Archive for the ‘Healthcare Marketing’ Category
By Matt Seltzer
As far as you know, you’re doing everything right, but somehow you get the feeling your patients aren’t completely satisfied with your medical practice. But how do you know? You could ask your patients if they’re satisfied, but they might be “polite” and not tell you the truth. They also might not even know – how do you really define satisfaction? If only there was a way to get to the bottom of your patients’ satisfaction…
Your patients have the answers, and they’re willing to give them to you – you just need to know how to ask. Doing market research can save time and resources, and when it’s all done, you’ll have a clear idea of how your patients really feel about your practice.
So how do you do it? A strong option is to implement a survey, probably by giving it to your patients at the end of their visit. Anonymous, written surveys let patients feel that their honest answers are safe, and you’ll get real responses rather than courteous quips. But this still doesn’t address patient satisfaction directly – you can’t just ask patients if they’re satisfied because, as we said, they probably don’t even know.
Let’s talk patient satisfaction.
First, you’ll want to break down what satisfaction truly is. Think through the patient experience. Do they want to be comfortable? Do they want a talkative staff? Do they want to be in and out quickly? Take your ideas into consideration and write them down. Piece together what really constitutes satisfaction, and you’ll be on your way to writing your survey.
Now, bring your ideas together. Patients are daunted by long surveys, so combine your ideas into just a few specific elements that you think embody satisfaction; these are going to turn into your survey questions. Do they address comfort? Do they address timelines, or possibly knowledge? Whatever ideas you have, they’re the aspects in which you want your business to excel, which means you’re really thinking about the patient experience.
Next, tell a story.
Your ideas probably address various parts of patients’ visits, so put them in order. The waiting room category should go first, the diagnoses category should go last, and the rest goes in the middle in the order that it happens at your business. The order of operations here is going to help patients think through their experience as they answer your questions, so follow the logical timeline.
Now you’ll create some questions.
There are many types of surveys, but for this article we’re going to go with quantitative. Don’t worry about that word; just know it means quantity. Can you place a quantity on your patients’ responses? A “fill in the blank” answer can be great for learning, but those surveys make it impossible to say that 25 percent of patients think this and 75 percent of patients think that. Instead, put together multiple choice questions that patients can easily complete. You could ask them to circle which options they think are important in a waiting room, and you could easily calculate how many patients want more comfortable chairs and how many patients want more entertaining shows on the TV. Or maybe even a scale – you could ask patients to rate different parts of your business from 1 (terrible) to 5 (great). This option gives you an average score for each question by combining all of their responses, and it gives your business a goal of increasing that score to the highest option.
Finally, it’s time to write your survey.
Make sure everything is clear, and spell out instructions on top (like explaining that 1 is a bad score and 5 is a good score). Piece it together, print it out and ask staff members or a friend to fill it out. See if they get through it without any help and tweak it until it’s easy and quick. Once you’ve reached that point, you’re ready to go!
Implement your survey.
Give it to patients. Remember that the more patients that fill out your survey, the more accurate your average scores will be. One survey should never make or break your business; you always need to look at the bigger picture. Sample size (the amount of patients who complete your survey) is important, and the smaller the ratio between the amount of patients who have completed the survey and the amount of patients you have, the more accurate your results will be.
Now, at last, it’s time you tabulate your data.
Keep track of all of your responses in a big spreadsheet, and add new data as it becomes available. These scores are going to tell you what your patients want, and after all of your work, you’ll have a blueprint for what will make them feel satisfied. All that’s left is to make some business changes based on your findings and keep implementing your survey to see if these changes had an impact. You could do it on an ongoing basis, or even keep track of scores from month to month to compare your numbers over time.
It’s that simple!
Of course “simple” is a relative term, as there are many different research methods and each has its place. To really dig in, you could benefit from contacting a professional marketing firm to help you with your research, or try to find a stock survey online. To get you started, we’ve put together a handy survey with this issue. Just go to our website at www.massmediacc.com/uploads/mmhc_survey_packet.zip and print out as many copies as you need.
