Faced with higher deductibles, consumers are increasingly dipping into their own wallet to pay for medical procedures. Whenever possible, they will compare physicians based on price and quality. And, with the advent of health insurance exchanges, they will directly select their plan, based on costs, benefits and the quality of the doctors’ network. In short, market forces are entering an industry previously shielded from competition, and patients will be wielding their own dollars, not someone else’s.
What if physicians turned themselves into savvy marketers? Lisa Suennen, a partner with health care VC firm Psilos, raised that issue in her inimitable style, in a post titled “Give Em That Old Razzle Dazzle.” Suennen recently visited a spa in Arizona, and splurged on pseudo-scientific “Health & Wellness” treatments, all delivered with impeccable service.
Who can resist the enticing marketing just this shy of an FDA no-no? On the menu: “Abhyanga and Shirodhara”, which involves pouring warm oil on the forehead to stimulate the pituitary gland, help balance the endocrine system, and relax the nervous system.” Price: $370 for 90 minutes. Or the clinical-sounding “Lymphatic Drainage,” which will set you back $150. The brochure describes it as “a specialized technique for maintaining a healthy immune system.”
Paradoxically, consumers are more likely to succumb to such conspicuous consumption, than a much-needed preventive check-up, which in many cases insurance already covers.
Maybe spas can serve as an inspiration to doctors. Already, some specialties resort to sophisticated marketing, such as plastic surgeons, dermatologists, and orthodontists, to sell their services. There’s a reason: insurance partially covers cosmetic procedures, if at all. In Germany, entrepreneurial family physicians target women, for example, by offering exercise techniques or basic cosmetic procedures to supplement their income. Insurance doesn’t pay. (Read T.R. Reid’s excellent book The Healing of America).
Suennen was struck by the star treatment she received at a plastic surgeon’s office, and contrasted it with the shabbywelcome at the dentist’s office where she felt like a billing code. The physician took her and her money for granted. The plastic surgeon’s office was fully digitized, and quickly followed up with its prospective customer. The dentist subjected her to redundant x-rays, and repeatedly postponed her follow-up.
Those providers who forget they’re also in the service business will notthrive in the future.
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Submited at Wednesday, June 27th, 2012 at 9:45 pm on Health by fenny
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