Category Archives: Uncategorized

Breaking news – healthcare advertising changing for the better.

You don’t often see the topic of healthcare marketing covered by the popular media, so this Orlando Sentinel article about hospital advertising caught my attention.  Basically, the premise of the piece is that smarter consumers (thanks to the Internet) aren’t buying doctors in white lab coats – they’re looking for the right information to support consideration, selection and use of healthcare services.  I trust that’s not a surprise to most marketers.

What I do hope is that we’ll stop seeing the stereotypical images of three doctors in white lab coats pasted on billboards and other advertising vehicles, and start applying smart thinking to the art and science of brand building.

As Orlando Sentinel reporter Marni Jameson put it:  “These are not your typical hospital ads, but they soon may be. What distinguishes the two 15-second TV spots featuring Nemours Children’s Hospital is not what they show, but what they don’t.  Gone are the white lab coats, the cliché stethoscopes and the high-tech imaging machines with their colorful jagged lines — images that are going the way of the mercury thermometer.”

Read the article:  Hospital ads take off the white coat

Close encounters of the patient kind

handsThis morning while watching the horrific news about three young women recently freed from ten years of captivity and unspeakable abuse, I recalled an encounter I had with a young abuse victim early in my career as a hospital marketer.

The ER charge nurse called and asked if I had a camera (I did) and could I bring it immediately to the ER as they needed to capture pictures of a patient’s injuries.  When I pushed through the double doors leading to the patient care area, she led me aside and said, “I’m sorry to ask you to do this but we need  photos of a child with some pretty bad injuries.  Do you think you can handle that?”

Now, I wasn’t the squeamish type, but I was young and pretty naive.  I’m thinking car accident or some other mishap and was not prepared to see a young child wounded by the purposeful, cruel actions of an adult.

Walking into the exam room, a tiny girl, maybe four or five years old, was curled up under thin blankets on the exam table. Deep bruises were evident on her arms and legs, cuts and blood trailed along her hair line. She shrunk into the bedding as I approached.  “Hi there,” I said softly.  “I’m going to take your picture.  Have you ever had your picture taken?” She shook her head ‘no’ and I slipped the Nikon from around my neck and sat it on her bed.  She picked it up, looked it over and, when trusting that it would not hurt her, handed it back to me and smiled.

At that point, I wanted to cry, but lifted the camera and began the process of recording the wounds inflicted by her abuser.  The ER attending pointed out the injuries he wanted photographed.  Bruises, cuts, cigarette burns and others too atrocious to mention.  When finished, I removed the roll of film from the camera and handed it to the charge nurse who would turn it over to the police once they arrived.

“Thank you,” said the nurse when we were back in the hall.  “This isn’t her first visit here but, God and the legal system willing, we’re hoping it’ll be her last.”

“Who would do such a thing to an innocent child?” I asked.  “Her mother,” she replied.

Back in the office, I shut the door, turned out the lights and sat in the dark.  That was the first direct encounter I’d had with a hospital patient and it left me shaken, sad and angry.  In the years to come, I would meet many more patients and family members at the most scared, painful, hopeful and sacred times in their lives – the grandmother saying goodbye to her dying 19 year old grandson, new parents showing off their healthy triplets, moms and dads rushing to the ER to find their children okay after an early morning school bus accident, the middle-aged man with a new heart and years yet to spend with his loving wife and family, the grieving mother of the heart donor.

I don’t know why this is weighing heavy on my mind today.  Whatever the reason, it’s reminded me that this business of healthcare is important work.  Our doctors, nurses, emergency responders and others on the frontline witness the ravages of evil more often than we care to admit.  But they also see the good and, occasionally, the miraculous.  And for that, I’m grateful.

Loss, Redemption and the Power of Love

This past year was one of great loss and sorrow for our family.  Tragedy came in waves, one after another bringing debilitating illness, death, separation and passing of our dreams.  The future we imagined and looked forward to disappeared with a cosmic roll of the dice.  Each new event set us back on our journey through grief’s messy and painful terrain.  There were days when it was almost too much to bear, and I had to remember to just keep breathing.

