Sunday, March 17, 2013

You bought the medical practice, now how do you market those physicians?

Recent figures indicated that owned medical practices by hospitals and health systems are losing $170K a year. It's causing a lot of angst in the leadership suite and with the Board of Directors in hospitals and health systems. And everyone knows these losses are unsustainable. There are of course many reasons for this, some are structural, some are organizational, some are cultural, some are management decisions made and all playing a part in why the practice is losing so much money.

But one reason should never be because you don't market that medical practice effectively. And sadly, there is a lot of ineffective medical practice marketing going on by hospitals and health systems. Medical practices are one of the few remain opportunities to drive volume and revenue. Its sure not the hospital, that's the last place you will be wanting to drive volume, especially to the inpatient side. The drive to create ACOs in a value-based payment environment demands a different type of physician relationship, but that doesn't mean ineffective marketing.

With this new opportunity to reinvent, revitalize and recapture what previously before had been an adventure on the part of hospitals with mixed results, it's time to discuss how one goes about marketing the employed physician.

Break from the past.

It's easy to look at this and say we'll just do what we did in the past in promoting employed physicians and be done with it. That is a dangerous mistake. Healthcare consumers/patients are making physician choices based cost, location and convenience due to increasing co-pays and rising deductibles. If you're just going to throw some ads out there with a picture of a nice smiling doc with copy written in the third person about how wonderful and compassionate he or she is, you can expect dismal marketing failure. I mean really, a doctor in an advertisement I recently viewed from a major academic medical center looking skyward at some unknown object or were they contemplating some major medical advance? That is a pretty arrogant portrayal of the physician. Like they know something you don't? I didn't get, and neither does the healthcare consumer.

What is needed is a new look at what you are doing and changing to meet the needs of your healthcare consumer, not you. With great change comes great opportunity. That is if one is willing to embrace that change and find new ways of moving forward and creating value.

Be effective physician marketers.

Confer the physicians credibility to your brand. Talk about the values, quality and outcomes of the physician. And talk about the patient experience with this physician.

You need to communicate very strongly your brand and brand promise you are associating with the employed physician. Brand the doc to you. They represent your brand at an individual level. Capitalize on that opportunity and leverage it though there existing credibility.

Communicate the values of the doctor. Answer the healthcare consumers question of what is special about this physician and why should I select her or him? Stop talking at people, talk to them. Talk to them with compelling value driven reasoning why they should select that doctor, or even why they should even considering switching physicians. No more doctors looking contemplatively skyward or ad copy that talks about them in the third person.

Pay attention to the patient experiences. How long is the patient waiting? Is your web site easy to use. Can they schedule appointments online? How are they greeted? View the patient experience from beginning to end at ever touch-point along the continuum. Remember, a consumer is only a patient one-third of the time they interact with your physicians. Before care and after care, they are consumers, evaluating their experience with you at very touch-point that they come in contact. And just because you have high patient satisfaction results, that doesn't equate to a grand overall experience.

Stop wasting your money putting ads in papers that expect people to take action simply because the doctor is on your medical staff or in one of your buildings. That treats the healthcare consumer like they are idiots. They're not. They are demanding value for the cost and acknowledgement that they have a say in what's going on. If you won't meet their needs they will go somewhere else.

If you're not communicating value and what's in it for them for selecting your physicians, then you can put it in the bank that the healthcare consumer will pass on by and go where they perceive the value to be greatest for them in line with the price they are paying.

In the end, it's all about knowing what healthcare consumer/ patient needs are and delivering that in a convenient location at a price point that is affordable. If you think this is crazy, then why are the retail clinics taking you to lunch?

And the losses keep mounting.

Michael J. Krivich, MHA, FACHE, PCM, is an internationally followed healthcare marketing blogger with over 5,000 monthly pages views in over 52 countries worldwide on Healthcare Marketing Matters. He is founder of the michael J group, a Fellow, American College of Healthcare Executives and a Professional Certified Marketer, American Marketing Association. Like us on facebook at the michael J group, and connect with me on LinkedIn, Twitter and Pheed.

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