What are you doing to define your place in the funnel?

What are you doing to define your place in the funnel? By Kris Wickline
posted May 2, 2022

Who are YOU?

According to an article in Rolling Stone magazine, the famous (and controversial for the time) song “Who are you?” by The Who, was inspired when Pete Townsend, then a titan in music, was feeling his obsolescence. His taunting words of “Who are you”? called into question the upstarts challenging his position, and ultimately, himself.

If you’re a legacy hospital or health system, you might want to put that song on repeat. Because the question of who you are as an organization will be critical in the coming decade, especially as it relates to the prediction, “The Funnel Wars,” in our new book, Joe Public 2030. It’s a battle between “upstarts” (at least in healthcare) such as Walmart Health, CVS Health, One Medical, Amazon and Optum, and the legacy providers of health. And to the winner goes the spoils – the patient relationship.

For example: a press release from April 11, 2022 from Froedtert Health reads:

“Carbon Health, a leading national healthcare provider, and Froedtert Health, a Milwaukee, Wisconsin-based integrated healthcare system, today announced a new strategic partnership to increase diverse points of healthcare access, enhance convenience for patients, and redefine healthcare delivery in the Wisconsin market.”

It goes on to say, “This partnership brings Carbon Health’s modern clinics and omnichannel care model to Froedtert & MCW health network patients, delivering care across a variety of access points including in-person clinics, virtual care and remote patient monitoring (RPM). In turn, Carbon Health patients in the area will have access to the Froedtert & MCW health network suite of services, including when Carbon Health patients require ancillary and specialty care within eastern Wisconsin’s only academic health network.”

The partnership between Carbon Health and Froedtert Health is a clear example of how new competitors for top-of-funnel primary care are emerging and disrupting the industry. To adapt to this disruption, many traditional health systems are choosing to focus their efforts elsewhere, on mid-level, specialty, and acute care.

The announcement of the partnership between Carbon and Froedert is not an anomaly. These new competitors are driving conversations across the industry. At HIMSS 2022 one of the headlines read “Primary care disruptors are hungry for relationships with traditional providers.” Disruptors like Carbon Health need to partner with health systems because they don’t provide hospital-based acute care. It’s about division of labor and specialization – as simple as that. It’s a partnership-based on value exchange. Carbon Health owns the relationship while Froedert & MCW become the outlet when Carbon Health patients require ancillary and specialty care.

The lines seem clear, and even though our prediction is labeled “The Funnel Wars,” there doesn’t necessarily have to be a battle, at least not in all cases. There can be a mutually beneficial decision to partner for both organizations, a way to share the patient relationship.

That said, as a consumer marketer who works in healthcare, the idea of not owning the consumer relationship outright definitely rattles me.

And if it rattles you, the question becomes, how are you helping to both inform and shape the business decisions around primary care? Can you demonstrate the different preferences and value of specific consumer segments and the impact of primary care on downstream revenue? How do you represent the voice of consumers and advocate for them within your organization? Are you helping to configure your primary care products and experience, pricing decisions, and locations (not just promotion)? How might relationship ownership play into your organization’s mission? These are just some of the questions we should be asking ourselves.

So, harkening back to Pete Townsend, who are you? Where is your health system leaning when it comes to primary care – owning it, partnering, or maybe both? And what are you doing as a marketer to help shape that?