Impact Starts with Our Thoughts and Actions

Kriss Barlow, for HealthLeaders Media , January 28, 2009

The times certainly are changing. For some healthcare marketers, the professional outlook is very uncertain and subject to change at a moment's notice. While it's easy to take a wait-and-see attitude, I suggest just the opposite. Harness your inner spirit and proactively seek to grow your role and your personal standing within the organization, starting today.

Here are five areas that seem ripe for assessment and refocus. Ask yourself how well you did in this area in 2008 and what you can do to ensure impact in the first quarter of 2009.

1. Get Results
All the best recruitment processes in the world don't matter if you don't have candidates and if you don't fill the positions. The same is true for physician relations, marketing and strategy; it is all about the outcome.

  • For some this means you say "good enough" when it comes to tweaking the data or looking at infrastructure needs. Focus on those efforts that garner results now. Keep the plans and process so you can go back to the other areas when the timing is right.
  • Managers may need to make some tough choices about underperforming staff members. Get them help and develop performance improvement plans. The right talent is an essential for success.
  • Narrow your focus for targeting and breadth of messages if you believe you have drifted. It is easy to "give in" to internal stakeholders who believe their service needs your attention rather than staying to the strategic vision.

2. Tell Your Story, Share Results

  • Clear, succinct reports that are heavy on numbers are essential.
  • Prepare and distribute them regularly—the same day of the month, every month.
  • Use graphs and charts, offer intelligence and add notes about trends and research from time to time.
  • Make certain the right leaders see it.

A well-developed and meaningful report tells the internal leaders facts and it speaks volumes about your ability to interpret the market needs.

3. Involve and Spread the Praise
Nervousness seems to heighten the silo behaviors. If we believe that many hands make the work go more quickly, then teamwork is more important not less.

  • Be the initiator, gather input, perceptions and knowledge from others.
  • Consider consolidating efforts rather than having separate functions do their own—for example, physician recruitment can work with marketing on their communication tools. Enhanced efficiency and economies of scale like this are worth pursuing.
  • Work hard to get—and then to deliver—positive messages to others within your organization. Everyone could use a little good news these days.

Recognize this as a real win-win. Besides the impact and synergy this is a great approach for educating internal audiences about your role.

4. Seek Knowledge
Learn something new—about yourself, our field, healthcare in general and especially about the breadth and depth of clinical service offerings.

  • It is our obligation to learn, and not the organizations obligation to teach. I think it is our job to ask the tough questions and to have done homework and learned the basics before we meet with our Chiefs or Service Line Executives.
  • Most clinical staffs do not understand the jobs we do and they have big responsibilities aside from our needs. Craft good questions, be thoughtful of their time, and remember that they see the world from inside—your referring doctors will see it differently.
  • Mental stimulation gets us seeing our roles differently and unleashes positive energy.

5. Innovate
Try a new approach to sourcing for candidates or a new strategy for working with the office staff. Consider a new communication plan for reaching your target markets. Step back, ask good questions of your physicians and other customer groups—and get specific to their needs. I once had a physician say, "If you ask the right question, generally the patient will give you the diagnosis." Our job is to ask those questions, then provide the right results to meet their needs.

During periods of change, innovation and new models are born. This is our chance to be part of the solution.

Kriss Barlow is a principal at Barlow/McCarthy, a consulting firm focused on hospital-physician solutions. Contact her at or at 715/381-1171.
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