The story of Easter reminds us that without suffering there is no salvation.  Without death, no resurrection.  We witness the cycle of life all around us.  The first green seedling that breaks through charred ground after a devastating wildfire.  The crocus that blooms through snow.  The crisp, blue sky after a hurricane’s fury.  The burial of a loved one, and conception of a new life.

In my work, I frequently advise clients that they have to let go of what is to make room for what can be. These are difficult conversations, sorting through and determining what needs to be released, divested, allowed to die.  In medicine, we are driven to fix things, to restore health, to save lives.  Death is defeat. What we practice at the bedside carries over into our vocation, into our ego. 

And so we resist it.  Shock and disbelief give way to anger.  In the heated squabbles I tried to have with God, he refused to engage.  I wanted explanations.  God just sent love.  I wanted our old life back.  God’s grace arrived on a rainbow.  In a dark hour, I surrendered.  There were no answers, only experiences.  Only love.

Acceptance is bitter medicine.  Without it, there can be no healing. 

Death, in all its forms – loss of youth, loss of health, loss of life, loss of spouse, loss of self – is a messenger of resurrection, and can lead to a new covenant between oneself and the universe.  Rebirth is simply letting go of what was once important to make way for new blessings.  But, there are few things more terrifying than trading the safety of what we know for the possibilities of the unknown. 

An open heart is all it takes.  Through it, we emerge from the darkness.  We radiate love.  We receive miracles.  We witness the sacred in everyday occurrences.  And we begin again. 

Today, I know that my blessings are more bountiful than my sorrows.  I have a loving and wonderful family.  Friends, colleagues and clients that enrich my life in ways too plentiful to count.  And even though our family is still traversing the harrowing twists and turns through a dark and seemingly haunted forest, we are bound by love in our journey.  There is no turning back.  Our treasures are here in this moment and with every step we take forward.

Thank you dear readers for letting me tell this difficult story.  Whatever your faith, I wish you the miracle of rebirth on this Easter morning.

The Healthcare Marketer’s Declaration? Not All Projects Demand Equal Attention.

Part 3 of Prioritizing Marketing Resources Key to Return on Investment Goals.

We’ve all been there.  That place where we’re executing carefully crafted marketing plans, launching highly targeted and creative strategies, balancing both the over-stressed marketing team’s time and the under-resourced budget to make it all work when someone (e.g., administrator, doctor, service line leader) marches in with the marketing demand du jour.  Without a methodology for focusing activities and budgets on strategy-critical projects with the best potential for return on investment, every new demand takes on equal importance and, in the end, sabotages marketing performance.

Marketing resource allocation planning is the process of determining how returns on marketing investments are optimized.  It’s a multi-dimensional decision process encompassing priority services, markets and segments, the marketing mix, and marketing operations and infrastructure investments. 

Part two of this series (The Healthcare Marketer’s Dilemma?  Too Many Projects.  Too Few Resources. posted November 29, 2011) described the first decision point – determining those programs, products, markets, segments, initiatives with the greatest potential for growth and ROI.  Once the decision of which programs and service lines to grow has been made, you will then need to determine how time and budget dollars are allocated against the marketing mix.

Investment considerations that come into play at this point include:

  • Research and development to build, expand and enhance the mix of service offerings
  • Service line planning, clinical program development and patient care experience design
  • Building brand awareness and stimulating demand in target customer segments
  • Cultivating and strengthening access channels, physician relations and referrals
  • Sales, third party contracting and pricing
  • Advertising, promotions, marketing events and co-marketing partnerships
  • Digital, social and mobile strategies and tactics

Marketing goals and strategy decisions should clearly guide these choices. The secret to success in marketing resource allocation is to know where investments return the biggest bang.  Consumer influenced or directed services such as bariatric surgery, plastic surgery or sports marketing require more investment in direct consumer marketing, events marketing and call center support; services and procedures influenced more by physician referrals should be more heavily invested in sales, physician relations and new clinical program development.

