Wednesday, July 20, 2011

How do You Drive Volume, Revenue in a Slow Growth Economy?

Revenue in hospitals, clinics and physician offices are down. Payers earnings are up because of lack of healthcare utilization. They are spending less. Looming Medicare cuts. Slow pay or no pay from Medicaid programs across the country. Increased self-pays. Lowered insurance reimbursements. And of Congress doesn't act on increase the ability of the Treasury to raise the debt limit, "you haven't seen nothing yet".

Healthcare is not a discretionary purchase. 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, hospitalizations or insurance purchases, 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 organizations. 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 resources and effort 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 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 individual healthcare decisions in this 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.

Step Two: Focus on physician and patient experience. Understand every touch point that a doctor or patient comes in contact with you for the first moment that they learn about your brand, to the medical services, to leaving, is an opportunity to create a lasting positive impression. 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. 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 services, for example with lab create a schedule, test and results in two days (STaR2) program.

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 to build for the future.

This is my last post until August. My daughter is a left-handed pitcher on the 14U Plainfield Lightning fast-pitch travel softball team. We are going to the ASA Class B Northern National Championships next week.  Its been a great year for the Lightning: 36-13; 3 tournament championships; a 2nd; 3rd; 4th place finish; and winning streaks of 6 and 12 games. My daughter did pitch a no-hitter too in June! For 2012, the team moves up to 16U.  It will be fun. Enjoy the summer.

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For more information, or to discuss your strategic healthcare marketing, customer experience management, marketing/sales integration or start-up needs, you can learn more at my web site the michael J group; email-; or phone by calling me at 815-293-1471.

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