The Implication of Information Technology on Marketing Strategy of Healthcare Industry

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Topic: Health & Medicine
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Abstract

The growth of information technology has transformed marketing strategies of most industries. In the healthcare industry, IT has changed the way marketers relate with customers. Information technology has made it easy for the healthcare industry to create brand awareness and enlighten the public on health matters. Many hospitals create persuasive information and share it through websites to attract clients.

One can easily find consumer-focused healthcare information on the internet. Information technology enhances communication amid departments in the healthcare industry. It also plays a critical role when planning for patient discharge. Doctors can work with patients remotely. Additionally, IT makes it possible for patients to access treatment at any healthcare facility.

The facilities can easily share patients’ health information. The primary disadvantage of information technology is that it subjects patients’ data to security issues. Healthcare marketers encounter challenges in guaranteeing the privacy of patients’ information.

The information is prone to identity theft, malicious manipulation and hacking. Globalization has made it hard for marketers to develop a marketing strategy that meets the needs of distinct market segments across the globe. Additionally, it has made it impossible for healthcare organizations to determine what marketing services to outsource and those to keep in-house.

Introduction

Growth in information technology (IT) has revolutionized the healthcare industry. Nowadays, healthcare industry uses IT for various purposes. One of the areas where the industry applies IT is marketing. Devaraj and Kohli (2015) argue that IT assists hospitals to get good returns from their marketing dollars.

Presently, most people are technology savvy. Besides, almost every household owns a mobile phone or a computer. Improvement in internet connection has made it easy for many consumers to do marketing online. According to Devaraj and Kohli (2015), consumers purchase different products and services including healthcare online. Consequently, many healthcare organizations use information technology to create brand awareness.

Furthermore, the hospitals use IT to educate the public on health matters. Many hospitals use digital strategy to acquire clients and boost patient loyalty. The hospitals ensure that customers can easily access information about their services.

Devaraj and Kohli (2015) maintain that almost every hospital has a website. The sites are designed in a user-friendly manner to attract potential customers. Moreover, the sites comprise “quick links” toolbar that influence patients’ decision-making.

Hospitals use technology to target different categories of patients. Devaraj and Kohli (2015) posit that healthcare institutions use buyer persona profiles to segment their target patients. Indeed, technology has been a game changer in the marketing strategy for the healthcare industry. This report will discuss the impacts of IT on the marketing strategy of the healthcare industry.

Functions of Information Technology in Healthcare Industry

Kilo (2005) defines information technology (IT) as, “The application of computers or mobile devices and the internet to store, retrieve, transmit, and manipulate data, or information, often in the context of a business or other enterprises” (p. 1297). Information technology has numerous contributions in the healthcare industry and other industries.

Apart from the healthcare industry, the hospitality industry also exploits information technology in marketing strategies. Information technology enables both the healthcare and hospitality industries to realize marketing automation (Kilo, 2005).

The healthcare organizations send emails to patients to know their health status. Besides, they send emails to enlighten the patients on the available services. Many patients forget their appointments with doctors. Therefore, hospitals send emails to patients to remind them about their appointments. It helps to create a rapport with patients and boost their loyalty.

On the other hand, hospitality organizations send emails to potential customers. Kilo (2005) claims that many organizations send discount emails to clients on special occasions like birthdays.

Most hospitality organizations have sophisticated marketing applications that enable them to identify and contact potential customers who visit their websites. The IT helps the hospitality organizations to watch and foster their prospects, thus growing their customer base and promoting repeat business.

Cline and Haynes (2001) claim that at least 67% of clients seek solutions to health issues from the internet. The healthcare industry understands that there is an enormous market that seeks information about healthcare products and brands.

Thus, most health care organizations use IT to sell their contents. According to Cline and Haynes (2001), many hospitals create compelling information and share it on websites to capture clients. Cline and Haynes (2001) claim that it is not hard to find consumer-focused healthcare information on the internet. Some hospitals have online communities where patients share their experience.

Healthcare facilities use IT to generate content that reacts to patients’ needs and echo their unique journey. While healthcare industry uses IT to draw the attention of patients, the hospitality industry uses it to market its products and services.

Hotels share information regarding their products and services on websites. On the other hand, while the healthcare industry uses IT to offer expert advice to potential patients, the hospitality industry uses it to market products to the general public.

Healthcare industry uses mobile tools to enable consumers to manage their health. Research conducted by the American Marketing Association found that healthcare industry uses mobile gargets to assist customers to monitor their heart rate, weight and fitness levels in a bid to manage chronic illnesses (Cline & Haynes, 2001).

Today, healthcare marketers are in the process of creating more mobile ways of reaching consumers as a way to build trust and enhance business.

Besides, many hospitals use cell phones as the standard means of communication between physicians and patients. The doctors can use phones to examine a patient and offer treatment recommendations remotely. On the other hand, hospitality industry uses mobile tools to reach existing and prospect clients. Customers use cell phones to inquire about the available services and place orders or book a reservation.

