Guest Post by Jeanne Chase Tiscareno of ChaseLane Consulting
Jeanne is a marketing consultant that organizes ideas, concepts, data and human resources into cohesive plans. She has spent significant time working for Global 1000 companies such as Microsoft, Accenture, Ernst and Young, Verizon, and SAP. Jeanne’s work has also taken her into health care-related business planning for hospital systems such as PeaceHealth, Swedish, Providence and UW Medicine.
Uncertainty hovers over American hospitals due to a changing health care landscape. How will value-based care and Medicare’s changes in payments actually play out in the marketplace? How will hospital’s balance sheet absorb changes such as bundled reimbursement?
These questions, added to typical organizational pressures, demand that health care systems create efficiencies in every way possible. A popular approach is through “shared services”: centralizing duplicative operations across the system to increase efficiencies, reduce costs, and establish system-wide consistency.
Many systems have already consolidated their accounting, finance, human resources/payroll, supply chain, etc. into centralized “back office operations.” However, in recent years we’ve noted two areas of significantly untapped opportunity for creating shared services in health care systems: marketing and philanthropy.
Promising prospects: marketing and philanthropy.
On the surface, each hospital in a health care system has its own unique local market and donor base. Yet a closer look typically reveals that all of a system’s hospitals promote similar ideas, concepts and services. Their marketers and fund raisers perform similar functions in each region, and each hospital seeks to solve similar challenges in order to reach communities and involve donors.
One Northwest health system we worked with, for example, had people in each region trying to develop an effective physician look-up and health assessment tools for their patients and communities—a four-fold duplication of effort. Another system had seven local foundations all soliciting donors independently, sometimes with conflicting events, funding opportunities, and messaging to the same donors.
Such overlap is inevitable and makes marketing and philanthropy groups ideal candidates for the many benefits of shared services environments. These include wiser resource use, more productive teams, cross-region compatibility of systems and info, and greater opportunity for cohesive, system-wide branding, market presence, and donor engagement.
Classic opportunities for shared marketing services include centralizing web analytics, metrics/measurement, branding, advertising, media buying and social media plans. Local hospital foundations could consolidate donor bases, event coordination, marketing materials, grants programs and compliance, fiscal reporting, and training. There’s also lots of room for the two shared services groups to work together to support a system’s broader goals.
Change takes time, but the effort is worth it. When the above philanthropy organization centralized their basic fund raising tasks, tools and donor lists through shared services, they freed their local staff to focus on the heart of fund raising—cultivating donor relationships. Moreover, the entire health care system is now poised to convey a single “voice” to all donors, avoid duplicate requests for funding, expose high-yield, system-wide funding and grant opportunities, and reinvigorate their portfolio with new giving vehicles.
Moving toward shared services.
When working to realize a shared service approach for your marketing and/or philanthropy group, consider these recommendations:
1. Before any change, assess each area that is a candidate for centralized services and build a business case for consolidation. For example, compare costs of centralized vs. decentralized expenditures, such media buying or internet hosting contracts for marketing consolidation, or a cross-regional resource for Website development (content, programming, coordination), to determine whether this kind of change provides sufficient value.
2. Obtain appropriate leadership buy-in for the change. During any centralization, managers gain or lose people and power. Well thought out plans can be completely sidelined without proper buy-in. You may need to engage in serious negotiation before you can get top leadership to approve your proposal. Some organizations are just not ready for change, or they are still adjusting to previous organizational changes.
3. Allow enough time and resources for transition, and plan thoroughly. Create a detailed roadmap and timeline to outline what is happening and when at every phase. Define who will lead the transition and who will carry it out. Set up a management committee to address interim and longer term decisions and hurdles. Implementation can take anywhere from 6-12 months and beyond.
The concept of “Great Stewardship of Resources” can no longer be just a bullet point in an annual report. Doing more with less is a way of life, and helping your marketing and philanthropy teams work smarter through shared services can trim waste out of your system.
Consolidating and sharing marketing and/or philanthropy services can free up employee time and operating dollars at the hospital level, letting you redeploy these resources where they can make a real difference—in great patient experiences, high quality care, and sound community health initiatives.
Jeanne Chase Tiscareno