Last week at SHSMD 2017, keynote speaker Dan Burrus challenged attendees of his address to focus on Hard Trends (based on future facts) and not opinions. Opinions run rampant in our social media-infused, 140-character, endlessly-analyzed news cycle. But Hard Trends – the things that should really fuel strategy – are more difficult to come by.

A week and a half ago, Sherry Glied and Stuart Altman, two very thoughtful health policy leaders, tangled with a Hard Trend: the dynamics of healthcare competition. They unequivocally assert that competition – specifically markets with vibrant competition – benefit patients and payers alike with better outcomes and better value. They reject the notion that our system should move away from competition to more regulated markets, with fixed prices that eliminate competition as a means to reduce costs/prices.

A competition-based Hard Trend that we’re seeing more and more is the shift from market competition, where consolidation reduces the number of choices in a local area, to regional network competition. Central Pennsylvania is just one example of this shift, where a handful of systems – including UPMC Pinnacle Health, Penn State Hershey Health System, WellSpan Health and Penn Medicine/Lancaster General Health – press each other shoulder-to-shoulder across 10-plus counties.

Network-to-Network competition is a challenging new Hard Trend. And for many health systems, it’s a completely new conversation – one that is frequently just “backed into.” Succeeding amidst this competition requires going beyond a “bigger version of your existing self” to a “new model that creates new value for consumers/customers.” Success requires an intentional strategy and differentiated positioning that demonstrates something that can always overcome a trend: new value.

Opinions run rampant in our news cycle. But Hard Trends – the things that should really fuel strategy – are more difficult to come by.


Want more? Check out our Red Papers for the latest trends surrounding healthcare and health system marketing – and how strategic marketers can find success amidst them – or reach out to us!

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Dan Miers

Chief Strategy Officer at SPM Marketing & Communications
Dan anticipates “what’s next” in our complex industry and keeps SPM on the leading edge of healthcare policy and strategy. A valuable resource to all SPM clients, his strategic insights focus how we understand and apply industry trends to client issues. With 20 years of experience, Dan has two master’s degrees in healthcare administration and finance, worked in business development at an academic medical center, and launched a healthcare technology company. He is also a frequent speaker at industry events and an active member of the Society for Healthcare Strategy and Market Development (SHSMD).
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