“No margin. No mission.” That’s a common mantra for hospitals across the country struggling to continue their mission of providing quality health care while, at the same time, finding a profitable payer-mix to fund that mission.
American consumers have more choice than ever before. Consequently, their purchasing behaviors reflect a tendency toward speed and convenience over loyalty, and online shopping is beginning to take the place of in-person transactions. No, I’m not talking about retail; I’m talking about health care. With the rise of independent urgent care centers, physician-owned surgi-centers, and a booming homecare industry, people just aren’t going to the hospital like they used to.
Look around you. There is an urgent care center popping up in every profitable suburb, strip mall, and street corner in America. Some surgeons are cherry-picking the best paying patients for their own ASCs. Payers increasingly want the patient to recover at home ($2,000 per day in a hospital versus less than $50 per day at home). And now Medicare is wielding its claims-denial power on any same treatment given within 30 days. Our backs are against the wall of less desirable real estate, adverse selection of patients, a national shift to homecare, and another excuse to not get paid (which has more to do with the Mesopotamian calendar than clinical evidence).
So how can you compete when all these things are stacked against you?
Let’s go back to the beginning. Online “shopping” is a space where we can afford to compete for attention. We can’t move our bricks-and-mortar hospital into the suburbs, we can’t sell physicians’ owner-shares, and we sure can’t change reimbursement. But as marketers, we can influence and impress, and the best way for us to do that is through content. Thanks to Google’s new algorithm (Hummingbird), content that is robust, recent, and relevant now rises to the top of search results. Google’s goal is to reward quality content that is valid and useful, and penalize content that is just marketing trickery. Ideally, for example, if a person searches for “GERD,” the search results will yield helpful resources rather than pharma corp ads.
You can be that quality resource. That thought leader. It’s the opportunity to not only earn media, but to own media.
Even if you don’t have the benefit of a prime location or the advantage of a large physician base, chances are you have the trust of your community built by your reputation and history serving them. Maximize on that foothold in a way your competition can’t replicate. Leverage your name, all that’s in your brand, to connect in a new way to prospective patients by telling your story through quality online content that engages the consumer.
Consider these three ways:
One last tidbit: Research proves the last thing people want from a hospital is a "puff piece" on the equipment you just purchased, what your building looks like, or all the great things your CEO has to say about it.
So stop worrying about the things you can’t change and instead use your trusted brand and rich content to leverage your position online — in a way the others simply can’t rival.