Current trends in health care are wide and varied in technique and results. Techniques such as positioning, new service delivery, capturing growing markets, geographic distribution, and leadership have been reasonably affective. Techniques and trends like branding, managed care contracts, practice ownership, and sales have not been as affective (Beckman). I will review the trends and techniques listed above, and provide further insight and my opinion on each.
Positioning is when a provider utilizes clinical sophistication to sell its services as high tech (Beckman). In my earlier working days, I was a private practice physical therapy clinic owner. Competition between providers and alternative providers was intense. I recall a time when chiropractors were advertising a program in the newspapers that was centered around a device with a name like ISO-2000. This device was marketed as a multi-angle, isometric disc decompression device. I had many patients ask me about it, but few tried it. My own internal research revealed this to be nothing more than a traction table with some extra bells and whistles. They were attempting to market a new technology. I don’t feel like in my market, that this was a successful marketing trend.
New service delivery is when a provider offers new clinical services to an area (Beckman). I currently am the assistant administrator at a small rural hospital. We have a competing hospital in a larger market 25 miles away. When I arrived to my current position, I recognized that people were leaving our area for the nearby city, and then making that destination their choice for healthcare. I initiated wound care clinic with our existing staff to capture some of the business leaving our area. The program has been in existence for six months, and is covering its costs. It is my opinion that this is going to be a successful marketing technique to keep people in our system.
Capturing growing markets is similar to new services in that areas that have been underserved, are targeted by zip code, and hit with direct marketing (Beckman). In my earlier physical therapy business, I used to trend where my referrals came by zip code. I then focused my newspaper ads appropriately to address my largest markets. I did not exactly track the results of my actions. I believe that it was very successful, as I continued to have large support until my practice ended.
Geographic distribution utilizes primary care referrals from service areas that are smaller (Beckman). In my current position, I recognized that people in surrounding areas had nurse practitioners for their primary care service, but little else. In developing relations with them, we saw dramatic increases in our clinical services such as lab, imaging, and sleep lab. Marketing to area primary care providers was very affective for us.
The final marketing trend I wish to discuss is leadership. This refers to the ability of administration to develop a culture that provides extraordinary care and exceptional customer service (Beckman). It is my experience that when high customer satisfaction is combined with quality care, that business grows. This has been proven to me in my private practice life, and my time in hospital administration. My current facility pays a great deal of money and credence to this and is continually developing its service providers and leaders to elevate the care. It seems to be very successful building a successful operation in my opinion.
Marketing trends that have not been successful fall under the categories of branding, managed care contracts, and practice ownership. Branding is when you try and get some marketing platform in healthcare to be associated with the product itself (Beckman). This trend has not been successful, in my opinion, because health care is a people business, and people are attracted to people. Branding tries to make the ties to an operation and not the people. This is why it does not work.
Managed care contract sales also are a failed marketing trend in my opinion. This is when providers bid on the business that insurance companies control in a given area (Beckman). My history in private practice revealed to me that competing for the minimal reimbursements that these companies offered was not a fruitful way to run a business. The theory goes that if you were a hamburger company that lost 50 cents on every hamburger that selling more hamburgers would only lose you more money.
Practice ownership is another marketing technique that was not that successful I my opinion. This is the technique where a hospital buys a private practice in its area and hopes to garner clinical services business that the practice generates to make it a profitable acquisition (Beckman). In my experience, this never worked, because the hospital usually paid top dollar for a practice, and after the sale, the physician was not motivated to continue working as hard.
REFERENCES Beckman, D. (2001, July/August). 20 years of health care marketing. Health Forum Journal, 44(4) 37.