SCALING ACTIVITIES TO INVESTMENTS

The scope and scale of marketing activities should be matched to investment levels and expected return on investment.  In the example below, Tier One priorities (those most important to strategic and financial goals) receive the majority of marketing resources whereas activities and resources for Tiers Two and Three (those with modest to no return on investment potential) are scaled back considerably. 

This may seem like a no-brainer but too often, the marketing team’s time and budget are compromised by squeaky-wheels, pet projects and deep-seated needs to keep everyone happy. (I think the misguided concept of ‘internal customers’ is also to blame, but that’s an entirely different post to write).

CRITICAL QUESTIONS TO ANSWER

  • For Tier One initiatives, do we have adequate research and market intelligence to discern strategies and methods to more effectively attract consumers, increase physician referrals and move volume and market share from competitors?  What additional information do we need?
  • By service line, what segments are most attractive in terms of growth and profitability?  How are those segments likely to be influenced (e.g. consumer marketing, physician referral development, program design, hours of operation, etc.)?
  • What improvements/innovations at the service interface (e.g. scheduling, registration, access, patient navigation, web appointments, MD hotlines, etc.) differentiate and add value? What do we invest to create these programs?
  • How can we leverage existing communications channels and tools to provide effective but lower investment support to lower tier programs?  Should we provide tools, templates and information to program managers to support their marketing efforts?
  • Do we have an adequate balance of activities and investments across research, product development, web, advertising and sales activities?
  • How will we track the effectiveness of these initiatives and when do we regroup to change course? 
  • What marketing constraints, risks, etc. exist and how will those be addressed?
  • How will we gain consensus for resource allocation decisions and cultivate support for that focus?

Gaining consensus is critical to keeping the organization focused on the marketing plan and investment decisions.  Not that every bright shining object can or should be ignored – some may very well offer significant opportunities – but distractions can be minimized.  The keys to effective marketing management are the discipline of focused execution, ability to discern when course corrections should be made, and capacity to seize new on-strategy opportunities.

In part four, I’ll discuss investments to build marketing infrastructure and capabilities.

A ‘Can’t Miss’ Event – The 15th Annual Greystone.Net Healthcare Internet Conference

The 15th Annual Greystone.Net Healthcare Internet Conference will be held November 7 – 9, 2011 at the J.W. Marriott Orlando Grande Lakes. This year’s theme, The Convergence: Marketing and IT Collaboration – The Time is Now, is one of the reasons this annual Greystone.Net event has become a ‘must attend’ priority for me.  With Convergence, Greystone.Net is introducing a new section focusing solely on the collaborative and innovative strategies and technologies transforming healthcare.  The keynoters and featured presenters are topnotch experts in the realm of web, social and mobile trends, innovations and practical applications.

I’m also excited for the opportunity to present with with Sentara Healthcare’s digital marketers, Lee Gwaltney and Jessica Carlson on the topic of “Digital Brandscaping: Extending Your Brand Across Web, Social and Mobile Sites.” We’ll be addressing the importance of a proactive, focused and purposeful approach to brand management across web, social and mobile sites as well as with patient and provider portals, and with clinical information systems such as electronic health records.  Our session is scheduled for Monday, November 7 at 4:15 p.m.

While there, drop by the Brains on Demand booth in the Exhibit Hall.  We’ll be there with our Brains on Demand partners Brand =Experience, Klein & Partners and Eruptr.

Can you believe it’s the 15th year for the Greystone.Net conference?  It’s a terrific event that just gets better every year.  Hope to see you there!

The Future of Healthcare Marketing

I had a chance to talk with Bill Moschella Co-founder & CEO of eVariant about the future of healthcare marketing at the SHSMD conference this past September.  Here’s that interview.  What advice do you have for marketers seeking to improve marketing performance and build future ready marketing operations?

