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Build It, Advertise it, and They Will Come

Marianne Aiello, for HealthLeaders Media, January 27, 2010

Click to view larger version.When North Oaks Health System added seven new clinics over the past few years, leaders there quickly realized there was a problem—the number of employed physicians was rising, but the number of patients weren't. Patient services were expanding rapidly, but many clinics were not able to meet their budgeted revenue. So North Oaks launched a print campaign to educate consumers on all the new clinic locations and unify all clinics under the corporate brand. The effort won the Hammond, LA, health system a silver award in the service line category at the 2009 HealthLeaders Media Marketing Awards.

"With a limited budget, we implemented a campaign strategy to formally introduce our clinic and its physicians to our community through print advertisements focusing on authenticity regarding the North Oaks clinic experience," marketers wrote in their award entry form. "Because of the growth of our clinic network, many clinics were not meeting their budgeted numbers for the current fiscal years. So our goal was to increase patient visits to meet or exceed budgeted numbers for each clinic."

The North Oaks marketing team produced 22 print pieces featuring physicians and patients. The testimonial-style ads aimed to communicate the physicians' passion for what they do and share successful patient experiences.

"Wonderful ads that are colorful and showing staff in their working environments—not just the doctors… the cafeteria lady too," wrote one judge. "The campaign is personal—it talks directly to the patient—and is very community-focused. Feels like family."

To determine the success of the campaign, marketers at the 335-bed system measured growth in service volumes in terms of patient visits and compared the number of visits prior to the campaign to the number of visits following. They found that cardiology grew 20.8%, Pulmonology grew 17.7%, and OB/GYN grew 17%.

They received a good amount of positive anecdotal feedback—largely thanks to the physicians and patients featured in the ads.

"In a way, each person featured in the ads became a spokesperson for the patient experience, which authenticated exactly what we were promotion to the community," they wrote. "Ultimately, this campaign is reflection on our corporate mission and slogan to the communities we serve, 'You are the reason we're here.'"

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