A pair of news stories in recent weeks have typified healthcare strategists’ and marketers’ troubling struggle: Bernie Sanders’ Medicare-for-All bill sparked the most serious conversation around single-payer healthcare the U.S. has had since the Nixon administration. It was also recently revealed that Aetna and Apple are in conversations to bring the Apple Watch to millions of Aetna subscribers. One represents an ideological push closer to universal insurance coverage, health system access and budgetary control. The other, the unstoppable drive of consumers and private industry to make better health easier and more rewarding.

Both are big deals and big ideas. Neither are very concerned with hospital or health system strategy or success. Yet both could dramatically impact the future of provider side healthcare, even if neither progresses to its full conclusion. With both, a step is taken through a door that, once opened, lets in a breeze of change that does not fade away.

A common strategic thread for healthcare strategists and marketers runs through both of these developments – brand and clearly discernable distinction in order to attract and win patients. As single-payer imagines a world without financial/payer-imposed barriers to care it brings with it the need for clearly discernable distinction. Tighter connectivity between payer and member – especially given daily (or more frequent) interaction with the customer through a connected device – builds rapport not with the traditional physician or health system provider but the health plan. The best defense against this wedge? Accumulated brand trust, goodwill and unique perceived benefit.  In other words – brand.

For a complete look into how strategic marketers can navigate the policy reform landscape, check out SPM’s latest red paper ‘Repealing Obamacare: Navigating the Uncertain Future for Health Care Strategists, Marketers & Business Development Leaders.”

The best defense for strategic marketers against a potential single-payer healthcare system? One word: brand.


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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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