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Crises range from a natural tragedy to a startling accident to a deep-rooted scandal involving a single employee. Given the political nature of health care and the delicacy involved with patient care, a crisis can arise from any facet of a medical organization.
Susan G. Komen was recently the subject of a national political controversy after its decision to retract funding from one of its most prominent beneficiaries. We sat down with Stephanie Kirby, Executive Director of Susan G. Komen for the Cure’s Southern Nevada affiliate, to learn more about how the national controversy impacted the local affiliate, how the organization responded to the incident, and how the local affiliate is moving forward in 2012.
Tell me about yourself and your role with Susan G. Komen.
I began volunteering for the Southern Nevada Affiliate of Susan G. Komen for the Cure in 2002. My mother had died from breast cancer in June 2000 after a recurrence. She fought incredibly hard, but it had spread to her brain. Radiation to her brain took a toll on her and it was hard for her to regain her skills. I returned to Las Vegas after caring for her for two months and she died three weeks later. I felt lost and sad and it wasn’t until I finally looked up one day and saw the sign for Susan G. Komen that things began to change. I walked into the Komen office and never looked back. In 2009, I became the executive director and I honestly love going to work every day. Words cannot begin to describe the phenomenal volunteers I am surrounded by on a regular basis.
What is the overall mission of the organization in women’s health care?
The Susan G. Komen for the Cure promise is to save lives and end breast cancer forever by empowering people, ensuring quality care for all and energizing science to find the cures. Seventy-five percent of every dollar raised stays in the community to support organizations that are in line with our mission and can provide direct services to those affected by breast cancer. Services include screening, education, support and treatment. We have always focused on women and men who are largely uninsured or underinsured with less access to adequate care. The remaining 25 percent is directed to our national research and grants program which is focused on finding cures. Millions of dollars have been put into research and we are ultimately doing what we do in order to find the cures. There are several types of breast cancer and perhaps even some that have yet to be discovered, which is why we say we need to find the cures, plural.
What are your marketing initiatives and goals this year?
The marketing initiatives and goals for 2012 include coordinating and executing a successful Race for the Cure on May 5. We would also like to expand our reach into the rural areas of Southern Nevada. Our service area includes six counties: Clark, Lincoln, Nye, Esmeralda, White Pine and Mineral. Some of these areas are several hours away from any kind of health care facility. We would like to strengthen our relationships with the medical community in these areas. In a time when resources are stretched thin, collaboration can be a wonderful way to reach a larger audience. We are also focused on creating new partnerships in the community with organizations and individuals who can work side by side with us to make sure the services, we feel are necessary in the community, actually exist.
Recently, Susan G. Komen received some negative attention on a national level with regards to its relationship with Planned Parenthood. How did the national incident impact the affiliate locally?
February brought a tremendous amount of negative attention to Susan G. Komen as an entire organization. There are 120 affiliates who work under the umbrella of the national office and, though we each have our own unique areas of the country, we all follow the same policies and regulations. The decision to discontinue the relationship with Planned Parenthood was made at a national level. It was a tremendous lapse in judgment and the decision was reversed. Apologies have been made, but the wake of confusion, anger and distrust is what remains. Out of the 120 affiliates that exist, 19 funded their local chapters of Planned Parenthood. The combined total of grant funding for a year for Planned Parenthood from those 19 affiliates is about $600,000. To put that in perspective, our affiliate granted out $725,000 in 2011. I am not attempting to minimize the partnership between our two organizations, but I think it is important for people to know the facts. Locally, we have not funded Planned Parenthood in a number of years. We do, however, provide them with educational materials, make referrals and work on committees to assure the population that we both serve has access to breast health care. The decision hit our affiliate, as well as almost every affiliate, extremely hard. I received hundreds of emails from people who felt we had turned our backs on low-income women. When the decision was reversed, I continued to receive emails and phone calls with negative messages from individuals who do not support Planned Parenthood and their initiatives. Those who were originally angry were glad to hear of the reversal but remained angry that it happened at all. We need to work to regain the trust of those who have believed in us for three decades.
