Five Steps for Survival: How to Prepare for Continued Independence

If you got lost in the woods, ran out of food or got confronted by a bear, do you know how you'd react?

These unexpected challenges of hiking and camping - and the reactions they produce - can be very similar to the obstacles critical access hospitals (CAH) and other small or rural health organizations are facing. But instead of getting lost in the woods, your organization may be struggling with how to balance quality, transparency and affordability. Instead of running out of food, you may be running out of budget dollars. And you probably aren't facing a bear, but one or more larger competitors.

To overcome all these difficulties, all you have to do is follow five steps that I like to call "Survival of the Smartest." These steps help you take a comprehensive deep-dive into both the business and marketing perspectives of independence and success.

Step 1: Size up the situation
Understand what you're up against by determining your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.

Step 2: Have a positive attitude
Don't let the challenges or misperceptions leave you hopeless. Actively decide that you are willing to take the steps necessary to survive and gather the support of employees and the community.

Step 3: Navigate negotiations
Sometimes being 100 percent independent isn't possible, but be sure to stand your ground when establishing beneficial partnerships for a modified independence.

Step 4: Chart your course
Create a business development and marketing plan that will guide you in increasing awareness, market share and patient volumes.

Step 5: Make yourself visible
Develop a strong brand and position, and then market your strengths in your target service areas.

Interested in learning more? If you are attending the National Rural Health Association (NRHA) CAH Conference on October 1-3 in Kansas City, you can attend the speaking session, "Survival of the Smartest: How to Retain Independence" on October 2 at 2 p.m. Lisa Schnedler, CEO of Upland Hills Health (UHH), and I will present a case study of how UHH used these five steps to create unique partnerships and gain market share to become a financially-independent and award-winning healthcare organization.

If you are not able to attend, send me an email to receive a copy of the presentation.

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CAHs: Telemedicine Promotion=Profit Part 2

Posted on September 3, 2014

 

My last post discussed some of the "clinical" aspects of telemedicine and the benefits rural hospitals can expect from a well-implemented program. But there is one caveat to those statements of success.

Most consumers won't fully understand the value of telemedicine unless you effectively deliver your message - and continue to reinforce it. Successful telemedicine programs do this well. On the other hand, hospitals that take an "If we build it, they will come" approach realize a minimal return on investment, at best. Others simply fail.

Just like the services your on-site providers offer, telemedicine is a marketable service line. Do it right, and your hospital will not only increase awareness and utilization of your telemedicine program, it will improve your reputation as a leader and provider of innovative, high-quality, comprehensive healthcare.

Here are some - and I emphasize "some" - major marketing to-dos that you'll want to check off your list as you implement your telemedicine program. I'll go into more detail during my upcoming webinar.

  • Conduct a market analysis to ensure your program has a sustainable service model. It will help you define your program and identify and describe your key customers, competitors and potential partners.
  • Create a climate for success. Even though telemedicine services have been available for some time, the concept will be new to many of your patients, clinicians, administrators and others. An effective marketing and promotional program can help ensure your telemedicine program is highly accepted by major stakeholders and the community.
  • Identify specific marketing objectives. Be sure to link them to your overall program goals.
  • Create a messaging platform. Determine how you'll differentiate yourself; create a unique selling proposition.
  • Develop your marketing strategy. Using identified customer groups, value to these groups, concerns and barriers, you can determine the best strategies and mediums to target each audience (e.g., patients/consumers, staff, clinicians).
  • Develop promotional materials. Once you have clearly defined your program, customers and external environment, you can begin to develop the materials and activities to promote, communicate and educate your target audiences.
  • Monitor results. No marketing strategy should be set in stone. Monitor results and be prepared to adjust your efforts.

As I mentioned, I'll be taking a deeper dive into the marketing aspect of a successful telemedicine program during our upcoming webinar, "Building and Marketing a Telemedicine Program," on Tuesday, September 9 from 12 - 1 p.m. (CDT). Donna Jennings, vice president of Valis - a telemedicine consulting and solutions firm - will join me and lead a discussion on the clinical and financial side of telemedicine.

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