Marketing: Shifting Responsibilities

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Right now, many healthcare marketing leaders' days may be filled with traditional public relations and advertising chores. But according to our annual survey, those leaders think that's going to change—dramatically—in the next three years.

We asked healthcare marketing leaders to list their responsibilities now and to predict what their responsibilities will be three years from now. The top three answers to the first half of the question: market research (70%), PR (65%), and advertising (65%). Patient experience was at the bottom of the list of their current responsibilities at about 30%.

Three years from now, respondents predict, they'll be doing much more challenging work: Most said they'll be responsible for patient experience (65%) and physician relations or sales (64%). Business strategy and business development tied for third place (59%). Meanwhile, advertising fell to the bottom of the list (27%).

We asked marketing leaders to tell us about their place in the CEO's inner circle. Thirty percent described themselves as key, valued advisors. When we asked CEOs a similar question, the results were about the same: Twenty-five percent of CEOs said that their chief marketing officer is a member of the senior executive team.

"I think the importance of the CMO varies from institution to institution, and larger facilities, particularly academic medical centers, seem to have true strategists who understand strategic marketing," says Anthony Cirillo, president of Fast Forward, a strategic planning and marketing consulting firm in Huntersville, NC.

In the area of increasing (or at least maintaining) physician referrals, marketing leaders say they're getting aggressive when it comes to soliciting referrals. When asked to quantify, nearly 60% answered that their referral efforts were moderately or highly aggressive (30% and 29%, respectively), while 26% answered slightly aggressive and 15% said not aggressive at all.

Those efforts are still not enough, says Patrick T. Buckley, president and CEO of PB Healthcare Business Solutions in Milwaukee. "Physicians are still the hospital's primary customers—consumers cannot order a hospital admission. These figures are incredible, given how important physicians are to a hospital's bottom line."

Of those who do have a physician relations program, most are using the old-fashioned but effective method of communicating with physicians and seeking information from them about their concerns.

"Organizations do more information-sharing than information-seeking," Buckley notes. "Whatever happened to learning what our customers want?"

Overall, marketing leaders said they were happy in their jobs. Nearly 90% said they were satisfied or very satisfied. Only one in 100 said they were dissatisfied. But are healthcare CEOs happy with the job that marketers are doing? That's not quite so clear.

When asked how strong their organization is in marketing, CEOs' answers were mixed. A little more than 41% said very or slightly strong. But many seem ambivalent—29% chose the "neutral" response, and about the same number answered very or slightly weak. That indicates that marketers need to be more effective in leading change in their organization, Buckley says.

For the next HealthLeaders magazine story in this package, visit For complete, detailed survey results, visit

—Gienna Shaw

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