What did you do at the local level immediately following the media incident and what are you doing to recover from it?
The first two days after the decision became public consisted of fielding calls and emails non-stop. Everything we were doing came to a screeching halt, with the exception of the calls from women who needed to know where they could go to get help…those calls do not stop. We released a statement to our supporters trying to [explain] a very confusing situation, which was difficult, as we were equally as confused. The following day, the decision was reversed and we released a letter to our supporters. The letter was taken well by some and not so well by others. Without separating our affiliate from our national office, I needed people to understand that our office had not changed one bit with the original decision nor the reversal. What has changed is the level of trust, as I mentioned above, and I am hopeful the community will give us another chance. It will take a willingness to speak openly and answer questions, which I have been doing since this situation started.
What marketing events and next steps are coming up for Susan G. Komen’s Southern Nevada affiliate?
We are very aware of the challenges that lie ahead, but that cannot stop our work to raise dollars to put back into our community to assist with access to care. Our 17th Annual Race for the Cure will take place on Saturday, May 5 in downtown Las Vegas. Our next grant cycle will begin in April with hundreds of thousands of dollars going right back to our community. We are collaborating with the Northern Nevada affiliate to make sure our entire state is represented and that our elected officials understand our mission. Every day, I look at a picture of my mom on the wall in my office. I know she would be proud and I know what I do on a daily basis is what I was meant to do. We all make mistakes, but it is how we grow from those mistakes that will show who we truly are. Susan G. Komen for the Cure is committed to becoming a better and stronger organization and I believe we have the opportunity and strength to do exactly that.
The Susan G. Komen controversy demonstrates why it is imperative to handle these situations with the utmost efficiency and care. Amid a crisis, companies must be transparent, honest and ready to disclose any and all information pertaining to a specific situation.
The worst thing a company can do during a crisis or controversy is nothing at all. Every organization should have a plan in place and be primed for meaningful, responsible action. To begin developing and implementing an effective crisis communication plan, visit http://www.lasvegascrisiscommunications.com/ or call the MassMedia Healthcare Marketing crisis division at 702-433-4331.
Whether you were for it or against it, the “Affordable Care Act” – the expansive new federal law that will dramatically change the face of health care in the United States – is likely to affect every part of your business. But smart marketing can help you and your company stay ahead of the game.
By: Paula Yakubik – @pyakubik
Because the law requires Americans to have health coverage, as many as 32 million more Americans will be added to the country’s insurance rolls when the law is essentially entirely implemented in 2014. Although most major provisions will not take effect for more than two years, health care providers need to begin thinking about how this sweeping new law will affect their bottom line.
The biggest short-term challenge will be increased competition. A number of provisions in the new law are designed to improve access, giving consumers more information about what coverage is available, and at what price. What does this mean for health care providers? The smart ones will step up their marketing to distinguish themselves from their competition and demonstrate the value and service they provide.
I see three critical areas for expanded marketing efforts:
- Retaining existing patients. If private practices want to successfully compete against larger or less expensive groups, they need to market to retain and grow their patient base. Providing quality care will no longer be enough; paying attention to the overall patient experience will be more important than ever before. Get to know your patients – what they value in your practice and what they’d like to see changed – and use this information to a marketing advantage.
- Attracting newly insured patients. With the Affordable Care Act adding millions to the health insurance rolls, marketing yourself to stand out among your competition is imperative, especially for smaller private practices that want to thrive in this new world. As with the first group, your marketing should no longer be just about patient care, but also about the customer experience and service you provide.
- Luring patients from other providers. In addition to the newly insured patient pool, tens of millions of consumers will now have the opportunity to change providers. It will be important for your practice to stand out so that it can attract patients who are shopping. In addition to delivering and marketing an exceptional patient experience, distinguish yourself by being a reliable resource and expert. Use innovative tools and mediums you may not have previously tapped – including social media – to be a trusted source consumers can rely on.
