Use a Full Media Mix to Build Patient Volume

February 26, 2010

There is a something you can do that will revolutionize your ability to drive volume into the hospital: learn how to effectively put together a full media mix.

In 1993 the seminal work Integrated Marketing Communications- Putting It All Together & Making It Work by Shultz, Tannenbaum and Lauterborn, rocked the way marketers were thinking about how to communicate with their targets. Their basic premise was that mass media by itself no longer works. They concluded that a large variety of contacts with the target, activation points, were needed to help build a strong brand reputation and sales growth.

Even though this was a landmark work by any definition, reportedly the authors were somewhat surprised that the book never fully revolutionized corporate marketing the way they had hoped. Why? Because in 1993 there were not enough activation points. Now there are countless and they are proliferating like ants at a picnic.

What are some of the activation points you should consider?

Along with all the traditional media you have used for years you have to build intimacy and dialog with consumers using new media.

There are now over 400 million Facebook users, Twitter is growing by over 7 million users a month, consumers’ trust in the recommendations of friends and neighbors is growing thanks to social media networks and custom niche social networks like Ning.

Almost 70% of consumers go to the internet about an elective procedure before they talk to a medical professional. One of the most important things you can do is to use spider analytics to monitor all blogs and social media for mentions of your doctors- an essential discipline I call Reputation Management.

I believe your job as a hospital marketer just got easier and harder at the same time. Easier because there are so many new ways for you to develop real relationship with consumers choosing a provider. Harder because everything is changing at lightening speed and you have no choice but to keep up.



Managing the Patient Experience Is Critical to Building Clinical Volume

February 24, 2010

Your “Would Recommend” score on the CMS data (Center for Medicare & Medicaid Service) tells the story of whether your clinical volumes will increase – no matter how much money you spend on branding.

Beside traditional marketing, one of the most important things you should be managing is the patient experience.

You must remember that patients are not comparing you to other hospitals. They are comparing you to their other retail experiences.

Best practice organizations are asking marketing to develop the “voice” of the organizational contact. Marketing people are asking to be involved in places they have never previously thought of being influential.

What are some examples where marketing can influence patient experience?

  • The call center: Usually the first place a patient interfaces with the hospital. Are your phone operators customer service trained like they work at a Ritz-Carleton?
  • Wayfinding in the hospital: Especially large academic medical center faculties, but every hospital needs friendly images and signage
  • The greeters and public-facing volunteers: Talk about the need for customer service training, these people can do more to make or break your brand than any advertising.
  • Revenue Cycle Contact: The check-in/registration; what the bills look like; the call center to resolve billing questions- all these are opportunities to build your brand and volumes
  • Concierge Services: How can we help our families and patients? What needs to be arranged while
    someone is in the hospital? I have seen examples of everything from finding hotel rooms for out-of-town family to finding dog walking services for those unexpected in-patients. Whatever, it is all part of managing the hospitality experience.

There are of course many ways to manage the in-patient and out-patient experience; this is just a short list to get you started thinking about it. What we do know is that when your CMS “would recommend” score is low, no amount of marketing and advertising can make up for it.


Can You Really Use Pro Sports Sponsorships to Drive Patient Volume?

February 19, 2010

It sure isn’t easy, but it is possible to experience some level of measurable ROI from pro (and other) sports sponsorships.

Most health systems get sucked into pro sports sponsorships at some level because they feel either obligated to participate in their community by sponsoring local teams or they think the investment is justified to keep in front of referring physicians and consumers that likely have great payers.

(This discussion is different from school sports sponsorships sometimes coupled with a school nurse program that can especially lift sports medicine and other orthopedic business. That is a discussion we cover in a different post.)

The Key is how you activate those sponsorships.

