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Using Groupon to Attract Lifelong Patients

Marianne Aiello, for HealthLeaders Media, January 25, 2012

If an uninsured patient "deal surfs" for his or her healthcare needs, going from one discount-offering provider to another, it isn't good for your hospital—let alone the patient's continuity of care.

Deal-surfing situations can be minimized by identifying and targeting a very specific patient demographic. For example, offering a deal on a high-end elective procedure like Botox injections or Lasik eye surgery may prove to be more effective than offering a discount on flu shots.

Your average Botox- or Lasik-seeking patient is more likely to be insured and therefore more likely to become a source of downstream revenue.

Exercise caution

If you determine that a daily deal to promote a procedure at your organization is a good strategic decision, it's important to investigate the legality of offering medical services through a social spending site in your state.

The Mayo Clinic social media blog lists these possible legal minefields:

  • Groupon collects 50% of the price as its fee; is that illegal fee-splitting under applicable state law?
  • Is the 50% fee an illegal kickback in exchange for a referral? Are you subject to federal laws in this area in addition to any state laws?
  • Do provider agreements with third-party payers prohibit the offering of discounts to plan subscribers? If you can get past the first two issues, you may need to screen out folks who are insured by carriers that limit your ability to discount or risk being in default under an agreement with your biggest customers.

If your legal team decides it's best to steer clear of offering a medical service on a social spending site, you can still use Groupon to your advantage.

Consider a daily deal to the hospital café or gift shop. A discount like that is a way to reach out to a different demographic of consumers and expose them to your patient experience, even if they are not patients.

By proceeding strategically and exercising caution, hospital marketers could reap many benefits by using social spending sites. If your organization's patient experience is superb, it may even turn the deal-surfer into a lifelong patient.

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