Improving CV Volumes, Revenue and Operations

Join Art Sturm, president & CEO of SRK, by webinar on Thursday, October 20 as he discusses how top heart programs are benefiting from the “strategic halo effect” in growing volumes and improving business performance for cardiovascular service lines. You’ll learn strategies and tools for growing CV service line revenue and improving collaboration across multiple specialties. Key topic points include:

  • Growing new and returning patient revenue.
  • Optimizing resource utilization, including physician alignment.
  • Developing strategies to build collaboration among multiple service lines.
  • Streamlining operations by creating a common view that focuses the enterprise.
  • Tracking revenue and cost performance of individual service lines and individual physicians.

The Strategic Halo Effect also addresses the essential question: how to thrive in this new era of healthcare reform? 

Follow the link below to learn more about this complementary webinar.

The Strategic Halo Effect:  the Science of Improving CV Service Line Volumes, Revenue and Operations; Thursday, October 20, 10 AM Pacific, 12 Noon Central, 1 PM Eastern.

One More Thing . . .

Thank you, Steve Jobs, for your many gifts.  Because of you, we’ll also be looking forward to that ‘one more thing.’

In Remembrance of a Healthcare Colleague and Dear Friend . . .

Nancy Eleuterius

A memorial service will be held this evening for Nancy L. Eleuterius, a former co-worker and friend who, at age 68, left this earth far too young. I first met Nancy more than 30 years ago at Riverside Hospital in Newport News, Virginia. She worked in patient registration and I had just come on board as assistant director of marketing. What I remember most about that meeting was her warm, wonderful welcome to a strange new city and introduction to the institution.

Shortly thereafter, Nancy left to take a job as director of administrative services for Norfolk General Hospital (now part of Sentara Healthcare in Virginia). I was sad to see her move on, but also joined the Norfolk General team later that same year and once again had the pleasure of working with Nancy. Hailing from Mississippi, she was the quintessential Southern lady; a steel magnolia with a big heart, quick wit, lots of smarts and true grit.

In the coming decades at Sentara, Nancy went on to become the director of operations for First Step, the first managed care contract in the nation for the Department of Defense. She was then promoted as the president of Sentara Mental Health Management and brought her very successful career to a close when she retired as president and CEO of Sentara Behavioral Health Services.

I have many wonderful memories of Nancy and hope you will indulge me in sharing a few of those with you today.

First, she was a champion of ‘patient experience’ before it became the trendy thing to do. Make that ‘customer’ experience – Nancy also believed that making it easy for doctors to schedule and admit patients would result in better business outcomes. We’re talking the early 1980s here – long before most hospitals understood or cared about the connection between service culture and financial performance. She alerted me – a very green marketer at the time – about a stream of patients being referred to our specialists by primary care docs in rural North Carolina. Told me about the number of calls coming in from people looking for doctors. Was concerned about patients and families trying to find someone to help them deal with the complexity and confusion of hospital stays.

In the earliest days of healthcare marketing, she was the catalyst for development of physician referral development, consumer call center and guest relations programs at Sentara.

Perhaps my favorite memory will be how the two of us conspired to keep a talented ‘temp’ worker in the health system. I first hired the temporary employee to help with the opening and marketing of a major facility expansion project. She was a fantastic find. When my funding ran out, Nancy and I arranged to have her work as a temporary employee in admissions, supporting a number of initiatives there. When her funding ran out, I had another new project that needed support. It took a couple of years, but we both knew great talent when we saw it and beat the ‘no new FTEs’ gridlock to bring her on in a permanent position. Today that person, Carol Via, is the vice president for corporate marketing at Sentara and remains one of the best marketing practitioners with whom I’ve had the privilege of working.

But Nancy wasn’t just about work. When I went into labor with my third child on the day before Thanksgiving, she showed up at our house to watch our toddler while my husband and I went to the hospital.

Over her lifetime, Nancy received numerous awards and recognitions for her accomplishments and contributions, served on boards and volunteered for community charities. What she was most proud of however, and held most precious, were her two daughters, Cindy and Deborah. She prayed daily for their health, safety and happiness.