Navigating through this landmark change in U.S. health care will not be easy, but it will be imperative for survival and success. Putting a little more time, effort and money into marketing now will pay big dividends when health care reform is fully underway.
(Originally published in MM&M – June 2011.)
Recently MassMedia unveiled a newly designed website for the Women’s Cancer of Nevada. The cancer center is a recognized leader in the fight against gynecological cancers including ovarian, breast and uterine.
MassMedia designed the website to provide more important information about the center and to serve as a comprehensive resource library for cancer patients and their families as well as visitors interested in learning more about gynecological cancers. The new site is user-friendly and can be navigated through easily. With its soft use of color and images of relatable women, the website is heartening and engaging so that those fighting a gynecological cancer will feel comfortable using it.
Please click here to visit the website for Women’s Cancer Center of Nevada.
By Danielle Longley
These days we use our cell phones less for making calls and more for managing every other aspect of our lives. With the advancement of smartphones we have the ability to access our email, look up information instantly, get directions, connect to social media networks and now, manage our health.
Mobile healthcare is an increasing trend, supported by over 5,000 mobile health applications. While consumers love being able to track calories and monitor fitness in the palm of their hand, mobile marketing has some more serious benefits for healthcare providers.
The database of mobile applications is continually growing. Many of them are created for and beneficial to providers. Mobile applications have the ability to improve physician efficiency, facilitate communications and improve patient relationships. Many physicians and practitioners are using iPhones and iPads during office visits and throughout the day. Are you one of them? If not, here’s why you might want to be.
With the ability to send e-prescriptions, you don’t have to worry about writing legibly and your patient doesn’t have to worry about misplacing it between your office and the pharmacy. Apps created for electronic health records allow you to instantly access information without turning to paper records and will soon allow you to share records with other physicians and referred specialists cutting out time, paperwork and hassle for both you and the patient.
There are apps for 3D renderings of anatomical systems giving you the ability to see all sides and angels. With this you can really show patients where and what is going on. You can access drug dictionaries with up-to-date information on thousands of drugs and have x-rays and scans sent straight to your phone for review.
How about prescribing mobile treatments? Patient’s health, to a certain extent, can be monitored and tracked through their phone. There are apps for monitoring blood pressure (there is an actual blood pressure cuff that plugs into the iPhone), medication reminders, medication trackers and more. The results and data are tracked and graphed and many of these apps allow results to be emailed to physicians. Through these apps you can remotely monitor patients’ health, enhance patient care, improve patient relationships and eliminate unnecessary office visits.
Mobile is the way healthcare marketing is going and it’s where consumers want it to be. Over half of patients surveyed in a study said they would like to be able to use mobile billing and sixty percent would like to receive their lab results on their phone. While you don’t have to create your own application, although that would be cool, just incorporating some mobile applications into your routine and tailoring your marketing strategy to include mobile resources can increase your efficiency and your customer’s satisfaction.
You can’t put a price on improving patient relationships….but there is an app for that.
By Leanne Drown
We all know by now that social media is imperative in marketing your medical practice, but there are still a lot of questions about what it means to launch a social media campaign, how it can make a difference, how to stay within HIPAA regulations and what the impact will be. Instead of trying to answer all these questions in one blog post, we decided to share a few really good and compelling examples. Take a read through, let it marinate a bit and start to think about what these types of campaigns could mean for your practice. Children’s hospitals definitely lead the pack in the social media sphere, but that doesn’t mean you can’t join them!
The UCSF Challenge for the Children
In only 8 weeks, the UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital raised over $1 million for a new center in Mission Bay. Using Facebook, Twitter and Causes.com, the Challenge recruited individual contributors and team leaders who then created groups through their personal networks. Throughout the eight-week contest, more than 50 teams signed up to compete for various prizes, with the top two teams earning the prize of naming a space in the new UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital. Companies such as Zynga (known for Farmville), alongside individual patients of UCSF Benioff Hospital, rallied their social networks to surpass the initial goal.