Advantage and Disadvantage of IT in Healthcare

Information technology has numerous benefits to the healthcare industry. According to Bates (2000), IT facilitates communication amid different departments in a hospital. Employees do not require moving from their workstations to relay information.

They can easily do it via social media or other communication platforms. Effective communication facilitates discharge planning. Before carrying out discharge, one has to ensure that a patient has cleared with all the departments. Information technology makes it easy for the hospital staff to retrieve information about a patient and liaise with other departments in times of discharge.

Bates (2000) avers that IT facilitates enhancement of quality in the healthcare industry. Through information technology, hospitals can link their databases to guarantee information sharing. Besides, it is easy for different healthcare facilities to conduct joint research.

As a result, the hospitals can quickly identify the best treatment for various illnesses. Today, IT has minimized the burden of having to transfer a patient from one facility to another. A specialized doctor can treat a patient remotely, thanks to IT.

Kotler and Clarke (2003) hold that IT has improved access to healthcare services. In return, it has enabled the healthcare facilities to increase their customer base. Hospitals store patients’ information electronically. Before, the discovery of informatics, patients had to stick to a single healthcare facility where all their health information was stored.

Today, distance is insignificant when seeking health services. A physician can remotely access patient’s information and provide the requisite services. Bates (2000) holds that sharing of health information amid hospitals helps to reduce medical errors and guarantee patients’ safety. Information technology enables healthcare facilities to offer personalized services.

Personalization promotes customer empowerment. Today, IT has enabled patients to take control of their health. Patients use computers and mobile devices to communicate with doctors and share videos or pictures of their problems. Some hospitals have interactive patient technology that allows the sick to learn more about their conditions. It facilitates empowerment. Patients learn how to manage their conditions.

According to Kotler and Clarke (2003), healthcare marketers use information technology to mine data regarding patients. Data mining is a critical avenue of enhancing the competitive edge of an organization. The data extracted help the healthcare organizations to formulate marketing strategies. They understand the needs of different patients and can offer tailor-made services.

Additionally, data mining helps healthcare organizations to project the future needs and plan in advance. Apart from enhancing competitive edge, information technology enables healthcare organizations to guarantee customer satisfaction. The organizations have options where customers can rate their services online. They receive customer feedback in real time. It helps to measure the level of satisfaction and identify areas that require improvement.

As per Lu, Xiao, Sears, and Jacko (2005), information technology is not error proof. Overreliance on the shared information may result in errors. Not all the shared information is accurate. Some patients may give false information leading to physicians giving wrong treatment.

Besides, hospital staff may alter patients’ information on malicious grounds. Lu et al. (2005) cite weak connection amid computer systems, data fragmentation, and patient misidentification as some factors that contribute to errors. Additionally, information technology compromises the safety of the patients’ information.

The shared information is vulnerable to hacking, unauthorized use, and identity theft. In some cases, information technology weakens the harmonization and feedback mechanisms in nurse-doctor cooperation.

Challenges that Healthcare Marketers Face

Healthcare marketers encounter numerous problems in the application of information technology as a marketing tool. One of the challenges is the cost of installing and maintaining an IT platform. Installation of an IT system entails the purchase of hardware like computers and internet devices.

The cost of procuring quality computers and reliable Internet services may be expensive to most healthcare facilities (Rooney, 2009). Besides the procurement of information systems and web services, a health center requires training its marketers in how to use the system. Training is expensive with respect to time and resources. The time that the healthcare marketers spend on training can be utilized for other productive activities.

Dhar and Balakrishnan (2006) claim that globalization has resulted in the opening of the global market. Besides, it has led to stiff competition. For an organization to succeed in the world market, it must ensure that its marketing efforts translate into sales. Globalization has made it difficult for healthcare marketers to establish global brands.

The healthcare marketers encounter challenges in the creation of an IT marketing strategy that target the world market. The global marketplace is intricate and fragmented. Healthcare organizations require creating different marketing strategies for various parts of the world.

Dhar and Balakrishnan (2006) allege that in a globalized context, the marketers should use IT to facilitate the realization of a strategic vision. Unfortunately, many healthcare marketers allow information technology to take the lead in marketing strategies instead of promoting their achievement.

According to Dhar and Balakrishnan (2006), globalization facilitates the outsourcing of marketing activities. Healthcare organizations do not require procuring an IT system for marketing purposes. Instead, they can outsource the services to other companies.

Unfortunately, the security issues associated with globalization and IT system pose a significant threat to organizations. It becomes difficult for the healthcare marketers to determine the functions to outsource and those to keep in-house. The inability of the healthcare facilities to set clear schedule and scope results in the outsourced services not yielding significant results.

Healthcare marketers have the duty to guarantee the safety of patients’ information in their custody. The Health Insurance Accountability and Portability Act (HIPAA) requires that healthcare organizations ensure the privacy of medical records (Dhar & Balakrishnan, 2006).

