Know your oil spill before it happens.

Posted on June 15, 2010

Do you know what PR nightmare could cripple your organization? If not, you should.  The folks at BP could tell you why.

And if you don't think that you are as vulnerable as an oil giant like BP, think again. You have PR nightmares lurking around every corner.

Don't believe me? Let's take a virtual walk through Anytown Hospital together:

Surgery department or center.  From operating on wrong body parts to leaving surgical instruments inside the body cavity, human error ultimately trumps any quality protocol that is in place.  What if the equipment isn't sterilized properly and infection spreads?  Ask your surgery manager for a walk-through so you can see what is done to prevent such errors - at least you'll know what was supposed to have happened.

Baby nursery.  There's a reason why most hospitals have invested heavily in security systems to prevent baby snatching or switching: it's extremely difficult to recover if either happens inside its walls. Lucky enough to have such a system? Make sure you still test the system on a regular basis - it's better if you find the loopholes before it happens to your patients.

Pharmacy. Whether it's the highly visible retail pharmacy or the typically hidden inpatient version, you should recognize the potential for a media crisis.  On top of medication errors, which could be a category in and of itself, the bigger issue is protecting the highly sought after pain medications and narcotics.  And it isn't just the risk of an armed robbery or break in to be concerned about  - just think what would happen if a nurse decided to keep those pain medications instead of providing to a patient as instructed.

Emergency room.  Ever watch ER or Grey's Anatomy?  While the odds of one of those patients coming through your emergency department's doors is slim, let it serve as a reminder that the bizarre cases are most likely to start here.

Administration.  Angry patients and family members would most likely seek out administration.  While few facilities want their senior leaders to appear inaccessible, many are adding security measures that make it more difficult for the public to enter the area.

So what can you do? In addition to some of the suggestions offered above, the best advice I can give is to always be on the lookout for anything that might impact your hospital's image and reputation.  After all, that's the very reason patients select you in the first place - and why they'll keep coming back.

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Another debate for the ages?

Posted on June 21, 2010

Another debate for the ages?

A colleague and I recently discussed whether it's more difficult to properly execute a poorly constructed marketing plan or to create tactics worthy of a strategic masterpiece?

Before you answer, think carefully about the countless debates that have been framed around the simple question "Which came first - the chicken or the egg?"

Perhaps when it comes to healthcare marketing there is no right answer. After all, can you build successful tactics if working from a less than stellar plan? Is it always possible to meet the demands of an insightful plan?

Sure seems like the perfect fodder for an insightful discussion.  What do you think?  Let's hear your thoughts.

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Seasonal urgent care advertising that works

Posted on June 28, 2010

With the start of summer officially here, it's a good time to talk about the seasonality of Urgent Care advertising.

How should we define Urgent Care?  The same way your consumers do - as any health care that isn't an emergency or a scheduled appointment.  That means walk-ins, minute clinics and health kiosks in the mall all count.

Few healthcare services require traditional retail marketing like Urgent Care.  That's because you never know when the next Urgent Care visit is going to happen. Sure, you can predict peaks and valleys based on historical data, but the truth is you need to be in consumers' minds throughout the year to remain their first choice for Urgent Care.

The message usually isn't too complicated - Urgent Care comes down to convenience and service.  Let consumers know when you're open, what you do, how much it costs and how to get there since that's what really matters when they need to find a health care provider at 8:30 p.m.

I'm not suggesting you need to spend a ton of money on traditional advertising, either, although I think radio and targeted direct mail can be very powerful media for Urgent Care.  Every time someone enters any of your facilities you have an opportunity to remind him or her about your Urgent Care services. Do you have lobby boards or table tents in your waiting areas or cafeteria? The next time you choose to sponsor a local organization and you receive an ad in their brochure or program, why not advertise your Urgent Care?

Worried about internal friction from physicians who believe you are cannibalizing their patients? Assure them that most parents aren't going to wait for the next available appointment when their child can be diagnosed at the local big box, grocer or drug store.

Here are a few other seasonal opportunities to consider:

1)      The flu shot. If you get consumers in your Urgent Care door for their annual immunization, they're more likely to come back when they need to see a health care provider.

2)      Major holidays. Convenience matters the most during the hustle and bustle of major holidays.  Make sure your community knows when your Urgent Care is open and how to get to your center.

3)      The accidental tourist. Are you in a market with an influx of summer or winter tourists?  Make sure that local motels and restaurants where they visit have information about your Urgent Care.

Do you have any other ideas on how seasonal changes impact Urgent Care?

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