Humana wanted to promote Freewheelin, their bike sharing program, within communities of green & health friendly individuals to support better health. First they identified local cycling clubs on Meetup.com and arranged events during which they would share information about their program. In order to drive traffic to these events, they created a Facebook page, Blog, Twitter handle, Flickr group and YouTube account. Over the course of the campaign, more than 1,500 photos were uploaded to Flickr. The end result was eight days of rides with over 7,500 total rides and 41,000 miles ridden. While Freewheelin is no longer an active brand, the initiative is still going strong under the name B-Cycle.
Dr. Irena Vaksman, Dentist
Dr. Vaksman, who practices dentistry in San Francisco, has the challenge of practicing in a building that houses hundreds of other dentists. Most having more established practices than hers. In order to grow her practice she decided to go online (with the help of her husband). In addition to creating a Facebook page, a YouTube channel and a Twitter stream, Dr. Vaksman decided to offer a Groupon to the residents of her community. As a result of the Groupon, Dr. Vaksman received 320 new patients. Valksman’s patients now communicate with her on her Facebook page, and her practice continues to grow.
Follow Leanne on Twitter @leannedrown or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Tivona Betz
Every year more and more people trade in their boring cell phones for a flashy smartphone for the convenience of having everything they need at their finger tips. Smartphone users can log onto the Internet, post to their Facebook page, text and chat with their friends and family, and download thousands of applications, all while walking their dog.
However, health care physicians should look at smartphones as more than just a way to check their email and talk with family and friends. They should also be regarded as a valuable tool to assist them with their practice and patients. And it should be noted that many doctors already recognize it as such. According to a 2009 survey by Hall & Partners, 71 percent of physicians consider a smartphone essential to their practice and 72 percent of physicians are using smartphones to communicate, manage personal and business workflows and access medical information.
There are thousands of health and fitness applications for health care professionals to help them access medical calculators and medical records, track vital signs, order medication, e-prescribe, and coordinate care with other team members.
For instance, Merck Serono developed an electronic injection device with two-way Bluetooth communication functions to track all injections made by a patient. If a patient forgets an injection, a nurse will be alerted and will be able to contact the patient to remind them.
One of the most popular medical applications doctors can access is Epocrates’ free drug reference application. In a study on the drug reference application, 60 percent of Epocrates’ users claimed they have avoided three or more medical errors each month since using the application.
Other companies that are creating health care applications for smartphones include The Good Shepherd Health System, Zibbel, Qualcomm, Kaiser, and Mayo.
Smartphones are also making doctors more accessible to their patients in a quicker manner through e-visits. E-visits, or online physician consultations, are being used to treat patients for non-emergency conditions and to answer questions about minor ailments, symptoms or medications.
According to Manhattan Research, about 42 percent of U.S. physicians say they’ve discussed clinical symptoms online with patients and more than 9 million consumers report having had email communication with their physician. This can all be done with the assistance of a smartphone.
E-visits can lower costs and provide convenience for the patient and physician as they enable doctors to respond more quickly to patient concerns and keep in-office time slots available for those who really need to see a physician in person.
In fact, the Mayo Clinic found through a two-year study that e-visits could have replaced actual office visits in 40 percent of 2,531 case studies.
Patients also recognize the benefits of e-visits. According to Healthcare unwired, 85 percent of patients who have contacted their doctor through other methods other than by an office visit were satisfied with the results and according to PricewaterhouseCoopers, 41 percent of patients said they would like more of their care delivered through their mobile device.
As technology changes and evolves, the health care industry must change and evolve with it. The capabilities of a smartphone are endless, and physicians should utilize them to the fullest by embracing them and their applications as tools that can streamline their practice and ultimately benefit their patients.
