The Four P’s of Healthcare

By Daphne Swancutt

iStock 000008667320XSmall1 300x225 The Four Ps of HealthcareCall it a silly, useless curse. I get sucked in to trying to find patterns and connections anywhere I can. Most of them are silly and useless. Occasionally I find ones that actually make some sense, if only to me.

As a healthcare marketer who also geeks out on reform, genetics and the e-patient movement, I can’t help but try to wrap healthcare up into a single cohesive package of connection and meaning. That’s what marketers do.

So, when it comes to that monster and what it all means, where it starts, what’s important and how to condense it to its core—where the patterns and connections are—I see P’s.

Maybe that’s because I’m a marketer and we’ve got this concept called the four P’s of marketing—the Marketing Mix. And, maybe that idea prompted one of those synaptic thingies that occur when there’s a storm of information scattering and thundering through the brain.

So happened I had also begun reading The Decision Tree. And, then I watched an interview with its author Thomas Goetz. I’ve lately been to several conferences focused on patients, patient communities, health 2.0, health reform, and I work with clients whose clinicians and researchers are excited about the future of personalized medicine.

Everywhere, there are P’s.

Thus, from this entire muddle crystallized my four P’s of healthcare—the Healthcare Mix—which perhaps only a marketer could muster.

At the center is the patient—and I challenge anyone to throw the gauntlet down on that one. Extending to and from that center are four P’s that many in healthcare are talking about (and one that we’re not talking about enough). For me, each is important on its own, but together they are invincible. Call it my P tree, if you will, but here they are:

  • Preventive: Good health begins with prevention. Period. Goetz makes this case so eloquently in The Decision Tree. His basic mantra? Exercise, eat right, don’t smoke and drink alcohol in moderation. Only 3 percent of Americans are doing this right. Wow. Consider the obesity epidemic, as well as the increase of chronic illness. Consider the pain and cost. We obviously need a stronger national call to action.
  • Personalized: The future is in personalized medicine. Pharmacogenetics is on a wave that is only going to become stronger. Genetic testing and targeted therapies will change the way patients are treated, customizing their care and reducing the likelihood of ineffective—and possibly toxic—treatments. We have to get the ball rolling faster and support the kind of research that can make this happen. It’s good medicine.
  • Participatory: The paternal model of medicine is nearly an anachronism. Patients, providers, caregivers and others must work together to achieve the best outcomes. Providers who are dismayed by their patients who come to them armed with information are missing the boat. Patients who allow their providers to make decisions for them without questioning the why’s behind them may be doing themselves a huge disservice. Advocate for yourself, demand collaboration from your providers—or go find others who get it.
  • Parity: Reform may have created greater access to those least likely to get it, but parity is still an issue. Literacy, education and socioeconomic status are part of that mix, so is the fact that a lot of people simply can’t tap in to technologies that can inform and include them. Until we are truly embracing every single person in America—and that means government, businesses and individuals stepping up even more—we’ll remain weak and collectively unhealthy. (This is the one we’re not talking about enough.)

So, there it is. My neat, packaged P’s of healthcare. It’s not the entire package. It’s just what I see as the necessary and connected essentials. Though I don’t specifically include health information technology in my mix, I’d sure include part of that under Personalized as personal health records—PHRs.

Healthcare marketers should get really close and intimate with these four P’s and use them in their efforts to connect with patients or via other intermediaries in various communities—online and offline.  Failure to do so could mean the difference between success and slow, lingering death.

Of course, this is just one person’s perspective. Mine.

What about you? How would your Healthcare Mix look?

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  1. Phil Baumann says:

    Well done, Daphne –

    (Apologies for the long wind here.)

    Preventive Parity in Personalized Participation. How’s that for a subtitle? ;)

    You actually have 5 Ps since Patient is central in your model ;)

    Yes, those are the four primary shielding outposts in healthcare.

    Now for the question concerning another P: Process. Since the so-called Marketing Mix is basically about the Process of marketing, what would be the best way to incorporate this model into the process of Healthcare Marketing?

    Here’s how I see marketers using the model:

    - Prevention and Parity are perhaps best accomplished with content and information. It’s up to marketers to create the kinds of content which enable minds to change and then supplying the information at the right time needed to make decisions which change outcomes and behaviors. (Understanding the difference between content and information, and when they are best delivered is an essential factor in healthcare marketing – the distinction is easy to overlook.)

    - Personalization and Participation are where I see marketers starting to take advantage of emerging media which enable conversation and curation. These are the two areas where public and private social media real estate make the most sense to offer presences. The challenge for traditional marketers, however, is that these media require cultivation and attention and engagement. On the surface it sounds easy to use Twitter and Facebook and Blogs – but the reality is that the practice involves the constant attention, discipline, creativity, sociability and availability.

    I’d really like to see this developed. It certainly gets marketers away from the linear and factory-based thinking that generated the traditional 4 Ps of Marketing (Product, Promotion, Price, Presence – otherwise perhaps thought of in healthcare as Solution to a problem, Information to make a Decision, Perceived Value, and Access or Availability).

    In my opinion, the biggest challenge still lies with Presence. Last century Presence was about the extension of unilateral mass broadcasting.

    Today, however, Presence is about day-to-day creativity and interactivity and connectivity. The remains of last century’s marketing mix are still with us, but the trend now is towards a more complete kind of Marketing: one where organizations can be in the trenches and face-to-face with their customers. In the process, marketers can get easily confused.

    …Unless they have a simple guiding vision. Your four Ps get marketers out of their mechanical, factory mentality and back to the basics of providing exactly the kinds of connections, values, meaning and (true) hopes patients need and deserve.

    Keep it flowing!!!


  2. Brian Ahier says:

    Great post Daphne! :-)

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