Why Healthcare Providers Need to be Content Creators

With the abundance of online information — and more recently the Content_Iconoverwhelming popularity of social media — there is an expectation of readily-available, reliable and accurate information. In the healthcare marketing world, patients expect to have ready access to information from resources including their care providers, WebMD and popular media, as well as from their friends and acquaintances via social media.

Thanks to the Internet, the line between healthcare “shopping” and “researching” is forever blurred.

Your patients have the ability to “shop” for healthcare day or night, at the computer, with help from their online friends. This is the new normal. There’s no going back. All we can do is accept this reality and work to meet patients and potential patients where the are online and foster a dialog whenever possible.

How do we do this? Content.

Creating content that reflects your practice’s expertise, demonstrates value to the potential patient, and helps sustain that dialogue with current patients grows loyalty and increases the likelihood of patients recommending your practice to others.

To demonstrate our expertise and passion to pass it along, we need to constantly create and share relevant information. By instituting a content creation program, your practice can:

  • Demonstrate value to patients and their families.
  • Position yourself as thought leaders.
  • Get found by web search engines.

All healthcare content is not created equal.

And that’s not a bad thing. The good news is that we can use your practice’s content in so many different ways — think websites, blogs, social media — that we can begin to triage content to the best possible outlet for your audiences.

Some things are newsworthy. Suppose one of your docs just received a prestigious award from his peers. You’ll want to blast this news out everywhere, in press releases, on your blog, on your website, and in all the social media outlets.

Other content is noteworthy. Eight of your staff members formed a team and participated in a walk that raised money for a worthy cause. This type of information is ripe for your Facebook page and perhaps the blog portion of your website.

The best content is pure gold. Your hotshot new doc just handed you an original article that she wrote, offering tips for patients that are relevant, practical and timely. This type of content gets featured everywhere as well. And this is the type of content our clients find attracts huge amounts of website traffic.

“But we are not always so creative!” you protest. Not all content you use in social media and other outlets has to be made-from-scratch creations. Curating relevant information for your patients and potential patients on your website is another way to demonstrate value. By locating, reposting and linking to relevant content from other reliable sources, you can position your practice as a go-to resource. For example: a new study shows the connection between running on asphalt and high ankle injuries. Share an excerpt and a link to the online study through your communications channels and it will be appreciated.

Healthcare marketing program planning ensures created content works for you.

Once created, content can be purposed and repurposed for a variety of needs, offering a great deal of economy and efficiency. Some content just comes along, like awards or charity walks. You just need to watch for it, recognize it, and deploy it on the best possible communication channel. Other, more original content can be planned for by creating a simple content calendar. By developing a calendar ahead of time, you’ll allow your busy providers the opportunity to think about their contributions — and seek outside help in articulating these ideas as needed — and still meet deadline.

Social media and the independent healthcare practice: Are social media tactics and efforts right for your practice?

“We have to be on Facebook—like right now! (Don’t we?)”

In meetings with both current and prospective healthcare clients, the subject of social media inevitably comes up: “Do you think we should be on social media? Do we need a Facebook page or Twitter account?”

No matter the practice or specialty, our answer is always the same: “It depends!”

The longer answer

Many people feel that having a social media presence is mandatory for their practice. Realistically, there are a few practical questions that need to be answered. The first relate directly to your practice specialty and its type and frequency of patient interaction.

How often do your providers see their patients, and why? This can directly affect any social media plan. Patient populations that are being treated for an ongoing condition like allergies or diabetes could benefit from tips, advice or links to outside resources to educate and support them between visits. One of our clients, Carolina Asthma & Allergy Center, shares pollen counts and forecasts during allergy season via Twitter and Facebook. This helps in their treatment plan, and builds loyalty and potential referrals to friends and family.

By contrast, if patient interaction is more “one-and-done” in nature (think emergency surgery), there may be no compelling reason for an ongoing dialog in social media channels.  You could find your practice in the position of struggling to find something to say, then wondering if anyone is listening.

