PRSSA National Conference: Health care goes retail

(Dreamstime.com)

The advent of social media has greatly impacted the health care industry. (Dreamstime.com)

In our modern world we often turn to the Internet to help us solve our problems and make discoveries. We use Google to find the best restaurants, plumbers, movies and schools. But do you use the Internet to diagnose your medical issues? Do you research medical treatments for your self-diagnosed problem? If so, you are like 86 percent of Americans who turn to Google for medical help before reaching out to a doctor.

This “retailization” of health care leaves medical professionals in need of help to reach their publics online.

In a presentation given at the 2015 PRSSA National Conference, Alisa Agozzino, an assistant public relations professor at Ohio Northern University, explained that the key public for this industry to target is millennials. They possess $200 billion in annual buying power and make up one-fourth of the population.

Millennials must be reached on their home turf, social media and the Internet. “Sixty-two percent (of millennials) say that if the brand engages them on social media as a tactic on social networks, they are more likely to return as a loyal customer,” Agozzino said.

Alisa Agozzino, assistant public relations professor at Ohio Northern University, spoke about the health care industry during a session at the 2015 PRSSA National Conference. (Ohio Northern University)

Alisa Agozzino, assistant public relations professor at Ohio Northern University, spoke about the health care industry during a session at the 2015 PRSSA National Conference. (Ohio Northern University)

In addition to the 86 percent of the people who search for medical care on Google, Agozzino found that 41 percent of people admit that social media influences their decision when they search for health care providers.

Beth Keehn, director of brand marketing for St. Rita’s Health Partners in Lima, Ohio, went on to explain the incentive behind making health care a retail market, and why every PR personnel should want to get in on it.

With the Affordable Care Act, medical companies, hospitals and primary care providers now have a greater incentive to provide their patients with the best care. Their goal is to stay with patients throughout their lifetime of care. By doing so, the Accountable Care Organization will reward them.

The Affordable Care Organization will pay back the healthcare providers that provide quality care to patients at a lower cost, given that the patient has repeat care from this medical provider throughout his or her medical journey.

“We want people to choose us for their entire continuum of care so that we can be rewarded through the Accountable Care Organization. We want them to choose or brand,” Keehn explained.

Medical professionals are driven to receive the benefits this program has to offer but, without the help of a PR specialist, they are having a hard time reaching their target publics. They need to create brand awareness and reach out to their key publics who are mostly on social media and the Internet, something that any PR professional could easily help them accomplish.

As a result of these changes in the medical industry, the health care field is rapidly turning into a retail market with a lot to offer, and the PR field and is ready to take advantage of the opportunity.

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