The healthcare marketers encounter challenges in transmitting health information without compromising its confidentiality. Today, all online data is prone to cyberattacks. The contemporary cyberattackers are versed with hacking.

The hackers use sophisticated programs that are hard to detect or shield. Thus, today, healthcare organizations face the challenge in reinforcing their IT security. The healthcare marketers have to remain observant and regularly watch the IT systems to identify possible malware.

Thomas (2014) claims that most healthcare marketers do not have experience in information technology. Thus, they can hardly detect malware, thus subjecting the IT systems to an enormous threat.

Past and Present Marketing Activities

According to Kotler and Clarke (2003), five key features distinguish the past and present marketing activities. They are customer-orientation, market research, market planning, integrated marketing, and customer satisfaction. Thomas (2014) avers that business activities must be geared towards creation and satisfaction of customer needs. In the past, healthcare marketers focused on increasing the sales volume.

They did not care if the healthcare products or services met the needs of the clients. However, today, the marketers consider the impacts of marketing decisions on customers. The past marketers did little market research before introducing a product to the market (Thomas, 2014).

In the end, they ended up flooding the market with a single product or service. Nowadays, marketers conduct a thorough market research to understand the needs of consumers. It helps them to keep abreast with the demands of the market.

The primary objective of an organization is to make a profit by meeting the needs of customers. In the past, healthcare marketers overlooked the importance of marketing plan. However, in the contemporary world, healthcare marketers come up with a marketing plan before embarking on a marketing activity. It allows the marketers to introduce the value of consumer-orientation into the business system.

Thomas (2014) claims that disintegrated marketing characterized past organizations. Each organizational unit was responsible for its marketing activities. Today, integrated marketing depict the new firms. The marketers develop a marketing mix that facilitates the realization of the goals of all organizational units.

Customer satisfaction is one of the marketing features of the contemporary organizations. In the past, marketers focused on profit maximization. Today, the marketers seek to increase profit by guaranteeing customer satisfaction.

Information technology has resulted in changes in marketing strategies. In the past, healthcare organizations used print media, radio, and television to reach potential customers. Additionally, the healthcare organizations purchased space on big dailies to market their services.

Besides using media, the hospitals relied on word of mouth and promotion campaigns. Most hospitals encouraged patients to refer their colleagues to the facilities. Wu, Wang, and Lin (2007) claim that some hospitals had to organize for corporate social responsibility programs to market themselves.

The emergence of information technology changed the way hospitals market themselves. Today, most healthcare organizations have websites and email systems that they use for marketing purposes (Wu et al., 2007). The websites contain information about the hospitals.

Customers can visit the website to know the location of the healthcare facility as well as the services it offers. Some healthcare marketers use mobile devices to market their services. The marketers send messages to existing customers and prospects. Others send random emails to potential clients as a way to create brand awareness.

Conclusion

The growth of information technology has transformed the marketing strategies of the healthcare industry. Information technology has enabled the healthcare industry to achieve marketing automation. The industry sends emails to patients to enlighten them on health matters and to know their conditions.

Technology has allowed healthcare industry to create online communities. The communities are helpful in sharing patients’ experiences with potential customers. IT has enhanced communication and cooperation in the healthcare industry. Additionally, it has aided in minimization of medical errors. Healthcare marketers use IT in data mining.

The information gathered through IT helps in the preparation of marketing plan, thus boosting the competitive advantage of the healthcare organizations. Information technology enables healthcare industry to provide personalized services that facilitate consumer empowerment.

References

Bates, D. (2000). Using information technology to reduce rates of medication errors in hospitals. British Medical Journal, 320(1), 781-788.

Cline, R., & Haynes, K. (2001). Consumer health information seeking on the internet: The state of the art. Health Education Research, 16(6), 671-692.

Devaraj, S., & Kohli, R. (2015). Information technology payoff in the health-care industry: A longitudinal study. Journal of Management Information Systems, 16(4), 41-67.

Dhar, S., & Balakrishnan, B. (2006). Risks, benefits, and challenges in global IT outsourcing: Perspectives and practices. Journal of Global Information Management, 14(3), 59-89.

Kilo, C. (2005). Transforming care: Medical practice design and information technology. Health Affairs, 24(5), 1296-1301.

Kotler, P., & Clarke, R. (2003). Marketing for health care organizations. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

Lu, Y., Xiao, Y., Sears, A., & Jacko, J. (2005). A review and a framework of handheld computer in healthcare. International Journal of Medical Informatics, 74(5), 409-422.

Rooney, K. (2009). Consumer-driven healthcare marketing: Using the web to get up close and personal. Journal of Healthcare Management, 54(4), 241-251.

Thomas, R. (2014). Marketing Health Services. Chicago: Health Administration Press.

Wu, J., Wang, S., & Lin, L. (2007). Mobile computing acceptance factors in the healthcare industry: A structural equation model. International Journal of Medical Informatics, 76(1), 66-77.