You can also download an excel file to input your responses, and be sure to check the “results” tab to see what you can do to improve your business. Good luck with your newfound research skills! It’s time to address patient satisfaction!
BMI. CPR. NICU. PCP. RN.
The health care industry is chock-full of acronyms.
Take any one to 10-letter concoction and it likely carries meaning in the medical world. Amid the countless abbreviations that imply different things to different practitioners, there is one five-letter acronym that is critically important to anyone and everyone coming in contact with the health care industry.
That acronym is HIPAA.
HIPAA (the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) has been around since 1996 and has evolved in scope and complexity over the past 16-plus years. HIPAA started out as an initiative that protected the health insurance coverage of workers as they changed employment, and has morphed into a multifaceted federal guideline designed to safeguard electronic health care records, enhance data security and ensure patient privacy.
HIPAA guidelines emphasize the protection of patients’ personal information and establish limitations to disclosing identifying information. In today’s modern, information-driven world, one wrong data transfer, human error or lost laptop could spell absolute disaster for any health care organization, big or small.
Companies must learn from the mistakes of others, educate their employees, make HIPAA a regular discussion point and start taking privacy policies seriously in order to stay in business.
Paying the Price
In 2009, CVS Caremark paid nearly $2.25 million dollars for a HIPAA violation because some CVS locations were throwing patients’ personal information away in unsecured trash bins. Since, federal authorities have taken a strict stance on enforcing privacy regulations.
Just last year, the UCLA Health System was forced to pay an $865,000 fine due to improperly disclosing the records of Tom Cruise, Britney Spears and Maria Shriver, among others. In this case, employees of the UCLA Health System allegedly snooped into the celebrities’ records and simply viewed information that wasn’t meant for their eyes.
“People are under the general misconception that because someone is an employee of a facility or a provider, that they can look at any type information,” said Patricia Sanchez, an attorney at Fenton Nelson in Los Angeles, specializing in the development of corporate HIPAA compliance plans and policy manuals. “Employees should only be handling the minimum information necessary to complete given tasks, otherwise they are going outside of their permitted disclosure.”
Educating the Workforce
Sanchez has seen her share of HIPAA-related mistakes, having represented a number of California’s most reputable health care organizations. From faxed papers and computer screens being publicly visible to company Facebook posts disclosing patients’ identities, Sanchez has pinpointed that a lack of education and attention are the primary reasons for violations.
“The biggest problem is that companies are not educating the workforce on what true access to health information is,” said Sanchez. “We like to help our clients through the process of being HIPAA compliant. They need help developing policies and procedures, training their staff, conducting walk-through assessments and pinpointing any red flags.”
To prevent a HIPAA violation, Sanchez recommends that companies create their own, custom-tailored HIPAA policy and make sure to keep a detailed paper trail of any HIPAA-related training.
“Companies are going out there and buying products and services from lawyers and consultants that aren’t tailored to their needs and they’re not getting help with implementation,” said Sanchez. “Documentation is so important. In an audit, they ask for all of the acknowledgements, all of the signed personnel sheets… you must have a paper trail of everything you do. Everything needs to be documented.”
Keeping it Fresh
In addition to providing quality care, adhering to HIPAA guidelines has become a top priority for many health care organizations across the United States. One of those organizations is HealthCare Partners Nevada, a leading Las Vegas-based coordinated care network consisting of more than 270 physicians and over 1,000 employees.
“We are constantly educating our employees,” said Denise Warren, Clinical Compliance Specialist for HealthCare Partners Nevada. “Every employee of [HealthCare Partners] is required to take a yearly online course and participate in continual training.”
HealthCare Partners Nevada has six full-time employees devoted to HIPAA, plus a HIPAA privacy officer and a 20-member “privacy committee.” The privacy committee meets quarterly, along with the company’s IT department, to review the company’s compliance with HIPAA regulations and patient privacy guidelines.
