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What Healthcare Marketers Can Learn from Elliott Fisher

Marianne Aiello, for HealthLeaders Media, December 8, 2010

For this year's HealthLeaders 20, our annual list of the top people working to make healthcare better, I interviewed Elliott Fisher, the Dartmouth Atlas leader who is commonly hailed as the father of accountable care organizations. As he and I talked about his background, the Atlas project, and his hopes for accountable care, I couldn't help but think how his insight might benefit healthcare marketers.

Data is king
Since 2007 when Fisher took over leadership for the Dartmouth Atlas of Health Care, a project that documents variations in how medical resources are distributed and used in the United States, much of his work has revolved around mining, tracking, and analyzing data.

"I hope that through the work of the Dartmouth Atlas and our other related work we can help practitioners and the public understand the opportunity we all have to improve health system performance on both cost and quality," Fisher said in the HealthLeaders magazine article. "The way we do that is through describing current practice patterns within the U.S. and then research that helps both policy makers and clinicians understand the causes of those variations and what their implications are for healthcare reform and for improving the quality and costs of care for patients."

Healthcare marketers' work, too, should be focused on data. As healthcare reform forces hospitals to reconsider traditional business practices, marketers should seize the opportunity to step in as a leading strategic voice within their organizations. But to do this successfully, marketers must back their initiatives with extensive market and competitor research, analyze and responded to that data in real time, and track their campaigns for financial ROI.

Trial and error leads to progress
When I asked Fisher where he sees himself in 10 years, he said that he might be in hiding because ACOs failed. Of course he was kidding (we hope), but his jocular comment reminds me of my Dad's favorite Wayne Gretzky quote, "You miss 100% of the shots you don't take."

That's true for marketing and, according to Fisher, it's true for accountable care.

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