There are many advantages to direct mail marketing. Its message and audience can be very targeted and its success can be easy to track which Anthem Pediatric Dentistry found out with the research and distribution done for their mailers.
Anthem Pediatric Dentistry is a top dentistry with an office in Henderson and two in Las Vegas. Due to an increased demand at one of its locations in Las Vegas, the pediatric dentistry chose to expand the hours in that office to accommodate more patients. With the new hours, the company wanted to ensure increased foot traffic so they set out to inform potential patients about that specific office by using a direct mail piece.
MassMedia assisted the dentistry to establish the primary target audience for this location. It was determined that the piece should be sent to residences in a 5-mile radius of the new location with a total household income of $50,000+ and at least one child under the age of 15 living in the home. Once this was finalized, MassMedia provided the information to a mail house that was able to identify the addresses of 6,000 residents who met the demographic criteria. MassMedia also conducted a survey and focus group with a small sample of the target audience to find out the type of incentive that would make them try out a new dentist office. It was determined that the mailer would include an offering of a free $20 gift card to Target, Wal-Mart or Cardenas Market. This incentive would be used to drive traffic and track the number of new patient volume as a result of the mailer. Anthem Pediatric Dentistry’s logo includes fun, cartoon-style jungle animals that showcase its child-friendly identity. The design of the direct mailer was very eye-catching as it expanded on the dentistry’s playful and colorful branding by including the same types of animals set against a vibrant rain forest background. The direct mailer’s heading was ‘We’re in your Neighborhood!’ to convey its close proximity to the recipients. The piece included the names and pictures of the head specialists at that location and listed the company’s competitive advantages.
The direct mailers were sent in early January 2011 and proved to be very successful as they have resulted in increased patient volume and revenue. During January and February, the mailers brought in 51 new patients with eight of the patients being scheduled for the operating room. Several of the patients were also found to need additional treatments that were scheduled in March and April 2011. The collective total of actual and projected revenue far surpassed the cost of the mailer. The dentistry was so impressed by the outcome that they opted to send mailers for their other locations as well.
By Ashley Campbell
You’ve finished updating your brand identity and logo and now ask yourself, “How should I introduce the new look to our patients and integrate it into our medical practice?”
There are a few marketing strategy phases that you should consider when integrating your updated brand into your marketing campaign.
Start by adding the new logo to your stationery, statements and invoices. When a patient walks up to the counter, they’ll notice the change on your business cards, or when reviewing their invoices and statements. It’s a subtle change but every touch point creates brand identity for your medical practice.
Your email signature can also be updated to include your new medical marketing logo and will be viewed when sending out external emails to referring physicians, consultants and vendors
Announce the revamp of your brand by creating a direct mail piece or an eblast showcasing the exciting new look and feel. This will not only allow patients to see your brand for the first time, but it is a chance to advertise your practice.
You must integrate your new logo and brand into your advertising as soon as possible. Depending on your healthcare marketing plan, you can integrate your new identity into your existing ad campaign. Updating healthcare advertising will take some time, but remaining consistent is very important when building a reputable brand. Remember to also update your medical practices’ website!
Healthcare marketing collateral materials, such as brochures, flyers, posters and information kits are all items that need to be updated as well. Again, every touch point for your customer should create brand identity and should remain consistent throughout. Having a strong, consistent brand will aide in positioning your medical practice as a reputable and reliable resource.
The most expensive and time consuming marketing piece to be completed is your medical practice signage. This is usually the last piece that needs updating because of the size, location and material needed to build your updated signage. It will be expensive, but it is worth it.
By Pam Meyers
When someone thinks of a brand they tend to think of large consumer corporations such as Pepsi, Coke, Apple, etc. Why do those names come up first? They were successful at branding their product or service by being consistent with their messaging and logo. Branding and healthcare marketing is not just for large companies and hospitals; it is for all businesses that want to be recognized as a leader in their industry. Creating a successful brand can help attract patients to your practice and instill confidence.
