Aug. 22, 2017
We've heard about it recently: Rural hospitals closing due to patients not staying local. Instead, they travel to bigger facilities in nearby cities.
But why? You're just as good if not better as a "big city" hospital, plus you're so close. Why are patients choosing to go to your competitors instead of your rural hospital?
Awareness and reputation play significant roles when it comes to patient volumes. Manage these factors, be prepared to see numbers rise, and prevent your rural hospital from closing.
Misconception #1: A small hospital couldn't possibly offer the same services as a big system, right? And even if they did, would you really trust some small town provider to perform these services?
Awareness can help your audience overcome a lot of these kinds of misconceptions. Never assume your audience knows what services your facility offers. Celebrate your service lines. Feature a different service line in your marketing efforts on a quarterly basis to keep awareness top of mind.
This is where it's important to have solid relationships with referring physicians. Visiting specialists can be the key to more service lines and increased patient volumes. Consider these criteria when deciding which service lines to add:
Misconception #2: We've heard the perception that smaller hospitals have fewer qualified providers than larger facilities.
Recently, we helped a client overcome the iconic problem of provider perception: Potential patients were going to the nearby city to see providers that were, in fact, the exact same people who also worked at their small, hometown hospital. We helped them overcome this with a comprehensive provider awareness campaign. The audience was able to learn about the providers and their backgrounds and rest easier knowing they were "big city" caliber.
Increase awareness in traditional and non-traditional ways. This list barely scratches the surface, but it's a start to get you thinking about what tactics might work best for your facility.
Misconception #3: News doesn't travel in rural settings.
The blessing and curse of being located in a rural setting is that word can travel fast and that perceptions are rarely plastic. If your hospital had some bad press ten years ago, chances are the community still knows about it.
PR is important, even to your rural hospital. Be vigilant that the messages coming out of your hospital come from you. If a PR crisis does occur, be sure to control the narrative.
Ironically, sometimes perception can be that a rural organization is too high-end or expensive. For example, we recently helped a rural client with the unlikely problem of looking too good. They have gorgeous new facility; their materials were beautiful. The local population read this as expensive and exclusive. Even though their prices were competitive, the community's perception was that this place was not for them. We were able to alter public perception with a few tactics:
Take a close look at what you're doing to represent your brand. If you've suffered some PR blows or have had trouble overcoming perception from decades ago, try implementing some of these tactics:
We can't say this often enough: Rural hospital aren't an endangered species. They are not a thing of the past. Awareness and reputation management are your best tools for building patient volume and for preventing rural hospitals closing.
Learn how this rural hospital changed community perception and kept patients local--resulting in a 16% increase in primary care volumes in just one year.
Website by: Craig Erskine
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