3 Ways Brand & Marketing Can Address Health Care’s Cost Problem

If you haven’t read it yet, start with Leading with Brand: Part 1, where we talk about how brand and marketing teams can implement solutions that make health care more personal for their consumers.

There’s no way around it. Health care is expensive and complicated, and the traditional care industry has struggled to address the systematic challenges that make it that way. And this failure to adapt has opened the door for a whole new generation of innovative health care disruptors that are leaving the industry as we know it in the dust.

Perhaps the most challenging insight we’ve learned from our comprehensive consumer research is just how important the challenge of cost is to the overall health care experience. As brand and marketing leaders, cost issues can feel beyond the reach of our influence. But what we’ve actually found is that when it comes to consumer’s health care experience, it’s not all about the end-dollar amount.

A woman in healthcare and a baby

Today, we’ll focus on one of the top two experience improvements that your consumers are crying out for (spoiler alert, it’s cost-related). And, we’ll also share another set of brand-first solutions you can implement to start making a difference.

Let’s dive in.


Improvement 2: Be clear about the cost of health care,
and make it simpler for people to pay for it


As we discuss in our latest Humanizing Brand Experience report, cost is a major barrier getting in the way of exceptional experiences. But, surprisingly, what we found is that the dollar-amount isn’t actually the biggest complaint. When we dig deeper, consumers described the following reasons as the root of their cost anxiety:

    • Overly complicated billing processes
    • Frustration around different “levels” of treatment
    • Perception that providers are just as exasperated as they are

As brand and marketing leaders, we are uniquely poised to address these underlying emotional pain points. Using our in-depth understanding of the consumer, we can spark the kind of transformative changes needed to improve health care experiences and lead the way to fixing the cost-transparency problems that plague the industry.

A doctor uses a tablet

To get you started, here are three brand-first strategies to help you combat the cost-challenges getting in the way of great experiences at your organization:


The challenge:
Overly complicated billing processes
The solution:
Be transparent about pricing – early- and prioritize simplicity


“It’s extremely frustrating trying to make sense of why I’m getting bills weekly for three months or so. Just tell me ONCE what to pay and by when.” – Female health care consumer, Midwestern U.S.

Many consumers view the billing process as the primary issue that gets in the way of exceptional health care experiences. These consumers believe that billing is too complicated, and that increased transparency and clarity is needed throughout the process.

It’s been long acknowledged that health care billing is complicated—but now we have the data that shows just how important it is to consumer perceptions of their care, treatment and overall experience. As marketing and brand leaders, we can put this data to work to make a case for change at our organizations. We can build our strategy and foundation around the need for clarity and simplicity, setting us up with a lens to evaluate every step in the journey, including billing. A clear voice, human design and consumer-first experience principles can be used to reimagine the billing process from start to finish.

Price transparency is an issue that will need to be addressed by both traditional care providers and healthcare disruptors alike. On the traditional-side, Memorial Healthcare System is leading the way with its innovative pricing tool that gives patients the ability to understand exactly what their health costs will be. On the other hand, Walmart—a newcomer to the industry with its Health Supercenters—is bringing their “save money, live better” philosophy to care with a focus on delivering affordability and price transparency for basic health services.



The challenge: Frustration around different “levels” of treatment
The solution: Understand the different journeys consumer segments have with brand, so that you can make them feel special at the moments that matter


“Everyone should be treated the same in health care facilities, even if they don’t have insurance. They should work with people in a way that is affordable for them.” – Female health care consumer, Northeastern U.S.

Consumers believe insurance, and the complications that go along with it, is often a barrier for receiving the best care. In our research, some expressed a desire for it to be easier to know if their health care organization will accept their insurance; others went further, emphasizing that health care should be accessible to anyone in need. Many expressed frustrations about perceived different levels of service based on ability to pay.

While insurance is its own complicated industry, this frustration gets to the heart of one of consumer’s top emotional motivators: individualization, or the desire to feel like the top priority when receiving care. All patients, regardless of their financial status, want to feel like they are receiving the best possible service. That includes medical care—but also high-levels of customer service, delivered with personal touches that make people feel special.Two healthcare workers talkingConsumer segmentation can give you a starting place for understanding the different people that you serve—while providing a guidebook for engaging them at the moments that matter most to their unique healthcare journeys. CRM platforms can be helpful for engaging people at different steps in their experience—and as healthcare organizations get more savvy with CRM usage, the opportunity increases to tailor specific insights to the needs of key audiences.  Leading the way, American Red Cross has tailored call-to-actions that engage specific blood donor types, based on market needs and considering the different levels of commitment required for different procedures.


The challenge:
Perception that providers are just as exasperated as they are
The solution:
Make culture your top priority


“I think [provider’s] collective hands are tied by the bureaucracy of a system that is overcomplicated by insurance, regulation and cautionary standards. I think the majority of providers try their best to navigate the mess of administrative nonsense.” – Male health care consumer, Western U.S.

Some consumers point their fingers at bureaucracy and administrative gridlocks as the primary challenge preventing their providers from delivering exceptional experiences. These consumers feel that, despite good intentions, their physicians are simply unable to provide the best care due to the other rules, regulations and stressors they face. This balance gives consumers the impression that their providers are more concerned with revenue and efficiencies than they are with patient care.

These consumers are picking up on a truth we uncovered in this year’s Humanizing Brand Experiences report: Across the country, health care employees are feeling frustrated and burnt out—and it’s impacting their ability to deliver great experiences. As brand and marketing leaders, we can focus on our ability to impact culture and employee experience in order to combat this trend. Recognize and elevate your own people as experience champions. Educate and empower them with brand tools and trainings so that they can become advocates, not adversaries, of your brand and experience.A man in healthcare smilingThose that will win here at those that prioritize culture throughout their branding efforts. More commonly, the brands and marketing leaders are kicking off projects shoulder-to-shoulder with their counterparts in HR. At LCMC Health, HR and Marketing worked in lockstep to develop a people-first brand—and their partnership was critical to creating an employee-driven brands and culture. Today, their brand helps rally internal audiences around celebrating the “little extras” that make their work special, reducing exasperation for staff and delivering a more human experience for patients.

Making big changes to fix the experience challenges of the traditional health care industry will take a revolution—but revolutions have to start somewhere. And with new disruptors emerging every day, time is of the essence. As marketing and brand leaders, we have an opportunity to take the lead in improving health care experiences with strategic initiatives that make a difference where it counts. Instead of throwing up our hands, we can use brand to lead the way for the rest our industry. So, we want to know—what experience improvements are you planning to make this year?

Justin Wartell
December 12, 2019 By Justin Wartell