Big Improvements Can Come in Small Packages: a Hospital Marketing Case Example

By Stewart Gandolf
Chief Executive Officer

A guest post by Randall S. Barton, PhD, Managing Partner, Ideopolis LLC

exam room big improvementsWe recently read a great article on the Healthcare Success site titled “Nobody Expects the Spanish Inquisition”—a Surprising Lesson for Doctor Marketing. It prompted us to write about a prevalent misconception in the medical industry today…that meaningful improvements must be big. In reality, some of the best ways to improve the patient experience are in the small details.

Many medical facilities today are investing big money in improving the patient experience by redesigning their waiting areas. But from a marketing standpoint, do architectural renovations and fish tanks really enhance the brand and increase the satisfaction of waiting patients?

Consider a mother waiting for the doctor with a sick child and an impatient sibling. Like many moms, she is uncomfortable with the cleanliness of shared items like books, toys, or magazines. But no matter how fantastic the décor, she really just needs something for her waiting children to do. These are your customers who are often frustrated with their waiting experience. The greater their frustration, the lower your patient satisfaction.

Thinking about this mom, Our Lady of the Lake Children’s Hospital in Baton Rouge, LA, challenged us to develop a simple solution to the industry-wide problem of occupying waiting children. Our Alphabotz Scratch-N-Color Wait-Time Playbooks are individually packaged activity booklets filled with games, puzzles, hidden pictures, and more. Sound typical? The big benefits are in the details.

The innovation is that the playbooks are printed with an exclusive invisible ink that only develops by scratching the paper, making them mess-free. Fish are nice, but Alphabotz Playbooks are an example of a product that really works.

“Our first Press-Ganey survey since implementation of the Alphabotz Scratch-N-Color Wait-Time Playbooks measured a significant increase in patient satisfaction in the ED waiting area of our children’s hospital, with a score in the 91st percentile,” said John Paul Funes, President/CEO of Our Lady of the Lake Foundation.

“We were very impressed with the results, and are distributing the playbooks to all of our network facilities. The playbooks are like a special gift from us to our waiting patients and their families. We see them as a tremendous marketing tool for enhancing our overall brand.”

Imagine how impressed our waiting mom would be if handed an activity that her children could keep from the waiting room, to the exam room, to home. A very small gesture, but when repeated over hundreds or thousands of frustrated waiting families, adds up to tremendous goodwill for your practice. What helps the waiting mother more, an activity to occupy her children, or the typical lollipop given after the appointment? Every mother that sees the playbooks says nearly the same thing, “Why hasn’t someone done this before?”

Your Spanish Inquisition article referenced real-world examples that exceeded the expectations of patients. Small gestures helped the patients feel special and created a positive experience, which generated tremendous word-of-mouth advertising, built patient loyalty, and strengthened brand recognition.

How do you grow your customer base and keep your customers happy? Find simple solutions that create a bond between your medical facility and its patients, and exceed expectations in customer service and patient satisfaction. Sometimes, big improvements do come in small packages.  No waiting room renovation necessary!

Randy Barton is the Managing Partner for Ideopolis LLC, makers of Alphabotz® children’s products.  Randy can be reached at  

Stewart Gandolf
Chief Executive Officer at Healthcare Success
Stewart Gandolf, MBA, is Chief Executive Officer of Healthcare Success, one of the nation's leading healthcare and digital marketing agencies. Over the past 20 years, Stewart has marketed and consulted for over 1,000 healthcare clients, ranging from practices and hospitals to multi-billion dollar corporations. A frequent speaker, Stewart has shared his expertise at over 200 venues nationwide. As an author and expert resource, Stewart has also written for many leading industry publications, including the 21,000 subscriber Healthcare Success Insight blog. Stewart also co-authored, "Cash-Pay Healthcare: Start, Grow & Perfect Your Cash-Pay Healthcare Business." Stewart began his career with leading advertising agencies, including J. Walter Thompson, where he marketed Fortune 500 clients such as Wells Fargo and Bally's Total Fitness.



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