According to Wikipedia branding is it the identity of a specific product, service, or business. What exactly does that mean? And what does that mean for your practice? It seems a lot of physicians are skeptical of the word. A better definition is that a brand is delivering on a promise consistently. Branding now extends to people, think of Oprah Winfrey, Jerry Seinfeld, Martha Stewart, Kim Kardashian, these savvy individuals know they have to be different and stand out from the crowd. However, branding is not very common in private healthcare practices. You would be surprised to know a large percentage of healthcare practices do not use branding to establish and reinforce a specific reputation in their market.
So the good news is that most of your professional colleagues are not trying to brand their practices or promote their practices through health care public relations agencies. The even better news is that the practice that successfully brands itself will standout above the competition.
In service industries, including healthcare, effective branding is about the entire experience and relationship that patients have with you and your team. When you communicate what makes your healthcare practice different, you are setting expectations — a direct or implied promise — that patients will get the benefit of your unique value each time they visit or call.
Finally, here are some healthcare brand-building points to consider:
Guard your brand within your office. Once you’ve created your brand, make sure you monitor all printed materials and any other collateral that is created. Without someone maintaining the brand it can quickly get diluted and ineffective. Stay focused on the goals that were identified when the brand was initially created and it should be easy to maintain.
Deliver a consistent patient experience. People prefer consistent quality to surprises, and a brand isn’t really a brand if the practice doesn’t deliver a consistent, high-quality experience. Remember, just a few negative experiences can blow your brand credibility and betray the trust you’ve worked so hard to build.
Deliver consistent branded communications. In addition to delivering consistent in-office experiences, you must effectively communicate your brand message at every marketing opportunity such as your website, brochures, business cards, etc.
When you create a powerful practice brand, you’ll attract the patients, cases, and referrals that you want. Deliver your branding message consistently, and your reward will be consistent profit growth.
By Aimee Romero
People base their ideas about doctors on two things – their personal experiences with their own doctors and what they see fictional doctors do in movies and on TV.
This makes shaping people’s ideas about your practice tricky because you are neither their doctor nor are you the star of Grey’s Anatomy. You can’t control their previous medical experiences or their cinematic experiences.
So what can you control that will shape your target audience’s opinion of you and your practice? How can you make your way in to their lives and minds in a manner that will be both positive and memorable?
One tried and true method of earning positive media coverage is to tap in to the most universal expectation people have of a “doctor” and make it your calling card. That expectation is the fundamental role of a doctor – to heal the sick. Forget the money and the insurance claims; a doctor’s duty is to serve humankind, regardless of profit.
People seek out medical care because they have a medical need and often that need goes unmet because the cost of treatment is too high for the patient to pay. For so many patients, these stories of suffering and years of neglect make compelling human interest stories. We want to see these people receive the help they need and a doctor who steps in is not only generous, but is also making a smart business decision. Branding yourself as a generous doctor will attract patients and referrals and help will grow your practice.
Pro bono medical care is the most memorable and easily understood “doctor story” that the media can tell a mass audience. It reinforces what people want to believe about professional caregivers and doctors in particular. By simply donating your services to a deserving patient once a year, you can build a powerful image as “the doctor who cares and sacrifices for the greater good.” That is the kind of powerful image that sticks in people’s minds forever.
It doesn’t matter what your specialty is, you can make a positive pro bono story out of anything that your practice can donate. Whether it’s life-saving surgery, or something as simple as donating old copiers and laptops to a local school, it shows that your practice cares about the community.
Even plastic surgeons do not have to be stuck with the image of Nip/Tuck or Dr. 90210. Reconstructive work on accident survivors, cosmetic dental work and other types of reparations make very effective PR outreach, especially when the cosmetic work is life-changing for the patient.
Finding the story that will build your image is actually rather simple. Remember why you were attracted to medicine and why you find it fulfilling and use your skills to change someone’s life and make the world smile.