A story that best characterizes Nancy goes like this. On a trip to New York City she decided to experience high tea at the Pierre Hotel. If you’ve ever done this, you know that it is a crowded happening (and if not, you must!). Nancy snagged a table with two seats in the Rotunda, ordered her tea and scones, and sat back to people watch. A tall, well-dressed gentleman asked if he could take the seat next to her, to which she agreed and for the next hour or so engaged in a conversation ranging from the weather to favorite restaurants to Broadway hits to world politics. When the gentleman rose to leave, he shook her hand and thanked her for one of the more pleasant afternoons he had experienced in some time. Immediately upon his departure, the wait staff clustered around her with questions. “Wow, do you know him? What was he like? Did you ask for his autograph?” Nancy, being Nancy, said “Know who?”

The answer was Michael Jordan. I still believe she had to look him up once she got home, but somewhere along the line learned he was rather famous. But that was Nancy. Every person was uniquely special – yet just a fellow human being.

Nancy was someone I looked up to and aspired to be like. She was a major influence both personally and professionally – I never stopped learning from her.

She will be missed by many, many people. And though her years were short, Nancy lived each one with great enthusiasm and the world is a better place because of the time she spent on it.

. . . . . .

Nancy’s life will be celebrated at St. Gregory the Great Catholic Church, 5345 Virginia Beach Blvd., Virginia Beach, VA 23462-1889 on Wednesday, October 5, 2011. The memorial Mass will begin at 4:30 p.m. Flowers may be sent to St. Gregory the Great Catholic Church. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in her name to St. Michael Building Fund, P.O. Box 523, Biloxi, MS 39530.

Number of Consumer Health Apps for iPhone to Reach 13,000 by Next Summer

MobiHealthNews’ newly released report Consumer Health Apps for Apple’s iPhone reveals that the number of health apps for consumers has grown at a steady rate over that past 18 months and projects that by next summer there will be more than 13,000 health apps intended for use by consumers.  The study is based on an analysis of 18 months of data from Apple’s AppStore and also shows that the average price of a paid health app is trending upward from $2.77 last February $3.21 in July 2011. Of the 9,000 health apps available for consumers today, slightly more than 16% are for cardio fitness and around 14% for diet.  Other categories include women’s health, sleep, chronic disease, medication management and mental health.

Click here for more information about the study (full report available for a fee).

Heading Out to SHSMD

It’s that time of year again. Beginning tomorrow, hundreds of healthcare executives, planning and marketing professionals, communications leaders and other experts will be pouring into Phoenix for the annual conference of the Society for Healthcare Strategy and Market Development.  The conference officially kicks off on Wednesday morning, September 14 and continues through Saturday morning, September 17 at the J.W. Marriott Desert Ridge Resort.

Personally, I’m looking forward to reconnecting with long-time colleagues and friends, meeting and getting to know new people, learning new things and having a little fun along the way. 

This year, I’m honored to be speaking with Terri Goren of Goren & Associates and Phyllis Marino, vice president of market development at MetroHealth System in Cleveland.  We’ll be presenting on Thursday, September 15 from 1:30 to 2:45.  Our topic – Can’t We All Just Get Along?  Marketing and PR Professionals Uniting for Winning Results – will address the challenges executives sometimes face when trying to get their marketing and PR teams on the same page, and offer insights into driving better and more collaborative performance.

At Corrigan Partners, we’re also excited about our new partnership with Brains on Demand, a unique collaborative offering seamless access to leading healthcare research, brand, marketing, communications and social media experts that can help you address a multitude of needs and projects.  We’ll be in the Exhibit Hall during exhibition hours at booth #813.  Stop by and see us, and register for a free day of consulting from one of our experts.

I hope you will also join us at the Corrigan Partners Sunrise SIG Breakfast on Friday morning from 8:00 am to 9:00 am.  Join a table discussing a topic of interest and meet some new people over coffee and breakfast. 

For a list of all the great topics, speakers, events, exhibitors, etc., click here to visit SHSMD’s website.  And thanks also to the SHSMD staff for the hard and expert work they put into making this a great annual event.

See you there!

