10 Ways For HealthCare Organizations to Build Trust and Increase Patient Volume

March 25, 2010

A panel of experts a the SXSW conference discusses the intersection between health and social media. Specifically looking at the topic of building trust for healthcare systems.

Building trust is a critical step in developing a relationship with your patients and therefore increasing your patient volumes.

The Panel featured:

The aim of the final session was to brainstorm ways that healthcare organizations could overcome the barriers and build more trust and credibility.

They settled on 10 Steps to Build Trust (and volume)!

  1. Listen to and implement ideas from the community.
  2. Have shared values on good health.
  3. Answer your patient’s or customer’s concerns directly.
  4. Aggregate or curate useful information.
  5. Serve as a resource or guide for the community.
  6. Set expectations on what you do and why.
  7. Focus on setting a clear mission for employees.
  8. Communicate results and outcomes.
  9. Recognize both sides of the issue or data.
  10. Build trusted long-term relationships.

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Online Reputation Management Protects Patient Volume

March 18, 2010

Right now people are talking about your doctors, your hospital and maybe even you. You have to join the online conversation or reputations will be severely damaged.

A book you must read: The Future of Reputation: Gossip, Rumor, and Privacy on the Internet by Daniel J. Solove. This book explores the legal and practical ramifications of information dissemination on the internet.

Professor Solove is the preeminent scholar on how the information age has impacted the line between written and spoken gossip. His examples in the book are fascinating and sobering for anyone… especially marketers.

A Pediatrician at a mid-western Academic Medical Center accosted me after a meeting. “A mother of a new patient said to me after an appointment, ‘You are exactly like the comments and ratings for you online. Thanks for your help.’ ”

He asked for clarification; she said she recently moved from California and her young son has asthma so she wanted a great doctor. She searched online and found him.

The doc then went online and told me he was stunned at the volume of information patients were sharing about him and other doctors.

“They described my waiting area, staff friendliness, the wait times, the lag time for appointments and dozens of other quote-unquote facts” he said in angry disbelief.

Your next steps:

  • Read the book… or at least scan it
  • Engage a decent spider analytics program to monitor where your doctors and hospitals are being discussed. These programs scan the web for key words, names and phrases that may relate to you
  • Construct a plan to get into the conversation both offensively and defensively
  • Consider hiring a company that has a specialty in online reputation for consulting (novices can possibly do more harm than good) and maybe management if the job is bigger than your staff

This may be the most important new capability your team must develop this year. The reputation of your doctors and health system depends on it.

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Build Patient Volume and Your Reputation By Virtual Innovation

March 17, 2010

You don’t have to be a technology pioneer to reap the advantages of being considered a thought-leader… you just have to test programs and then leverage the PR.

Have you seen the ads for Cisco in which actress Ellen Page televisits her doctor in Denmark from Nova Scotia? Check it out. Evidently, the days of virtual doctor’s office visits are here.

In fact, with just about everyone being able to Skype with their grandchildren, we in healthcare can no longer act like we are oblivious to everyday technological advances. That makes us look like we are too out of touch to understand the latest complications in healthcare.

Also worth checking out is the Virtual Practice Project at Mass General. They have found that patients are taking to televisits like a duck to water. Patients are managing the visits right out of their health portals (read more about portals).

Of course you can’t turn-your-head-and-cough over the computer, but current systems do capture health data like blood sugar, blood pressure, and heart rate.

You need to set up a trial or small pilot program of something televisit oriented and then leverage the publicity. This is low cost and very effective marketing.

Here is the big marketing advantage:

It Builds The Reputation of the Hospital as Competent and Current

The press will eat it up and you will enhance the hospital reputation for very little cost. You gotta love that. Skype me if you want to discuss…

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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.

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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.

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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.

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A Quick Tip to Build Your Reputation & Drive Your Patient Volumes

February 15, 2010

An example of the kind of articles YOUR doctors should be writing about but don’t.

Nearly 2,400 Americans die of CVD (Cardiovascular Disease) each day, an average of one death every 36 seconds.

This stat was included in an article written for a magazine targeted to entrepreneur and business owners who have high stress and based on the article and the stats – some of these people are at risk for heart disease.

The author of the article, “Go Red! The Stress-Healthy Heart Connection,” Carol Scott M.D.,  increases her reputation by being where her potential target is already seeking other information.

A couple of quick tips regarding blogging and articles written by YOUR doctors:

  • Make sure you know the audience – is it patients with some knowledge, other doctors or medical professionals, or a at risk community that may not be aware.
  • Make sure the audience has a call to action or some kind of take away.
  • Get the hospital system name in it.    Dr X currently practices at X hospital system.

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