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.
May 24, 2010
What can we learn about the challenges of increasing patient volume from the challenges of Primary Care physicians? We learn that you cannot rely on Primary Care Practices alone at the beginning of the referral funnel.
Here is a link to a New York Times article about the impossible burden of more primary care docs. It is definitely worth a scan.
As a hospital marketer, you cannot control what happens to reimbursement to the over-worked under-paid primary care docs. But you can find ways to eliminate the obstacles to filling beds that PCP long wait times and over burdened doc create at the beginning of your referral funnel.
Here is a link to my previous post about some ways to use non-MD’s to reduce bottlenecks. This may be another good resource for you.
May 12, 2010
Patients and prospective patients do not relate to generalized hospital brand messaging – they just don’t think it applies to them. But a message about a specific ailment or symptom will make them listen and take action.
The Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index tells us that a vast majority of Americans say they are in good physical health. But they say different things when asked about specific ailments regarding their health.
The point of this post:
Do not be too general in your brand message or consumers will ignore your messages
What we are really getting to here is that even your “brand messaging” needs to be service line or even procedure specific. Consumers will ignore general hospital advertising, but they will take action and contact you if you mention something specifically that is relevant to their current health.
It is tempting to believe you are helping the whole organization when you do branding ads and it’s a very common mistake. But nobody goes to the hospital because of the brand.
Elective procedures happen because either a physician referred the patient (a different topic) or a consumer took action to opt-in to one of your early detection risk assessments or informational events.
So, once again, the more symptom specific you can be- with a clear call-to-action next step – the more likely your advertising and communications will increase patient volume.
May 6, 2010
Presuming your hospital, practice or healthcare network is using Twitter, it’s time to consider ways to optimize it to the benefit of your patients and organization.
A tactic as simple as a Twitter contest can prove to be lightning in a bottle, as long as you can create the perfect storm.
One case study in particular comes to mind as exemplary. A prerequisite to consider before you model a program after this: make sure you have a healthy twitter following since the larger your following, the greater your chance of success.
FiLife , an online community for personal finance information, sought to join the political conversation on healthcare in September 2009. They challenged Twitter users to tweet in three words about how they would fix healthcare, and to tag their tweet with #fix healthcare. A week-long contest at the height of Washington healthcare discussions garnered over 100,000 participants eligible for a $100 cash prize (five winners were selected at random).
Here’s why it worked:
- Brevity: Twitter is the world of 140 characters or less, and Twitter contests are most successful when kept brief. FiLife kept prize money simple and the timeframe short to sustain interest.
- Easy entry: Twitter contests need to be simple when it comes to entry. For FiLife, entry was as simple as tweeting a 3-word phrase with their advice/opinion, and using a hashtag.
- Timely: the topical nature of the FiLife contest at the peak of political debates gave this contest even greater appeal.
- Qualitative Data: Not only was the contest successful, but for a total of $500, FiLife gathered invaluable data: information on their target audience and what they think, feel and desire.
I challenge you to take your Twitter efforts one step further and develop a contest to engage your target.