October 27, 2017
Interviewed by: David Snow
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Marketing to Patients Can Lower Costs

Brad Coppens from One Equity Partners, Adam Blumenthal of Blue Wolf Capital Partners, and Jacques Mulder of EY, describe how healthcare providers are directly marketing procedures to patients in an effort to preemptively stop more expensive conditions down the line.
Brad Coppens from One Equity Partners, Adam Blumenthal of Blue Wolf Capital Partners, and Jacques Mulder of EY, describe how healthcare providers are directly marketing procedures to patients in an effort to preemptively stop more expensive conditions down the line.

Marketing to Patients Can Lower Costs

David Snow, Privcap:

Today, we’re joined by Jacques Mulder of EY, Adam Blumenthal of Blue Wolf Capital Partners and Brad Coppens of One Equity Partners. Gentlemen, welcome to Privcap today. Thanks for being here.

Unison: Thank you.

Snow: Let’s talk about the marketing aspect in the consumerization of healthcare. In consumer businesses, they advertise and they market to their customers. In healthcare, which businesses are being directly marketed to the end receiver of the healthcare services?

Adam Blumenthal, Blue Wolf Capital Partners:

The simple example of it is this: Let’s say you’re in a Medicare Advantage plan, you have a vision benefit and you might, as you’re aging, get diabetes. Well, glaucoma is an early indicator of diabetes. If you remind people that they’ve got a vision benefit, you’re going to pick up on the early indicators of diabetes and potentially trigger an intervention.

That’s not a choice to choose a specific product, it’s a choice to engage with the healthcare system a certain way that delivers better outcomes. It’s delivering a better outcome in terms of cost for whoever is ultimately responsible for paying for it, because you dealt with diabetes early and perhaps all the other things that flow from that, and it’s delivering a better outcome in terms of quality of life.

There’s a second kind of choice, which is the choice of which service provider to use, which is conventionally more what we think of as marketing. One of the things that anybody who starts to engage in healthcare as a business gets mystified by very early on in the journey is, why does any individual end up being taken care of by any particular institution? The language that people use—whether it’s a physician or a plan administrator, a private equity investor or a not-for-profit executive—they all talk about patient flow. Why is the patient here or there? Who refers the patient? And the answer is everybody. There is no system.

There are some very draconian laws, stark laws, that control payment for referrals, but there are a lot more subtle things that go on and influence what patient ends up where. The more transparency there is around that, honestly, I think the better the system is going to be.

Brad Coppens, One Equity Partners:

Marketing in a healthcare environment is really quite an interesting topic in the sense that we all watch pharmaceutical ads on the Super Bowl.

Snow: Right, “Ask your doctor about…”—

Coppens: “Ask your doctor about this.” And the same thing goes for healthcare services or medical devices. The idea that a consumer should be talking to their doctor about whether they have this one manufacturer or another manufacturer is even silly to think about. The consumer has no ability to make a quality-based determination over one hunk of metal versus another, or one pharmaceutical versus another.

Allowing that consumer to make a decision on their own about this physician versus that physician, this facility versus that facility or this product versus that product—that includes outcomes-based data and cost-based data individualized for the way that patient experiences cost, that relates to plan design. That is what marketing should be focused on.

Jacques Mulder, EY:

The ultimate goal is patient behavior and the potential to modify or influence patient behavior. If you can get to that place, you’re touching on a piece of the risk equation that no pharmaceutical or clinician has ever been able to get into.

My point about the consumer in business domain before—finding ways to get patients and consumers to behave slightly differently, maybe more conscious about their health—those things are going to be where the real magic happens, in my mind.

Blumenthal: I fully agree with what Jacques was saying about the potential…to influence behavior at a population health level. It’s a very dangerous tool from the perspective of the healthcare system, the economy and the country as a whole, because if you do it to produce better outcomes at lower cost, then you’re really creating real value. If what you’re doing is shifting cost to somebody else, in order to prop up your bottom line, you’re going to wind up with the private sector getting thrown out of healthcare entirely, because our people will see right through that.

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