Kaiser Permanente - Marketing Forces and Diversification
Kaiser Permanente shares the concerns of other American hospitals regarding competing effectively with other hospitals while constantly improving quality of care. Kaiser is unique, however, in that its scope and resources allow it to mount an aggressive, nationwide marketing campaign directed at least theoretically to every American. Though it is difficult to reduce the success of Kaiser's marketing activities to numbers, Kaiser certainly shows signs of marketing success through extensive recognition, including but not limited to awards touting Kaiser's excellence and effectiveness.
Kaiser Permanente serves approximately 9 million members and operates in 8 regions, including Northern California, Southern California, Colorado, Georgia, Hawaii, an area embracing Maryland, Virginia and Washington, DC, Ohio, and an area comprised of Oregon and Washington (Kaiser Permanente, 2012). In addition, Kaiser Permanente acts as "the caregiver, the hospital, the laboratory, and the pharmacy" (Kaiser Permanente, 2012). Due to these extensive geographical and service categories, Kaiser Permanente markets nationally and regionally, and recruits salespeople/marketers nationally and regionally (Kaiser Permanente, 2012). As Kaiser states, its marketing strategy is driven by: distinguishing itself as simultaneously an insurance provider and health care provider; anticipating and responding "to the ever-evolving demands of our customers, members, regulators, and the marketplace" (Kaiser Permanente, 2012) and maintaining a constant commitment to "health advocacy and total health" (Kaiser Permanente, 2012). Kaiser's decisions to distinguish itself from other providers and to anticipate/respond to evolving demanding are in sync with the decisions of the community hospital featured in Noonan's and Savolaine's article because that hospital also sought to differentiate itself from other health care providers and studied the diversity of possible patient population to determine the population's needs (Noonan & Savolaine, 2001). Furthermore, Kaiser's intimate connection between health advocacy/total health and marketing is in keeping with the community hospital's commitment and marketing about that commitment (Noonan & Savolaine, 2001). The major marketing difference between Kaiser and the community hospital is, of course, the widely differing scope of their geographic areas, as the community hospital is dedicated to serving a far smaller community while Kaiser operates nationally and regionally.
Assessment of the various marketing activities and their success
While Kaiser Permanente does not openly discuss its marketing plan, many of its marketing activities are easily discerned. One unique marketing activity is "The Kaiser Permanente Center for Total Health" located in Washington, D.C. (Dunlop, 2011). Described as "a unique educational venue," the center uses interactive touchscreens, up-to-date technological displays and a conference center (Dunlop, 2011), to make visitors more interested in the health of their families, their community and themselves (and, of course, more interested in Kaiser Permanente). Kaiser also aggressively markets in regional areas in a variety of ways; in May of 2012 alone, Kaiser: launched a series entitled The Weight of the Nation to target obesity in America; offered free skin cancer screenings; sent employees, including physicians, to the Gulf Coast to render health care; awarded 18 scholarships to San Gabriel Valley High School students who overcame adversity; awarded $6.5 million in grants to local communities; and held celebrations tying itself to historical treasurers in the San Francisco Bay area (Kaiser Permanente, 2012). Kaiser has also operated an "Educational Theater Program" in all its regions for the past 25 years (Baxter, 2012). In addition, on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, almost 7,000 of Kaiser's employees and physicians volunteered to host "community-building activities in schools, food banks, free health screenings, parks, homeless shelters and other institutions" (Baxter, 2012). Kaiser also started an "Everybody Walk!" program designed to get all American adults to walk 30 minutes per day/5 days per week "for better health" (Baxter, 2012) and established a "Green Resource Center" for Environmental concerns (Kaiser Permanente, 2012). Furthermore, Kaiser consciously hires people across a wide swath of ethnicities and cultures while it regionally targets ethnic/cultural groups with tailored groups, associations, programs and initiatives (Kaiser Permanente, 2012). Perhaps most importantly from a purely marketing perspective, Kaiser also maintains a news center that regularly issues press releases touting Kaiser's size, efficiency, awards and contributions to the communities in which it operates (Kaiser Permanente, 2012).
Did Kaiser gain additional members through these marketing techniques? That question is difficult to answer because Kaiser was and is a huge provider serving approximately 9 million members. It has certainly remained huge in a very competitive market of providers. In…