Ritz Carlton Hospital Consierge Program Is Expanding: Can It Increase Patient Volumes?

July 7, 2010

So your patient comes into the ED with abdominal pain. Like an increasing amount of the population, she is single, here on a corporate move and so has little community. Now she has been diagnosed with a simple appendicitis requiring a minimally-invasive appendectomy. No problem, right?

No problem for your hospital because this is routine to you. BUT not routine to the patient.

Who will call her family in a far away town? Who will feed her dog? Or walk her dog? Who will contact her employer? Who will make sure groceries and a cleaning service show up to her home? Who will deliver meals the first few days?

If you are a smart business, YOU will be the “who” that does all those things. And if you can’t figure out how to do that, you can now contract Ritz-Carlton to do it.

Most trips to the ED are elective. Meaning, if you are not going in a ambulance in a very emergent situation, you choose where to go. You will choose among a set of hospitals that are close and perceived competent.

And any “elective” procedures will be selected by consumers based on the perceived value – like maternity, or most general surgeries, or orthopedics, or even open craniotomies are elective for crying out loud.

One way to build your value reputation is to provide extraordinary customer service. It is true in any business – including the hospital business.

So Ritz-Carlton is now marketing medical concierge service to hospitals after test marketing the concept in the Philadelphia area. Some hospitals have executed this on their own without a vendor. I am not saying concierge service is  a make-or-break thing for your marketing, but the time has come that you have to consider it.



Communicating with Social Media is the Norm, Using it Will Increase Patient Volume

June 15, 2010

I say over and over, the way people communicate today has changed. Consumers expect information to be available at the moment they want it.  If you aren’t “in” the conversation – you don’t exist.  Social media allows you to be found online, participate in the conversation and increase patient volume.

A recent study shows 48% of people check Twitter/Facebook during the night or as soon as they wake up.

The study goes on to show that 1/3 of people have replaced traditional news sources (TV, newspapers) with Twitter and Facebook.

Are you on Twitter and Facebook? What are people saying about you? If you aren’t online, you can’t participate and influence the conversation.

Developing a Social Media Plan

If you aren’t online or aren’t active online, getting started is easy. The key is to take the time to develop your framework and strategy. It all starts with asking yourself these questions:

  • People: Your target audience
  • Objective: What you want to accomplish
  • Strategy: Plan how your relationship with customers will change
  • Technology: Decide what social media technologies to use

Once you have the answers, set-up a 60-day plan to get yourself started. Your framework can last you years and allow you to meet the consumer expectation’s of participation in the conversation.


Case Study: 4 Hospitals Using Social Media to Increase Volume

June 10, 2010

Social Media is an essential tool to build long-term relationships with patients to increase patient volumes. Don’t think it is possible?

LaunchYourMovement.com showcases 4 case studies of hospitals using social media.

Proactive Outreach

1. Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center CEO Paul Levy blogs to run a better hospital. Not just for marketing. Truly to get his hospital to run more efficiently and transparently. Rarely will you find a CEO who is such a prolific/transparent writer (and who has such a trusting board). The rest of us benefit from his writing, and more importantly, his efforts in change management.

2. Geisinger uses Twitter/Facebook to recruit gastroenterologists. Why not, if 70% of doctors search for jobs online? Successful recruitment of 1 of the 3 doctors is attributed directly to Geisinger’s Facebook page.

3. Lifespan reaches out to patients and family personally through Twitter. Read the description of how it used Twitter to proactively reach out to patients and family who were visiting its hospital. Patients typically have 2 responses: surprise that the hospital is on Twitter and sincere appreciation for its reaching out personally to them.

4. Ob/gyn practice uses Twitter and Facebook (17-page study in PDF format) to educate patients and facilitate patient-to-patient interaction. With an average of only 8 minutes to spend per patient, these doctors wanted a way to provide deeper and richer information to their patients. They also realized that the interaction among patients is important, too.


Increasing Patient Volume Through Online Empowerment

June 9, 2010

When you work in healthcare, it’s just as important to understand what you cannot offer your patients, as it is to know what you can. To build patient volume, you need to have a greater awareness of your patients’ needs in contrast to what you’re able to fulfill. And in the case of providing emotional support to patients, you can indirectly offer your patients empowerment by directing them to online support groups.

So, how does this build patient volume? By increasing patient satisfaction.

It’s proven that online communities benefit patients (some of which may be too sick to leave home) by providing a high level of privacy, intimacy and empowerment in the comfort of their own homes. For patients suffering from rare diseases, it’s possible to connect with others dealing with the same issues.

Healthcare providers should acquaint their patients with the availability of free online support groups as a way to connect their patients with others in similar situations. While it’s important to communicate that online communities should not be used for medical consultation, it’s a great way to meet the emotional needs of your patients.

I thought this NY Times article did a great job of conveying the benefits of online patient communities.

