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3 Ways ACA Transparency Rules Are a Marketing Opportunity

By Kristen HicksFeb 9, 2016

transparency-in-healthcareNo matter your politics or larger views on what the Affordable Care Act (ACA) means for the country, its requirements meant more work for many people who work in healthcare. But some of the same sections that mean more piles of work and headaches for your peers can actually be opportunities for healthcare marketers.

Here we explain, but first, a little background.

The ACA’s New Transparency Requirements

As you may already know, the ACA included several provisions aimed at increasing the level of transparency in healthcare.

First off, there’s the rule that hits insurers the hardest. All health insurance companies are required by law to publicly share a wealth of data about how their plans work, including their claims payment policies and practices. What this means for consumers is the prices of healthcare services will become a little easier to understand and they’ll have a better idea of what to expect from costs in advance.

The ACA also requires greater disclosure of the relationships between doctors and drug companies. Knowing that doctors often receive money from pharmaceutical reps makes many patients uncomfortable, for obvious reasons (many of them laid out by John Oliver in a recent segment). Patients don’t want to have to worry that their prescription was made because the doctor gets a kickback, rather than because it’s the best medicine for the job.

The Open Payments Data site recently launched to give patients a chance to see what relationships their doctors have with pharmaceutical companies and how much money, if any, they’ve received from them. All in the name of more transparency in healthcare.

3 Reasons Transparency is Good Marketing

For some hospitals and health insurance companies, these requirements may look troubling. For healthcare marketers, though, they’re encouraging something that makes for good marketing anyway. Using your content to increase transparency accomplishes several of the biggest goals of inbound marketing.

1. It builds trust.

Transparency has become a buzzword in many industries where companies swear by its power to build trust among employees and customers. Trust is important for every business, but for something as sensitive and personal as healthcare, the stakes are even higher—after all, people are literally trusting physicians with their lives.

Building trust, of course, sounds good in theory, but if one (or more) of the doctors at your hospital end up on the government’s website disclosing pharmaceutical profits, transparency’s probably not looking like a great path to trust at that particular moment. In a situation like this, content marketing gives you an opportunity to provide more information to clarify the situation.

In many cases, a physician’s relationship with a pharmaceutical company is beneficial and nothing to be ashamed of. A doctor who worked with a company to research one of its drugs can use the hospital blog or newsletter to explain the details of the relationship and how the work benefits patients. Inbound marketing gives you the opportunity to take transparency one step further to provide patients with the full story and build trust.

2. It answers common questions.

One of the first rules of content marketing is to always answer questions from your audience. Healthcare may well be the industry that leaves customers with the most confusion and questions.

Anytime you make a purchasing decision, you want to be able to consider things like what your different options are, how much they cost, and how costs for different options compare relative to their merit. Health insurance has made the process of making healthcare purchases so complicated that, previous to the ACA provisions, patients rarely had the information they needed to make those considerations.

The rule to disclose more information about health insurance plans is one of the most popular parts of ACA transparency—in at least one poll, it won handily as the favorite provision in the legislation.

Healthcare marketers can use that information to guide content topics. Write educational content that explains where healthcare spending goes. A healthcare marketer could break down the cost of an MRI, for instance. From the medical staff expertise to the cost of the equipment and the administrative costs of hospital and insurance staff, detailing what goes into performing common procedures can help your patients make more sense of the numbers on their bill.

3. It helps you build a relationship.

No successful relationship can be built on a lie (or a willful withholding of the truth). You need patients to feel like they’re getting the best care possible. Being upfront and transparent lets them feel that they know exactly what to expect.

Releasing more information that answers their questions can lead to conversations. A story in the newsletter about their doctor’s experience working on a drug trial could be a conversation starter that helps them feel more familiar with the doctor. Information on what procedures cost the hospital and why they’re performed gives them the knowledge to ask the right questions when a treatment is recommended.

Closing the Trust Loop

Conversations build relationships, and building relationships starts with trust. A positive relationship between doctor and patient, and, by extension, the hospital and patient, depends completely on the patient feeling that trust. From that perspective, transparency is a powerful tool to increase the good will a patient feels toward your healthcare brand.

PIVOTING YOUR PLAN with Inbound Marketing

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The Author

Kristen Hicks

Kristen Hicks is an Austin-based copywriter and content marketer specializing in helping businesses connect with customers through content online.
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