The Supreme Court ruling affirming the Affordable Care Act has
set in motion an evolution destined to fundamentally change the way
patients, physicians, hospitals, insurers, employers, regulators
and other stakeholders access and interact with the health care
system in the years ahead.
The federal government, by its own admission, did a weak job
communicating around all aspects of healthcare reform. Now, with
the constitutional issues resolved, the next daunting strategic
communications challenge will play out on a state-by-state basis -
just as it did in Massachusetts five years ago.
How state governments - and all the private and mission-driven
players within each state - plan, manage and communicate both the
bureaucracy and the benefits of health care reform will be
By 2018, the industry that drives 17 percent of the U.S. economy
is on track to be transformed into a model designed to promote
access, prevention, quality, technology and efficiency.
- States will be ground zero for patient access through the
creation of exchanges that bring uninsured and under-insured
consumers into the system. The states also will become the new
battleground for cost containment as providers and insurers jockey
for advantage in the new business model.
- Patients' perceptions will largely depend on how reform impacts
their access, care, their doctor and their paycheck. Deciphering
and demystifying the changes will be an ongoing challenge.
- Physicians and nurses remain trusted advocates and guides for
anxious consumers. Physician practices will become sought-after by
providers seeking to guarantee patient flow.
- Stakeholder education, audience re-assurance, labor relations
competitive marketing will be priorities for hospitals struggling
to cope with the operational consequences of reform.
- Employers, large and small, not only need to understand the law
and comply with new reporting requirements, but they will need to
communicate new coverage options to their employees.
- Insurers have a critical opportunity to strengthen their brands
and build customer loyalty, but they also will face intense
scrutiny over premium requests, rate hikes and transparency.
Communicating the business of health care also will become a
priority as providers turn to mergers and acquisitions to win their
share of the 30 million new paying patients expected to enter the
Health care reform isn't a single change but a series of changes phased over seven years.
Fifty-two ACA provisions are already in effect, but four dozen of
the most critical are scheduled for implementation in the next four
years, with the majority occurring between now and 2015.
So much is at stake for so many. It's hard to think of another
national episode in recent history in which smart, experienced communications and marketing strategies are
more important to a smooth transition.