Market Research: The Missing Link in Your Marketing

Posted on March 18, 2015


Perception of quality. Awareness of services. Likelihood to use.

Imagine if you knew this important information about your healthcare facility's target audiences. It could help shape marketing objectives and strategies, determine what services need to be marketed more - or less - and give you a baseline understanding of your audiences' behaviors.

That's the power of market research.

Now I know it's a common concern amongst healthcare marketers - especially if you work at a critical access hospital or rural facility - that research is too expensive or that it won't reveal any new information. But if done correctly, market research can truly create a solid foundation for strong, strategic marketing.

There are two basic ways market research can benefit your marketing efforts:

  1. It enables you to make marketing decisions based on objective information
  2. It sets baseline measures that you can use to evaluate the effectiveness of marketing efforts

And in addition to perception, awareness and likelihood to use, there are many other insights you can gather from market research, including:

  • Demographics of users and non-users of your services
  • Reasons why non-users choose competitors
  • The best media channels to use to reach your audiences

Still not convinced of the power of market research? Use the link below to register for our upcoming National Rural Health Association webinar to learn more about different research methods and see a case study of how one critical access hospital has successfully used market research to set and meet its marketing objectives.

Register today for "Research in Rural Health: Building a Foundation for Strategic Marketing."
March 26 | Noon (CDT)

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Take Competition from a Threat to an Opportunity

Posted on March 10, 2015


If you're a leader in a critical access hospital, chances are you've had your fair share of sleepless nights. One of those murky issues keeping you up is probably strategizing how you'll lead your hospital through a period of major change.

Although there are many issues facing critical access hospitals, competition seems to always rear its ugly head. Hospitals often see their biggest competition as each other - for obvious reasons, I understand. But I believe there are also a number of promising opportunities for rural hospitals to utilize "the competition" for future success, especially when it comes to shared services and the potential for regionalization and/or partnerships with larger area facilities.

The M&A wave

Mergers and affiliations among hospitals, health systems and physician practices can overturn traditional market dynamics, leaving existing systems with new and bigger competitors. For example, take the merger between Advocate Health Care and NorthShore University Health System. Overnight, two of the largest competitors in Chicago's metropolitan area became one of the largest systems in the country. This deal created a 16-hospital system called Advocate NorthShore Health Partners, which will be the largest in Illinois and the 11th largest nonprofit system in the country. Deals like this dramatically and quickly alter the landscape for other hospitals in a similar market.

Keep in mind that critical access hospitals bring tremendous value to healthcare systems because of their ability to provide the right care at the right place, locally. That's going to make them attractive to larger systems, especially when these systems are looking at the potential expansions of Accountable Care Organizations (ACO).

So at some point, it will become beneficial for CAHs to consider a range of partnership and affiliation opportunities to strengthen their value proposition. Even hospitals that are independent in a corporate sense typically participate in various partnerships or affiliations, such as clinical affiliations and cooperation agreements for sharing expertise and best practices.

As we mentioned in a previous post, in order for rural hospitals to survive in this climate, the development of innovative solutions that promote the delivery of integrated, quality healthcare within budgetary constraints is a must. Resource sharing, affiliations and joint venture arrangements with regional partners can yield benefits without surrendering independence.

In the next few posts, I'll explore other challenges facing critical access leaders such as ACO, population health, physician engagement/recruitment and pay-per-performance models. Stay tuned.

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