A major part of my job is developing marketing plans for our
clients. It's a comprehensive schedule of tactics including all the
ways we plan to reach our targets. And frequently, it includes
digital and online components. As hard as it is to believe in 2016,
an objection I still hear quite often from marketing managers and
CEOs alike is that the people in their community aren't online.
This is a common misperception. They are. With the advent of
smartphones and tablets, the Internet is more widely accessible
than ever. Plus, more and more counties and smaller communities are
getting Wi-Fi grants for their residents. Factors such as cell
towers and proximity to cities matter less and less when it comes
to online access. Let's look at some numbers:
- 88.5% of the population in the United States is online.
- 83% of people in rural communities are online.
- 76% of Internet users search online for health
- 52% of smartphone users search for health information on their
At the most, 17% of people in rural communities aren't online.
Dismissing an opportunity to connect with your audience because
they may be part of that minority is unwise to say the least. So
don't let old ideas keep you from being successful with new ones.
Your patient population is much more connected than you may think.
Digital and online marketing is a great way to reach them. Whether
it's with an aggressive Google adwords push, fun and engaging
Facebook content, informative blog posts, or enticing content
offers, there are touch points at every turn for connecting with
So when you think rural healthcare marketing, think online. The
platforms are there. Prospective patients are there. Your
healthcare organization should be there too.
If you are ready to start building your brand's digital
strategy, but are not sure where to start, download our
presentation: "Rural Healthcare Marketing in a Digital World."
Learn how to:
- Control the message through your website content
- Manage your brand on social media
- Protect your reputation on review sites
We'll take you step by step to ensure you have a solid
foundation-and the support you need-for taking your healthcare
you're ready to start building your brand's digital strategy, but
are not sure where to start, download our presentation: Rural
Healthcare Marketing in a Digital World.
Learn how to:
• Control the message through your website content
• Manage your brand on social media
• Protect your reputation on review sites
We'll take you step by step to ensure you have a solid
foundation--and the support you need--for taking your healthcare
Download Free Guide
It's a changing world out there. Ask any rural hospital
administrator. It seems like every day there's another story about
a rural hospital being forced to close its doors. So it's easy to
understand why the impulse for some is to just sit back and let the
But it doesn't have to be that way. In fact, it's one of the
healthcare industry's biggest myths: that rural hospitals are a
dying breed. I take issue with that notion. Rural hospitals are
just like any other business in any other industry: they're
fighting for their share in a competitive market. And, like any
other business in any other industry, some do it with more success
Here's how the smart ones stay successful:
They develop a marketing plan. All this doom
and gloom talk could be a crutch, your excuse to stop trying. We
don't see it that way. With challenge comes opportunities. Start by
marketing like a big city hospital. Evaluate what your strengths
and weaknesses are. Take the pulse of the community you serve. What
is their opinion of your facility? Do they even know all the
services you offer? Then, explore areas of innovation and
expansion. Take action, and then promote it. Marketing gets the
word out and alerts potential and present patients to the exciting
changes going on at your hospital.
Offer more and embrace technology. There's no
better example of a rural hospital that I can think of facing the
challenge head on than Barrett
Hospital and Healthcare in Dillon, Montana. An institution
since 1922, they moved into a beautiful state-of-the-art facility
that feels like a five-star ski lodge in 2012. They've made great
strides in expanding their services and have welcomed technological
advances to more efficiently serve their patients. These are
substantial investments, but for Barrett, they have paid off.
"Since moving into our new hospital, we've continued to work
hard to expand services and improve access to healthcare to all we
serve," says Ken Westman, CEO of Barrett Hospital and HealthCare.
"And we will continue to look at opportunities to grow our services
to meet the needs of the communities we serve."
This attitude helped earn Barrett Hospital and Healthcare
accolades as an iVantage Top 100 Critical Access Hospital in 2011,
2013, 2014 and 2015 and a 2015 National Rural Health Association
Top 20 Critical Access Hospital.
