Focus on RURAL Healthcare: Part 2 – Specialty Care

Posted on March 5, 2013

mikem3_biggerBy: Mike Milligan, President

Specialty care is highly concentrated in urban areas. So why focus on this topic in a series about rural healthcare?

Because many rural hospitals are throwing in the towel when they could be picking up additional revenue through:

  • Effective, targeted marketing, and
  • Refreshing old business strategies with a new way of thinking.

Target consumers

Chances are, your hospital offers some level of specialty care. But how many local residents are aware of these services? If they are, why should they consider using them?

Develop a campaign that increases awareness and builds credibility. Do it well, and the revenue will follow. I've worked with clients to create these types of campaigns, and I've seen their success.

Don't stop there

Patients need referrals to see a specialist. What is your hospital doing to grow referrals from local physicians?

Your effort to build and retain relationships with providers needs to be ongoing. Investigate software programs that allow you to track physician contacts and referral patterns and identify high-value physicians. You can also integrate information across hospital departments and provide a measure of ROI.

Keep going …

National healthcare is changing the playing field in more ways than one. Rural hospitals need to adjust their business strategies to remain in the game.

When was the last time your facility evaluated the need for specialty services and took a deep dive into new options for delivering this type of care? For example, some rural hospitals:

  • Provide specialty services through telehealth partnerships. Check out this brief video describing how Copper Queen Community Hospital in Bisbee, AZ is successfully using this approach to provide cardiology services.
  • Develop partnerships with visiting specialists (from regional, tertiary care facilities or larger, multispecialty clinics). Rural hospitals offer suites to these specialists allowing them to see patients when they are there, making it easier for them to conduct pre- and post-operative patient visits. This can also help rural hospitals strengthen relationships with local residents.

By ensuring the right mix of specialists in the community and networking with larger systems, your rural hospital can improve coordination of care and enable the development of population care capabilities like chronic disease management, which I discussed in Part I of this blog series. It may also better position your hospital for value-based payment.

I'm excited about the new opportunities rural healthcare organizations have to position themselves for future success. I'll continue this Focus on RURAL Healthcare in my next blog post.

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“When I grow up I want to be a doctor.”

Posted on March 14, 2013

Lisa_blog_photo4By: Lisa Schneider, Director of Creative Services

As a healthcare marketing professional, I'm always thinking about non-traditional ways for my clients to enhance their marketing efforts. This blog was inspired when my eight-year-old daughter said, "When I grow up I'm going to be an animal doctor or an artist." The word "doctor" is what caught my attention.

If you ask a young child what he or she wants to be when they grow up, you'll get some typical answers: fireman, policeman, teacher, nurse, doctor.

No doubt it's great that young people do want to become doctors or nurses. And some do. But what the majority of young people don't know is that there is a broad range of healthcare professions they could choose as well.

When children get to high school, guidance counselors do their best to inform students of a variety of career paths, even they probably don't know about all of the healthcare careers out there.

But you, as a healthcare professional, do know. So share your knowledge. Offer to speak to students about the many healthcare professions that go beyond doctor or nurse-such as x-ray technician, medical technologist or technician, phlebotomist, anesthesiologist, nurse practitioner, medical transcriptionist, etc.

Also tell them about volunteer opportunities available to them now and how they can become a volunteer. Ask them how you could be more helpful to them and others in choosing a specific career path and show them where to find more information on their own.

Through your efforts, not only are you helping the students, you are showing one more way your organization is involved in the community. You're also starting to grow a group of potential patients at a very early age.

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Focus on RURAL Healthcare: Part 3 – How to Address the Primary Care Shortage

Posted on March 21, 2013

mikem3_biggerMike Milligan, President

According to some estimates, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) could expand coverage to 5.4 million newly-insured individuals in rural areas. That has both rural and urban hospitals worried about a shortage of primary care physicians. And rightfully so.

On Monday, Congress reintroduced a bill to address this issue.  The Resident Physician Shortage Reduction Act of 2013, would increase the number of Medicare-supported hospital residency positions by 15,000, or 3,000 per year over five years.

The good news? You don't have to wait; you can take action now.

Many hospitals are stuck in a quagmire of concern; watching, worrying and waiting to see what happens next. That gives your hospital a window of opportunity to ramp up recruiting efforts - before the competition really heats up!

But take note: Online job postings and other traditional recruitment efforts simply won't cut it. It's time to implement an all-out recruitment strategy that is more intense, more innovative and more integral to your marketing plan than ever before. I'll give you some examples.

  • Don't just think outside of the box - think outside of the country.
    • Consider recruiting foreign medical graduates with J-1 Visa Waivers.
    • This Visa waives the two-year home residency requirement for graduates and allows a physician to stay in the country to practice in a federally designated Health Professional Shortage Area (HPSA).
  • Target and entice medical students.Studies show doctors who train in rural areas are two to three times more likely to return to practice in a rural community.
    • One rural hospital in Iowa has become a training site for medical students studying at Des Moines University. During the last week of each rotation, senior leaders at the hospital have breakfast with the students to get their insights and find out what would entice them to work for the hospital when they complete their residency program.
    • A community hospital in Michigan is also being proactive with its recruitment efforts by targeting current medical students. Watch this news brief to find out how.
  • Tap into your board.Once you identify a promising candidate, get board members involved in recruiting. For example:
    • Match the spouses or significant others of prospective candidates with local board members who share similar interests, such as outdoor sports, volunteering or raising a family.
    • Ask a board member or veteran physician to host a dinner at his or her home rather than taking a candidate to a restaurant. Getting better acquainted with senior leaders can help ease the nerves of candidates who are making significant decisions that will affect their professional and personal life.
  • Stake out your community.Before you begin your recruitment campaign, gain the support of recognized leaders in the community who have a stake in the success of your hospital and their local health care system in general. For example:
    • Bank/Credit union CEOs and managers: Remind them of the economic value your hospital's payroll brings to their business. Also help these leaders understand the importance of primary care providers to the vitality of your hospital. It may motivate them to provide start-up capital for the new provider's practice.
    • Local school principals: These leaders know that healthy kids make better students. Help them understand that a primary care provider is a key member of a child's health management team. If you have the principal's support, he or she could talk with a candidate (and spouse) about the local education system, send the candidate information and/or provide a school tour during a site visit.
  • Think PAs and NPs. Another way to address the primary care shortage is to develop a retail health clinic strategy that uses mid-level providers to increase PCP productivity and patient access.
    • Unlike primary care physicians, the number of PAs and NPs is on the rise.
    • Consider focusing some of your recruiting efforts in this area.

You may also want to check out this site. It features non-profit organizations that help health professionals find jobs in rural and underserved areas throughout the country.

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