Growth is the Answer – How?
Growth should be a hospital leader’s first response to a challenging business environment. Procedure volume has been flat as patients pull back on healthcare spending due to the economy and growing insurance deductibles. The impact on a hospital’s bottom line can be significant. Some hospitals have responded as victims of circumstance, resorting to significant cost reductions. But cutting costs can often restrict a hospital’s ability to grow revenue, creating a downward spiral for the facility. There are other options. Instead of simply cutting costs, healthcare leaders should find ways to redirect existing, current resources and expenses, to create more effective growth strategies. In this very tumultuous time, growth is paramount.
Healthcare is highly competitive industry. All medical practices and healthcare businesses need to attract a continuous flow of patients. However, a lot of work goes into running a healthcare organization or practice. When your number one aim is patient care, it can be hard to focus on marketing to new customers and growing your business as well.
It’s important that you have some strategies in place to expand your patient list. Are you aiming to attract more patients but are not sure where to start? Here are simple ways to help grow your healthcare business.
Keep the front door wide open:
Every company has a front door, but it may not be a physical entrance. For a hospital’s outpatient services, the front door is the scheduling department. If the phone is not answered when a physician calls to schedule an appointment, the front door is closed. Consider the additional “doors” that customers pass through, and the potential bottlenecks associated with each door. Identify departments that have excessive wait times or backlogs. These are departments with lots of customers — but they have the equivalent of a line at the front door. Make small investments, such as adding support staff to improve the turnaround time. Consider expanding the hours of operation for departments that have fixed assets, such as diagnostic imaging. Because of poor service, physicians defected and volume dropped, which led to declining productivity standards. Productivity does not always equate to good service and profitability.
Know your Targeted Patients:
Before trying to attract any new clients, it’s important that you’ve got a firm grasp on who exactly you should be targeting. This is easy to do: take a look at your current and previous patients, and observe key factors such as gender, age, location, and occupation. This data will help you build a brand that appeals to your particular niche and work out the right channels for marketing, advertising, and where and when to reach out to new patients.
Target the outliers:
The 80/20 rule may apply to healthcare more than any other industry. The 80/20 rule, which is also known as the Pareto Principle, is a concise statement (an aphorism) which asserts that 80% of outcomes (or outputs) result from 20% of all causes (or inputs) for any given event.
In business, a goal of the 80-20 rule is to identify inputs that are potentially the most productive and make them the priority. Much of the profit within a hospital comes from a few key service lines, procedures and physicians. Identify those service lines that provide the hospital a majority of the profit — usually diagnostic imaging, surgeries and some auxiliary service lines such as physical therapy or rehab. Focus efforts and resources on these positive outliers. Likewise, evaluate the negative, money-losing outliers. Are they necessary to the hospital? Identify the surgery outliers that produce a significant amount of profit in a health system. A visual picture is always helpful. Plot the service lines, procedures and physicians on a scale of profitability: points on the right represent profitable areas, points on the left represent money-losing areas. The points on the far right of the scale are the immediate places to focus for replacing lost revenue. And if cuts are needed, look to the left side of the scale.
The challenges in today’s hospital environment are obvious, and there is no promise the payer environment will improve. In any local or national market, the competitor that is growing is winning. Developing and executing a strategy for growth attracts positive energy, innovative employees, proactive physicians — and ultimately — patients. Simple strategies are often the best, along with adhering to core business principles: know the customer, keep the front door open — and know where money is made and lost.
Concentrate on Branding:
The most important part of a healthcare marketing strategy that attracts more patients is to build a positive brand image. Aim to set your practice apart from your competitors with a unique identity that represents your values and principles and appeals to your targeted patients.
Working out how to differentiate your practice from the competition may take some time, so start thinking about what makes you different: is it your family-orientated facilities, a luxury healthcare environment, or the way you treat your patients?
Remember to be consistent with your branding, and include your logo on all of your marketing documents.
Gain Business through Referrals:
Word-of-mouth referrals remain one of the best ways to gain new clients for your healthcare business. How do you do it? By offering a high-quality service to your existing patients, and building a brand that people remember.
People will recommend a healthcare service that they feel they can trust – so be transparent with your billing, and always offer high-quality customer service by answering patient queries clearly and quickly.
Connect with the hospital’s customer, the physician:
The best low-cost investment is spending time with the physicians who send (or could send) referrals to the hospital. Rethink the mission of the marketing department. Consider focusing marketing efforts on physician outreach. Dedicate effective, well-trained staff members to meet with referring physicians on regular basis, identifying barriers to referrals and building relationships. Support the physician marketing effort by creating helpful materials to simplify the ordering process, such as order forms, ordering guides and educative materials. It may appear too simple, but these are the things that can make doing business with your hospital just a little easier, compared to the local competitor. Be sure to include key administration professionals in your marketing outreach efforts. Above all, remember that the customer wants to feel special and be heard. A simple lunch or conversation with a physician, asking what that physician wants to see and listening, can go a long way toward improving a relationship and building loyalty to the hospital. It does take dedicated time and resources to reach out to key or potential referring physicians, and to listen and respond to their concerns. But this investment of time and resources is crucial in order to grow the hospital’s business.
Be Active on Social Media:
Social media is one of the best ways to advertise your healthcare business to a large audience. Through data analysis and campaigns, you can rapidly grow your audience and advertise to the kind of people looking for your business.
Further, it’s becoming one of the main points of contact between healthcare facilities and their patients. People will follow their healthcare providers on Facebook to stay up-to-date and access beneficial information, so don’t forget to regularly post quality content on your social media pages.
Encourage Online Reviews:
Reviews give your business legitimacy, and instill trust and confidence in any potential new clients. This makes them an incredibly efficient and inexpensive way of growing your healthcare business and attracting new patients.
Send follow-up emails to patients who have recently visited, and encourage them to leave an online review. You may consider offering discounts or free services in return leaving a review.
Attracting new patients and growing your healthcare services is key to maintaining a strong, thriving business. Every healthcare business should make an effort to attract new patients. If you’re aiming to take your healthcare business to the next level, make sure you consider these ideas for growth.
Remember, Growth is the Answer!