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New School Marketing Shifts that Boost Service Line Profitability [Part Two]

By Stewart Gandolf, Chief Executive Officer

Editor Note: [Conclusion of a two-part article] Stewart Gandolf, CEO of Healthcare Success, authored this article for print and online publication by Strategic Health Care Marketing. It is presented here with permission. Part One-- New Marketing: Improving Service Line Profitability -- is available here.

increase profitability service lines[Part Two] In the constantly changing world of healthcare marketing, success—and the continued profitability of services lines, requires adapting to change and setting a new course for success.

There are several concepts that can drive greater success for existing and emerging hospital strategies. Most require rethinking past concepts where hospital “service silos” were narrowly based on individual medical specialties.

If you have been relying on the ways and means of doing “business as usual,” carefully consider the following ideas and shifting to a new course for going forward.

Shift: The strength of a strategic concept beyond revenue alone…

Historically, marketing and advertising direction is revenue driven, and early forms of hospital promotion focused exclusively on the immediate criteria to feed high margin services.

One of the things that changed in this paradigm, however, is how strategic thinking—and the message that’s presented—can foster enhanced revenue with a target audience.

Obstetrics presents a natural opportunity (beyond transactional thinking) to establish rapport with an entire family. The circumstances present a happy, positive reason to come to the hospital, and it becomes a first step in fostering an enduring relationship.

A “healthy mommy and me” concept, as one illustration, acts as a gateway for current and future needs. And, since women make most healthcare decisions in the home, they are likely to choose future services for the family because a trusted relationship already exists.

Shift: Growing one service line to enable a greater good…

I like to share the true story of a client that engaged our company to target growth in spinal surgery and orthopedics. But, beyond growth for this important service area, there was a “greater good” objective to the plan.

Historically, serving poorer patients was a vital part of the mission of this long-established hospital. The strategy—which ultimately was successful—was to use the doctors they had recruited and the more profitable orthopedic surgery as an enabler.

This hospital applied revenue that came from one service area to help fund programs that serve the poor but generate little or no revenue.

Shift: Branding from bland to benefit…

Hospital branding evolved fairly recently and most organizations have embraced the concept enthusiastically. Although long-term branding has a valid and appropriate place in the overall plan, some facilities may be missing the greater value.

Early stage branding messages were stand-alone ideas that leaned heavily on warm, feel-good concepts about the facility or organization. As such, the well-intended, but lofty, concepts failed to connect with producing meaningful and measurable results.

“New School” brand building in a complicated healthcare environment is a complex, multi-faceted and long-term endeavor. The objective is to be top-of-mind, consistently presenting the public, patients, referring doctors and others with a unique and memorable reason to choose you over the competition.

Service lines are the brand experience territory that delivers on the brand promise. Branding must be closely integrated with—and not independent of—producing measurable results for profitable service lines.

Shift: The wellness model…

An innovative model is service line marketing to keep patients out of the hospital. Promoting “wellness” appears counterintuitive to “filling beds.” But with revenue increasingly tied to prevention, traditional service department marketing, and the spectrum of care, take on a new starting point.

This new school model embraces wellness, prevention and lifestyle. The Kaiser Permanente Thrive program has become a system-wide, wellness-driven theme that appeals to health-aware, proactive patients and employers who appreciate that prevention trumps catastrophic care.

The Thrive campaign and others like it engage patients through promotions such as health screenings, nutrition, education and prevention. This extends the patient care continuum, creates trust for later clinical needs, and shifts from episodic, transactional encounters to a relationship-based environment.

The nation’s healthcare delivery system continues to reinvent itself, and to be successful, hospital marketing plans need to regularly evaluate new “new school” concepts that grow your most profitable service departments.

Stewart Gandolf, MBA

© Copyright 2014 Healthcare Success

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