Take heart. The situation isn't as dire as some of those
doomsday folks might have you believe. Take heart, and then take
action. Success is out there for those who know where to find
Still uncertain about how your rural health
facility can compete with larger
Our NRHA webinar--Increase Revenue In Your Sleep--discusses how
establishing partnerships and relationships can lead to an
• Patient volumes
• Number of service lines
A negative review. A bad comment. An inappropriate post. These
are all reasons why many healthcare organizations are reluctant to
become too active on social media. Because nobody can control
everything that is being said.
However, since social media is such a large part of
people's everyday lives - and a tool many use to make buying
decisions - your healthcare facility can't afford not to be active.
That's why it's important to have a comprehensive social media
policy that everyone in your facility is familiar with.
A written policy can protect both your facility and your
employees. Here are four important components that your policy
1. An online employee code of conduct and
potential disciplinary measures for violations of the code of
- Employees can associate themselves with the facility online,
but must make it clear that their opinions are personal and do not
represent the facility.
- Employees cannot share sensitive or confidential information,
especially in relation to patient care.
2. Employee social media usage
- Only members of the marketing department or designated social
media team can post on the facility's social media channels.
- Personal social media use cannot disrupt workplace productivity
or performance level.
3. The approval process for online content.
- Outline who has final approval of online content that directly
represents the facility.
- List who in the facility is approved to post content on behalf
of the facility.
4. A crisis management plan.
- Clearly identify who in the organization should be notified
regarding a negative or inappropriate social media post, who will
respond to the post and what potential responses are.
Once your social media policy is created and approved, the
next step is ensuring all employees are aware of the new policy. A
good way to do this is by including it in the employee handbook
and/or employment agreement.
Features Versus Benefits: What will stick in the minds
So one of your doctors just started offering a new
procedure that uses a new innovative method. Or maybe, your imaging
department just purchased a new CT scanner. Now, it's your job to
create an ad promoting these new services.
As you approach this task, remember that focusing on the
technology or the technique may not be the most effective method.
Patients and potential patients aren't familiar with clinical or
technical jargon; therefore, they won't understand - or relate to -
an ad that focuses on clinical and technical features of a service
or piece of equipment. They also won't want to see a picture of a
joint implant or new surgical laser. Instead, you need to show
patients how the features actually benefit them and their quality
of life. (See a
benefits-oriented orthopedic campaign here.)
- Your doctor's new surgery is a minimally invasive, outpatient
procedure. To a patient this means smaller scars, less time at the
hospital and more quickly returning to everyday life.
- Your new CT scanner allows for a quicker and more accurate scan
while using less radiation. To a patient this means increased
safety and convenience.
Follow a Real Success Story
See how one critical access hospital promoted a new
knee replacement technique in a way that resonated with patients -
and the significant increase in volumes that followed the
The patient experience. It's what every healthcare marketer
wants to portray and what every healthcare facility wants to
But how do you ensure that the positive experience you sell in
an ad is what patients will actually receive when they come to you
It all starts with your employees.
One of the trends we've seen for improving employee satisfaction
- and therefore, the patient experience - is through online staff
education. Between patient safety, HIPAA compliance, regulatory
trainings and continuing education requirements, your staff is
probably spending a lot of time on education. With an online
learning system, this education becomes more efficient as it can be
done anywhere, at any time. Meaning your staff can focus more on
Attend an upcoming NRHA webinar to learn how one of our clients -
Hospital and Health Services - selected an online education
system that not only lead to significant improvements in their
Press Ganey Scores, but also reduced their annual education costs
by more than $16,000.
Rural Solutions to Online Education:
Selecting a system that helps your bottom
December 15 | Noon (CST)
From infographics to eBooks and blog posts, these are things
healthcare consumers are using more and more to learn about
healthcare topics and make healthcare decisions. Why? Because of
the rise of content marketing.
