ventures? How is that involvement pushing the traditional healthcare industry to become more efficient and nimbler?
A: I believe competition breeds innovation, so I am not threatened by large organizations venturing into healthcare. We certainly need to pay attention, but I also believe that we can learn from non-healthcare industries. Ultimately, these companies are successful because they resonate with society and provide a service of need. Healthcare by and large hasn’t had to compete on the same level because there is always a need for care, but that shouldn’t be an excuse for not improving the well-being of populations or individual patients.
Q: What does being an active member of the community mean to you personally? How do you professionally represent your organization and what have those activities meant to your success over the years?
A: Being a recognized leader in my community is something I take pride in and feel a sense of responsibility for. I recognize that I am always representing myself and my organization.
I have represented my organization by being an ambassador and a liaison to the public and business community locally. I have been active with the local Chamber of Commerce, an advocate for the local schools, and a regular volunteer with local not-for-profits. I believe this not only helps with the perception of my organization, but also offers networking and insights into the local needs. The challenge then becomes how do I prioritize and meet the identified needs.
Q: Talk a bit about ambulatory care sites. Are they the future? Do patients prefer them over the large traditional medical centers?
A: I believe ambulatory care sites should be the future of healthcare. Studies have shown that patients prefer the more intimate setting and the sense of efficiency in these sites. These sites are also typically more local to the patient’s residence which offers a convenience. The challenge though is in the compensation of these sites by payors. There is a significant reimbursement gap for similar services based on the designation of site. I would argue this should be a strategy to lower the cost of care, but if the payors aren’t going to recognize the mutual financial benefits, these efforts will be lost.
Q: What are your thoughts on the importance of marketing budgets and annual marketing plans? With patient choice becoming so important, do you believe direct to patient marketing will increase?
A: The landscape of healthcare continues to change and adjust. Providers are now more mobile and have a greater tendency to change employment and location. With that said, I view marketing as awareness. It is true we do market to drive volumes and business, but it is with the understanding that we are educating and building general awareness of the services offered by our organization. Additionally, we can utilize marketing to promote health and wellness services which will ultimately improve the overall health of the population.
Q: How has the importance of physician referrals changed over the years and how does that impact marketing efforts?
A: Physician referrals have traditionally been through a network of physicians within a region or an employer. Other methods of referral have been through personal interaction physician to physician. In this day of physician movement and patient choice, it is more important to market to the service vs. the individual provider. That said there is often still the recognition of the individual provider. This is why our approach has been to highlight the service through billboard and banner ads but drive traffic toward digital information such as landing pages that highlight the individual physician.