Increase Patient Volumes by Promoting Non-MDs

April 21, 2010

According to the American Association of Medical Colleges, America will be short of almost 50,000 Primary Care docs in the next 15 years. Wow. And you think it is hard to get an appointment now.

Shortages and rising costs will force us to do primary care with non-MDs like nurse practitioners and physician assistants.

Almost on a daily basis Evidence-Based Medicine is bringing standardization to protocols making it much easier for nurse practitioners and physician’s assistants to provide care that previously required a physician.

Similarly, technology advances will do the same to standardize some types of care and minimize the need for medical school training.

So what do hospital marketers do?

First of all, remember what your job is: you find ways to drive high-incidence high-contribution clinical intake.

So when a bottleneck in the system keeps you from filling beds, you must find innovative ways to unclog your flow of patients.

  • set up wellness events where at-risk patients can be examined and screened
  • any patient that fails an online screening should have the option to make an appointment with a non-MD practitioner for further examination
  • do public relations about the advances in the practice of healthcare as performed by NP’s and physician assistants
  • choose to feature non-MD’s in a portion of your advertising and brand messaging

Routing the patients into the system with a NP is a fast and efficient way to get patients into a specialist practice. For instance, that person that came to a seminar for orthopedic leg pain, may possibly have a CV problem instead- and an NP can route them correctly.

Oh, what if your Primary Care docs complain? They won’t, they are too busy.

Let me repeat: your job is to drive high-incidence high-contribution clinical intake. The way to handle the volume you will drive, is by promoting alternatives to physician-only primary care.




What Does Hulu, iPad, and Product Placement mean to Patient Volume?

April 20, 2010

Ability to reach consumers and doctors is full of new and expanding possibilities while some of the old media methods are diminishing.

Hulu, the two year old online video hub, is now profitable. Meaning, people are going there to download or stream TV shows and movie content.

The iPad is going to stream shows from ABC, NBC, and CBS. So lots of free commercial free TV will be available there.

Product Placement is a hot media that places brands within the story. Studios are more likely to greenlight a project with sponsors than with an A-list star.

The New York Times is reporting that 90%+ of their revenue comes from the printed editions. Unfortunately for them now 90%+ of their readership comes from online editions.

Why Do You Care About These Random Facts?

The old ways of driving volume with traditional media are becoming less effective and less cost-effective every minute.

And the speed of change in media is only increasing. By 2014, the majority of us will get our entertainment and news content on our mobile device.

Why You Don’t Care

Because our main target is 55+. These are the people who are likely to need our high-contribution high-incidence CV, Ortho, and Cancer procedures. Except for OB maternity business, our targets are the last remaining stronghold of old media. We generally can still reach our older targets with older media.

What Do You Do Next?

  1. Don’t panic and do anything crazy. Our targets are older, so we can move in a focused and deliberate way toward the future. But…
  2. Accept Reality. Accept the fact that change is here
  3. Team Drill: In 10 minutes, list how many ways we could get a message across if we could not use TV, Radio, Newspaper, Print, Email, Outdoor, or Banner Ads on Local Websites. How many new ways of communicating can you come up with in 5 minutes (You’ll be surprised)
  4. Social Media: find out whatever you can about how to execute meaningful dialogs with you targets



The Key To CV Patient Volume Increases- PV Screenings

April 12, 2010

I know how you can add millions of dollars to your bottom line fast– by screening for peripheral vascular disease.

You may be running a very good CV program, but equivalent procedures are off anyway. Why? Statin drugs actually work. Drug eluting stents work. Boomers are a whole lot healthier that we thought they’d be.

So why is PV the growth area?

  1. PV is way under diagnosed
  2. It is a high-incidence disease
  3. It is easy to treat (cath lab, surgery, imaging)
  4. It has rich reimbursement – even from medicare
  5. Interventional Cardiologist made an estimated 9 – 11% less money last year- here is a way to help them re-coop their losses
  6. You already have the staff
  7. No new capital investment is required

Your Next Steps-

Start screening appropriate inpatient and outpatients (especially for any bariatric or diabetic patient); provide ultrasound screenings for the carotid artery, abdominal aortic screening, ankle-brachial index (ABI) and peripheral arterial screenings.

Targeting Peripheral Vascular Disease is great marketing: targeting a high-contribution, high-incidence procedure all by leveraging existing assets. This is the kind of marketing that contributes to the financial sustainability of the health system- and that is why health system marketing exists.



Do CT Heart Scans Build Clincal Volume? Yes!

April 9, 2010

A self-paid $99 CT heart scan should break even on imaging, but can drive millions of dollars of CV business into the system.

As a marketer, I love CT heart scans. They are a fabulous call-to-action for your advertising. I have seen many health systems do a fantastic job promoting these in primary care offices and to consumers.

Why isn’t everyone doing it?

I had a head of cardiology at an academic medical center kill the idea because the American College of Cardiology is ambivalent in their endorsement of CT scans- or non-endorsement of scans is more like it. CT scans have radiation, of course. And they will miss many types of heart disease while possibly showing a clean score on calcium.

But nobody is saying not to get one, they are simply warning that the test is an incomplete heart evaluation on its own.

