Marketing Pain Points- Community Hospitals and Physician Practices

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Marketing Challenges: Physician Practices

Competing with hospitals, distinguishing themselves from other practices, and retaining patients are three major marketing challenges faced by orthopedic, pediatric, and urgent care practices in the United States.

Orthopedic Practices: Competing with Hospitals

  • Competing with hospitals and dealing with hospitals’ persistent acquisition of physician practices have been identified by Daniel Goldberg as the biggest marketing challenge that orthopedic practices face at present. Goldberg is the chief executive officer and creative director of Gold Medical Marketing, the only company in the United States that specializes in neurosurgery, orthopedic, and spine practice marketing.
  • Hospitals tend to control or dominate the entire spectrum of care by hiring most orthopedic surgeons and acquiring physician practices on a regular basis.
  • According to Goldberg, for physician practices to cope with this challenge, they must always be mindful of these acquisitions, and they must take concrete steps to not only strengthen their direct-to-patient marketing efforts but also ensure they will not be dominated by larger healthcare providers.
  • Goldberg explains that, even though orthopedic practices have smaller marketing budgets compared to hospitals, they can still compete by staying agile and looking actively for marketing opportunities. He adds that orthopedic practices must spread their marketing budgets across different media, not just print ads or billboards, so that they can reach potential patients in a variety of ways.
  • Orthopedic practices can access the troves of data that companies such as Facebook and Google collect, and use them to understand online patient behavior and deliver highly targeted ads and content. According to Goldberg, doing so can lower patient acquisition costs.
  • Orthopedic practices can use the data to identify individuals whose online behaviors indicate a need for an orthopedic surgeon. Direct-to-patient marketing is important because orthopedic practices can no longer rely on referrals.
  • Orthopedic practices should no longer view marketing as an ancillary expense. They should instead view marketing as an opportunity to generate revenue.

Pediatric Practices: Distinguishing Themselves from Primary Care or Family Practices

  • Pediatric practices typically find it difficult to set themselves apart from primary care or family practices.
  • This is according to Harold Gibson, the chief financial officer of Atlanta-based healthcare revenue cycle management firm M-Scribe.
  • According to Gibson, to distinguish themselves from generalist practices, pediatric practices must understand that while their patients are children and adolescents, the people they are marketing to are parents. They must understand that a large fraction of parents are millennials who often turn to the internet when researching and selecting service providers.
  • To take advantage of this behavior, pediatric practices must take steps to ensure that when parents search online for local pediatricians, their website appears on the first page of search results. Using the right keywords and implementing effective search engine optimization are key.
  • Gibson also recommends that pediatric practices do the following: harness social advertising, create a targeted pay-per-click campaign, and optimize website design. To make a great first impression through their website, pediatric practices should consider offering a mobile-friendly website with the following features: patient portal, chatbot, online appointment booking, and social media integration.
  • To further distinguish themselves from generalist practices, pediatric practices must seriously pay attention to online reputation management. Online reviews influence the decisions of millennial parents, so pediatric practices must continuously monitor online reviews and actively ask satisfied patients to leave reviews of their practice.
  • It is also important for pediatric practices to educate parents about their services. Parents, for example, may not know that a pediatric practice is capable of treating acne and may turn to a dermatologist instead.
  • Pediatric practices can also sponsor local charity or community events to gain exposure and reach new clients.

Urgent Care Practices: Retaining Patients

  • For urgent care practices, acquiring patients is easy as there are always people who need immediate care. The hard part is retaining patients. Patient retention is typically the factor that determines whether an urgent care center will be successful.
  • According to Yaakov Landau, the brand manager of a New York-based urgent care practice, a lot of urgent care patients, though satisfied with the service they received, do not come back.
  • To address this challenge, urgent care practices are advised to “position themselves as assets to the communities they serve.” They can do this by participating in local community events and interacting with community leaders, residents, and businesses.
  • Urgent care practices can also position themselves as more efficient and convenient by transforming into one-stop shops. By adding supplemental or complementary services such as primary care and speciality care services, urgent care practices can promote themselves as more efficient and convenient than other healthcare providers.
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Pain Points in Community Hospital Marketing

Marketing pain points for community hospitals include regulations compliance, lack of funding, and social influencers.

Regulations Compliance

  • Regulations such as Medicaid Anti-Kickback Statute (AKS) and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) prove to be a challenge to marketers.
  • HIPAA is a set of regulations that touches on all aspects of the healthcare industry including the healthcare sales cycle.
  • Community hospitals are supposed to keep patients' data safe and are restricted to use tools like remarketing ads. This has resulted to many organizations to continue using offline marketing channels such as radio and TV.
  • To solve the compliance challenge, community hospitals marketing teams should "brush up on the HIPAA Privacy Rule in terms of how it impacts marketing". This will eliminate the possibility of accidental sharing of confidential patients' data.
  • Community hospital marketing teams should be regularly trained on HIPAA regulations to keep everyone in the know.
  • It is also important to manage expectations through marketing messaging. Use of words and phrases that make claims that can not be quantifiable should be avoided.

Lack of Funding

  • According to the SHSMD report, hospitals' marketing budget represents less than one percent of the total hospital budget.
  • According to a survey done by Klein & Partners in 2019, over half of respondents (including community hospital marketers) said that lack of funding was a major challenge to digital marketing.
  • Marketing is also not a priority to most small practices.
  • The budget challenge can be solved by finding both long and short term strategies. It is important to prove to the senior leadership that marketing is a revenue generator by measuring short term marketing efforts and building reports that prove ROI.
  • The use of tools such as Google Analytics can help in attributing revenue to specific marketing tactics.
  • Continuous proof of consistent ROI is a good long term solution.

Social Influencers

  • According to Forbes, social influencers can be both a boon and a curse to marketers. This is because they can sway public opinion both in the right and wrong direction.
  • Social influencers can spread "false information without the legal constraints that health care marketers face".
  • Examples of the negative impact of influencers in healthcare include the anti-vaccination movement, weight loss products, and appetite lollipops.
  • A solution to this challenge includes humanizing marketing messages. Marketers can use real stories of existing people who have been positively affected by the hospital.
  • Marketing messages should be authentic, respectful, and measured.