Eric Murray/Kremmling Hospital: Power of the purse applies to health care too |

Eric Murray/Kremmling Hospital: Power of the purse applies to health care too

How do you get 300 crotchety bank owners and executives to pay attention and take notes? Tell them women rule.

It was a year ago this week when a nationally renowned public speaker and author called me to ask if I would substitute for his keynote speech at the 2007 Missouri Banker’s Association Convention in St. Louis, Mo.

“I’ve had a death in the family and I need you to speak on leadership,” he informed me.

I had only done speaking engagements for smaller groups and organizations at that time and I had no experience in addressing larger organizations, in particular in banking.

“I appreciate the opportunity, but I have no idea what I can teach these people,” I confessed.

“You’ll figure it out by tomorrow,” he assured me. “Just remember to combine education with entertainment,” he said explaining that “edutainment” is the key.

“You are on United flight 2371 leaving DIA tonight at 7:37 p.m.”

And the next thing I knew I was sitting in a jet in business class frantically creating a PowerPoint presentation on my laptop.

I was getting frustrated because I was not coming up with something exciting and interesting. I trashed two complete presentations by 3 a.m. in my room at the Ritz Hotel and was tempted to call in sick for my 1 p.m. keynote speech, which was to wrap up the convention.

Then it hit me. “Eureka! I’ll talk about the subject covered in that book I read on how women control most household expenses and how understanding their buying behavior in any particular industry is key to effective leadership.”

The stats and stories poured out of me and into my PowerPoint program and I got two full hours of sound sleep before I took the podium.

More clever stories and interesting stats about how women are the true family decision-makers continued to pop in my head as I stood back stage while being introduced by the president of the association and while production assistants pinned microphones to my jacket. I took the stage with two TV cameras broadcasting my image on ultra-big screens to either side of me. Then I began simply by shouting, “women rule.”

The first slide was a schematic of a typical mall in America. The red line indicated the path of typical males into a single store to purchase a single item and then leave. The blue line indicated the path of a typical female stopping through several stores and purchasing a lot on her way to her final objective. The blue line was longer ” much longer ” and it indicated stronger buying power. The audience laughed.

The next slide showed how women are the primary decision-makers when it comes to education expenses, food budgets, and increasingly in investment decisions and, yes, health care. Men seemed to maintain a strong hold on entertainment and housing expenses. The audience took notes.

“Adjust your marketing messages, enhance your physical building design aesthetics, improve your wording on statements, inject some compassion into your advertising messages, tell them why you care and build programs around caring. Appeal to female sensibilities of security and nesting and assurance and do it in a positive manner,” I advised among a list of other suggestions.

“Adapt your industry in every way possible to best suit women.” The audience nodded and took more notes.

Women are typically much more astute in health care. They seem to understand, more so than men, that a healthy lifestyle, including diet and exercise and preventative measures, improves quality of life and decrease expenses in the long run.

Women are much better about preventative health care and thus earn more decision-making power over health care expenses for themselves and their families.

Women will routinely get mammograms, well-woman exams, blood tests, bone density tests and more. Men, generally speaking, don’t do much of anything regarding health care until they are really hurting.

Family practice doctors tell me that, without a doubt, men wait for as long as possible to see a doctor.

“Men have to either have something broken, be bleeding profusely or on death’s bed before they come in to see us,” one doctor said.

So this is a call for women to not only maintain your health-wise habits but to also actively encourage the men in your lives to get regular well-man physicals, (yes there’s such a thing), blood tests, colonoscopies in the early 40s and other preventative health measures including smoking cessation, a work-out routine, reduction of alcohol consumption and healthy mental adjustments.

This is also why health care as an industry in general must continue and even enhance the focus on women as the primary market and recognize that women are the ones who will take action for the well-being of themselves and their families. This in turns dictates to a large extent the health care services provided.

It’s simple really: Women create the demand for increased services and their patronage of existing services will provide the means to offer them.

According to Fara Warner, author of Power of the Purse, “Women are the majority market.” Health care is one of those key areas where women rule. Health care is determined by the power of the purse, not the power of the wallet.

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