After the above academic doc killed the idea, a local hospital system picked up the idea and ran with it. The competitor’s increase in equivalent procedures went through the roof- as did their marketshare. I wish my client had put their hesitations aside and at least played defense by promoting the heart scan.

If the calcium score reads anything but zero, insurance pays from then on. It is the green light to great paying patient. And most people in their 50’s or older fail to score a zero.

I am an enthusiastic supporter of using a CT heart scan as your advertising call-to-action. Not only for all the reasons above, but also as a defense to keep a competitor from taking the business from you.


Coordinate All Service Line Marketing To Increase Patient Volume

March 16, 2010

A common and destructive hospital marketing problem – which is very easily solved – is when every service line has autonomous marketing and budgeting.

At best, this means needless expense from uncoordinated media purchases. At worst, it means that the health system has a fragmented brand reputation that inhibits driving patient volumes.

A real life example:

I recently met with a $2 billion+ dozen-hospital system. They were very proud of their creative and beautiful marketing campaigns all running at the same time:

  1. their OB/maternity program had a pink-and-blue-cute-fat-baby campaign
  2. the heart program had a valentine red heart campaign featuring doctors and great outcomes
  3. a sports medicine program used colorful inspirational scenes of athletes in action
  4. their cancer center featured a documentary style doctors-doing-research-to-cure-cancer motif

All these campaigns are good individually, but together their marketing is a hot mess. They don’t realize they are just confusing people.

How could they fix this quickly?

1st: The system brand promise, visual identity and tone should be the same for each campaign.

This increases consumer message retention, and most importantly, every service line communication also builds every other service line. For example, during a CV campaign it is common that patient volume also increases in cancer and ortho simultaneously – and vice versa.

2nd: A marketing calendar and coordinated media plan should be instituted.

This eliminates competing messages in the market place from within your own organization and clarifies the brand messages in physicians’ and consumers’ minds. It also minimizes media expenses.

These changes are relatively easy to make compared to some of your bigger challenges in hospital marketing, but these changes will have an immediate and profitable effect.


Become the “Patient Distribution Czar” to Increase Patient Volumes

March 15, 2010

Sort the patients that come into the health system through advertising and communications to quickly increase your clinical volumes and build great relationships with physicians. We humbly call this being “The Patient Distribution Czar“.

Let me give you a real-life example from a cardiovascular marketing program:

A campaign drove thousands of patients into risk assessments- both at events and online. Of a typical 1000 patients, because they targeted correctly, about 400 failed a CV screening. Of those 400, about 200 opted-in and asked to see a cardiologist.

Wow! Successful campaign, right? Then why were the CV doctors so angry? Because their office staff became overwhelmed with appointment requests- and most of those patients did not need to see a cardiologist.

Oooops. What did we learn?

First we learned that cardiologists are upset when you clog up their appointments with someone who should have seen a Primary Care doc. They are even more upset when the leg pain that caused the failure in a CV screening turns out to be an orthopedic problem.

There is a way to make everyone in the whole system happy and raise the perceived value of the marketing department. You must distribute the patients.

Step One:

When a patient fails an online screening, a nurse should call them back immediately (stats show the lead is cold in 72 hours). The nurse should walk through their screening answers with them- make sure they understood and put in the correct numbers.

If indeed this is still a high-risk patient then…

Step Two:

Set up a face-to-face meeting with a Nurse Practitioner or an RN for a cursory exam. That nurse should determine if a cardiology consult is needed- or if very severe symptoms exist, an immediate ER visit. Also maybe that leg pain is a ortho problem and a consult with an orthopedic surgeon is the right next appointment.

Everybody in the health system is now happy. You are building PC practices, CV practices, and other specialties as needed. Now the money spent to find patients is paying off by plugging patients into the system efficiently for your physicians while truly improving patient health.


The Fastest Way To Increase Patient Volumes- Capitalize On The Co-Risks

March 11, 2010

Marketing to your existing patients is not only the fastest to increase patient volumes, but also the cheapest way. And Bonus: It is the kindest thing you can do to serve your patients.

We all have enough statistics to know that our patients are very likely to have one or more co-morbidity.

Recently we got a peek at a proprietary normative database. “Normative” means it is set up as a benchmark of what is “normal” statistically speaking.

There were some surprising learnings in there. Here are a small amount of practical examples:

  • Did you know that anyone that fails a simple CV risk assessment, whether or not they have an actual CV problem, have a 30% chance of needing an orthopedic procedure? Or a 10% chance of having cancer?
  • If they fail a cancer exam, the numbers are flipped: and 30% chance of a CV problem and 10% chance of a ortho problem
  • If they are a bariatric patient, they will fail a PVD screening 99% of the time and have over 30% chance of needing a joint replacement
  • If your hospital is like everyone else’s, then over 60% of your inpatients have a primary or secondary diagnose of diabetes. The list of likely co-morbidity issues is huge with diabetes- but those patients are rarely cross screened while being treated.

It is worth the hassle to ask your medical staff to allow patient cross-screenings for a co-morbidity. It is the right thing to do for the health of the patient and the right thing to do for the financial health of the hospital.