“It really is a team effort,” said Warren. “We all work together to assure our patients’ privacy and general wellbeing.”
Taking it Seriously
HIPAA is no laughing matter to the companies who take a proactive approach to their patients’ privacy. With potential fines, government audits and patient lawsuits looming with a simple mistake, it certainly helps to be organized.
“Companies need to start looking at HIPAA very seriously,” said Warren. “The federal government just started doing audits… before they had never done privacy audits and recently hired a firm to come out and make sure everything is okay. They’re not starting with the big companies and hospitals, but with the private practices.”
While HIPAA may seem daunting, scary and downright tedious at times, Sanchez said that it is only enforced to keep patients safe and make health care organizations stronger.
“It really forces people to be organized and to know where everything is,” said Sanchez. “When you really, really become HIPAA compliant, you become paperwork and data compliant and know how information is relayed back and forth.”
Need more patients for your practice? When the Affordable Care Act passed, pundits were quick to declare the winners and the losers. Both columns were equally long. Now that the Supreme Court has upheld the law, and whatever your political affiliation may be and whether or not you agree with the law, there’s one thing that is certain: it presents an incredible opportunity for Nevada’s providers to differentiate themselves from their peers and capture a great number of patients that simply were not there before.
Do the Math
Just look at the number of new patients entering the health care market and do the math. On the campaign trail, President Obama declares that under the Affordable Care Act, 30 million people will be added. However, non-partisan organization FactCheck.org took a look at this figure and found the President was low-balling it. According to FactCheck.org, “even if we subtract the estimated 10 million uninsured who are not U.S. citizens…with the Census Bureau now reporting 46.3 million people without insurance, one might think that the correct figure should be closer to 36.3 million citizens without insurance.”
According to the U.S. Census’ Community Population Survey, approximately 21.3 percent of Nevada residents are uninsured, compared to 16 percent nationally. A report by FamiliesUSA, released in 2009, states that figure is much higher. That report found more than one out of three people (37.2 percent or 841,000 individuals) in Nevada under the age of 65 went without health insurance for all or part of the two-year period between 2007 and 2008.
New rules included in the Affordable Care Act, combined with grants in the stimulus, dramatically reduce administrative burdens placed on physicians. Their roles make it easier for physicians to deal with insurance companies and help physicians implement their own electronic medical record system.
The Affordable Care Act is also intended to reduce the amount of time physicians spend on emergency service, freeing them up to focus on preventative care. Research shows more patients will be willing to seek treatment before they get very sick or develop life-altering illnesses because they have insurance.
So, you’ve got a big new pool of patients and you can make room for them in your practice. What now?
The most important thing to remember is that the Affordable Care Act has raised the national understanding of what quality health care is. Patients old and new are more educated about their health care and they have become smarter health care shoppers. They are now more adept at choosing a doctor and making decisions about their health care. The providers that can stand out from the crowd are going to win big in this new market.
Market to young adults. Studies show that a disproportionate number, nearly half, of the uninsured are under 30. When these individuals enter the health care market, they are going to turn primarily to the Internet to make decisions about which doctor to choose. Your website, social media outlets and entries on review sites are going to take on a new importance with this audience. They tell a comprehensive story about you as a provider that is going to inform their provider selection decision.
Geo-target. You may not want to go after all 841,000 newly insured patients in Nevada. The sheer size of the uninsured population in Nevada makes it very likely that many of them are your neighbors and live around your office. Readily available consumer information makes it easier to specifically identify the newly insured so you can whittle the patients you are targeting down to a manageable pool.
Consider an ACO. Being a part of an Accountable Care Organization (ACO), a federal experiment intended to develop approaches for providing high quality care at low costs, will make you stand out in a crowded field.
