Department Focus: Marketing - A Cash Injection

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Botox and other profitable services can help set your organization apart.

Seeking a cash infusion, many hospitals are adding nontraditional services to their offerings—from facials to full-body imaging scans—to improve patient satisfaction, generate positive word-of-mouth, differentiate themselves from the competition, and build downstream revenue.

Two St. Petersburg, FL, hospitals, for example, Bayfront Medical Center and Carillon Outpatient Center, recently added retail services. Carillon's medical spa offers laser therapy, microdermabrasion, Botox, massage, and facials. Bayfront's "aesthetic medical practice" offers Botox, Restylane, laser hair removal, and other services performed by a physician.

"Some smart health systems that are in a hyper-competitive marketplace are realizing that customers have experiences at their site," says marketing consultant Michael Harris, CEO, Michael Harris Group, Inc., in Phoenix. Those experiences can make the difference between a patient who returns to your hospital and one who doesn't.

"You can't afford to thwart that customer and push them off into a competitor's arms," Harris says.

Another benefit to these new offerings: Profits are much better when patients pay out-of-pocket. Healthcare market strategists weren't paying attention to these services "until they figured out that it was good for their bottom line," Harris says.

Ancillary services can provide a cash infusion, agrees Joshua M. Kaye, a partner with McDermott Will & Emery, LLP, in Miami. Kaye advises healthcare organizations on outpatient market strategies.

"A number of hospitals and health systems are willing to offer a much broader range of outpatient services now than ever before," he says. "By partnering with the physicians, they can continue to receive a part of the outpatient revenue stream that may otherwise have entirely transitioned outside of the hospital into a physician-owned venture."

Five steps to launching and marketing new services

Not every service is the right fit for every organization, however. Choosing the wrong one can be a disaster. Harris offers the following five-step launch process:

  1. 1. Prepare: Create a strategic vision that outlines the reasoning and sets goals for the initiative.
  2. 2. Assess: Take a hard look at your organization's ability to provide the service and determine market need.
  3. 3. Discover: There are dozens of opportunities to grow revenue and improve service (see "Getting Started").
  4. 4. Experiment: Start with pilot programs before launching any full-scale effort.
  5. 5. Integrate: Once the full-scale program is launched, make sure it ties seamlessly into your branding, marketing, and strategic plan. Promote the program internally, too—your employees are not only ambassadors for such programs, they might also be customers.

Often, add-on services are part of a long-term market strategy. A wellness program, nutritional counseling, even services that provide healthy meals to patients help build long-term relationships with consumers and can lead to diagnoses and treatment of other illnesses and conditions, such as diabetes or high blood pressure. "It's a feeder service line that's just a tremendous source of revenue," Harris says.

Other profitable services that are growing in popularity include ambulatory surgical centers, cardiac cath labs, medical imaging, radiation therapy, and other oncology services, says Kaye. Although they require an investment in facilities and equipment, they're most likely to provide the best return.

In addition to ASCs, which can cost a fair amount to build and equip, adds Jerry Sokol, a partner with McDermott Will & Emery, some outpatient services—like nuclear stress testing—require less expensive equipment and don't need as much space. Such services can produce a high ROI quickly.

Gienna Shaw

Getting started:

Want to boost revenue, improve patient satisfaction, and differentiate your organization from the competition? Michael Harris says you should consider adding the following products and services to your portfolio:

  • Patient advocates, who ensure patients are receiving the highest level of care and customer service, improve patient satisfaction and help spread positive word-of-mouth messages.
  • Vitamins and supplements can increase pharmacy profits.
  • Patient-controlled electronic clinical records can help increase patient loyalty.
  • Semi-annual prevention screenings that use state-of-the-art digital equipment and physician specialists to interpret results can help build downstream revenue.
  • Physician performance coaching can increase revenue production for all physicians throughout the system and increase both internal and patient satisfaction.
  • Retail sales, including healthcare items branded to your organization, can increase revenue and increase awareness of your organization.

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