For most orthopedic planners, the growth of self-referrals is no longer a surprise. Increasingly, patients are taking control of their care and shopping around for their providers. However, while many hospitals have dedicated efforts to creating a robust primary care outreach strategy, they are less adept at targeting patients directly.
The result can be a confused outreach strategy that fails to reach patients with a relevant message.
For example, we heard from one orthopedic program that put together a social media page promoting its strong joint replacement services to Medicare patients, but then found their patients never saw the page. The problem? Like most joint replacement patients, their target audience was older and less active on social media. While they had an appropriate topic in their strong joint replacement program and knew their target audience, the hospital failed to use an appropriate method to reach them.
The key to a successful patient outreach strategy is to align all three vectors: the topic, the target, and the method.
Aligning topic, target, and method
Given all of the components involved—your hospital’s strengths, the demographics of your market, and variety in how your patients communicate—it can be difficult to achieve that sort of alignment. Understanding topic, target, and method can provide a useful starting point.
- Topic: The content of your marketing message. Choose a topic that’s relevant to patients and differentiates your program. For example, outcomes metrics are increasingly important to patients and offer an opportunity to deliver a concrete message about care quality.
- Target: The patients you’re trying to reach. Failure to identify those patients and their specific needs leads to a breakdown in marketing. A message about progressive biologic therapies can be powerful, but needs to be targeted at younger patients with a need for regenerative or preventative care—an older population with surgical needs will not be as impressed.
- Method: The medium with which you reach out to patients. The orthopedic program I discussed earlier successfully aligned topic, strong joint replacement services, and target, the large Medicare population in their area, but they failed to use an effective method.
Aligning topic, target, and method requires a deep understanding of your market. In short, you need to know what outcomes, procedures, and technologies set you apart from your competitors, which demographics might be interested in your services, and how to reach those potential patients.
While it isn’t easy to design, a tailored marketing message leveraged across the right channels can be crucial to capturing an increasingly activated and informed patient base.