Amid Rapid Consolidation, Has Health Care Lost Its Human Touch?

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Today, Pfizer and Allergan announced plans to merge, creating the world’s biggest drug maker by sales and adding to the growing list of inversion deals: American companies moving to a foreign country to take advantage of lower corporate tax rates. That this merger would be the largest inversion ever is fitting at the tail end of a year that has seen an exponential increase in the number and size of M&A activity in the health care industry. As one health care CFO put it recently, “Big is going to be better. Small is not going to survive.”

Wall Street agrees: in 2015, consolidation has become the new norm across the entire health care landscape as health systems, pharma companies, IT firms, health plans and service providers realign business strategies in the post-Affordable Care Act world. In fact, M&A activity in health care has been so fast and furious that Healthcare Finance created an interactive running list just to keep up.

The Optics

With the frenzy of activity, the story around every deal announcement seems to be more around the pervasiveness of health care consolidation itself. This is often accompanied by comments on shareholder impact, health care’s new “bigger is better” M.O., and other themes that take on a somewhat cold and, at times, negative tone.

Lost is the customer, the patient, the community. In short, the human element that is so central to the health care industry is being left out of the conversation entirely. This can be a huge impediment to success, especially for health systems trying to connect with local patient populations sensitive to how well you understand their specific needs.

Take Back Control of the Story

For health care marketing executives facing post-merger status, a key imperative is to get ahead of the narrative around the deal itself. Shape the story around the benefit to the customer, patient or even community. Is it about delivering better care? Providing more comprehensive services? Empowering the industry with innovative technology or analytics?

Whether you are a newly-merged health system, IT firm or pharma company, make sure the audiences most important to your success understand who the deal is really for. Use the attention around the deal to build positive momentum around the vision for the new entity. And, as is always the case with brand communications, articulate the vision in a way so clear and compelling that all internal and external stakeholders see its promise from the very beginning.

Maximize ROI

As companies across the health care continuum continue to invest heavily in M&A, brand can not get lost in the shuffle. To truly see the business impact of these investments you must translate the deal into powerful value propositions for patients, caregivers, clients, prospects, employees, communities, investors and the media alike. By focusing on what the deal enables – by focusing on the story, the experience, the human element: the brand – health care organizations will be more successful in connecting with their most important audiences.

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