For more information on how to take advantage of these developments, call MassMedia Healthcare Marketing at 702-433-4331
Signs your practice needs an agency
You’re used to doing it all – putting in long hours to build a successful practice. A full-service advertising and public relations firm can help take your business to the next level. But are you ready to hand off such a vital part of your business to an outside company? The following six signs are clues you are ready to take the leap.
Your neighbor’s teenage daughter is your webmaster
Maintaining a professional, dynamic website for your practice is a necessity. Just about everyone “knows a guy who is good with computers,” but do you really want to trust your business to the kid next door who is failing sophomore English class? An agency has the staff and expertise to keep your website up to date – even during finals week.
You think Twitter is a dirty word
Facebook, Google +, Pinterest, Tumblr, Twitter, YouTube, Foursquare… one way or another, social media is here to stay. Super Bowl 46 generated 12.2 million social media comments, up almost 600 percent from last year’s game. Staying on top of the latest social media trends and lingo is incredibly time consuming, but a smart businessperson goes where his or her customers are. Working with an agency allows you to focus on your practice while someone else sorts out the “tweets,” “likes” and “check-ins.”
You want to be on TV
You keep seeing doctors interviewed for news stories and think to yourself, “I’m much more accomplished, authoritative and attractive than that person. How come no one is interviewing me?” All kidding aside, when you are featured as an expert source in a news story, you receive an invaluable third-party endorsement from the reporter and the news organization. A good agency has established contacts in the media world – reporters come to them for sources and story ideas.
Your crisis communication plan is incomplete
If your first response is, “What crisis communication plan?” you DEFINITELY need to hire an agency. Just like you carry fire and malpractice insurance even though you hope to never use it, a solid communication plan needs to be in place well before a crisis happens. An agency will help you develop your plan and be by your side when the worst happens. News travels fast, bad news travels even faster. An agency will help you prepare for, and mitigate the damage of, a crisis.
Your business has grown and changed but your logo has not
Your logo and marketing materials have served you well thus far, but it might be time for a change. Fortune 500 companies, well-known brands and professional sports teams all update their brands and you should too. A graphic designer can help take your business to the next level by creating materials that catch the eye of your target market. A strong visual presentation communicates your message to patients. The right design will help you cut through the clutter and get your practice noticed in a crowded marketplace.
You want to advertise
Coca-Cola spends billions of dollars each year on advertising. Why? Because it works! Whether you are looking to place an ad in the local newspaper, start a national advertising campaign, or something in between, a full-service agency will help get the most out of your advertising budget. Agencies are in the trenches daily, negotiating better rates than you can get on your own. In addition, an experienced media buyer will help you select the appropriate outlets to reach your target audience.
“Save yourself a huge headache and your time and go somewhere else!” “I don’t care that this place is just a mile from my house. I’ll travel 15 miles just for better service if I have to.”“Employees sneer and make rude gestures behind each other’s backs, very unprofessional.”
Sounds harsh, but these are real reviews of Southern Nevada doctors floating around the Internet right now.
In a perfect world, doctors wouldn’t be subjected to negative comments by one-time patients, long-time clients, complete strangers or friends of former patients on a digital quest for revenge.
But, this is America.
Freedom of speech is an American societal pillar and patients are taking that freedom beyond “OMG, this doctor is totally bad” verbal conversations within their circle of friends and having “OMG, this doctor is totally bad” conversations on the web, reaching a much larger audience.
The majority of doctor reviews, even when laced with severe criticism and fiery language, are well within the law and within site regulations. Some patients simply have bad experiences that don’t meet their individual expectations and want to assure that new and existing patients know exactly what to expect.
In reaction to negative reviews, some doctors have tried to file lawsuits for defamation, but quickly realize that defamation is incredibly difficult to prove, especially if the doctor is considered to be a “public figure.” Courts generally side with those voicing an opinion, unless the opinion is significantly fabricated or completely false.
Some doctors respond to reviews with just as much anger and expletives as their reviewers. Angry rebuttals by doctors typically lead to a nasty, drawn-out, publicly-visible conversation and stray from the professionalism associated with the medical industry.