So what is it exactly? Like many new buzzwords in the marketing
industry, content marketing means slightly different things to
different people. Here are a few definitions:
"Content marketing is a strategic marketing approached
focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant and
consistent content to attract and retain a clearly-defined
audience-and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer
-Content Marketing Institute
"Content marketing is a way of engaging and attracting
existing and potential customers through content
creation…it's personal, engaging and tells
-Dan Bergeron, Likeable Media
"Content marketing provides consumers with useful
information to aid purchase decisions, improve product usage and
entertain them while achieving organizational goals without being
-Heidi Cohen, Riverside Marketing Strategies
Interested in learning more? There's still time to register for
our webinar on December 8. This educational webinar, presented
through the National Rural Health Association, will further define
what content marketing is and demonstrate why it's important for
rural healthcare marketers to add it to their overall marketing
Content Marketing 101: Understanding
Marketing's Biggest Buzz Word
December 8 | 12 pm (CST)
From 2000 to 2010, emergency department visits increased 20
percent - from 108 million to 129 million - according to a 2013
report from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
In 2009, 45 percent of Medicare beneficiaries arriving at
hospitals by ambulance were never admitted to the hospital, but
they still cost the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services
Emergency department (ED) overuse and misuse are major problems
that not only lead to higher healthcare costs (and readmission
penalties under health care reform), but also longer wait times and
lower patient satisfaction.
Some hospitals have tried educating consumers about the
importance of primary care and appropriate use of urgent and
emergency care. But as long as the ED remains a safety net for
people - a place they can go for convenient care, emergency or not
- ED misuse will continue.
However, there is an emerging care model that hospitals and
health systems can implement to help alleviate overcrowded EDs:
Community paramedicine, also known as mobile integrated health
care-community paramedicine (MIH-CP), uses local emergency medicine
technicians and paramedics to provide services outside of their
traditional emergency response and transport roles. It shifts
emergency medical services from being solely reactive to
incorporating proactive measures that ensure the most efficient use
of the EDs - all to reduce inappropriate use of local emergency
care resources and improve the overall health of communities.
The full article is featured on H&HN
Daily. Click to read on and learn about the different
models of MIH-CP and additional benefits of implementing a
Last year, we wrote an
article about why your rural hospital should consider
offering - and marketing - GreenLight™ Laser Therapy (a
minimally invasive treatment for enlarged prostate). Not only is
this procedure an excellent way to increase outpatient surgery
volumes, but the creators of the GreenLight laser - American
Medical Systems (now part of Boston Scientific) - also provide
facilities with equipment and marketing options specific to the
rural health industry. These include the ability to lease
equipment, as opposed to buying it, as well as free marketing kits
to help rural facilities promote GreenLight Laser capabilities in a
In fact, many national healthcare equipment and technology
companies are designing solutions geared specifically to rural
healthcare. Reversing the mindset that rural hospitals can't afford
big name brands; nowadays, rural hospitals can't afford not to work
with these companies.
More examples of big name, rural healthcare
This comprehensive online learning
management system offers healthcare employee education solutions at
affordable and fixed prices. So rural facilities with smaller
operating budgets can rely on budget certainty - no hidden fees,
surprise costs or increased rates.
See how one critical access hospital
reduced its education costs by over $16,000 with Swank
While this global company offers
innovative solutions for some of the nation's biggest healthcare
systems, it also provides products and services to meet the needs
of smaller rural health facilities. One of these solutions is a
customer marketing kit, through which, Philips helps its customers
implement traditional and digital marketing efforts to build exam
volumes as well as the technological reputation of their
Learn more about these kits and see how one critical access
hospital successfully implemented a multi-faceted promotional
campaign by attending:
Promoting Your Brand Value in Growing Your Service
A National Rural Health Association Webinar
Presented by Philips Healthcare and Legato Healthcare
November 12 | Noon (CST)
CLICK HERE TO REGISTER!
