Since 1980, swing bed revenue has been a mainstay source of revenue for many of America’s rural hospitals. If your hospital has an active swing bed program you know the positive impact it can have on patient care and your bottom line.
Unless you are fully utilizing your available beds, you need to be active about marketing post-acute care services to your community. Here are some strategies for your messaging.
Recovery close to home
Being able to recover from surgery close to home is the biggest selling point for consumers. Stress the idea you can be close to your family, making it fast and easy for them to visit. Use language like “your hometown”, or “your community” to connect feelings of home to your facility. You can talk about there being no need for a long journey to make other options sound less attractive.
People in your community may not understand that when recovering from surgery they may have to move to a separate nursing facility if they go to a larger urban hospital.
Example: At YOUR HOSPITAL recovery is a seamless process where you don’t have to move after surgery. You can receive all the support you need from the same staff that first cared for you. Your doctor and the whole nursing staff are close at hand ensuring the best recovery possible for you.
You can further bolster this message by citing research that patients who recover at the hospital rather than a nursing facility have lower rates of readmission and shorter recovery stays. You can find one such study here and another here.
Getting YOUR patients back!
Often your local medical provider, or Emergency Department, will refer a patient to a specialist in a big city hospital and they end up providing the care …and placing your patient in the urban city hospital swing bed program. Not only do you lose the revenues but the family has to travel the distance each day to see them.
Building relationships is key to getting your patients back home and in your swing bed program
Get to know the discharge planners and the specialist in the larger communities. Make sure they know the services your hospital provides–and that you want your patients to return for local care.
Promote your nursing staff
Promoting your recovery care services is a great opportunity to highlight your nursing staff. Feature quotes from your nurses about the benefits of recovering at the hospital. Let them be the caring voice that carries this message to your community. This will put a human face on your services and at the same time burnish their reputation.
The end of the year is fast approaching. This is a great time to get people to visit your rural hospital for an annual wellness exam. Not only is this important for folks to maintain their health, but it’s a great opportunity to connect with customers, market your services, and leave a positive impression.
Use it or lose it
Many people on health insurance are eligible for a free wellness exam once per year as part of their policy. As the end of the year approaches, you can make them aware of this and encourage them to take advantage of this benefit. Losing something of value is a powerful psychological motivator for most people.
Don’t lose out on this important health insurance benefit!
This kind of appeal can also be applied to other services you offer that can be completely or largely covered by common insurance packages. Screening programs, health counseling, and other preventative measures are both good for patients and are chances to make positive contact with new patients.
Focus on the family
This is the holiday season and people are thinking more and more about their families. This is a strong emotional message. By focusing your marketing on staying healthy for your family, you can speak to people’s hearts and build your image as a caring institution.
In the holidays, the greatest gift is the love of family and friends. You want to be there for your family, healthy and strong. Getting an annual wellness exam is a great first step to ensuring a healthy and happy New Year for you and those you love most.
Ring in the new year with good health
Interest in health and wellness spikes after New Years, but you can tap into this early. You can promote your wellness exams as a way to create health goals for the new year. You could create a branded new year’s goals sheet that patients can fill out with their care providers. As people work towards their health goals they are reminded that you are there to support them. A branded goals sheet can make for a great direct mail campaign as well.
Share the cheer during wellness exams
Remember that every face to face interaction with customers is an opportunity for building your brand. Wellness exams are especially good for this. Your customers are less likely to be distressed and preoccupied. Warm greetings and good care will build positive feelings about your hospital. It’s also a great time to share other services you offer for wellness and peace of mind.
Happy Thanksgiving to you and all your staff from all of us at SRJEasyHealthcare.com. We hope you all can enjoy the holidays with good cheer, good company, and good health.
The holidays are such a great time to reach out to your community and share the spirit of the season. You can show them how grateful you are for their patronage and at the same time, you can show how grateful you are to your staff by boosting their personal image within your community.
Creating a personal brand
You can think of your senior medical staff as the players on a premier sports team. While healthcare is always a team effort, but you want to highlight those “players” who can represent the human face of your hospital and who’s expertise establishes your hospital’s trust among the community you serve.
Give careful thought to the strengths of each of your caregivers. What makes them great at their work? Why do patients love them? What are their driving goals and passions? Create a marketing profile for everyone you want to promote.
Then, use these profiles, along with professional pictures to create marketing messages that build their reputation in your community. Show them as voices of authority on medical subjects important to your patients. By building them up, you build your hospital up, and you create a lasting bond between the community and your providers.
Personal holiday messages
The holidays are the perfect time to launch this kind of marketing effort. You can create a great holiday greeting for the community as a message from individual members of your senior medical staff. These can be used as advertisements, social media messages, emails, or direct mailers.
You want these messages to have a personal tone and to reflect the style and expertise of the staff member they are from. Of course, make sure the staff member is comfortable with the message. They don’t need to write it themselves, but it should be in keeping with what they would like to express to the local community during the holidays.
Keep them coming
While the holidays are a great time for this kind of messaging, keep your star providers in the spotlight. Use them as voices of expertise in public service announcements. Feature their images and names in your promotions. Build their brand and they will help build your hospital’s brand.