Here are some quick tips:

  • FIRST AND MOST IMPORTANT: Make it look like they are sponsoring you. That arena or stadium is full of corporate ad signage for beer companies, soft drink companies, fast food franchisers and other products. You do not want to look like a greedy over-priced corporate advertiser. You want to look like a healthcare mission that the team is sponsoring.
  • As part of your deal, include live kiosks for online screening set up around the arena. The headers on the kiosks may say something like “7 Minutes to See if You Will Have a Heart Attack Soon” or something else like that to provoke usage.  You will get a shocking number of people do it, and about 40% of those will ask to be contacted by you for more information- and most of those will end up in an appointment.
  • Include player and other team celebrity appearances at events all year-round. If a former player, coach, or even a benchwarmer shows up to screening event, a couple hundred more people will too.
  • Get on-site staff involved to interact with the public– like your health promotions team or even RN’s will work at pre-games as ambassadors for tickets. This drastically increases consumer participation and the perception of your organization.
  • Set clear metrics for success and ROI measurement. You are probably doing this for other spending, but it must be done for sponsorship too. Anything measured and reported grows.


Patient-Centered Strategy Drives Patient Volume

December 9, 2009

Thinking creatively about all the service to offer health care consumers what they really want can drive volume from new sources.

New sources of competition are emerging in health care, including physicians who used to be your best patient referral sources. And now patients are asserting themselves in decision-making, expecting more transparency with outcome and price data.

If Health care organizations implement a real patient-centered strategy, thinking creatively about all the services they can provide to give health care consumers what they really want, volume can be driven in from new sources.

Hospitals and Health Networks’ article “Competing for Patients” outlines the new realities of patient acquisition.

To make sure you are on the forefront og this trend:

  • Rethink your business models
  • Challenge fundamental assumptions about your markets, who their customers are, what products and services they should offer, and how they should bring them to market.

Hospitals and Health Networks suggests the number on thing your consumer wants is to avoid a stay in the hospital. As one hospital executive puts it, “If we’re really providing health care, we’re putting ourselves out of business as we’ve traditionally known it.”

A Winning Value Proposition

Imagine a single health care organization, with:

  • the whole range of clinical expertise you’re ever likely to need over the course of your lifetime;
  • integration of this expertise into new care approaches with evidence of great outcomes;
  • the flexibility to provide the least intrusive and most convenient form of health care possible in any circumstance;
  • clear pricing of a range of service options to make it easy to purchase only what you need;
  • seamless transfer between care options; and
  • a single, comprehensive personal medical record that all of your care providers use to integrate and coordinate your care.

As a marketer, you may not be able to create an integrated care path overnight. You can accentuate the key points and implement operation elements which facilitate the patient experience. A few examples include:

  • Care coordinator
  • Nurse Triage to funnel patients to the correct treatment course
  • Call center “hospitality plan”


Choose Your DRGs Wisely to Increase Patient Volume

October 27, 2009

How to turn $2 million into $40 million. It’s a matter of choosing your DRGs wisely.

A hospital CEO once challenged us: “So what if you get me an extra $100 million in business? It only contributes about $2 million more to the bottom line.” We responded by demonstrating how, by carefully targeting the DRGs in which that $100 million comes into the hospital, $2 million could become more like $40 million.

In the 1980s, Boston Consulting Group made famous a series of matrixes, which included the Growth-Share Matrix. Borrowing liberally from their model, we can see which DRGs to promote and how to promote them using the Capacity-Profitability Matrix.

On the x-axis, graph your capacity to admit more patients. On the y-axis, chart the profitably of a DRG.


Highly profitable DRGs that have ample staff and facilities to accommodate growth are called Superstars. These are aggressively promoted using the full array of marketing tools – such as broadcast, interactive, highly targeted mail/direct response, physician referral programs, screenings and events.

Cash Cows

Highly profitable DRGs that have limited staff and facility are called Cash Cows. These are supported by moderate marketing efforts such as physician referral programs, some targeted screenings/events and highly targeted mail/direct response.

Chronic Patients

Low profitability DRGs that have an abundance of resources are called Chronic Patients. With operational changes, you can transfer some resources from here into the Cash Cows and Superstars. It’s a delicate balance, but with a little strategic effort, you can give a boost to your profitable DRGs without sacrificing patient care.

The low-profitability, low-capacity service lines are called DOA. Don’t waste any of your limited energy and resources here.

Marketing programs can and should always be extremely targeted. There is no case study in the country that can show a significant change in market share because of a health system branding campaign. All communications need to be highly focused and pragmatic in their approach.

Next time a CEO or CFO asks what they get from their marketing investment, tell them it depends where they invest. With a little applied logic, a 2% contribution can change to a 40% contribution—and marketing can change from an overhead expense to a revenue generator that shows measurable ROI.