Myth #4: Rural Hospitals are Just Band-Aid
This is a common consumer MISperception. The root cause is
usually something as simple as local residents not being aware of
all the services available at your facility.
So how does a rural hospital overcome this myth and change
people's mindsets? Here are three ways:
1. Develop a capabilities campaign
A capabilities campaign is like a brand campaign mixed with a
service line campaign. It's general enough to be used over an
extended period of time to increase awareness, but it also provides
details on the variety of services your facility offers
The way we like to do a capabilities campaign is to first
brainstorm an overarching theme. This theme should communicate your
competitive advantage, unique selling proposition or why a patient
should choose you. From there, we usually create several versions
of print ads, radio spots, billboards, videos, social media posts
or whatever other tactics your facility wants to use. Throughout
these pieces, you can change the messaging to promote different
services and increase awareness of all your
an example of a testimonial-style capabilities campaign
2. Host a health fair or education series
Since this misperception stems from lack of awareness, education
is a key element in overcoming it.
Why a health fair? It's a one-stop learning shop where
community members can get a quick snapshot of all the services you
offer. But don't forget the light refreshments and door prizes to
draw people in.
Why an education series? This option allows multiple touch
points with audiences. You can start promoting the education series
with messaging on all the events, and then, you can send reminders.
An education series is also a great way to engage with targeted,
but varied audiences, as each event will engage people with
different health needs.
3. Get your employees involved
Whether you call it brand ambassadors or employee
ambassadors, it's crucial to have your employees engaged with the
community and spreading the word about your services.
One way to do this is through a speaker's bureau. Different
departments throughout the facility can create educational
presentations that can be shared at chamber events, schools,
businesses or with local clubs and organizations. These
presentations shouldn't just be about a service, but instead should
take an educational angle to prove your facility is a thought
leader and looking out for the wellness of the community.
Examples: Your dietitian does a demonstration on eating a heart
healthy diet. Your physical therapists can provide trainings or
injury prevention classes for running clubs or school athletic
Another way employees can help counter this myth is by being
involved in the community on a personal level. The volunteer groups
or other organizations they participate in present opportunities
for employees to talk with community residents about your
Myth #3: Critical access hospitals don't have the
resources to build profitable service lines
With a smaller facility, fewer doctors and a lower operating
budget, it may seem impossible to build profitable service lines
like orthopedics or urology. But the truth is that you
can - and we've seen firsthand many of our clients do
Here are three steps to get you on the path to successful
and profitable service lines:
1. Work with visiting specialists as
opposed to hiring full-time physicians.
If you don't have the budget to hire a full-time
orthopedic specialist or urologist - or worry that volume will be
too low to keep a full-time physician - contract with visiting
specialists. These physicians can help you start, and grow, your
service line without large overhead costs.
2. Make sure consumers know you offer
the service line.
Whether it's a brand new service or an existing, but
slow-growing service, you can't build profit with low awareness.
Incorporate advertising campaigns into your marketing budget, and
target your efforts toward very specific audiences who will benefit
most from the services. For example: joint replacement campaigns
should target people 55 and older; prostate health should target
men 50 and older. By using a more targeted approach, your message
will get in front of the right people and reduce your marketing
costs-ultimately, increasing your potential return on
Another way to increase awareness without spending a lot
of money is utilizing your social media channels. It's free to post
on Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites. However,
investing just $50 dollars in boosting a Facebook post can
drastically increase your impressions.
Need more awareness? Feature new services or physicians in
your newsletters, on your website and around your
3. Bring people into your facility to
see your advanced capabilities and meet the specialty
Plan an open house, educational event or health fair that
draws people into your facility. If potential patients see your
capabilities, meet your providers and feel comfortable with your
hospital or clinic, they will be more likely to think of you
when/if they need care. Educational events and health fairs will
also position your facility as a place that cares about the overall
health and wellness of the community. Plus, these types of events
will position your facility and physicians as thought leaders in