So, what do you do to protect your online reputation on doctor review sites?
According to Lindsay Alford, social media specialist for MassMedia, the worst thing you can do is be absent from the online conversation.
“It is essential for practices to participate in social media and monitor online reviews regularly,” said Alford. “Either you manage your online reputation, or your patients and competitors will do it for you. Monitoring reviews helps you identify customer care concerns and maintain a quality health care experience.”
Most doctors’ names appear on Yelp, Vitals.com, RateMDs, AngiesList and/or HealthGrades already. Most doctors also have a handful of reviews attached to his/her name, some positive and some negative.
A doctor’s first inclination when responding to an adverse review may be to draft a wordy, negative rant. In reality, doctors should do the exact opposite.
“The best way to respond to a negative review is to keep your response simple and positive,” said Alford. “Listen first, engage second and talk last. Your patients want to be heard. They also want to know you care.”
In an effort to personalize patient concerns, doctors should also suggest taking negative feedback out of the public spotlight and into personal conversation.
“Remember, other patients, potential patients, and future partners are observing,” said Alford. “Also, once you have resolved a concern, kindly ask your patient to retract or update their review.”
Social reviews carry immense weight on Google and other heavyweight search engines like Bing and Yahoo. The pure amount of written content on social review sites is enough to carry the sites and the reviews right to the top of search results. Thus, it’s important to collaborate with social review sites to keep your contact information and clinic address updated and accurate.
Dr. Stephen J. Portz, director of cardiology for HealthCare Partners of Nevada and a recently awarded “Top Doc” by Vegas Seven magazine, joined HealthCare Partners earlier this year after serving patients at a Las Vegas clinic for eight and a half years. When he joined HealthCare Partners, Dr. Portz moved his practice to a new, state-of-the-art facility at the medical office building at Southern Hills Hospital.
To notify his patients of his clinic change, Dr. Portz sent out 12,000 letters with his new address, but some patients were still finding his old address in online search results. Portz, who sees 25 to 30 patients daily, learned the importance of keeping information updated online.
“At first, I assumed that everything would automatically be changed with my transition,” said Portz. “In reality, I had to work with sites to update my address and contact information and it did take some time. It is important for patients to have the right phone number and address, or else they will not find you.”
In addition to keeping information updated, doctors must develop a social review strategy. Sites like HealthGrades and Yelp are the new frontier for referrals, recommendations and communal reputation. Doctors must explore this important channel to their advantage by monitoring social reviews daily, responding to negative reviews with professionalism and regularly generating positive reviews from their clients.
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.
Employees are the lifeblood of any hospital or medical practice. In addition to performing their assigned responsibilities, they carry your message to patients and they carry out changes within your organization. Because they play such a vital role in the strength of your organization, communication with employees should always be made a priority.
From implementing the provisions in the health care reform legislation to rolling out new marketing campaigns, having engaged and motivated employees is key to the success of any organization’s initiatives and to the organization itself. Engagement and motivation are fueled by effective internal communication and a strong sense of belonging. Below are a few tips on ways to achieve this.
- Send Regular Communication Updates
A newsletter or e-newsletter is a great way to communicate important updates, news, announcements, events, recognitions, etc. to your team. Content should include articles from senior executives on operations, compliance, provider plans, initiatives, patient care, marketing activities, and more.
Through an e-newsletter, your team members can access your practice’s or hospital’s website or social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.
This form of communication ensures that your employees all receive the same information. With more employees informed about the happenings of your practice or hospital, engagement with the brand and attendance at company events will increase.
St. Rose Dominican Hospitals produces an eight-page, full color bi-monthly employee publication titled “In Touch Newsletter.”
“In Touch keeps employees informed about upcoming events, staff highlights and the latest St. Rose news and provides a chance for departments and employees to highlight new technologies and procedures,” said Tammy Kline, internal communication specialist at St. Rose Dominican Hospitals.