Preparing for Hurricane Irene

My colleagues in our Norfolk, Virginia based Corrigan Partners firm have spent today securing homes and property and assuring the safety of our families.  Some of our team live in flood-prone areas and have been ordered to evacuate.  We expect the weather to deteriorate overnight, with hurricane winds, rain and flooding to escalate on Saturday and continuing through the early hours of Sunday. 

If predictions hold true, it is likely that we will lose power and phone service, and have limited access to the Internet, email and voicemail.  Emergency officials have warned that it could take several days to a week or more to restore.  If you want to contact us, please do leave an email or voicemail and we will make every attempt to respond as quickly as possible. 

We apologize for this inconvenience and appreciate your understanding as we get through the storm clean-up and return to normal operations. 

When we have access to the Internet, we’ll post any changes or updates on our Facebook site at www.facebook.com/corriganpartners.

To all of our clients, colleagues, friends and family in Irene’s path, please stay safe.   We wish you the best.

Karen

10 Advertising Terms You Should Learn Today

In the world of digital marketing, advertising terms like PPC, CPM and CTR are fast becoming so yesterday.  Marketers and advertisers are cooking up an alphabet stew of new acronyms, words and, well,  jargon to describe a new wave on on-line advertising technologies.

If expressions like RTB (real time bidding) and DSP (demand-side platform) leave you scratching your head, and terms like re-targeting, dynamic creative and geofencing aren’t dancing on the tongue, then grab the iPad and take some notes from Business Insiders article on “10 Advertising Terms You’ll Be Hearing For Years, So Learn Them Now.”
Click here to read the article.

Practicing What They Preach – Smokers won’t be Hired by SSM Healthcare

Recently, I was driving past a top notch tertiary medical center that has a smoke free campus.  Across the street from the hospital in the median of a major thoroughfare sat a half dozen employees in their scrubs taking a smoke break.  From the car, I could see both the smokers and the smoke-free campus banner.  The contradictory image was quite startling.

Now, SSM Health Care hospitals in St. Louis  will start a tobacco-free hiring policy next month.  Job applicants at the seven SSM hospitals will be asked whether they have used tobacco in the last six months. If the answer is yes, that applicant will be eliminated from the hiring process.  SSM spokesperson, Chris Hutton stressed that the health system wants employees to model healthy behaviors and take better care of themselves.  Lowering healthcare costs related to employees that smoke is also a factor – the federal Center for Disease Control and Prevention puts that cost at an additonal $3,400 annually per employee.

SSM is not the first health system to ban the hiring of smokers – and I hope they won’t be the last.

Click here to read more.

Engaging Patients with Chronic Illness through Online Technologies

Chronic diseases are among the most common, costly, and preventable of all health problems in the U.S. Incident rates are on the rise and will continue to grow for years to come. Under healthcare reform, new value based payment systems are targeting costs associated with chronic care. This will have an impact on volume as well as revenue for hospitals on a national scale and as a result, hospitals will have to implement new and robust initiatives using online platforms to meaningfully engage patients with chronic illness – and outcomes of that engagement.

So here’s an interesting question — should marketers play a role in patient management? One could and should argue that as new risk payment models take hold, customer relationship management may be key to retention, behavior modification and better self management of chronic illnesses.  Business outcomes will not only be impacted by customer acquisition but also by our ability to better understand what drives profitability under risk contracts.

Active Data Exhange, through its KnowledgeShare 2011, is hosting a webinar on Thursday, June 23, 2011 at 1:00 pm eastern time to explore this topic.  Discussion points will cover:

  • Facts about the dramatic growth in chronic disease that will occur in the coming years and projected impact on healthcare systems.
  • How planning, marketing and communications professionals can best be prepared to handle the surge in demand through web technology as a strategic enabler.
  • How Parrish Medical Center in Titusville, Florida is leveraging web technology to manage and drive patient education and community outreach programs.

I’ll be joining the webinar along with Mathew Haggar, Communications Coordinator at Parrish Medical Center and Christopher Smith of Active Data Exchange.

