4 Things to Include in Your Critical Access Hospital’s Social Media Policy

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 should include:

1. An online employee code of conduct and potential disciplinary measures for violations of the code of conduct.


  • 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 guidelines.


  • 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.

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How Your Critical Access Hospital can Effectively Promote New Services

Features Versus Benefits: What will stick in the minds of patients?

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.)

For example:

  • 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 campaign.

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Why the Patient Experience Starts with Your Employees

Register now to see a new trend in employee satisfaction.

The patient experience. It's what every healthcare marketer wants to portray and what every healthcare facility wants to improve.

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 for care?

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 patient care.

Attend an upcoming NRHA webinar to learn how one of our clients - Edgerton 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 line
December 15 | Noon (CST)
Register today!

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Three Definitions to Help You Understand Content Marketing

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 action."

-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 stories."

-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 overtly promotional."

-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 strategy.

Content Marketing 101: Understanding Marketing's Biggest Buzz Word
December 8 | 12 pm (CST)

Register Now!

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Community Paramedicine: An emerging care model

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 $1.98 billion.

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.

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 program.

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Rural Solutions from Big Name Healthcare

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 cost-effective manner.

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 solutions:

Swank 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 HealthCare.

Philips Healthcare
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 facilities.

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 Line
A National Rural Health Association Webinar
Presented by Philips Healthcare and Legato Healthcare Marketing
November 12 | Noon (CST)

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Myths in Rural Healthcare: Just a Band-Aid Station

Myth #4: Rural Hospitals are Just Band-Aid Stations

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 patients.

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 capabilities.

See an example of a testimonial-style capabilities campaign here.

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 groups.

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 facility's services.

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Myths in Rural Healthcare: We Can't Build Profitable Service Lines

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 it.

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 investment.

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 campus.

3. Bring people into your facility to see your advanced capabilities and meet the specialty physicians.

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 the area.

Want to see some real results?  Click here to see how one critical access hospital  doubled its total knee replacement procedure volumes. 

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Myths in Rural Healthcare: The Only Game in Town

Myth #2: We don't have any competition. We're the only game in town.

You may be the only hospital for 25, 30 or maybe even 45 miles. But does that really mean you don't have any competition?

Unfortunately, just because you're the only facility in town doesn't mean local residents will automatically choose you when they need care. Larger, more urban health systems - with bigger marketing budgets and more doctors - may SEEM like a better option to some patients. That's why you have to act like your competitors are right down the road.

Here are three ways to secure your market position and challenge out-of-town competitors:

1. Determine your unique selling point and use it to engage with your community. Give a reason why local residents should choose you. But it can't just be that you're closer to home (read why here). Instead, find something that truly differentiates your facility. Is it that your providers are also part of the community, so they are better attuned to the health needs of the area? Or, maybe you can offer same day appointments? Can you be a resource for women's healthcare?

2. Show off your capabilities. Sometimes patients travel for care because they don't realize the service they need is actually available at their local hospital. Areas like cardiac rehab, sleep studies, swing bed and even outpatient therapy are all service lines you need to tell your community about.

Want to see some real results?  Click here to see how one critical access hospital  doubled its total knee replacement procedure volumes. 

3. Be more than just a place to go when "I'm sick." In today's wellness-oriented world, providing resources to help people stay healthy is an important tool in building a strong connection with them. A strong connection with your community will inspire trust, confidence and loyalty between potential patients and your facility. And that will make people more likely to choose you if and when they do need care. Learn more about how to strengthen relationships with key community audiences by requesting our presentation "Connecting Your CAH to Your Community."

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Why you Should Still Promote Primary Care

With a projected national shortage of primary care providers reaching upwards of 31,000 by 2025, there's no need to promote primary care anymore…right?

In my opinion, it's still an incredibly important service line to have in your marketing plan. Why, you may ask? Because despite shortages, which may increase patient demand for providers, rural facilities will still face local competition for market share - especially from larger systems that have multiple primary care clinics and physicians from which patients can choose.

I've also seen firsthand the impact primary care can have on a rural facility's success. For example, one of our clients increased new patient volumes by 108 percent at their primary care clinic after an aggressive marketing campaign. And another client saw a record-breaking revenue month after promoting their primary care services along with other hospital service lines.

In addition to continued competition and looking for ways to increase patient volumes, there are three other significant reasons why rural health facilities should continue to promote primary care:

  1. Avoid penalties under healthcare reform. A key role of primary care is preventing and managing chronic health issues like diabetes or heart disease. These types of conditions can easily turn into multiple trips to the emergency room or hospital readmissions if not managed properly. And that means higher costs for local hospitals.
  2. Increase revenue and volumes at your hospital. Primary care providers serve as a great entry point into your hospital for diagnostic and surgical care. If you help keep the primary care practices busy, they will be more likely to keep their patients in your "system" when they need ancillary or specialty services.
  3. Position your facility as a total health resource. In today's wellness-oriented world, you can't just be a hospital where sick people go or where you can have a knee replaced. To be successful, you need to incorporate prevention, wellness, disease management and traditional treatments into your services - all of which primary care providers offer.

But promoting primary care is not just simply placing an ad in the newspaper with a doctor's photo and credentials. This won't motivate patients to choose you for their primary care needs. You need to show patients how important primary care is to their individual health, and how your providers can help them stay healthy, active and well.

To learn more about the importance of primary care promotion and the three key components in effective primary care promotion, register for our NRHA-sponsored webinar:

Off the Charts Results: Go Platinum with Your Primary Care Marketing
September 17 | Noon (CDT)
Click here to register!

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