Your hospital is well-regarded in every area. However, a hospital should never focus on maintaining the status quo, even if it is a lauded status quo. There’s always room for improvement. Failing to focus on improvement, leads to complacency, and, eventually, that leads to competitors nipping at your heels.
Here are seven patient acquisition strategies that can make your great hospital even greater:
1. Go Beyond the Social Media Basics
Your hospital already has a Facebook page, Twitter account and robust video offerings. Here’s how you can improve: interview doctors and nurses. Humanize them. Have the heart surgeon talk about his favorite fly fishing techniques or the head night nurse who collects vintage motorcycles on the side discuss his or her hobby. Have the chief neurosurgeon talk about his or her favorite TV shows or share their recipe for homemade barbecue sauce. A white coat isn’t what it used to be. Patients today want to feel comfortable with the person who’s about to put a scalpel to them.
Shawnee Mission Health (SMH), in Kansas City, has taken a particularly innovative approach toward humanizing its staff and making personal connections. SMH uses a psychographic segmentation model to match patients and physicians according to their “healthcare personalities” and other lifestyle interests.
Prospective patients visit SMH’s physician selection web page, answer a brief set of questions, and are offered a few primary care and specialist physicians based on complementary psychographic profiles. This approach has proven extremely popular among patients and physicians alike, and generated valuable word of mouth support.
2. Make Your Website User-Friendly
Assemble a group of patient volunteers and have them explore your website and offer feedback. You can hire the best web designer available, but if everyday customers have difficulty navigating your site, none of it matters.
It’s just good practice for a business, hospitals included, to get out of their own way sometimes, and that means making something very customer-centric. And there are few better ways to achieve maximum customer-centrism than by letting customers lead the way. Let the volunteers guide you as to what your website could be doing better. There’s always room for improvement, and an improved website will improve your patient acquisition.
3. Be Accessible
Are you accessible? If a new patient can’t reach you, then your first-rate healthcare won’t bring in many new patients. People want to reach a person. Generic forms online that simply go to the “urology department” don’t work as effectively. People want to know with whom they are communicating and how to reach them. Make sure phone numbers are visible, staff emails are available, and live chat functions on your website are in working order. A business shouldn’t build walls to keep the customer out, but rather make doors for the customer to come in.
4. Create a Robust Volunteer Program
Volunteering is good business and the perfect symbiotic relationship. Make the volunteer program part of your marketing and outreach department. The hospital receives free help, and who doesn’t want that? And the volunteer receives the genuine satisfaction of helping those that need it most. From a business standpoint, volunteers have families and loyalties. Hundreds of volunteers can translate into thousands of new patients.
So if your hospital doesn’t have one, or has a lackluster one, create a “Candy Striper Corps” for high school students and “Senior Corps” for retirees to pitch in. Some kids want to do more than push wheelchairs and direct people to the exits, as important as those jobs are. Create job shadowing opportunities for high school and college-age kids to learn valuable skills in healthcare. You’ll be helping with your new patient acquisition and just maybe training your next cardio director.
5. Be There For Your Patients’ Best Moments As Well As the Worst
Childbirth aside, hospitals are often in people's lives during their worst moments. If you want people to come to you during their worst moments, then you should make an effort to come to them during their best. Collect the addresses and birthdates of patients or anyone else your hospital comes into contact with and send them a card on their birthday. It’s a small gesture that most (there always a few nay-sayers which will deride it as kitschy, but it’s not) which people will appreciate if done genuinely.
Send one of your hospital’s dietitians to be a judge at the pie contest at the fairground. Have the hospital CEO sit in the dunking booth at the local carnival. Hand out “wellness bags” at the local 5K.
Many hospitals do not maintain an ongoing relationship with patients once they are discharged; thus, it is challenging for a hospital to be there during patients’ best days. A platform for automating digital engagement, like PatientBond, offers a significant advantage. Connecting with patients via emails, text messaging, Interactive Voice Response, etc. over the course of the year with screening reminders, education and valuable tips for healthy living keeps your hospital front and center at all times.
6. Work Up An App-etite
More and more people are living on their smartphones, and you need to go there, too. If your hospital’s app is non-existent or rusty, you need to create a vibrant portal to a person’s life on their smartphone via an app.
It’s important to not take a “build it and they will come” attitude with an app, however. Many people download health apps, but few actually use them on a regular basis. It’s critical that patients understand the value proposition of the app and how it applies to their lives.
Make your app capable of scheduling appointments, watching heart surgery, downloading recipes, giving directions and answering frequently asked questions. Your website is crucial, but a great app will allow people to integrate your hospital into their every day, every minute moments.
7. Implement Reputation Management
Your best source of new customers are your current customers who go out into the real community or the digital community and help spread their good experiences which, in turn, burnishes your hospital’s reputation.
A digital patient engagement platform like PatientBond helps foster engagement with patients long after they’ve left the recovery room. PatientBond’s survey capability also allows you to gain valuable insights to improve patients’ experience, improve your Net Promoter Score (NPS) and increase social media ratings and reviews.
This application allows you to drive awareness of your other services from which the patient may genuinely benefit. All of this helps to strengthen patient loyalty and boost the odds of good word of mouth. And that’s the best reputation management.
Your hospital has already set the standard — now you need to go above and beyond.