Hospitals are increasingly creating new and innovative service offerings to expand their service portfolio and differentiate themselves from other providers. However, a hospital’s ability to effectively communicate the who, what, when, where, and why to its target audience is critical to the successful deployment and delivery of these services.
Increasing consumerism ups the ante for successful marketing
Patients are increasingly becoming active consumers, sensitive to price, quality, and value of services when choosing their provider. In fact, a recent study found that up to 21% of new orthopedic office visits came from self-referrals. In this environment, providers must ensure patients have a clear grasp of their services in order to capture self-referrals.
Effective communication of services is especially important for new services and disruptive care delivery models. For example, orthopedic-specific urgent care centers are an emerging service model designed to appeal directly to consumerist patients seeking convenient, easily accessible orthopedic care. Since hospitals position these centers to attract mostly self-referring, walk-in patients rather than physician referrals, hospitals must craft a strong patient-facing marketing and branding strategy.
Case study: Matching branding with orthopedic urgent care services
Seamgram Medical Center’s (pseudonym) experience in marketing its newly established orthopedic urgent care center provides a strong example of the impact branding and external messaging can have on how patients understand and utilize a new service.
When Seagram opened its first center, they branded it as a "Walk-In Injury Care" center intended for acute orthopedic injuries like fractures, dislocations, or sprains. However, using "Walk-In" in the name caused confusion among prospective patients about the center’s services. Approximately 30% of the center’s patients sought on-demand care for chronic arthritis complications or post-surgical follow-up care—services that should have been provided through a traditional outpatient physician office visit. This inappropriate utilization strained the center’s capacity and ability to quickly triage patients.
Learning from this experience, Seagram took a different approach when opening its second location, branding the new center as an "Urgent Care Clinic" to signal its services were geared towards higher acuity cases. Seagram credits this new brand with helping patients better understand when to use orthopedic urgent care services and an actual reduction in the number of inappropriate patients.
Getting your message right
So what aspects of new services should providers market? Many programs benefit from emphasizing these four components in their marketing messages to relay the capabilities or advantages of a specific service offering.
Keep in mind, these marketing messages can be further elevated by zeroing in on the best topic, target, and method of communication for your target patient population.