Does your practice offer ancillary services? Showcasing these highly-profitable offerings on social media is a friendly way to make existing and potential patients aware of additional services or products they may find beneficial.

Does your staff take part in cancer walks, or run in 10Ks, collect and donate school supplies, or speak to students about the importance of exercise or proper nutrition? Another strong argument in favor of social media is to utilize it as a forum to share your staff’s community involvement and outreach. A few photos and a line or two about the experience would be perfect on Facebook or Instagram.

Our Social Media Prescription:

Planning is always a key to success. For any social media presence to grow and flourish, it needs proper care and feeding. Content needs to be developed and shared on a consistent basis to gain and hold the attention of your audience. Comments must be acknowledged and opportunities for positive dialog must be cultivated.

  • Develop editorial calendar
    • identify topics of interest for your audience and designate who will be responsible for gathering information and/or writing the content
    • plan ahead to share practice involvement with health fairs or community events, or providers appearing on television news, or as panelists on NPR, etc.
  • Develop a policy on dealing with critical posts or comments from outside your practice. The potential for dialog in social media is a double-edge sword. Followers like the idea of accessibility and immediacy that social media provides, but your practice must protect against unreasonable or vitriolic attacks.
  • Make sure that multiple people — inside and/or outside of your practice — are monitoring your social media channels.

Execution is key

Second to having a plan is having dedicated resources to implement that plan. Do you have someone within the walls of your organization that can take the lead in your social media efforts? Does he or she have strong writing skills? Can he or she strike the proper tone and personality that best represent your practice in the social media space? Is he or she responsive and diplomatic when confronted by a criticism or complaint?  Do you need outside help to assist your staff?  These are important executional questions that need to be answered as well.

Online Reputation Management for Healthcare Practices: Capturing and Amplifying Positive Patient Experiences

Online reviews of healthcare providers are becoming more prevalent — and raising concern among physicians, practice managers and marketers alike. Any patient with access to the web can write reviews and affect online ratings of your providers. The number of review sites is growing. And the unfortunate fact is it’s often the most unsatisfied patient who makes the effort to write reviews of your physicians and your practice.

Consumer review websites such as HealthGrades.com, Vitals.com and Yelp.com are among the busiest, and dozens of other physician-specific ratings sites are growing rapidly and place high within search engine results. This means when your potential patients search the web for your physicians or your practice they may find negative reviews made by other patients.

It is essential to be aware of what’s being said about your practice as quickly as possible, both positive and negative. While you can’t have negative reviews changed or deleted (unless they are grossly untrue or unnecessarily inflammatory), you can act to promote positive patient experiences.

One of our healthcare clients — an independent physician group with eight area locations — recently came to us with the dilemma of how to combat a few incendiary online reviews. We have developed a program to monitor what’s being said and to bury the negative reviews by capturing and amplifying positive experiences from the silent majority of satisfied patients.

Our program begins with establishing a baseline on what’s being said and where. We’ve engaged Reputation.com to monitor each physician individually as well as the practice as a whole. They provide us with an online portal allowing us to view what’s been posted in the past, and we receive e-mail alerts of any and all new online reviews and other mentions of our doctors and practice on the web when they occur.

We’ve implemented a survey program that is two-fold: we send existing patients links to online surveys via e-mail, asking for feedback and if they’re willing to be contacted to share more about their experience. We’ve created in-office displays containing review cards to gather feedback from patients at the time of their visit. We’re beginning to receive very positive feedback, some of which is from patients willing to relate their story on the practice’s website in the form of testimonials, and as positive reviews on healthcare grading sites. Any negative feedback is routed to appropriate managers within the practice, who quickly contact patients and work to resolve issues. It’s a win-win scenario for the practice and its patients.

Our program has increased the number of positive testimonials, and we’re using these on the practice’s website and in social media. It also provides a vehicle for any unhappy patient to address their issue directly with the practice instead of venting their grievances online. This proactive approach will undoubtedly raise the online reputation of our client practice.

