Thursday, September 2, 2010

Driving Volume and Revenue in a Recessionary or Slow Growth Economy

"It's the economy stupid", to quote a now famous phrase.

Revenue in hospitals, clinics and physician offices are down. Looming Medicare cuts. Slow pay or no pay from Medicaid programs across the country. Increased self-pays. Lowered insurance reimbursements.

As much as we like to believe otherwise, healthcare is not a discretionary purchase. And, there is little if any differentiation between medical providers. With so many individuals out of work, consumer confidence eroding and wage earners fearful of losing jobs, healthcare, whether doctors visits, medication purchases, or hospitalizations, are the last thing on peoples' minds.

What is a healthcare provider to do?

We all know the drill. Cut costs, lay-off staff, hiring freeze, decrease marketing. etc. All retrenchment strategies to "weather the storm." In most cases necessary steps. All fatal to the healthcare organization. When recovery ensues, which it will, you can't take advantage of new opportunities that present themselves because you are trying to recapture what you lost. Focusing your resources and efforts to make back the revenue and market share that you lost.

You can drive volume and revenue is a recessionary or slow growth economy. Here's how:

Step One: Recognize that healthcare is a purely a discretionary purchase. No one wants to get sick. No one plans to get sick. No one thinks about what health provider they will go to when they get sick.

In recessionary or slow growth economy here is the paradigm: ( I am not saying its right to do, but it is what people do.)

I get sick » self diagnose and try over the counter medications » doesn't work » consider retail clinic yes/no » call primary care physician yes/no » go to hospital ER.

Hospitals are last on the list, and individuals decisions in the economy are driven purely by price. What is going to cost me in co-pay or out of pocket if no insurance and what is the cheapest price?

Realize too that there is little if any differentiation among providers. You all look and feel the same. Market and "walk the talk" about value and price, not about image.

Step Two: Focus on physician and patient experience. Understand every touch point that a doctor or patient comes in contact with you from the first moment that they learn about your brand, to the medical services, to leaving is an opportunity to create a lasting positive impression and repeat business. Complete a patient experience map and a physician experience map. Find the issues and fix them now.

Step Three: Focus on the core. That's right, focus on your core services that pay the bills. No wild fancy flights of new services that are consumer or physician discretionary or elective in nature. People won't buy them in this economy. So don't waste the time and energy, except for planning for those new service lines when the economy turns around. But not now.

Create pricing and service specials for your existing outpatient lab services such as schedule, test and results in two days (STaR2).

Step Four: Crank up the media relations. Press releases, statements, white papers, outcomes studies, anything that puts you in a positive light and keep you in the media. Consider a steady stream of health and wellness tips etc. Drive people to your web site and don't forget to use social media efficiently and effectively. Patient and physician success stories are needed as well.

Step Five: Constantly measure and evaluate. Change on the fly. Don't stop. Be consistent in your brand messaging.

The opportunity is now.

Michael Krivich is Fellow, American College of Healthcare Executives and a Professional Certified Marketer, American Marketing Association and can be reached at michael@themichaeljgroup.com or 815-293-1471 for consulting services in strategic marketing, media relations and interim marketing executive leadership assignments. Huthwaite SPIN selling trained and a Miller Heiman Strategic Selling alumni, both highly respected and successful international sales training organizations , I can lead your organization though the challenge of integrating sales and marketing.

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