Thanksgiving will be here soon but rural hospital marketing must be more aggressive now than ever before. Out of sight, out of mind! And, since this is the busiest time of the year for healthcare needs, you do not want to be ‘out-of-mind. The good news is that it’s not too late to market your services for the holidays.
Connecting your brand to the most positive parts of people’s lives goes a long way to building trust and awareness in your community.
Making the connection during the holiday buzz
The best connections have an emotional component. These will stick in people’s memory. That said, thematic or logical connections are also good. Let’s look at an example.
Connecting Wellness Exams to Thanksgiving
The end of the year is an ideal time to promote wellness exams. Most insurance packages will include a free yearly checkup but many people put them off or forget to take advantage of this benefit. Now is the time to remind them they can be pro-active about their health.
So how do we connect Wellness Exams to Thanksgiving? The goal of a wellness exam is to maintain good health. Thanksgiving is among the most family-centered holidays. One strong motivation for people to stay healthy is for the sake of their family.
Now you just need to put these ideas together.
This Thanksgiving – Stay strong for your family
Families across America are gathering together to give thanks this holiday season. And among the things we are all thankful for is the health of our loved ones. Taking care of your health is going to bring joy and peace to those you love.
Now is the time to take an active part in ensuring your good health. An essential part of this is to make sure that you have your yearly wellness exam. This is your chance to meet with your primary care provider, check your health, share your concerns, and chart a path to a long and fruitful life, one you can share with those you love for a long time to come.
The “Bigger is Better” mentality is a threat to rural healthcare
Far too many people have been led to believe that Bigger is Better when it comes to healthcare. It is a common misconception that large hospitals mean better outcomes for patients despite evidence to the contrary. The continued out-migration of rural residents to urban hospitals has put many rural hospitals in dire financial straits.
We must fight this idea
It falls upon all of us who are providing valuable
healthcare services in rural communities to fight against this “bigger is
better” mentality. There are two fronts in this battle. The first is to provide
quality care close to home. The second is to make our communities aware of
these services and their value through effective marketing.
You are the experts on providing quality care and we are the
experts at effective marketing. Here are some of the most effective marketing
strategies to fight out-migration.
Three ways to fight “Bigger is Better”
- Community Involvement
- A focus on local concerns
- Persistent messaging on the quality of small
As members of the local community, you have a unique advantage over out of town hospitals. You understand what events and organizations which are key cultural touchstones in your community. By partnering with these organizations and events you can build incredible social trust and recognition in your community.
Familiarity is a key part of trust-building. You want your brand connected to the local identity and in the mind of every potential customer. You want to show you are out there, caring for the community and looking out for people. This way, when people need help, they will have you at the front of their mind.
Focus on Local Concerns
The healthcare needs of rural communities are different from those of the city and are often unique in each area. If you can speak to what is specifically on the minds of local people then they will see you as understanding their needs far better than the corporate giant.
Make your patient’s concerns front and center in your marketing efforts and be sure to highlight how your services can help them with their health concerns.
Persistent Messaging about quality
A quick Google search about “Healthcare bigger is not
better” will lead you to a host of academic articles and expert opinion on why
smaller healthcare providers can be just as effective and more affordable than
mega-hospitals. You can use these kinds of articles in your social media
marketing or in press releases for local news.
The more you share these ideas in your community the more
this message will take hold. And if we all participate in this effort, the
combined messaging magnifies the impact. The more times you hear a message, the
more likely you are to take it to heart so persistence is key.
There is never enough time
In a typical American rural hospital, there is never enough time. There is always more that needs to be done than there are time and resources to do it. Patient-care is always at the top. Paying the bills is generally next on the list, and it goes on and on. Where is marketing on your list?
We must find the time for marketing
If we want to keep rural healthcare in America strong and vibrant, we really MUST be marketing our services.
If you are out of sight, you are out of mind. Patients will continue to head for larger urban hospitals even when you have those same quality services closer to home. Too many rural hospitals are shutting their doors. You must lookout for the long-term health of your hospital.
What can you do?
Your first step is to choose a strategy to put your
marketing on track and keep it there
- Divide and conquer the work
- Dedicate the time and money to hire someone
outside, professional help
Divide and Conquer
Many hands make light work. Everyone at your Hospital is
busy. No one has the time to handle all the work needed. By creating an
internal marketing task force and dividing up the work, you have a fighting
chance. It will take teamwork, good time management, and good communication but
it can be done.
Find the people in your organization with the right skills,
assign them tasks connected to those skills and you can get the work done.
Hire a Marketer and give them a budget
This may well be the most expensive option on this list, but it has advantages. With someone dedicated to the task, you know it will get the attention and focus it needs. As your organization grows, you have built the foundations of a marketing team that can grow with you. Perhaps most importantly, they will intimately understand your community and your hospital.
Outsource your marketing
If you have more money than time, you can hire an outside firm to handle your marketing. You can also combine outside help with other strategies. Use the marketing firm to handle what your staff finds most challenging. You will want someone who understands and has long experience with the unique market challenges facing rural hospitals. These folks can be hard to find, but if you are reading this, they just a phone call or email away.