We know that every practice is unique and faces unique challenges, and there is no one-size-fits-all solution to managing your online reputation. However, we’ve learned that taking the time to establish and maintain a program that monitors online reviews while proactively seeking and amplifying positive feedback, we can support a practice’s overall brand by sharing positive patient experiences.

Why Now is the Time for Independent Physician Practices to Take Bold Branding and Marketing Steps

These are interesting and challenging times in healthcare — and healthcare marketing.

In the midst of all these changes, some things remain the same. You still have to maintain profitability for your practice. At its most basic, this means keeping a high flow of patients through the lobby. To do that, you and your physicians are establishing and nurturing relationships with referring physicians, insurance companies and government regulators — not to mention patients — all at the same time. It’s a juggling act that never ends.

Now more than ever, you’re having to look at everything under the Return-on-Investment microscope. Branding and marketing are no different. With careful planning and execution, a branding and marketing program can positively affect the bottom line.

Government regulations and the Affordable Care Act are
changing the playing field

Conversion to Electronic Medical Records and “meaningful use” requirements of technology costs money and time, and the impact on operations can be upsetting to staff. Streamlining appointments and billing through patient portals and communicating service capabilities on easy-to-maintain websites are more important than ever before. The Affordable Care Act is creating massive changes. In the midst of all this change, are you able to instill trust in patients and referrers?  It’s more critical than ever that your practice do just that — and intentional branding and marketing can help.

As patients have to make more healthcare decisions, some will undoubtedly become overwhelmed by information and choices.  The easier we as communicators make it for them to navigate the emerging healthcare landscape, the more loyalty they will show during and after this seismic shift to more consumer-driven healthcare. As marketers, we need to:

  • Keep actionable and essential information at the forefront.
  • Track feedback and ongoing support to show success, not just to demonstrate regulatory compliance, but, more importantly to your patients.
  • Coordination of care is crucial – no one product or service you’re providing is an island.
  • If you’re good and your metrics are high, promote that heavily.

The term “brand” is thrown around a lot these days, but what
exactly is a brand?

A strong brand will exhibit three “D’s”:

It is Deliverable:

Your practice delivers on the claim every time your patient does business with you. In the eyes of your patients and referral partners, your brand is a promise fulfilled, a warranty for outstanding care — now and in the future.

It is Distinctive:

Your practice’s brand and brand message sets you apart from the competition.  It takes more than pure “delivery” to be distinctive.  Your brand must leverage distinctions that make patients and referring physicians prefer you over your competition.  You must clearly communicate your brand in a distinctive and memorable fashion to be effective.


It is Desirable:

Your practice’s brand is the one that your patients prefer and demand. It is compelling, moving your target patient to action. Your practice must continuously enhance and leverage your desirable brand truths.

An effectively developed brand is not just a logo, a slogan, a spokesperson or a consistent and persistent use of these things.  Likewise, it is not purely the use of a variety of tactics such as advertising, web marketing, public relations and social media.

What does a strong brand do for your practice?  It facilitates easier recognition and loyalty from your patients, who will want to maintain a long-lasting relationship with your physicians and your practice. It’s a brand they remember and respect.

A strong brand also will improve employee loyalty and recruiting efforts and offer a clear vision to not just group leadership, but to all members of the team.

Branding supports independence and builds loyalty with all audiences:

  • Patients/consumers – shows care and concern outside the exam room
  • Referring physicians
  • Employers who self-insure their workforce
  • Hospitals that may co-market partner specialty practices.

Creating a Brand Image: The Big Picture

Root issue: the market is unaware of what makes your practice different.

Link your brand to compelling assets and capabilities:

  • Board certification
  • IT prowess – patient portal, EHR, etc.
  • Care integration
  • Other things your practice does well

Reach out to the community by offering things such as:

  • Screening services
  • Risk self-assessments
  • Informational materials.
  • Educational presentations

Reach out to referring physicians:

  • Again, educate and promote
  • Allocating budget, resources and physician time.