There is no charge for participation.  Click here to learn more and to register.

Brian Whitman Joins the Corrigan Partners Team

Today, I’m thrilled to announce that F. Brian Whitman has joined the team at Corrigan Partners, bringing his creative, results-oriented business and brand building expertise to our clients. Over the course of his career, Brian has been responsible for all aspects of brand and marketing management, including brand building, marketing planning, new product launches, partnership development, marketing promotions, corporate communications, crisis management and merger communications.

Previously, Brian served as vice president for Indiana University Health Bloomington, with responsibility for marketing, community relations, business development, physician outreach, CRM/call center, service excellence and community health. There he served as IU Health’s organization’s regional branding officer. He also worked at Clarian Health Partners, Inc., where he led service-line marketing for cardiovascular and cancer. Prior to Clarion, he was employed at Corporate Creations, Inc., where he had account oversight for Cummins Engine, Delta Faucet and Methodist Health System.

Brian holds an MBA in health care management from Western Governors University, and a BA from the University of Indianapolis. He teaches healthcare marketing at Indiana University as adjunct faculty, and is an active member the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) and Society for Healthcare Strategy and Market Development (SHSMD).

I’ve known Brian since his Clarion days and have always been inspired by his thoughtful, creative and comprehensive approaches to engage consumers, build brands and grow business.  Welcome aboard, Brian.

Brian can be reached at brian@corriganpartners.com or (317) 572-7024.

Passion, not Promotion, Built this Doctor’s Blog Audience

During a webinar yesterday, I listened to Dr. Wendy Sue Swanson of “Seattle Mama Doc” fame – She’s a pediatrician mom who writes a widely followed blog for Seattle Children’s Hospital. Dr. Swanson didn’t start blogging to promote herself, but because she wanted to be a reasoned voice in an age of media hype trumping science. Her passion was evident while making the case for physician blogging. In fact, her passion is the key to her success as a blogger, which has the additional benefit of boosting the profile and mission of Seattle Children’s. The hospital gives her free reign on what to post, which gives her blog (and embedded You Tube videos) authenticity and personality.
To enhance a program or raise awareness, you need to go where your patients are. Today, they are online. Do you have a physician or nurse in a service line who has a passion to engage and help patients? Who has the time to commit to posting once a week?

Remember to be patient; blogs take some time to gain traction. But that’s ok as this gives the blogging doctor or nurse time to find her comfort zone in the blogosphere.

Take a look at Dr. Swanson’s blog for inspiration:http://seattlemamadoc.seattlechildrens.org/

Susan Lilly consumes vast amounts of health industry data so you don’t have to. She has worked in the healthcare field for 20 years – in both private and public sectors – and focuses on telling the stories that help health care clients grow and thrive.

Your Brand’s Value is Influenced by the Company it Keeps

Many years ago, an older and wiser colleague gave me this advice: be careful where you put your logo. A point made all too well, when at one of our port city’s many waterfront festivals, I ran smack dab into a biker (the Hell’s Angels, not Lance Armstrong, type) wearing our health system’s 100th anniversary t-shirt. There was our carefully-crafted and beautifully-designed ‘future of medicine’ message and logo stretched across the beer belly of a large, bearded and seemingly-intoxicated man complete with ‘die young’ tattoos, leather studded neck collar, and dangling cigarette. The dichotomy of the message and the media underscored the importance of context for brand building communications.

Professors Brian Sternthal (Kellogg School of Management) and Myungwoo Nam (INSEAD) conducted a series of experiments (Kellogg Insight) to determine how the environment in which a brand appears influences brand perception, and concluded that managing the brand’s environment is just as important as managing the brand. A more favorable context produces a more favorable perception, and a negative context, a less favorable one.

Most marketers know this and work hard at selecting and controlling media that enhance and complement the brand – but the advent of the Internet and increasing popularity of social media sites have made this a more challenging aspect of brand management. Organizations fear and avoid social media channels, citing the need to maintain control. As if by not showing up, they have somehow done so. But they’re really in denial that a cyber-biker might just be sporting their brand in a compromised context around the web.