2. Integrate External Marketing Campaigns and Internal Communication
When developing a marketing campaign, show potential ads and brochures, to several employees to test the message and ensure that it resonates with them and aligns with the organization’s beliefs and culture.
Before unveiling the new campaign to the world, show the final components to employees first to make sure everyone is on the same page. This will also give your staff time to internalize the message and become brand ambassadors to deliver it to patients.
Physicians, caregivers and staff members are the critical interface with patients and are a reflection of your brand. Their enthusiasm and commitment to the campaign will be essential to selling it to your current and potential patients. They must do more than just know the message- they have to believe in it and act on it every day. Be sure to display the campaign’s message at your practice or hospital so that your staff is constantly reminded of the image your organization wants to project to its target audience and the community.
3. Encourage and Foster Feedback from Your Staff
Two-way communication in which physicians, nurses, caregivers and staff members share their thoughts, ideas, opinions and feedback provides senior executives with invaluable and insightful information.
Dialogue and active listening should take place at meetings for all levels of employees. Creating an environment conducive to openness and honesty will result in employees having a more positive attitude about their workplace.
“St. Rose encourages two-way dialogue with our employees through various ways including monthly administrative rounds and quarterly employee forums,” said Kline. “These meetings are used to provide updates, address concerns and answer questions.”
Your team members can also take surveys and participate in internal focus groups to measure and discuss the effectiveness of processes and procedures as well as operations.
In addition to soliciting feedback, senior executives should also use team meetings to unify all employees behind the mission and vision of the organization and build excitement around its purpose.
In today’s information-driven society, it’s vital that all medical practices have an online presence. Websites have become the first, last and absolute impression for patients online. According to Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project, approximately 61 percent of American adults look online for health information. As more and more consumers are turning to the Internet to make decisions about their health care, being available online is critical to remaining competitive in the market.
Every practice needs a website. A good website will:
- Establish a digital presence. Few people still look to phone books and directories to find business information. If you want to be found by current and prospective patients, it’s imperative to have a presence online. For added value, consider including search engine optimization (SEO) to improve the visibility of your website in search engine results.
- Enhance Your Brand. Your website should be an extension of your practice’s identity. A well done website will reflect your company’s individuality in the design, color and graphics of every web page.
- Humanize your practice. The physician/patient relationship is important to health consumers. Share information about yourself and other physicians on the website. Include physician photos, bios, academic backgrounds, hobbies and spoken languages. Add a photo of the clinic and staff and share positive patient testimonials.
- Be a health care resource. A strong website establishes your practice as a medical authority to patients and the health community. Include a list of disease prevention and management tips for patients, share published articles or write a blog that addresses aspects of your specialty. These efforts support patient confidence and build your professional credibility.
- Allow for convenience. Your website can become a portal for patients that are short on time. If possible, create online forms where patients can request appointments, records, lab tests results, or prescription refills. Even bill pay is now accessible to patients on some websites.
- Communicate with patients. Keep patients updated on anything going on in or around your practice. Share recent media coverage, announcements and upcoming health fairs or seminars for current or potential patients on your website. You’ll be surprised how interested your patients are!
- Stay up-to-date. It’s important to provide current and accessible contact information for patients or referring doctors to reach you. Check and update your website regularly with correct contact information such as phone and fax numbers and email addresses. Incorporate a link on your website to Google Maps and offer directions.
- Be progressive. Consumers associate a technologically savvy practice with a modern approach to medicine. So include social media links to your practice’s Facebook, Twitter or other social media pages. Remember, a social media presence is equally as important as having a website. In fact, it supports SEO and is a way to reach new patients!
No two medical practices will require the same type of marketing efforts to be successful. Some practices need additional online brand management or social media pages to promote their website and support online marketing efforts. This is why it is critical to work with your marketing agency to develop a proper online strategy suited to your practice’s needs.