What’s the Process of Brand Development?

We view brand development as a discovery process that identifies a brand’s deliverable claims of distinction.  The act of branding is utilizing marketing and communications tactics in a compelling manner to take these distinctions to market.

Brand development is a business process that is carefully planned, strategically focused, and integrated throughout your operation.  It will establish the direction, leadership, clarity of purpose, inspiration and energy for your most important asset:  your name and reputation.

The key to a productive brand development program begins with gaining an understanding of the target patient audiences, those who ultimately make the decision to choose your group.

As experts in your specialty, you may be too close to your business and interests to achieve enough objectivity to speak to potential clients in terms that will resonate with them. You know who you are, what you’re best at doing, and with whom you should be working, but are you speaking to these patients in terms of true benefits in their eyes?

We can help.

Our approach involves gathering information from patients, management and practice managers about your services, what they are intended to accomplish, and the current perception of your practice. From there, we develop positioning, key messages and a marketing plan to communicate your service and practice to the marketplace efficiently and with the most impact.

How We Can Help

  • Visual Identity
  • Key Messages and Positioning Study
  • Patient Communications
  • Website
  • Advertising
  • PR and Promotions
  • Social Media

Getting Started

Opus 59 Creative Group specializes in strategic marketing and branding, website development, graphic design, public relations and social media for healthcare organizations.

With some clients, like OrthoCarolina, we bring our skills and experience and work as an extension of their internal marketing team. With others without marketing staff such as Carolina Asthma & Allergy Center, we act as their on-call marketing department, providing comprehensive marketing strategy and support.

It all starts with a conversation. Call us.  We’ll come see you. We can face these challenges together.

 

Four Questions We Ask Charlotte-Area Healthcare Professionals About Marketing

We have the good fortune of speaking with many practice managers and marketing pros for Charlotte area healthcare practices.  We like to kick off those conversations with four questions:

  • How are you sharing the compelling story of your practice’s expertise with potential patients and referring physicians?
  • Would you appreciate help articulating your practice’s unique brand positioning and key messages?
  • Do you have a solid plan to maximize your marketing spending and show a return on investment to your practice?
  • When was the last time you were able to pause and take a strategic look at your efforts?

The answers to these questions inevitably lead to conversations that help us understand where they are with branding and marketing.  In turn, it helps us develop plans that can help.

With some clients, like OrthoCarolina, we bring our skills and experience and work as an extension of their internal marketing team. With others without marketing staff such as Carolina Asthma & Allergy Center, we act as their on-call marketing department, providing comprehensive marketing strategy and support.

Carolina Asthma & Allergy Center

carolinaasthma_website_opus59
Often, a strategic and creative overhaul is the best way to start a long-term client relationship.  That was the opportunity presented to us by the Carolina Asthma & Allergy Center.  And, collectively, we hit the ground running and are making good things happen.

 The Challenge:

Even as the most established asthma and allergy group in the Charlotte, with 100 percent of doctors holding board certifications, Carolina Asthma & Allergy Center wasn’t sending the best messages to patients and referring physicians.  Honestly, they weren’t blowing their leader’s horn loud enough.

Opus 59 Creative Group initially was engaged in a strategic planning process to develop new messaging, a revised brand, and a marketing plan that would move the needle while being fiscally responsible.

We interviewed all 12 doctors and practice administration leaders, then led them through a planning process to arrive at a revised positioning, visual branding and tagline.  In addition, we delivered a marketing plan to re-launch the brand, beginning with a redesigned website on the WordPress CMS platform.

Deliverables and Results:

Opus 59 currently serves as the virtual marketing department for Carolina Asthma & Allergy Center.  We meet weekly with management and are responsible for brand development, graphic design, public relations, content development and all paid and unpaid promotions.