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6 Ways to Drive Patient Volume, Revenue

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   October 12, 2011

Money talks. In healthcare, it can say much about the value of marketing in a hospital or organization.  

In my column last week, I described how the Chief Financial Officer and Chief Marketing Officer should be best friends. Many of their strategies align, including drawing patient volume and revenue to a hospital or healthcare organization. Marketers are always looking to prove their worth in the numbers – the number of patients, return on investment, cost per lead, the list goes on.

This week, I'm sharing a list of golden rules for golden results on your bottom line. John Luginbill, CEO of The Heavyweights, an IN-based marketing communications firm, first presented these ideas to a group of communications professionals armed with laptops and notepads at the Society for Healthcare Strategy and Market Development (SHSMD) Annual conference.

1. Spend money to make money. Spend money wisely.

Of each dollar that comes into your facility, 65 cents has a government obligation attached  to it. What this means is that healthcare is heavily reliant on government regulation and reimbursement. In order to make money, marketers must spend money; cheap platforms will get you what you paid for.  Don't believe me? Track it and see.

One of the best ways to track progress is by recording cost per lead. "You need to know the cost per lead or you're fired in the consumer world," Luginbill said. "The same goes for healthcare."

Setting up a method for tracking cost-per-lead doesn't need to be complicated. It can be as simple as setting up a chart in Excel with the following categories:

  • Tactics
  • Audience size
  • Leads (with contact information)
  • Cost
  • Cost per lead

And while you're at it, spend wisely. Many health systems and hospitals make the mistake of promoting their "star" facilities or programs.

"It's a waste of money to promote something that is doing well," Luginbill said. "You can't begin to show ROI if something is already at capacity.

The better strategy is to focus on the programs that may need more help. These are likely to show bigger gains, too, if your campaign and tracking methods are effective.

2. Coordinate efforts vertically.

If you function like an air traffic controller with multiple campaigns to manage across your hospital, coordinating campaigns vertically will prevent any marketing messes. Think with the future in mind, in terms of what is coming down the pipeline. Timing is everything.

It is up to the communications department to be the hub of the hospital and know what emerging departments need promotion. Try keeping a calendar of campaigns that correspond to events happening at your organization. Having a calendar or a future plan will allow a communications team to be proactive instead of reactive in planning campaigns.

3. Target pre-episodic patients.

Does your hospital or health system have billboards centered on heart attacks? Chances are most (50%) people who have a heart attack didn't know they were going to have one – thus, your billboard didn't capture their attention. A better marketing approach is one that relates to the viewer's current condition or determines if they are at risk.

4.  Master media mix, message, and movement.

As a marketing columnist, there is one message I see constantly, and chances are, patients see it constantly too. Nearly each hospital and healthcare organization flaunts a title with the words: best, top, excellence, or world class. Healthcare is a machine constantly churning out reviews, evaluations, and consequently, cliché claims to fame.

While identifiers (Example: "top ten percentile in patient satisfaction") do hold value, a marketing message needs to show instead of tell how that value affects the patient.

"If you're saying you're the best, it doesn't mean anything," Luginbill said. "It's narcissistic. If you want people to pay attention [the message] has to be about them."

Marketing without a call to action is like a cookie without milk. The audience is left craving something that is missing. Luginbill describes "awareness" a term thrown around the marketing world, as an empty calorie word. Sure, it sounds good, but what does awareness really mean? What does it get you? What's the return?

Stop focusing on awareness and focus more on action and measurable results.

5. Opt-in marketing is not optional.

The key to driving patient volume is engaging patients in the conversation about their health. Risk assessments and tear outs can be productive tools for engaging patients and leading them toward opt-in opportunities.


"Don't just show them the cute nurse or the cute baby," Luginbill said. "Show them what to do next."

Risk assessments breakdown in the following way: If 25,000 people take the assessment:

  • 5,000 will be at risk
  • 1,000 will be asked to be contacted
  • 500 will need a procedure
  • On average, 2% of risk assessments result in a procedure

6. Capitalize on co-risk.

Only 5% of the U.S. population is responsible for 50% of healthcare cost, Luginbill said. With many hospital frequent flyers, marketing should target their needs.

The best way to do business is with existing clients, this same mantra rings true in healthcare. When a patient is at risk for one procedure, make sure your marketing gives the patient links to other resources they may need in the future.

In conclusion, these six strategies can help keep your marketing campaigns on track with dollar focus down the line. I wish you best of luck in befriending your CFO, and letting the money and the metrics do the talking.


Questions? Comments? Story ideas? Anna Webster, Online Content Coordinator for HealthLeaders Media, can be reached at
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