Myths in Rural Healthcare: Close-to-Home Care

Posted on August 27, 2015


With more than 25 years in the healthcare industry, I've observed and created countless strategies and tactics for rural healthcare marketing campaigns. Some of them worked, others did not. However, several ideas and messages stand out to me as "myths" believed in the industry. Over the next year, I'll be writing a series of blog posts that examine and dissect these common myths and trends we see in rural healthcare marketing and give solutions on how you can avoid them.

Myth 1: The Close-to-Home Strategy

This may be the most common myth critical access hospitals believe when it comes to their marketing strategies. The idea behind the message is that CAHs provide care to those that would otherwise have to make a much longer journey to a bigger city. This is not to say that the convenience of close-to-home care is not an important message to communicate to potential patients. However, using it as the primary messaging simplifies what you have to offer.

Three reasons why "Close-to-Home" is not working for you:

Lacks differentiation. The most obvious problem with the close-to-home strategy is that it's a message used by most critical access hospitals. A message that is meant to differentiate your CAH from larger hospitals quickly lumps you into a category with every other rural facility.

Lacks dimension. Another issue with this strategy is that it's one-dimensional. Location is only one factor into what makes your facility unique. Often when CAHs use "close-to-home" they are trying to communicate so much more than just location. They want to communicate community-focused, family-oriented, personalized care, less wait time, etc.

Lacks personality. What makes your facility unique? Is it your pet therapy dog, Gordon? Or Amanda, the candy stripe who loves to sing? Perhaps it's your senior life center library, donated by George, a bibliophile who's spent his life collecting books from around the world. Tell the story of your facility because that's what makes you different: the patient experience.

What can you do? If you feel stuck in the close-to-home strategy, start at the source. Re-examine your brand. What is your brand promise? Get specific about your strengths and how they affect the patient experience. Think about the unique character and personality of the staff, patients and community in which your hospital exists. The details of your hospital's story will help you see the bigger picture for your brand. And a complex, more meaningful brand promise will lead to strength and consistency across all your campaigns. To learn more on brand development, check out our blog post What's in a Brand?

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