With The Right Strategy, Social Media WILL Increase Your Patient Volume

June 11, 2010

Over the last five years, the way people communicate has dramatically changed. More than ever you have powerful social media tools of influence, if used correctly, you will generate traffic which you can convert into  increased patient volume in specific areas.

Don’t know where to start…Start with defining your focus and strategy. This will ensure you stay focused on driving the right patient with the right payer to the right service line.

Forrester Research created an acronym to help keep you on track. P.O.S.T.

  • 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

This sounds simple, but it is the key to a successful social media strategy. Today’s world is full of bright shiny objects. Your strategy will keep you on course and give you the opportunity to take advantage of new technologies while driving patient volume.

One thing is true, the way we communicate is going to continue to evolve, but it is never going back to the way it was before. Now is the time for you to engage and influence your target audience through social media.

Finance will thank you.



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.


A Case Study in Healthcare Integration: Hospital, Physician and Provider Strategy to Increase Patient Volume

June 1, 2010

With the demands of the healthcare reform bill, many hospitals, physicians and providers want to know what a successful integrated delivery system looks like. In a season of challenging economic times and management changes, to successfully achieve hospital-physician integration can set systems apart, and ultimately help increase patient volume.

Since healthcare integration attempts tend to fail more often than succeed, it’s vital to study someone who has done it right. St. Jude Medical Center is an excellent case study of a successfully integrated health network. This article published by Robert J. Fraschetti, the former CEO of St. Jude, and Michael Sugarman, M.D., president of St. Jude Heritage Medical, provided great insight on their integration strategy.

The premise of their article is this: shared governance and decision-making help healthcare systems thrive.

With increasing patient volume as my focus, I translated the article like this: healthcare systems have to adapt to reform in order to make increasing patient volume a sustainable objective.

Whether you’re a physician practice considering affiliation or a hospital leader or board member, there is something to learn from St. Jude’s success. While other integrated networks have collapsed, their integration has proven to be the exception. I encourage you to read more on their story, but here’s a quick snapshot of their strategic ideology.

Principles for Successful Integration

  • Interdependence is key.
  • Relationships are primary.
  • Trust takes time to develop.
  • Recognize and respect cultural differences.
  • Accountability and transparency are essential to maintain performance.
  • Medical groups must understand that the hospital has other relationships.