Posted on August 6, 2013
As a healthcare marketer, I've decided I need to take my own
advice and start taking better care of myself.
For starters, there's this bowling ball in my belly I need to
shrink. It's not a tumor or anything, just the result of frequent
stops at McDonald's during trips to see clients.
As part of my health epiphany, I thought it would be wise to
make sure my fast food frenzies haven't built up an excessive
amount of plaque, or calcification, around my heart.
So I visited a local hospital for one of those $50 calcium
scorings. You know, the ones I'm always encouraging our clients to
do as a way of reaching out to potential patients. This kind of
interaction, I argue, is an excellent way to form relationships
with prospective patients and make them patients for life. It's an
opportunity to make a good first impression and deliver on the
Or, in this situation, it's a way to turn a great opportunity
into a lasting impression of confusion, uncertainty and
disorganization. Not exactly the words you want defining your
For its protection from embarrassment, I don't want to name the
organization. But, I do want to share this experience as a way for
us to learn what not to do.
Here's a summary of my experience:
- When I called to make an appointment, the scheduler replied:
"Oh is this that retail heart thing we do? I don't know much about
it, but we can schedule something."
- After the procedure was completed, I asked the technicians
about when to expect my results, and who would provide them to me.
The two employees looked at one another, seemingly confused, and
then one of them said: "Well, they really never tell us much here
about how this works. I'm sure someone will call you. We just do
the test here, but no one really told us anything else."
- To their credit, someone did call me a couple weeks later to
explain the test results. As my score came up as a zero (no
identifiable calcification), the person said "to keep doing what
I'm doing because it seems to be working well." Hmm, maybe I should
supersize my next lunch.
- A few days later, I received the
attached follow up report (in an envelope with a return address
from the physicians who read the report, not from the hospital I
visited). The good news is my score came back as encouraging. The
bad news: I don't know if I believe it. Besides the fact I know
there are historically many false positives with this type of
screening, the lack of confidence I received during the whole
process gave me some serious doubts. Did the machine work?
Did the "real" results get recorded? Why does my report say that
Dr. Joe Smith at XYZ Clinic read this?
Then my marketing and branding radar kicked in. Why is there no
logo? Why do I have a black and white photocopy? Is
that a heart on the upper right hand corner, or a Mr. Potato
The point in all of this is to think through the brand from
start to finish. What experience will the patient have?
What impression will be made at every point in the
Posted on August 15, 2013
Question: How old would you be if you didn't know how old you
For many people, the answer is 5, 10, even 20 years younger than
they really are. In fact, a recent study revealed that 64 percent
of adults consider themselves "youthful." Seventy-two percent are
self-identified as "energetic."
Interesting. But how does this "fountain of youth" mentality
affect your rural hospital? For starters, it reveals an important
fact about one of the most predominant markets in rural
communities: Baby Boomers.
Today, women over 55 spend more time online gaming than males
age 15 to 24. That just goes to show you this all-important
demographic is nowhere near ready to trade in its Rock 'n' Roll for
Simply put: With longer life expectancies, Boomers are refusing
to grow old. That means your marketing efforts better be "new-age
appropriate" if you want to connect with them.
For example, if you're going to promote hip replacement surgery,
scrap the shot of the silver-haired grandfather playing catch with
his grandson. Instead, opt for a shot of a guy (with a touch
of grey) whose hitting the lake - on a paddle board - or playing a
game of 3-on-3 … You get the drift.
This is a new age. A new attitude. A new opportunity for your
CAH to build relationships with this important market segment.
Relationships that can lead to increased revenue by letting Boomers
know you understand "who" they are and what's important to
Get their attention. Connect with their lifestyles. Call 'em
"energetic." Call 'em "youthful." Call 'em anything but
"Grandma" or "Grandpa!"
Posted on August 20, 2013
October is fast approaching, but this year, Halloween isn't the
only date that's stirring up excitement - and fear of the
Oct. 1, 2013, will change the way millions of consumers purchase
health insurance. The results could leave your CAH quaking - or
quickly pulling ahead in the quality queue - if you're
Under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, every
state must build a Health Insurance Exchange (HIX) on its own,
partner with one or more other states, or have the federal
government build and run the insurance exchange for them. And the
exchanges are scheduled to be up and running Oct. 1.
What's a HIX?
Simply put, consumers will be able to compare rates and buy
insurance from private healthcare providers who are competing for
their business within a HIX. Many believe exchanges will improve
the healthcare system in a number of ways, such as:
- Increasing choice and convenience: Multiple
health insurance plans will be included in each exchange, making it
easy to compare price and quality.
- Simplification through standardization: Each
state's exchange must offer four standardized insurance plans:
Bronze, Silver, Gold and Platinum. Plans offered by different
insurance companies within the exchange must include identical
levels of benefits for each of the four tiers of coverage.
- Economies of scale: It's estimated that
hundreds of thousands - even millions - of Americans will use a
state's exchange to purchase insurance over the phone or
Exciting stuff, wouldn't you agree? So what are rural hospitals
(and their big-city competitors) afraid of? Many unknowns still
For example, some healthcare leaders question whether patients
who buy insurance through a HIX will fully understand what is - or
is not - covered by their plan. That could result in bad debt for
hospitals, especially in the case of consumers who are moved off of
There's no crystal ball to determine if the HIX will be a nix or
a fix for CAHs and other healthcare organizations. But there's one
definitive point I'd like to share.
I've worked with CAH leaders and marketing professionals to
prepare for the changes that will propel all of us into a new era
of healthcare. These hospitals aren't waiting for change to direct
their fate; they are taking steps now to effectively manage quality
and cost of care. Plus, they're making changes to direct their
And I can tell you from personal experience - it's working!
What is your organization doing right now to help prepare for
these big changes? What information do you think you need to
communicate to your patients?
Want, or need, to learn more about health
insurance exchanges? Submit your questions by leaving a comment
below or contacting me at firstname.lastname@example.org or
Posted on August 22, 2013
Last week, the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) released a
that, if fully implemented, could close several hundred rural
hospitals across the country.
According to the report, most critical access hospitals (CAH)
would not meet the "location requirements" to re-enroll in
Medicare. In fact, the report asks Congress to allow Centers for
Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to strip CAH status from any
facility that came into the program under state "necessary
The report is viewed by many as a broad-brush attempt to trim
budgets. In doing so, hundreds of rural hospitals could be crippled
- or closed - by the loss of additional Medicare funding. In some
states, as many as 70% of CAHs could lose their CAH status. And
that's just the beginning.
So what can your rural hospital, its employees and members of
the community do?
Contact your senators and representative
This isn't just about the health and well-being of rural
hospitals in America. It's about the health and well-being of rural
Americans - thousands of patients served by CAHs like yours - every
Where do you stand on the issue? Let your voice, as well as
those on your staff and members of your community, be heard. The
National Rural Health Association (NRHA) has drafted
a number of talking points to help you convey
the importance of critical access hospitals to your elected