Preventing Rural Hospitals From Closing: Keep Patients Local

August 22, 2017

rural hospital closing

Troubleshooting for Rural Hospitals with Declining Volumes

We've heard about it recently: Rural hospitals closing due to patients not staying local. Instead, they travel to bigger facilities in nearby cities.

But why? You're just as good if not better as a "big city" hospital, plus you're so close. Why are patients choosing to go to your competitors instead of your rural hospital?

Major reasons patients aren't staying local

Awareness and reputation play significant roles when it comes to patient volumes. Manage these factors, be prepared to see numbers rise, and prevent your rural hospital from closing.

Increase awareness and increase your bottom line by combatting common misconceptions

Misconception #1: A small hospital couldn't possibly offer the same services as a big system, right? And even if they did, would you really trust some small town provider to perform these services?

Awareness can help your audience overcome a lot of these kinds of misconceptions. Never assume your audience knows what services your facility offers. Celebrate your service lines. Feature a different service line in your marketing efforts on a quarterly basis to keep awareness top of mind.

This is where it's important to have solid relationships with referring physicians. Visiting specialists can be the key to more service lines and increased patient volumes. Consider these criteria when deciding which service lines to add:

  • Profitability
  • Downstream revenue
  • Competitive advantage
  • Capacity
  • Community goodwill
  • Builds brand of your organization
  • Supports the strategic plan
  • Patient retention

Misconception #2: We've heard the perception that smaller hospitals have fewer qualified providers than larger facilities.

Recently, we helped a client overcome the iconic problem of provider perception: Potential patients were going to the nearby city to see providers that were, in fact, the exact same people who also worked at their small, hometown hospital. We helped them overcome this with a comprehensive provider awareness campaign. The audience was able to learn about the providers and their backgrounds and rest easier knowing they were "big city" caliber.

How to increase awareness

Increase awareness in traditional and non-traditional ways. This list barely scratches the surface, but it's a start to get you thinking about what tactics might work best for your facility.

  • Be online: 80% of patients start with an online search. Online ads are great as well as SEO/SEM that helps patients find you before they find your competitors.
  • Community outreach: The more visible you are, the better. Sponsor local events and be ever-present at farmers' markets and fun runs.
  • Market specific service lines: Let your audience know that when they have a specific health issue, it can be handled close to home.
  • Market specific providers: Show off your stable of talent with billboards, direct mail, and web ads that help your patients get to know their providers.

Reputation management, a fulltime job

Misconception #3: News doesn't travel in rural settings.

The blessing and curse of being located in a rural setting is that word can travel fast and that perceptions are rarely plastic. If your hospital had some bad press ten years ago, chances are the community still knows about it.

PR is important, even to your rural hospital. Be vigilant that the messages coming out of your hospital come from you. If a PR crisis does occur, be sure to control the narrative.

Ironically, sometimes perception can be that a rural organization is too high-end or expensive. For example, we recently helped a rural client with the unlikely problem of looking too good. They have gorgeous new facility; their materials were beautiful. The local population read this as expensive and exclusive. Even though their prices were competitive, the community's perception was that this place was not for them. We were able to alter public perception with a few tactics:

  • A community magazine which helped the hospital feel more approachable
  • Radio spots introducing new price transparency measures
  • A PR campaign that made the hospital a part of the community

Solutions to rehabilitate reputations

Take a close look at what you're doing to represent your brand. If you've suffered some PR blows or have had trouble overcoming perception from decades ago, try implementing some of these tactics:

  • Rebrand: It's a big step to take, but sometimes the best strategy is to start fresh. New name, new logo, new look. These can help pivot perception.
  • Go on the offensive: The same community outreach that helps increase audience awareness also builds favorable perception of your brand.
  • Have an open house: Invite the community to see the hospital in a different light. Offer speakers, health fairs, and other opportunities for your potential patients to become familiar with your facility and providers. You could also produce a virtual tour and place it on your website.

We can't say this often enough: Rural hospital aren't an endangered species. They are not a thing of the past. Awareness and reputation management are your best tools for building patient volume and for preventing rural hospitals closing.


Interested in learning how others have done it?

Learn how this rural hospital changed community perception and kept patients local--resulting in a 16% increase in primary care volumes in just one year.

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3 Ways to Overcome a Physician Shortage at Your Urology Clinic

August 8, 2017

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It's a familiar situation: You've got a great facility, great support staff, and even perhaps a waitlist of patients. But you are struggling with a physician shortage. The quality of care your urology clinic provides depends on the quality of your physicians, so recruiting quality physicians is an absolute must.

How to Overcome a Physician Shortage & Find Quality Physicians

In the world of urology clinics, physician shortage might seem like a constant problem.  But it doesn't have to be. If your practice is having trouble attracting and recruiting quality talent, consider if you're presenting your best self when hunting for candidates.

1. Sell Yourself Better

Physicians are much more likely to consider working for you if they've heard of you. Your physician shortage may be a simple matter of lack of awareness. How are your marketing efforts going? It may be time for a general brand awareness campaign for your urology clinic, or even a rebranding.

If potential physicians are aware of you, do they know enough? Do they know what a great team you have? What wonderful benefits do you offer? How your urology clinic is unparalleled in staff and patient satisfaction? You might consider:

  • Producing a comprehensive recruitment video
  • Creating a landing page on your website exclusively for recruitment

A great place to start recruiting is at the source: Capture the best and brightest right out of medical school by sending recruitment information to their schools and representing your urology clinic at career fairs.

2. Get Results with Benefits

The best physicians can afford to be choosy. Don't remove yourself from consideration because you're not willing to be competitive. Think of ways to entice a sought-after provider: flexible hours, profit sharing, student loan payback, and other perks that larger systems wouldn't be able to offer their urologists (and that smaller clinics haven't thought of yet!). And be sure to let future applicants know about these great benefits:

  • Have current providers give testimonials on your recruitment landing page
  • Create case studies on the success of offering better benefits in recruitment

3. Overcome geography

Physician recruitment is even more difficult if your urology clinic is in a rural setting. Make your little corner of the world attractive by using recruitment materials to celebrate the unique community your clinic is in. Talk about your top-rated school district and many year-round activities. Also, consider providing relocation packages so a move seems more feasible. In addition to your recruitment materials, consider including this information in a particularly powerful kind of marketing:

  • Referral emails: Yes, you're used to sending emails from your clinic to primary care providers. No, you're not used to asking them to refer physicians to you. But this technique, which is successful in patient acquisition, can also work to overcome a physician shortage. With just a single click, providers can help spread the word for you.

So what's next?

Try some of these techniques to see your physician shortage become a thing of the past. Urology clinics face increasing challenges in our evolving marketplace, but with the right strategies you'll have the best and brightest begging to work at your clinic.

Stay tuned to learn more about overcoming physician shortage.

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4 Reasons For Low Patient Volumes at a Behavioral Health Practice

Posted on July 27, 2017

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The Doors Are Open, But No One Is Coming In

You have the knowledge; you have the ability. You're ready to change the world, one patient at a time. But where are they? You know there are people in need of a behavioral health practice like yours, but why aren't they coming in the door? You may be doing nothing wrong, or you may be doing nothing. Chances are, there are simple, client-attracting techniques you aren't doing. We've complied a list of strategies to consider when patient volumes aren't quite where they should be.

1. Lack of Awareness

It's not enough to exist. Your potential patients have to know about your behavioral health organization. You may think that since you've been at your same location for however many years, everyone knows about your facility and what you do. In that case, you may be laboring under a false supposition. Don't assume potential clients know about your behavioral health facility.  Be active in promoting your facility and the services you offer. Don't stop till your facility is a household name in your community and it's the first thing people think of when they think of behavioral health. Try inbound marketing, building a social media presence, Google AdWords, or good old-fashioned traditional tactics.

2. Poor Reputation

Okay, so maybe people have heard of you, but maybe they haven't heard good things. Reputations can be founded or unfounded. There's nothing worse than being associated with rumors and negative publicity that isn't true. If patients aren't choosing you, check out your online reviews. Simply type in your organization's name into Google and you will find reviews that have been left by patients. Listen to what people are saying and respond to both negative and positive reviews. It might hurt to hear, but it will hurt more if you do nothing. It may be time to consider going on the PR offensive.

3. People Can't Find You

When someone needs a behavioral health or addiction treatment center, the first place they go to is search engines. It is important that they find you online as soon as they hit "return." Be sure that you have a strong online presence, which you can achieve by having a well-designed and search engine optimized website, a strong social media showing, and a strategic content marketing plan.

4. You're Not Accessible

We get that you're busy, but never be too busy to answer a contact request. Be sure to be there when they need you: Have an easy-to-find contact form and afterhours voicemail (that you check), and follow up with messages ASAP.

You could have the best behavioral health facility in the world, but it won't do anyone any good if there is something keeping potential patients from coming to you. Instead of focusing on what you are doing, it may be time to think of what you are not doing and evaluate if a change of techniques might benefit you and your future clients.


Learn Ways To Use Inbound Marketing To Increase Patient Volumes for Your Behavioral Health Practice

Adopting an inbound marketing strategy will make a considerable impact on your brand awareness, patient volumes, and cost-reduction. It will educate prospective patients about your behavorial health organization and services. Download the Ebook below.

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7 Proven Strategies to Increase Profitability of Your Rural Hospital - Part 2

Posted on July 10, 2017

 

rural-health-increase-profitability

By Mike Milligan, The Rural Healthcare Marketer

 

In part 2 of our blog series, Increasing Profitability of your Rural Hospital, I'll address these critical topics:

  • Choosing service lines that are marketable and profitable
  • Implementation of marketing that produces results

In the first part of the blog series, I discussed:

  • Building relationships with referring physicians
  • Forming strategic partnerships

You can read that blog here.

Choosing service lines that are marketable and profitable.

"Dr. Smith wants to be on a billboard."

"We really should be doing more gall bladder procedures. Can you advertise that we can do these just as well as the larger hospitals?"

These are actual requests I've received throughout my career. They are not necessarily unreasonable requests, but ironically in an industry based on science, these questions are based on emotion rather than fact.

How do we decide where to place our emphasis in marketing? Having been a member hospital leadership teams throughout my career, I'm well aware that there are politics. Realistically, when an influential surgeon or board member makes a suggestion, the request does carry some weight often due to the stature of person, even if the idea itself might not be the most thought out.

But as healthcare leaders, our job is to best manage the limited resources of our rural hospital. Decisions should be made based on agreed-upon criteria and alignment with the goals outlined in your strategic plan. And as our clients have often heard me say, "marketing should focus on doing a finite amount of things very well, rather than trying to do a little bit for everyone."

It may or may not make sense to put the surgeon's face on your billboard. But the standard should be defining our goals and developing the best strategy to achieve these goals. Regardless of who or what is on a billboard, the broader question is whether or not this is even the right approach. For instance, general surgery is built through primary care relationships.

It's also developed through direct to consumer promotion, but this is generally focused on promoting procedures where patients may be seeking a remedy to an issue. As an example, campaigns surrounding heartburn or hernias have messages that a prospective patient can identify with. However, your average consumer isn't comparing facilities for the best gall bladder procedure.

While you may appreciate the service provided by the dedicated employees in housekeeping, does this justify spending money on advertising? Absolutely not. But, it might mean that you celebrate their achievements and thank them publicly for their role in caring for your patients.

The point here is that as an organization, you must develop your specific criteria and then weigh, or rank, those criteria depending on your situation. For instance, criteria could include, among many others:

  • Profitability
  • Downstream revenue
  • Competitive advantage
  • Capacity
  • Community goodwill
  • Builds brand of your organization
  • Supports the strategic plan
  • Patient retention

Implementation of marketing that produces results.

Okay, let's say in the end you decided to do that billboard. Then the next question is,

"What is effective?"

How do you know? The short answer is that you only know its effectiveness if you specifically defined your desired outcome in advance.

Most likely, that billboard itself didn't produce the results. But, was it part of a larger effort? Did your surgery volumes go up? Were there more inquiries on your website? Did new potential patients attend a community education event that you promoted?

The takeaway on this point is the forming of measureable, tangible goals. Sometimes these are business goals such as increasing volumes of a specific procedure or service line by a certain percentage. Or it's regarding marketing share, or referrals. Or the goals are communications-focused such as number of website impressions or social media engagement. Every marketing initiative you begin should have a clearly defined goal before you start.

I'll cover these topics in even more detail in this week's webinar, but the key is to use these criteria to make objective decisions about what you will do, and about what you will not do. And, once you know where you're going to place your focus, clearly define your expected outcome.

Thanks for reading, and feel free to reach out to us anytime with your comments or suggestions for other blogs. We love hearing from our readers!

Mike


Attend Our Upcoming Webinar

Register for our upcoming webinar, July 12 at 2:00 CDT "7 Proven Strategies to Increase Profitability of Your Rural Hospital" presented by Mike Milligan, President of Legato Healthcare Marketing. Mike will provide a no-nonsense webinar with practical tips for rural healthcare executives to put into immediate action.

Register Here


 

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7 Proven Strategies to Increase Profitability of Your Rural Hospital

Posted on June 28, 2017

 

rural-health-increase-profitability

By Mike Milligan, The Rural Healthcare Marketer

There's no easy fix, but there is a strategy to achieve profitability for your rural hospital.  In fact, there are 7 effective solutions:

  1. Building relationships with referring physicians
  2. Forming strategic partnerships
  3. Retaining patients and sustaining their satisfaction
  4. Choosing marketable and profitable service lines
  5. Engaging employees
  6. Strategically planning marketing efforts
  7. Implementing marketing that produces results

Based on Legato's experience of working with rural hospitals throughout the nation, I'll cover these topics in more detail in an upcoming NRHA webinar. For now, I'll address the first two points, and future blog posts will discuss the other solutions.

Building relationships with referring physicians.

I find this to be one of the most missed opportunities in rural healthcare.  Every situation is different.  Sometimes you have visiting surgeons in key areas such as orthopedics, urology, or ophthalmology.  And as you know, the success of your hospital is predicated on performing procedures at your organization, not the mothership affiliated with the referring physician. I hear all too often, "well they set up a clinic here, but that's just to see patients.  Then they refer them to (insert larger city 1-2 hours away)."

Like any successful business interaction, there has to be give and take.  Sometimes this is the contract stage, or later.  But, there has to be an understanding that there is a mutual benefit in having a provider set up an office on your campus.  Collecting rent for their office space doesn't pay the bills for you.  What I have found is that referring providers are much more open to conversations about which procedures can be brought to your hospital than what you might give them credit.  At the same time, it's having the realistic discussion about which procedures make most sense to be done locally, and which should go elsewhere.

As an example, maybe the diagnostic work can be done locally, and the total joint replacement gets referred.  Or the endometrial ablation is done locally but the more complex gynecological or urological procedures are done elsewhere.  Or maybe some of the more complex procedures can be done locally.  Of course, part of this conversation is about the equipment, staffing and efficiency of your operations - and frankly, treating your referring physician like a customer.  What does he or she need?  How can these be mutually beneficial?

Remember in the end, you are still promoting your services and not the individual physician's practice, as we want to stay clear of any Stark or anti-kickback concerns, but these key physicians are vital to keeping your organization in the black.

Forming strategic partnerships.

You may want to remain independent, but how can you do that in the ever-changing dynamics of rural health? We see a lot of press about hospitals closing, or the uncertainly of proposed legislation and its impact on rural health.

I would suggest that the definition of "independence" might need to be reconsidered.  In other words, generally, rural hospital leaders look at independence as the ability to control their own destiny and keep decisions local.  This can still be done, even if it means reaching out and getting creative about future relationships.  The first point is exploring possibilities, and realizing in the end you may not decide to pursue any of them.  However, as an example, I've seen rural hospitals form relationships with competitors for certain situations, or to share the services of a surgeon.  I've seen joint ventures formed, or rural hospitals becoming affiliated with a system, rather than being purchased.  The key to me is keeping your autonomy, but also being smart about what makes the most sense from a viability perspective - and separating emotion from fact.

Please understand, I am a strong proponent of rural health and organizations staying independent and local.  But I also know that every situation isn't black or white, and some of the more successful rural hospitals I've seen are represented by leaders who look at situations from all angles.  It gets complicated at times, because sometimes it's also about educating a board of directors, whose members may have varying levels of business or healthcare experience.

Check out part 2 of this blog series here.

Thanks for reading, and feel free to reach out to me anytime with your comments or suggestions for other blogs.

Happy 4th of July to you and your families,

Mike


Attend Our Upcoming Webinar

Register for our upcoming webinar, July 12 at 2:00 CDT "7 Proven Strategies to Increase Profitability of Your Rural Hospital" presented by Mike Milligan, President of Legato Healthcare Marketing. Mike will provide a no-nonsense webinar with practical tips for rural healthcare executives to put into immediate action.

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6 Easy Ways to Increase Patient Volume

Posted on June 23, 2017

 

how to increase patient volumes
The Cure for Declining Patient Volume

Rural hospitals aren't going extinct - and neither are their patients. As an administrator of a rural hospital, rest assured that even as larger systems encroach on your territory and things look bleak, there are steps you can take to boost patient volumes and infuse your facility with more patients and opportunities.


1. Celebrate Who You Are

What are your facility's mission, vision, and values? Do they involve being the largest hospital system in the United States?  With affiliates in every major city? Of course not. Chances are, your mission is to provide high quality medical care to the people of your own community. Embrace your vision and honor your values. Promote these priorities in all your marketing materials. Make sure this is front and center on your website. Educate employees on this goal. When the community is more aware of your gem of a facility (devoted to them, not profits, by the way), patients will be more likely to select you for their healthcare.

2. Start with Primary Care

An effective primary care program will have new patients flocking not only to your clinic, but to your other service lines as the occasion arises. A strong primary care program will be self-sustaining and then some. Investing in primary care will pay off in patient volumes.

3. Add Service Lines

What community need is not being met? It won't take too much digging to find out what valuable services you could offer at your facility. Perhaps your community has climbing cases of Type 2 diabetes; consider offering diabetes management. Perhaps your community is aging; offer geriatric care and home medicine equipment. Or maybe there isn't a wound care program in your area. Providing a service that meets a deep need in your community not only increase patient volumes, it's just the right thing to do!

4. Make Your Staff Brand Ambassadors

Happy employees will spread the word. If your employees are proud of what they do, if they feel valued, and if they believe in their hospital, they will share it with the world. Leverage their enthusiasm by creating a brand ambassador program for them to participate in if they choose to.

5. Be Where the Patients Are

Where are your potential patients? That's right: online. You may think that a rural hospital doesn't need a strong online presence. You would be wrong. When a potential patient searches for a service, make sure your facility pops up right away. Savvy digital marketing tactics will make sure potential patients are aware of the wonderful care you provide close to home.

6. Get Involved with Your Community

Your hospital is not the faceless corporate entity that your big city competitor may be. Maybe you don't have their money, but they don't have your heart. Be involved in your community. Sponsor athletic teams and fun runs, and get into the schools by offering healthy eating programs and other educational events. After all, they aren't just your community: these people are your friends, neighbors, and even family.

When patient volumes start to decline, you must work fast to stop the bleeding. Luckily, there are a variety of things you can do to boost patient volumes and help your facility thrive no matter what competition or challenges you are facing.


Want to Learn More?

Register for our upcoming webinar, July 12 at 2:00 CDT "7 Proven Strategies to Increase Profitability of Your Rural Hospital" presented by Mike Milligan, President of Legato Healthcare Marketing. Mike will provide a no-nonsense webinar with practical tips for rural healthcare executives to put into immediate action.

Register Here


 

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5 Ways Healthcare Organizations Can Improve Employee Engagement

Posted on June 1, 2017


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How Healthcare Organizations Create Cultures That Drive Employee Engagement

You've heard the phrase "happy wife, happy life." The same can be applied to any employee. It's no surprise that healthcare organizations with high employee satisfaction rates also have high patient satisfaction rates. Joint Commission scores often go hand in hand, and in this case, correlation is at least partly causation.


Workplace Satisfaction Affects Patient Satisfaction

Patient satisfaction is the goal of any healthcare provider, and a key component of patient satisfaction is how staff treats them. When employees are content and workplace satisfaction is high, it manifests itself in high-quality patient care. But it's important to focus on your employees for more reasons than this. Your employees are your "brand ambassadors." They represent your organization in and out of the workplace. In marketing terms, they are walking and talking spokespersons for your brand. It's important to make sure they have good things to say.

How to Get Healthcare Employees Engaged

Here are some ways to make sure your staff feels engaged and appreciated and will help embody and demonstrate the values of your brand.

  • Create a Vision: Work with employee representatives to define a desired work culture. Post a one sentence mission statement in staff areas and break rooms. This helps establish a standard for both employees and managers to be mindful of - both sides should be working to achieve this mission.
  • Ask and Listen: Engagement improvement starts with surveying employees. Get a feel for where you currently are with an online culture IQ test or create your own survey. Take the feedback seriously. Something you think is minor could be a major point for employees, and a simple fix of a long-term annoyance will go a long way.
  • Start a Brand Ambassador Program: If you want to take your survey a step further, consider starting a brand ambassador program. This is an important element of making sure your employees are being heard and equally important when it comes to building your brand.
  • Communicate and Recognize: Even more than money, a majority of employees cite appreciation as their biggest motivator. Have an employee recognition board or highlight key players in a community publication. Whatever you do to recognize the good work your employees are doing, be sure to communicate this. Write a letter to the particular employee and make sure the staff is aware (through email or company meeting) of teh employee being celebrated.
  • Let Them Help: Those in healthcare are often particularly motivated when it comes to lending a helping hand. Give your employees opportunities to help with fundraising or other organization extracurricular activities. These should never be mandatory, but even so, you will be surprised how many employees step up to help. This is not only good for your causes, but it creates a sense of ownership over the organization that motivates people to help even more.

When employees are engaged, they are more likely to stay and become long-term, devoted healthcare employees. They are more likely to demonstrate higher quality of care. The benefits are numerous,  as this study shows. So remember: Employees feeling good about themselves and their jobs is reward enough, but when this translates so clearly to better patient care, these tips aren't just beneficial, they are essential to the health of your whole organization.

 

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Increase Your Specialty Clinic Revenue with Community Involvement

Posted on May 16, 2017

 

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Increasing Revenue For Your Specialty Clinic

Good name, in man or woman--to borrow from Shakespeare-- is the immediate jewel of their souls. The same might be said of a specialty clinic's reputation. It's certainly important for your private practice to be known, but even more than that, it's important that it have a solid reputation. One of the best ways to do this is to grow engagement with your community. Spend as much money as you please on advertising, but the real return on investment comes when that investment is in the community. If you're not building your reputation in the community, your potential patients will go to the competitor who is.

 


 

Ways Your Specialty Clinic Can Get Involved With The Community

This is true whether you run an orthopedics practice, a behavioral health clinic, or anything in between. If you're already involved in your community, great! If you're not, or are looking for new ways to engage, try these suggestions:

  • Support Community Events. Yeah, sponsoring the kids' fun run doesn't get you quite as much exposure as, say, a Super Bowl commercial, but it means a lot more to your potential patients. Having your brand pop up in programs for the symphony and summer league baseball team keeps your practice front of mind for when potential patients need you.
  • Be Local. Hand out branded reusable grocery bags at the farmers' market. Show the community how committed your specialty clinic is to good health.
  • Host events. Educate the local population on your areas of expertise. Host seminars and informational meetings (with delicious refreshments) so they can acquaint themselves with what you do and who you are.
  • Get into schools. The children are the future -- and your future patients. Sponsor health fairs, offer free training for student athletes, and invest in the youth.
  • Pictures or it didn't happen! Do all these great things, but absolutely do not forget to give yourself some credit for it. Announce your community investments on your social media platforms and if you're having an event, be sure to alert the local media with a press release or tweet.

When you do these things for your community, you are telling your audience that you are truly invested in them. This, of course, is not only the right thing to do, it's the financially savvy thing to do. When potential patients are already familiar with your practice and have positive feelings about it, they are much more likely to choose you than your competition. In fact, chances are they won't even consider the competition. They'll just come to you. So, while these small investments may not seem like a big deal, they will pay off big time in the end.

 


About Legato Healthcare Marketing:

We are a healthcare marketing agency headquartered in De Pere, Wisconsin. We provide specialized marketing solutions to healthcare environments including rural health, specialty clinics, behavioral health & addiction treatment centers, medical equipment companies, and healthcare solutions companies.

 

 

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Build Your Behavioral Health Practice, One Unique Patient at a Time

Posted on April 25, 2017

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Finding a healthy balance between the art and science of marketing

By: Mike Milligan, President

As a behavioral health clinician or leader, you've learned that no patient's situation is the same. Every patient or client has a unique situation. Some of the circumstances may be similar (depression, addiction, or other behavioral health issues), but as Julian Seifter, MD, author of After the Diagnosis says, "You are not your illness. You have an individual story to tell. You have a name, a history, a personality. Staying yourself is part of the battle."


Behavioral Health Marketing Requires Creativity & Knowledge, Balanced with Strategies

So profoundly true.  And ironically, you should keep these same tenets in mind when marketing your behavioral health practice.  Just as in treatment, effective behavioral health marketing requires creativity and knowledge, balanced with strategies that produce outcomes. Or as Dr. Siefter says, "Sometimes doctor and patient have to throw out the rule book and construct highly, personal, creative solutions."

Your Behavioral Health Practice Has an Unique Story

Keep these tenets in mind when marketing your behavioral health practice. Just as true for effective treatment, effective behavioral health marketing requires creativity and knowledge, balanced with strategies that produce outcomes. Or, as Dr. Siefter says, "Sometimes doctor and patient have to throw out the rule book and construct highly personal, creative solutions."

Now don't get me wrong: I still like to follow the rules. And in the world of marketing, this means creating a strategic marketing plan that forms your goals and your roadmap to achieving your desired business outcomes. But, this also is where science meets art. Just as every patient has a unique story to tell, so does your behavioral health practice.

Recently, during an initial branding discussion with one of our clients (Edgewater Behavioral Health Systems in Gary, Indiana), I asked its president and CEO, Dr. Danita Johnson Hughes, to share what she considered her current brand, and what her aspirations were for it.

Dr. Hughes, also an author and nationally renowned mental health advocate, reminded me that many people still perceive behavioral organizations to be sterile, institutional facilities. And sadly, the stigma related to reaching out for help continues to discourage many people from seeking care. So what's a behavioral healthcare clinic or organization to do? Start with smart marketing.

How to Market Your Behavioral Health Clinic or Organization

For starters, personalize your brand. Sound a bit nebulous? Let me pin down this concept with a few critical marketing must-dos.

  • Be "real" with your messaging. Yes, your staff is your biggest asset. Yes, your facilities are important. Yes, you need to let people know about them. But if you really want to connect with patients and prospective patients, you need to speak to them in the right way. That starts with:
    • Simplicity. Keep your message concise and simple. Don't overwhelm people with too many facts or terms they may not understand. They are already on "overload." Stay focused for them.

EXAMPLE:
Bad Headline: Our Providers are Specially Trained, with the Technical and Scientific Knowledge to Give You Comprehensive Treatment
Good Headline: Specialists who Make You the Priority

  • Empowerment. Help people feel that it is a sign of strength, not weakness, to seek help.

EXAMPLE:
Bad Headline: When You've Hit Rock Bottom . . . We're Here
Good Headline: Take the First Step in Taking Back Your Life

  • Empathy. Speak to people in a way that lets them know you understand the challenges in their life. Let them know you truly care - and how you can help.

EXAMPLE:
Bad Headline:
Is Your Alcohol Handling You?
Good Headline: We've Been There, and Now We're Here to Help

  • Include stories your audience can relate to. Testimonials are one of the best ways you can "sell" your services. These emotional stories of hope and recovery from the patient themselves or from the patient's family helps put the audience "in their shoes." The best ones are sad but ultimately triumphant. There are many "dos" and "don't's" when it comes to testimonials. Here are just a few:
    • DO use the actual patient or family whenever possible. When it comes from the heart, it's authentic and relatable. If you must use actors to portray a testimonial, be sure to note it.
    • DO NOT forget to coach your people! Make them feel at ease so they are camera (or radio) ready. The effectiveness of a testimonial can be lost in a stiff delivery.
    • DO include relevant details, but DO NOT alienate your audience by using so many specifics that they can no longer relate to their story.
    • DO focus on feelings and emotions.
    • DO NOT forget to end on a positive note with a strong call to action.

What's Your Story?

Your organization has a story to tell, and that story defines your brand. Sometimes that story is told through your employees, referral sources, or through clients or family members. And "how" you tell that story is critical too. There are traditional ways, such as advertising and direct mail, but there are also newer, more personal approaches, such as video and digital communications. Just as no patient is the same, no marketing strategy is either. Attracting clients to your brand is about making a connection. A connection that is real and personal and that tells your unique story.

Want To Learn More?

Register for our upcoming webinar, May 16 at 12:00 CDT "Attracting New Behavioral Health Clients - One Unique Patient at a Time". Presented by MIke Milligan, president of Legato Healthcare Marketing and Cory Valentine, Vice President of Sales of Sigmund Software


Register Now

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Webinar: Nurture, Empower, and Engage Your Community to Grow Patient Volumes

Posted on April 18, 2017

NRHAWebinar2017

How Rural Hospitals Can Increase Service Lines, Patient Volume, & Revenue

Register for Upcoming NRHA Webinar

By: Mike Milligan, President

As I visit with rural hospitals across the country, I hear many of the same challenges.  It's no secret that rural hospitals are struggling to compete against larger systems. But amid the gloom that sometimes overshadows our industry, there are many stories of triumph.  Of success.  Of overcoming the odds and showing us all that it can be done.

The fact is, you can not only survive, but you can actually thrive, in this competitive environment.  But it takes a healthy balance of making courageous operational decisions, balanced with implementing sound marketing strategies.

One of our clients, Howard Memorial Hospital in Nashville, Arkansas, through the leadership and vision of its CEO Debra Wright, demonstrated first hand that bigger isn't always better.  She and her leadership team focused on profitable service lines and make some tough choices.  And she engaged her community in innovative ways that will impact her hospital for generations to come.

I'll provide more details on the "how" in our upcoming NRHA webinar on April 26, and through our joint presentation on May 10, at this year's NRHA Rural Healthcare Innovation Summit in San Diego.   Howard Memorial dramatically increased primary care volumes and grew outpatient procedures by 48% in a 3-year time period.  You read that right, 48%.

It's been a journey, and it certainly isn't over.  A large part of our strategy centered around engaging with the community.  For starters, this requires:

  • Understanding your community and its needs
  • Attracting the right type of providers for your community
  • Collaboration between your hospital/providers and patients to design, manage and achieve positive health outcomes
  • Taking steps to improve employee satisfaction

It all comes down to this: When you invest in your rural hospital, you invest in your community. The right messaging, service line prioritization and strategic operational decisions can help you build volumes.

 


Want To Learn More?

Register for our upcoming webinar, April 26: "Nurture, Empower, and Engage Your Community to Grow Patient Volume."

Find out how to nurture, empower and engage both your community and organization while meeting your organization's objective of increasing patient volume and revenue. Hear how Howard Memorial Hospital used new tactics to execute campaigns and how service line developments led to higher revenue.


Register Now

 

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