The world of healthcare is vast and everywhere you turn competition is ferocious; it can seem easy for freestanding ambulatory surgery centers to be left behind in the wake of national chains and behemoth health systems. But, the same principles that launch big business into the spotlight can apply to even the smallest ASC.
First, become the big fish in a little pond. Master the local market before casting a wide net and banking on strategies like medical tourism. It is surprising the number of who don't know the difference between a hospital and ASC. For those in the industry the benefits of an ASC over a hospital often go without saying, but that shouldn't be the case. ASC leaders need to tout the benefits of their facility to anyone and everyone who will listen. What is the most easily accessible platform to reach the highest number of people? The internet, of course.
A third of Google queries are local searches, according to the Forbes report Three Ways to Attract More Local Customers. Patients are starting to shop around for their surgeries, but they aren't leaving their homes or looking up from their phones to do it. If you don't have an online presence the chances of that 33 percent of web searches finding you are slim. The Forbes article recommends three ways to attract more local consumers through online efforts.
• Get listed on local search sites such as Yelp and CitySearch. These sites are essentially the phonebooks of the digital age, according to the article.
• Ask for online reviews. Patient testimonials can be powerful. Ask what patients thought of you and post it. Who better to convince consumers than a fellow buyer?
• Invest in your online presence. Investment does not necessarily hurt, though strategically used marketing dollars never hurt. Invest time. Social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter are free, but useful tools.
If a center has created a firm, profitable foothold in its local market, but still has room to shine, learn by example. The companies, and even individual ASCs, that have been propelled to the level of national attention did not get there by mistake. They had something or did something that set them apart from the crowd.
AmSurg acquired Sheridan Healthcare, an anesthesia provider. Surgery Center of Oklahoma took on price transparency before it became a national demand. Both moves were not without risk, and whether or not they will ultimately pan out remains to be seen.
Becoming the first provider in a marketplace to offer something gives any business a definitive edge — think Google, Netflix or Amazon. But bold differentiation entails shouldering a certain amount of risk and finding the ability to anticipate consumer demand. Understand your market and overarching healthcare trends. Finding the right response at the right time takes ingenuity and innovation, but someone will fill that niche.
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