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.)
You might not like the idea of one more network to hassle with, but if your patients are using it, you had better be monitoring it, and you should be represented on it as well. In fact, it is recommended that brands delve into and participate on this network with full force, as Google+ goes beyond what we’re used to with Facebook and Twitter, including features that present many opportunities for health care providers.
In the past, two online marketing techniques have reigned supreme: search engine optimization (SEO) and social media marketing. Google’s initial claim to fame was as the search engine giant, thus it only makes sense that a social network run by Google would incorporate both aspects of virtual marketing.
Much of Google’s success can be attributed to the carefully guarded algorithm that organizes the Internet’s infinite pages into practical listings based on user searches. Many pieces of a web page are taken into consideration, such as the type of keywords used on the page and links to that page on other websites. Google guards this ranking process so closely that the results stay relevant because webmasters are less able to corrupt the system to get their pages listed higher in searches.
In contrast, social networks such as Facebook host content promoted by individuals. YouTube videos often go viral because Facebook users are sharing them with their friends, who in turn share them with more friends, and so on. Content is found outside Facebook (often through Google) and shared internally on a person’s network. Google+ offers the advantage of combining these two actions into one.
Last year, Google added a new piece to the puzzle of its search categorization: social search. This has tailored the results you see to the networks you are on. A page will rank higher if someone from one of your social networks has already viewed it. You may have noticed the +1 button that has made an appearance on several websites and in Google listings. That +1 is a recommendation to Google that the associated page should be given a good position in search results. This feature is reminiscent of social bookmarking sites, such as Digg and Reddit, which promote pages based on votes from its users.
This means that if someone in your network +1’s a webpage, it is more likely to come up in your search results, opening the door for “viral” content past entertaining videos and Internet fads; if done right, your organization’s website can go viral.
To make that process more effective, Google is designing its own network that intertwines that personalized SEO with social networking. Not only are you able to “vote” for websites, you can share them with other Google users by posting them to your feed the way you would on Facebook. However, when done on Google, the post creates a Spark, which can then be searched within the Google+ network. Basically the two websites used for finding and sharing content (in this example Google and Facebook) become one website: Google+. Therefore individuals (such as your professional staff) have a great opportunity to impact the attention their organizations receive.
While the primary focus of the massive search engine is to provide listings based on appropriate content, paid spots are also a key piece of Google. While you can’t pay to have your page appear as the first site listed in the search results, you can pay to make it show up in the “Sponsored Links” section, which is generally operated through Google AdWords. Google representatives have promised that this tool will be integrated into Google+. Analytics will become more in-depth as user profiles will be attached to search behavior information. This means that you can see who is clicking your advertisements and follow them back to their profiles to see who they are connected to and what other interests they have.
Facebook ads are less specific. An organization can target Facebook users based on simple demographics and identified “likes.” It’s hard to derive pertinent information from those likes because there are many reasons a person might join an organization’s Facebook page, such as to receive insider deals or because the organization is that person’s employer.
Targeting users based on web browsing history is much more effective, because you can track a user’s search behavior to gain a more accurate concept of that person’s interests, and then follow them back to their Google+ profile for more leads on interested users.
Medical professionals specifically can find many features unique to Google+ that can benefit them. For example, if you want to position your doctors as the authority on a certain type of health issue, you might consider setting up a panel of experts to discuss the topic and broadcast it across the Internet using the Hangouts feature, which allows for video conferencing of up to 10 people at once.
Many organizations are already using Picasa to catalogue the pictures and videos of their organization, another feature of Google+. Some speculate that other features, such as blogging platforms and Google Offers (similar to Groupon) will soon be incorporated into the mix as well, making Google+ the “one stop shop” for Internet users everywhere.
Typically, health care organizations are slow to adapt to social media. Most of these organizations will let that opportunity pass and jump on later when success is shown by others. Thus, Google+ provides a fierce competitive advantage for those willing to make the leap.