Sunday, September 16, 2012

Can you leverage the hospital readmissions issue in your market?

Okay, before I start getting bombarded with the "how can you even think that you can use the readmission penalties being leveled against hospitals in marketing" statements, hear me out. Readmissions is a complicated issue that involves a lot more than the hospital stay. In some cases, it is the hospital and I have experienced it personally.

So, what does it mean to leverage the readmissions issue with your hospital good or bad in your market area? Two trains of thought here.

The first one is if you're getting the charged with a penalty and identified in the CMS list, then I suggest to you, instead of diving for under the desk and ignoring the issue hoping that the public won't pay attention, is a dreadfully wrong strategy. Ignoring it because people can't understand it, and its way to complicated to explain anyway.

You need to design a PR and marketing campaign that explains the readmissions issue in terms the healthcare consumer can understand.

People are paying attention and will assume that if you aren't talking about it then you're hiding something. So, leverage it and turn the tables. Show how you are becoming the market leader by attacking the complexities of the issue. Turn it from a hospital-focused issue to a healthcare delivery issue. Don't blame, lead.

Remember, if you have been touting those quality awards, and when this happens, the healthcare consumer will have some cognizance dissonance going on in their head. The two aren't mutually exclusive in the minds of consumers and are linked. Which really only reinforces their belief that those awards are meaningless, if you are being penalized because patients are being readmitted to your hospital in less than 30 days for what they were treated for in the first place. If you let that happen, shame on you.

The second thought is leveraging the issue by moving into the realm of outcomes transparency in your marketing and PR efforts.

I am not advocating in the least to link outcomes to readmissions. What I am saying that is if you have a very low readmissions rates, there are a lot of reasons for that and you need to be clear about why what you are doing is so different than everyone else. The healthcare consumer what's to know. Start talking about your outcomes, linkages in the community and support provided. It's called leading with a better way and informing the healthcare consumer.

It takes finesse to handle, but you have one very large opportunity to redefine the market and perceptions based on transparency.

Hospital senior leadership and Boards, can no longer take the road of silence. Healthcare has already changed too much and the healthcare consumer is demanding more. Old ways don't work, so you might as well get with the program and start leveraging opportunities as they present.

Readmissions PR and marketing is one of those opportunities and it's not going to be the last.

Michael Krivich is an internationally followed healthcare marketing blogger with over 4,000 monthly pages views in over 52 countries worldwide. He is founder of the michael J group, a healthcare marketing consultancy dedicated to creating value through strategic marketing for hospitals and health system regardless of payment mechanism, either fee-for-service or value-based to increase market-share, revenue , brand and demonstrate actual return on marketing investment. Michael is a Fellow, American College of Healthcare Executives and a Professional Certified Marketer, American Marketing Association.


Edie Loper Johns said...

I agree that the head in the sand approach won't work.

In addition to problems that haven't been solved yet (like not getting patients without adequate resources their outpatient meds), there are some good reasons why the readmissions might be high as those cited in this Chicago Tribune article of 9/13:

"The list also includes top-ranked Hackensack University Medical Center in New Jersey, North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset, N.Y., and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, a teaching hospital of Harvard Medical School.

"A lot of places have put in a lot of work and not seen improvement," said Dr. Kenneth Sands, senior vice president for quality at Beth Israel. "It is not completely understood what goes into an institution having a high readmission rate and what goes into improving" it.

Sands noted that Beth Israel, like several other hospitals with high readmission rates, also has unusually low mortality rates for its patients, which he says may reflect that the hospital does a good job at swiftly getting ailing patients back into care and preventing deaths."

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