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Marketing Beyond Physicians

Marianne Aiello, for HealthLeaders Media, August 16, 2010
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To win the referral battle in today’s increasingly competitive market, organizations need to reach out to the entire patient care team.

Commuters driving by a large academic medical center in Cleveland last fall and winter probably noticed a billboard advertising Kindred Healthcare’s postacute care services. To most drivers, the ad may not have meant much. But to doctors, nurses, case workers, and discharge planners, the billboard may influence where they refer patients for additional care.

The billboard was part of the Continue the Care campaign to reach out to referrers in a wide range of job titles for the 83-hospital Louisville, KY, system. While some organizations focus referral efforts solely on physicians, Kindred targets the entire patient care team because its marketers believe that physicians aren’t the only ones who influence where a patient goes for care.

“Depending on the level of referral, the physician is going to be the ultimate decision-maker—but a nurse could have a lot of influence on suggesting options to a patient or family,” says Danny Fell,  executive vice president of Neathawk Dubuque & Packett, a Richmond, VA-based agency. “If the patient is not conscious or coherent, the family might be making the decision and oftentimes the family would ask, ‘Where would you go if it was you?’ They put a lot of trust in the doctor, nurse, or discharge planner. Those individuals wield a lot of influence.”

Reach out to patient influencers
Anyone who interacts with a patient and his or her family is worth reaching out to and educating about the services your organization offers, says David Mikula, vice president of sales and marketing for Kindred Healthcare’s hospital division.

“The last thing we want is the patient to ask a question to one of them and have them say, ‘Gee, I don’t know,’” he says. “When a patient or family is faced with that uncertainty, that’s the last thing you want. Anytime you have the chance to educate anyone, it’s a good thing because hopefully it results in a better patient experience.”

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