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.



Increase Patient Volume In Spite of Your Family Docs Being Over-Burdened

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.


10 Social Media Tools to help Increase Your Volume

May 17, 2010

An effective social media program allows you to increase your patient volume by creating a long-term relationship with a specific target audience.

Below are some group tools you may not be aware of (many are free) which help you increase traffic to your site as well as automate your communications so you have a bigger reach using less of your time.

Video Sharing

  • Traffic Geyser: Traffic Geyser makes it unbelieveably easy to unleash the power of online video to drive traffic, leads and sales


  • Social Oomph  is a service that provides free and paid productivity enhancement services for social media users
  • TweetAdder helps you find and engage in like-minded twitter followers & automate twitter posts
  • Twitter Mutuality is a Twitter client (app) that allows you to perform bulk follow and un-follow operations.
  • CoTweet is a platform that helps companies reach and engage customers using Twitter.


  • Contest Machine is an inexpensive solution for contest campaigns
  • Strutta it easy for publishers, marketers and agencies to create online contests and promotions at a fraction of the cost of custom development.
  • Wildfire, another contest tool that can easily build & launch social media marketing campaigns within minutes.

Ranking Tools

  • Twitter Grader provides your Twitter ranking and tips to improve your ranking
  • Social Mention: Real-time social media search and analysis:


Study: Facebook and Twitter Competitive Advantage To Increase Patient Volumes

May 14, 2010

This study is another sign that social media is becoming a competitive advantage to increase your patient volumes for those that are participating, and an increasingly major weakness for those that aren’t.

Chadwick Martin Bailey and iModerate Research Technologies published a study showing that 67% of people are more likely to buy from a brand they follow on Twitter and 51% more likely to buy from a brand they follow on Facebook.

Moreover, they’re 79% more likely to recommend their Twitter follows to a friend and 60% more likely to do the same on Facebook. As you know, in hospital marketing, the will recommend benchmark is critical to increasing your volume and reputation.

The study also found that many consumers across a wide variety of demographics have a negative perception of brands that aren’t using social media.

Use Social Media to Increase Your Patient Volume

Follow these easy steps and you will be on your way to engaging your existing brand enthusiasts on social media and keeping them active.

  1. Define your goal
  2. Identify your specific target
  3. Create a message
  4. Set-up your accounts
  5. Create an automation program to manage your accounts even when you are busy

In 60 days, you can have an active following. Today is the day to get started!


Case Study: 6 Hospitals Using Social Media to Increase Patient Volume

May 13, 2010

Social Media is an essential tool to build long-term relationships with patients to increase patient volumes. Don’t think it is possible? showcases 6 case studies of hospitals using social media.

Concierge Services

1. Scripps uses Twitter to turn angry patients into loyal ones. Its basic approach of “try new things, be nice to people and don’t say anything that our legal department would object to” has yielded “little instances of gratitude that make what we’re doing worthwhile. Raging angry fires put out, people passing around our wellness stories, horrible reviews retracted and replaced with stories of great customer service.”

2. Norman Regional Health System spends 30 minutes a day on Twitter and Facebook. Through these tools, they’ve built a greater partnership with the press. They’ve had happy patients share their stories. And they’ve worked quickly with frustrated patients to get their issues resolved.

Live Event Coverage

3. Children’s Medical Center in Dallas tweeted about a kidney transplant from a father to his son. Twittering took place at both UT Southwestern Medical Center (where the kidney was removed from the father) and Children’s. According to data from Children’s (reported by Greystone), the results of this single event were as follows: “By the end of the day, Children’s Twitter followers had increased 370%, 40 interviews were scheduled over the following 9 days and more than 600 stories were garnered with more than 60 million impressions. In addition, 20 people contacted Children’s transplant program to request information about becoming an organ donor.”

4. At least 7 hospitals have used Twitter during live surgery. Their stories are embedded in these links. Common goals are both buzz building and patient education:

  • St. Luke’s in Cedar Rapids (hysterectomy and uterine prolapse surgery). One hospital spokesman said, “A lot of people would like to go into the operating room and see what happens but don’t want all the visuals and stuff.”
  • UNC Hospitals (heart procedure)
  • Henry Ford (removal of a cancerous kidney mass). From the article: “Dr Craig Rogers, the lead surgeon in the Henry Ford surgery, said the impetus for his Twittering was to let people know that a tumor can be removed without taking the entire kidney.”
  • Sherman Hospital (robot-assisted laparoscopic hysterectomy). During this surgery, 72 followers asked questions on Twitter, mostly related to the da Vinci® Surgical System.
  • OSF St Joseph (brain surgery)
  • Sinai Hospital in Baltimore (sleeve gastrectomy)
  • Methodist University Hospital in Memphis (brain surgery). This one led to 21,000 YouTube views and 3 requests for appointments.

5. South Coast Health System uses Twitter for real-time crisis communication. After a big chemical spill in the neighborhood, 50 people were taken to local hospitals for treatment. Twitter was the perfect tool to stream live and breaking information about status, media reports and number of patients admitted and released.

6. St Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital lets donors and patients tell their story for them. Its Facebook group now has 100,000+ fans.


Increase Patient Volumes By Using Very Specific Symptoms in Messages

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.


Harnessing the Power of a Twitter Contest to 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.