When Barry Scheur, president of the Boston-based Scheur Management Group, says "the best PSO strategic marketing plan is ridicule," he's only half joking.
Now that HCFA has finalized the solvency and enrollment rules for provider sponsored organizations, the race to develop and market the Medicare managed-care plans is on. To compete against well-established and well-financed managed-care companies, providers must begin an aggressive brand marketing (or product development) campaign as soon as possible, Scheur says.
"All physician -- and other -- provider-based organizations need to do is destroy the credibility of payers by debunking their moral supremacy as 'caregivers' and identify them for what they are -- companies that have been able to successfully turn healthcare into a product commodity."
Scheur told a National Managed Health Care Congress audience in Atlanta last month that the power base in healthcare is shifting back to physicians and hospitals and away from large integrated insurers. When developing a PSO marketing strategy, providers should build on their local name recognition and "market niche" -- i.e., their existing patient relationships.
"Most patients still want to believe in the unique and confidential relationship with a trusted person," he says. "Insurers bring size, stability, tradition and perhaps safety, but they don't bring 'warm fuzzies' relative to caring during a time of illness and (they don't) put medical needs before money."
Provider-led PSOs should plan on devoting 25% to 50% of start-up costs to product development and product branding, and then plan on a minimum of 20% of future annual expenditures for marketing and promotion.
Scheur says there are a number of strategies on which providers can base marketing campaigns: