Urology Clinic Boosts Patient Volumes Through Digital Marketing

 

Urology Associates Digital Marketing

 

Urology Associates is a high-profile, cutting-edge clinic with skilled physicians and plenty of talent. Yet when they came to us, their volumes were flat and potential patients appeared to be choosing their competitors. This was a specialty clinic in search of solutions, and we were happy to help.

In tandem with creating a solid strategy for traditional marketing efforts, we devoted significant efforts into a digital strategy for Urology Associates.


Making a splash in a digital world

Digital marketing is, simply, marketing that takes place online. Digital marketing used to be considered "new" or "non-traditional" marketing. Now, however, it's one of the most important components of successfully marketing any specialty clinic. Digital marketing comes in many forms, often working in tandem with one another:

Content Marketing

  • Increases visibility of your specialty clinic
  • Develops lasting relationships with your audience
  • Improves brand awareness and recognition
  • Helps you to build authority and credibility
  • Positions you as an industry thought leader
  • Generates traffic to your site
  • Helps your audience move through the buyer's journey more quickly

Social Media

  • Makes your business feel "genuine"
  • Gives your practice an opportunity to connect with the audience on a one-on-one basis and get a feel for their needs and wants
  • Creates brand transparency
  • Opens conversations
  • Increases visibility
  • Acts as a customer service tool - your customers can give you feedback or suggestions as well as raise awareness of an issue; you can see the problem and directly address it for all to see
  • Improves brand exposure

E-mail Marketing

  • Builds credibility
  • Strengthens relationships
  • Helps move target audience through the buyer's journey

Pay-per-click (PPC)

  • Exposes brand to first page
  • Generates measurable results
  • Targets traffic
  • Drives traffic to your website

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

  • Increases traffic
  • Provides trackable and quantifiable results
  • Offers cost-effective visibility
  • Increases site usability
  • Heightens brand awareness

Results

Digital marketing efforts for Urology Associates included print handouts encouraging patients to rate their experiences online, an organized e-mail strategy for reaching out to patients and referring physicians, Google Adwords campaigns, developing and setting up a social media presence, and the creation of a new website.

The results are encouraging, and there's so much more we can do!  For starters, website traffic has increased 66 percent in just six months, and overall engagement with visitors has significantly increased.

If you'd like to learn more about Urology Associates' success, we invite you to download their Case Study here.

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Beyond Default Healthcare Marketing Strategy: "Close To Home"

Posted on November 15, 2017

 

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When creating a healthcare marketing strategy, we often are confronted with the question: "Why should anyone care?"  As a healthcare marketing agency, our challenge is to produce a response that answers the question in a compelling way.

 


 

The point is not to be crass, but rather, focused and effective.  All too often in our work with rural healthcare leaders, we'll hear the need to let their community know the benefits of receiving care "close to home."  I'm not arguing that proximity is a valid point, but it begs our perpetual question: "Why should they care?"

Take the "Close To Home" Message Further

In other words, why should the "close to home" message be meaningful?  Yes, sure we all like to know that healthcare is minutes away and we don't need to drive an hour or more for care.  But, we would argue, we must take this message much further.

"Close To Home" as a Supporting Message

"Close to home" can and should be a supporting message in your healthcare marketing strategy, but not the primary message.  Otherwise, we're simply perpetuating the myth that rural health is, well, the best option if time doesn't allow you to go elsewhere. We'd never advocate promoting something that you're not, and certainly, rural facilities don't always have all the capabilities as their big-city competitors.  But, oftentimes people are unaware of the breadth - and quality - of services that rural hospitals have to offer.

Would you rather that a patient selects your general surgery program because of its reputation for quality and service, or because it was the shortest drive?  And conversely, if you're deciding on general surgery for you or a loved one, if you don't have the confidence in the local hospital, are you still going to go there anyway because it's closer?  Of course not.  Again, "close to home" is a strong supporting member of the cast, but it can't assume the lead role.

Make Your Audience Care That Your Hospital is Close

Maybe there are reasons for your audience to trust the general surgeon because of how you've promoted outcomes, or how you've involved the surgeon in the community.  Or maybe you've fully marketed the surgeon to your primary care base and helped build that rapport and confidence. Or you've promoted specific reasons to select a surgeon: coping with that hernia issue, or that incessant heartburn, or whatever reason causes a response or action.

And beyond general surgery, maybe your facility has visiting specialists such as a urologist, gynecologist or orthopedic surgeon who does some outpatient procedures at your facility.  But, the key here from a financial perspective is to give patients reasons to have their procedures performed locally, and not at the nearby city where the specialty physician may have a relationship.

For example, when promoting your urology services, demonstrate the ability of your organization to help a woman with incontinence.  What does she want when considering your organization?  For starters, she needs to know you've done the procedure before, you've had positive results, your physicians and staff are comforting, and you have all the needed equipment and technology.

Consumer research conducted on behalf of our clients repeatedly tells us that patients want to stay local, but you need to tell them why.  Not just because it's convenient, but because of the quality care, the personal touch, the real-life patient stories - and yes, because it's also close to home.

Interested in learning or discussing this further with us? Contact us here

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Part 2: Debunking Rural Healthcare Myths

Posted on September 19, 2017

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By: Mike Milligan, President

In this blog series, we'll discuss the common myths surrounding rural healthcare - and give you some myth-busting tools. Here is Part 2 of our blog series. You can find Part 1 here.


