5 Things I’ve Learned about Hospitals by Marketing to Them

By Nicole Ervast, Business Development Associate

As a fledgling healthcare marketer, I came into the industry knowing next to nothing about either healthcare or marketing. My first mission as a brand new marketer? Build a social marketing strategy from the ground up. I took on this huge task the only way I knew how: in baby steps. Now, a year later, I’ve picked up some insights about marketing to hospitals that I could only learn through rigorous social listening, and of course, meeting regularly with the people who work most closely with prospective hospitals: our awesome Sales Team.

Without further ado, here are the 5 things I’ve learned about hospitals by marketing to them:

1. Nurses are the most knowledgeable.

I can’t count how many articles I’ve read, usually written by doctors, about how awesome nurses are. In many cases, they are more knowledgeable than physicians themselves, especially those fresh out of residency, says this KevinMD blogger. Nurses seem to be the backbone of every hospital. They are aware of the needs of both patients and physicians, and they usually put their own needs last. Tye Murray, RN spoke true in her blog post, Nursing 101.

2. Communication is essential.

One of the trickiest situations in the hospital is the hand-off, whether from the Emergency Physician to the Hospitalist, or from a nurse going off shift to the one coming in. This is where a weakness in communication typically occurs, which can result in medical errors. Many times, EPs and Hospitalists are mistrusting of each other since they have different priorities, especially if they are managed by different groups. This obviously creates a huge communication barrier. At Keystone, one of our priorities is aligning the Emergency and Hospitalist departments (even if we don’t staff both departments) so that hand-offs take place seamlessly. Dr. O’Neil Pyke writes about this from the Hospitalist perspective in his blog post The Hospitalist Imperative: Alignment. In the hospital, lives are at stake every single day, so good communication is a must.

3. Price comes first.

This is one I learned directly from the Sales Team. No matter what price we set, the hospital almost always comes back and asks for us to lower it. Each hospital’s needs are unique, so the numbers are always varied. But one things is true for all hospitals: they are on a tight budget. With Medicare/Medicaid reimbursements falling lower and the standards required to avoid penalties getting higher each year, hospitals have to save money wherever they can. If they have a choice between a cheaper product/service and a more impressive one, they will often go with the cheaper choice.

4. Not all Readmissions are equal.

One perpetual problem that both EPs and Hospitalists deal with is readmissions, and hospitals and physicians alike are now being financially penalized for every readmission. These are people who were treated in the hospital, sent home and return with a related medical issue within 30 days. The idea behind imposing penalties is that the readmission is caused by the hospital and/or physician not properly treating the patient on his/her original visit. The problem with this is that many of these “bouncebacks” return not because they weren’t treated effectively, but because they are “superusers” or did not follow the instructions they were given upon discharge. This type of situation is, to some extent, out of the hospital’s control, but the hospital is still held financially responsible for it.

5. Hospitals are always in the numbers game.

LWOT, Turnaround Time, Time to Doctor and Time to Discharge are just a few of the metrics that hospitals must measure to help ensure efficiency. If these numbers aren’t where they need to be, patient satisfaction goes down and hospitals lose money. In order to successfully market a product/service to a hospital, your focus has to be where theirs is: the numbers. When creating content like case studies and marketing emails, I always think about how I can incorporate metrics. The message I try to deliver is: how can our services help your hospital perfect its metrics? Here is an example of this.

Of course, it is important to know a hospital’s individual, unique needs in order to figure out its pain points, whatever those may be, and help remedy them. But it is also helpful to have a general starting point when it comes to marketing to hospitals. If you work in a hospital and know more than I do (which I am sure you do), please feel free to share your knowledge with me! nervast@keystonehealthcare.com