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How Ochsner Built Market Share and Volume Long After Katrina

Marianne Aiello, for HealthLeaders Media, December 18, 2013

Ochsner Health System's growth in recent years has largely been driven by the acquisition of community hospitals. But in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, some of those assets conjured up negative connotations—until Ochsner turned around public opinion.

Just as Hurricane Katrina is still affecting the Gulf Cost more than eight years after the storm devastated the area, damage caused by the storm continues to impact local hospitals and health systems.

One such organization is Ochsner Health System, a seven-hospital system anchored by a 564-bed acute care medical center in New Orleans. The system encompasses nearly 40 health clinics, 13,000 employees, and an employed medical group of about 900 physicians in 90 medical specialties and subspecialties.

Ochsner's growth in recent years has largely been driven by the acquisition of community hospitals formerly owned by Tenet Healthcare, which permanently shuttered many of its locations after Hurricane Katrina.

The mental association between Ochsner and Tenet made by consumers posed a problem; although Ochsner scored high awareness levels among consumers, it did not convert to preference across all hospitals. Marketers found that the high number of Tenet hospitals abandoned after the hurricane caused area residents to form a negative opinion of them.

Setting Marketing Objectives
In order to combat this trend, Ochsner hired La Grange, IL, firm SPM Marketing and Communications in 2012 to establish a market position that would help consumers embrace the benefits of the Ochsner system no matter where they entered it.

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