So the question for chief marketing officers is how do we help health systems replace old concepts of control with those of engagement, conversation, relationship, community, partnership, insights and influence?

Social Media Marketing Now 10% of On Line Promotions Spending

Of the $28.5 billion projected to be spent for on-line advertising in the US this year, 10.8% ($3.08 billion) is earmarked for social media networks – which represents a significant jump from the $1.99 billion spent in 2010. And that number is expected to rise again next year to 12.1%, according to a new report “Worldwide Social Network Ad Spending: 2011 Outlook.”

The report’s author, Debra Aho Williamson, comments, “The skepticism of a few years ago has faded; large brands are allocating more marketing budget to social media than ever before, and their social network ad spending is also rising. Two categories of advertisers are emerging: major brand marketers that increase budgets gradually, and performance advertisers that spend heavily and bring extensive search marketing expertise.”

How are you planning to allocate your promotions dollars in 2011?

A Visit to One of Your Employed Physicians May be the First Exposure Patients will have with Your Hospital. What Kind of “Patient Experience” will They have?

Guest Post by Steve Wilkins
Now that over 50% of physicians are employed by hospitals, this is question that is on the minds of progressive hospital executive teams. With good reason. Patient-reported outcomes, including satisfaction and loyalty, are going to play an increasing role in determining how much hospitals and physicians are paid. This means that astute hospital marketers will be able to build a strong business case for investing in programs aimed at creating superlative ambulatory and inpatient experiences for patients.

But Our Physicians Already Have High Patient Satisfaction And Loyalty Scores 

Health care executives should take little comfort in the high patient satisfaction and loyalty ratings found uniformly with just about every physician. Generally speaking, “one can assume that the quality of care is, actually, worse than surveys of patient satisfaction (suggest)”according to Avedis Donabedian, MD, the father of today’s quality movement. Donabedian goes on to say that “patients are, in fact, overly patient; they put up with unnecessary discomforts and grant their doctors the benefit of every doubt, until deficiencies in care are too manifest to be overlooked. “

Just look at the quality of physician-patient communication, a key ingredient of the “patient experience” in the physician’s office.

  • In only 26% of the visits are patients allowed to complete their opening statement (agenda) without interruption (by the doctor); in 37% the physicians interrupted; and in 37% physician never asked about the patient’s visit agenda.
  • Studies suggest that patients do not express their health concerns, expectations or opinions in up to 75 percent of physician visits principally because their doctor never asked.
  • Primary care physicians typically spend less than 60 seconds informing patients how to take new medications…or why.
  • Primary care physicians and patient disagree about the diagnosis, treatment, and cause/severity of their condition over 50% of the time.
  • Over 50% of patients walk out of their doctor’s office not understanding what they were told, including why or how to take their medications.

For their part, patients today are hard pressed to rate the effectiveness of their relationship with their doctor. The evidence conclusively shows that poor physician-patient communications is the norm rather than the exception. As such, most patients do not appreciate all the ways in which their doctor could in fact do a better job communicating with them.

Why Is Any Of This Important? 

Simple. In the near future, your hospital and physicians will be paid according to things like how well they communicate with patients. More importantly, high quality physician-patient communications is highly correlated to improved outcomes, fewer hospital re-admits, fewer medical errors, improved patient compliance and increased patient satisfaction and loyalty.

So if you marketing team is looking for a simple and effective position strategy, consider improving the way your physicians and patients talk to each other. This strategy is so simple no one else in your market will be able to figure out what you are doing. But that’s OK…because your patients will sure see the know!

Steve Wilkins, MPH is the author of Mind the Gap.  His posts appear regularly on Better Health Network, KevinMD.com  and the Wall Street Journal Online Edition.   Mr. Wilkins, and his company Smart Health Messaging, focus on developing evidence-based solutions for improving the quality of communications between physicians and patients…and in so doing, improve safety and outcomes, increase adherence and satisfaction and reduce costs.www.healthecommunications.wordpress.com