Healthcare Marketing in Tampa Bay Needs to Focus on Patients as Consumers

By Mike Stephenson

As healthcare marketing in Tampa Bay and elsewhere becomes increasingly competitive, Jim Jacobsohn advises doing what any marketer would do:

“Think about your strengths … and advertise the heck out of them,” he told the crowd of nearly three dozen at the American Marketing Association of Tampa Bay Healthcare Shared Interest Group breakfast March 23 at Tampa’s Centre Club.

Jacobsohn, a self-described “data nerd,” leads the Strategic Analytics team at healthcare consultant Sg2. They crunch numbers to forecast trends and advise companies in the industry.

Access is King

Healthcare companies and marketers need to think about reaching out to provide better access and convenience to patients, Jacobsohn said. The data shows inpatient visits to hospitals are flat, but urgent care and outpatient care centers are surging. Insurance companies are actively steering patients to have diagnostic services performed at lower rates at locations outside the hospital. The industry is moving to standardize payment by procedure rather than location.

Hospital companies need to reach out and provide services beyond their main campus, thinking more like a retailer. Companies can form partnerships and alliances, but it’s critical that the hospital has a stake and controls the level of care provided rather than just applying its brand.

“If you’re not fully integrated, it might work short term, but it’s not going to work long term,” said Jacobsohn, adding that an easy system for scheduling appointments is critical.

Hospitals and other healthcare providers also need to make sure they have capacity to handle patients in timely fashion. If you tell a patient or a referring physician it will take many weeks to get an appointment, they often will find another facility.

“Access really is one of the biggest issues in healthcare today,’’ Jacobsohn said. “If you don’t have access, they will go elsewhere, including the follow up.”

Increasing Transparency

More and more pricing information is becoming available on healthcare online. That information often affects people’s choices, particularly if they have a high deductible insurance plan and the money comes out of their pocket.

“More and more of this information is being published,” Jacobsohn said. “It makes a big difference whether it’s your money or house (insurance company) money.”

People often will defer getting medical care if they would face the expense out of pocket.

“People make different choices on high-deductible plans,” Jacobsohn said.

Going Mobile

Another trend Jacobsohn sees is increasing use of telemedicine. Millennials in particular are comfortable interacting with doctors on mobile devices through video or email.

“When was the last time you went into a bank?” he asked. “We are so far behind. We need mobile apps.”

Virtual access to doctors will further decentralize where care is provided, Jacobsohn said.

“We think by 2024, 15 percent of evaluation and management visits will be accessed virtually,” he said.

The bottom line to think about in healthcare marketing in Tampa Bay and elsewhere, Jacobsohn said, is to focus on patients as consumers.

“Make it easy for your patients,” he said.

Key Takeaways

  1. Healthcare providers need to become more customer focused, providing more flexibility in how services are provided.
  2. Pricing transparency and increasing out-of-pocket expenses drive consumer behavior.
  3. Developing apps and other telemedicine options will become increasingly important as millennials consume more healthcare.

Mike Stephenson is editorial manager at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital. He does freelance editing and writes personal histories through his website, He joined AMA Tampa Bay in September and has written for the blog on email marketing and visual marketing and communication.