Newly Insured Patients...Ready or Not, Here They Come

Posted on November 25, 2014


Health exchanges are here - and so are millions of newly insured patients. That means your CAH has a decision to make. Do you "duck and cover" or come out fighting to gain some much-needed ground from your competition? If you choose to leverage this opportunity, be prepared. These aren't your "typical" patients.

The truth is, many newly insured patients will have plans that pay lower rates to your hospital. But there's a flip side to this downside. These patients' plans are required to cover a broader range of services. Services your CAH can provide to grow revenue from consumers who have never walked through your hospital's doors before.

Here are some ways to optimize this opportunity:

  • Promote prevention, wellness and diagnostics as volumes will shift in this direction. This goes beyond the "norm," like colonoscopies and mammograms, to include diet counseling and other wellness services. Another thought: Could your CAH benefit from extending your marketing strategy to include referring physicians?
  • Define your hospital's role in outreach and develop and promote programs that will educate the newly insured. With limited knowledge of the healthcare system, these new patients are more likely to use ER services. Work with your marketing department to develop programs and materials to educate new patients on the best way to manage their health - and receive care.
  • Address patient access issues. With more complex billing, eligibility and collections processes, it's critical to confirm eligibility and review obligations with the patient upfront. This may include incorporating new tools to verify coverage and screen for Medicaid eligibility and exchange subsidies.
  • Train "financial counselors," "care navigators" or "insurance assisters." Whatever title you choose, you'll need knowledgeable staff to help individuals fill out paperwork and determine eligibility for coverage and subsidies.
  • Don't lose sight of patients with employer-sponsored plans. As you address the needs of the newly insured, don't overlook the fact that employer-sponsored plans are shifting more responsibility to the patient. You'll need to adjust your marketing strategy to address the needs and demands of these consumers as well.

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What's Up with Doc?

Posted on November 11, 2014


How to Talk to Physicians to Build Relationships

You say, "provider;" I say, "physician."  Potato/Po-tah-toe, right?

While it may seem like a matter of semantics, healthcare marketers need to choose their words wisely - especially when talking to physicians. One internist summed it up this way: "Today, doctors are called providers. I didn't go to provider school."

But choosing a complementary common noun is just the beginning. Today, many hospitals - caught up in service model mayhem - overlook one critical fact: Doctors are faced with similar challenges and they're concerned about the future. In fact, six in 10 say that the practice of medicine is in jeopardy.

While it may sound disheartening, rural hospitals can turn this concern into an opportunity to strengthen physician relationships and increase referrals. But just as the healthcare landscape is changing, so too, are the mindsets of physicians. That means the way healthcare marketers talk to them also needs to change. For example:

  • Show empathy (but be careful not to patronize). Assure physicians that your hospital understands the additional pressures they face today, and maintain direct dialogue as new payment models and integrated care methods are developed.
  • Profile physicians so you can personalize and specifically target your message to them.
    • Free online tools like SurveyMonkey can help identify physicians' interests, challenges and concerns.
    • Consider investing in research and/or a medical staff satisfaction survey to help clarify physicians' opinions about a variety of issues relating to their practice and their relationship with your hospital.
  • Develop key messages around physicians' wants and needs as well as how your hospital is addressing those issues to benefit them and their patients. You may find your messaging may relate to some of these areas that physicians feel strongly about:
    • Developing patient relationships.
    • Protecting and promoting the health of individuals.
    • Interacting with colleagues.
  • Match your values to physicians' values. What's important to your CAH is most likely important to doctors as well.
  • Speak in a language physicians understand. Most physicians are logical thinkers, so getting them to act often comes down to evidence-based conclusions. Stick with the facts; they'll help draw physicians to the conclusion you want them to reach.
  • Establish each doctor's preferred communication method and use it consistently.

The 2013 Deloitte Survey of U.S. Physicians found that nearly two-thirds of physicians believe doctors and hospitals will become more integrated in the next one to three years. That can be a golden opportunity for your rural hospital - if you know how to talk to physicians to build trust and relationships.

Watch for my upcoming blog on how to talk to patients in a new era of healthcare.

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