Myth: Everyone Should Get An Equal-Sized Piece of the Marketing Pie

I've found this "squeaky wheel" myth can be particularly tricky to confront.

Even in rural hospitals, the competition for shelf space can get heated. The hard, cold truth is that service lines bring in different revenues. And while every department wants to be marketed, the focus should be driven by a set list of criteria and not emotion.

Myth Busting Tool: Focus on a Few Things and Do Them Right

How do we decide where to place our emphasis in marketing? It begins with service line prioritization.

Considerations include:

  • Downstream revenue
  • Community goodwill
  • Capacity
  • Competitive advantage
  • Unmet needs
  • Capitalizing on competitor weakness

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."

Myth: We Can't Measure ROI From Marketing

You've probably heard of ROI, but you should really know about ROMI - Return on Marketing Investment.

To measure ROMI, you first need to define your organizational goals.  Sometimes these are business objectives such as:

  • Increasing volumes of a specific procedure or service line by a certain percentage
  • Growing patient volumes
  • Strengthening physician referrals
  • Expanding revenue

Or, you could have communication objectives such as:

  • Increasing website visits
  • Maximizing community education event attendances
  • Escalating social media engagement

Myth Busting Tool: Show Me the ROMI!

Now it's time for the fun part - analyzing the fruits of your labor. While I enjoy every part of the process with our clients, from initial planning through execution, my favorite part is when they get to see the ROMI.

To give you an idea of what success might look like, I'll recap the results of recent campaigns at a rural Montana hospital. In this case, the goals were to:

  • Build hospital-employed PCPs and OB services
  • Increase volumes for specialty services
  • Tell the hospital's story

To accomplish these goals, we launched campaigns that focused on both the providers and the services. The challenge was to increase awareness of the primary care providers and increase patient volumes. The campaign showcased how the providers are relatable to everyday Montanans. We highlighted providers' interests, hobbies, and what they love about living in Montana. Additional campaigns highlighted their full suite of OB and primary care services.

The Results:

In a six-month period, primary care visits increased by 16 percent and total deliveries increased by a whopping 80 percent - clearly busting that myth about ROI.

Many more rural healthcare myths exist, but with the right strategy you can change those perceptions. Take advantage of the internal resources you currently have available and capitalize on your strengths as rural healthcare providers.


Want to Learn More?

Join Mike Milligan's presentation, Busting Rural Healthcare Myths, at the Fall NRHA Conference in Kansas City to learn the best avenues for building awareness of the quality staff and services available at your rural hospital. Click here for more details about this event.


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Part 1: Debunking Rural Healthcare Myths

Posted on September 13, 2017

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By: Mike Milligan, President

In this blog series, we'll discuss the common myths surrounding rural healthcare - and give you some myth-busting tools.

Find Part 2 here.


Myth: People in the community are aware of our capabilities

For this first myth, the reality is that you can't safely assume that your community is aware of all the services you have available. I wasn't surprised when a recent survey in one rural community revealed that services such as orthopedic surgery, ophthalmology, and urology were largely unknown by the community. The survey also showed that over a four-year period of time, awareness of some services significantly decreased.

Myth Busting Tool: It's not enough to exist

I have found this to be the case in most rural communities. It's not enough to exist. Your potential patients have to know about your hospital and the services you provide. You may think that since you've been at your location for many years, everyone knows about your hospital and what you do. In that case, you may be laboring under a false supposition.

It's important to be active in promoting your hospital and the services you offer. Try:

  • Inbound marketing
  • Building a social media presence
  • Google AdWords campaign
  • Good old-fashioned traditional tactics, such as print ads, outdoor boards, direct mail, and radio

Myth: Those doctors won't do any surgeries here

As I've said in the past, 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)."

Myth Busting Tool: Creating clarity around mutual benefits

Like any successful business interaction, there has to be give and take. But, there also 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 you may think. At the same time, it's important to have a realistic discussion about which procedures make most sense to be done locally, and which should go elsewhere.

For 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 your relationship be mutually beneficial?

Remember in the end, you are still promoting your services and not the individual physician's practice. 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.

Myth: Direct mail and publications are old forms of advertising that don't work

Hopefully by now I've convinced you that rural hospital myths are just that - myths.  And the same is true for rural healthcare marketing myths. You might be surprised to learn that when asked about preferred methods of communication, members of rural communities in Wisconsin overwhelmingly expressed a preference for direct mail. In studies that we've done on behalf of our clients, we've found that publications are often the #1 preferred source of information.

Myth Busting Tool: Overcome Lack of Awareness

It's not impossible to overcome lack of awareness or erroneous perceptions. But it will require a long-term plan. One thing I know for certain is that success will always start with community engagement and involvement. Some things you can do to help bridge the gap between perception and reality include:

  • Community magazines
  • Health fairs
  • A well-thought-out marketing strategy

Learn how you can be a rural healthcare mythbuster

Many more rural healthcare myths exist, but with the right strategy you can change those perceptions. Take advantage of the internal resources you currently have available and reach out for help from experts who are experienced in rural healthcare.


Want to Learn More?

Join Mike Milligan's presentation, Busting Rural Healthcare Myths, at the Fall NRHA Conference in Kansas City to learn the best avenues for building awareness of the quality staff and services available at your rural hospital. Click here for more details about this event.


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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.

Download the Case Study

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3 Ways to Overcome a Physician Shortage at Your Urology Clinic

August 8, 2017

physicianshortage

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.

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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


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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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