While this is not an exhaustive list, here are patient networks you should become familiar with:

PatientsLikeMe – Patient network for those with life-changing conditions

HealthCentral – Clinical resources and networks based on condition

Inspire – Support groups and recruitment for clinical trials

CureTogether – Peer connections and progress tracking

Alliance Health – Portal for a variety for social health networks

Disaboom – Social network for those living with disabilities

Ning – A general social networking site, but patients can find and create their own support networks on a topical basis


Will a Voice of the Customer (VoC) Program Increase Patient Volume??

June 7, 2010

A survey by Forrester Research says over 60% of large North American companies now have a voice of the customer (VoC) program. This can also work for hospitals… as long as the information is used to really relate to the patient and we are willing to actually change the way we do business.

A wise businessperson once told me that if your patient believes that you profoundly understand them you will never hurt for patients or referring physicians. That is the type of place everyone wants to take their business.

Voice of the customer (VoC) is a term used to describe the in-depth process of capturing a customer’s expectations, preferences and aversions.

Much has been written about this process, a lot of it is corporate-speak and not particularly helpful, but it starts with the many possible ways to gather the qualitative information –  traditional research techniques like focus groups, or individual interviews, psychographic studies, plain old customer surveys or whatever, etc. You focus on the customers’ experiences with you or competitive alternatives. Insights, not data, are gathered.

Forrester Research says here that there are six critical pieces of this process

  1. listening
  2. interpreting
  3. reacting
  4. monitoring
  5. culture and alignments
  6. governance and organization

These last two are where you really make organization changes.

In hospitals,  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 or marketing. Read more about managing patient experience.

As a hospital marketer one of the most important things you should be managing is the patient experience.

Maybe your marketing team taking the leadership to actually start a formal VoC program is a way to get your whole organization on board with critical patient experience changes.


You CAN Increase Patient Volume with Social Media

June 3, 2010

You can build profitable patient volume with social media strategies. But you aren’t. And if you don’t learn how to do it soon, you won’t be nearly as valuable to the community you serve.

Here is an article worth a quick read from Healthcare Finance News. Social media for hospitals: Without it, ‘you don’t exist’ | Healthcare Finance News According to Shel Holtz, principal of Holtz Communications and the media manager for the Mayo Clinic, hospitals that don’t adopt social media are missing a huge opportunity to build their brand. “Only 10.3 percent of hospitals are currently using social media…” Holtz says, and “healthcare and financial industries are late to the game, but analysts say they will account for the greatest growth in social media by 2014.”

I know you have all kinds of valid excuses for not using social media: how to control it, target specific DRG’s, execute it, and measure the results.

BUT I can tell you that all of those things are much easier to handle than you now imagine. I have seen comprehensive and targeted social media executed for our healthsystem clients within 60 days or less.

There are three things you want to make sure you consider when you start to expand your social media program:

  • Automation – see this previous link about the free or cheap social media automation software available to make distribution of your content easy
  • Comprehensive program: This is much more than website, blogging, Facebook, Twitter. There are hundreds of great sites you can use the automation to distribute your content
  • Clearly Defined Metrics: I always say, “What’s measured grows; what is measured and reported grows exponentially.” You can monetize social media, there are many ways marketers are doing this
  • Assign a Team Leader to execute: we have found that an automated system takes only two hours a week to maintain. But the content needs someone to ride herd over the contributors.

You must have a social media program our you don’t exist. Today is a good day to get started.


Case Studies: No Examples of Posting Wait Times Increasing ER Patient Volume

June 2, 2010

Nashville-area hospitals post wait time for ER service. Reston, VA, hospital uses cellphone texting to announce emergency room waiting time.

Posting ER wait times: Probably a bad idea for a number of reasons.

Reason number one is that we have seen no case studies where posted wait times can be linked to profitable clinical intake. The key word there is “profitable.”

There has been a hospital marketing trend towards posting ER wait times. We all get it… it is a about enhancing customer service perception. But the facts are that patients will choose an ER based on proximity in 90% of all cases of emergency (the exception being going a little further to a trauma center) or if time isn’t a factor, based on perceived expertise.

A sound Emergency/Trauma Center protocol always includes a filter to triage the really emergent cases from the “I have a sore throat” cases. So wait times for an emergency are misleading or meaningless anyway.

Case studies are starting to show that those that advertise wait times have a tendency to get episodic store-front clinic business… I need my prescription filled, I have a sore throat, I have the flu or do I have to go to school today? Is that what you really want making your wait times longer?

Messages that have increased profitable ER business are usually around expertise and symptoms. For example:

  • Recognize the warning signs of stroke or heart attack
  • Get abdominal pain checked ASAP
  • Pediatric specialists on-site
  • Orthopedic and Sports Med specialists on-site

ER messages are one of the rare cases where we might recommend the use of billboards – but only close to the ER and if they also include directional info ( for example “turn here” or “next exit” or “ahead 2 blocks on left”)

Let the “I don’t wanna go to school today” go to the minute clinic at the Wal-Mart. You have important and more profitable work to do in your ER.