How Physicians' Reputations Impact ASC Brand Recognition & Bottom Line
The following article was written by Simon Sikorski, MD, medical marketing director for Healthcare Marketing Center of Excellence.
Brand recognition for ambulatory surgery centers and orthopedic centers of excellence at hospitals has never been more important — but it's clear that the orthopedic surgeons, not the physical building, are now being examined as the brand.
In recent case studies published by Healthcare Marketing Center, several key statistics stood out that can significantly impact the way ambulatory surgery centers and hospitals spend their advertising dollars.
The most significant opportunities for such facilities to increase their profitability are definitely growing on the internet. Print, TV, radio, billboards and earned media are no longer as powerful as a geo-targeted mini-billboards on Google, which specifically target the behaviors of patients in exclusive demographics. The best part about it is that these campaigns can be tweaked with virtually no extra cost from one month to the next to keep improving ROI.
ROI ratios 40:1 are only attainable with the internet, but when they are supported by public relations for the physicians that make up the center of excellence, ROI ratios soar to 200:1 (average of 85:1). Luckily, PR campaigns for the doctors are neither expensive nor time-consuming. Why? Technology available on iPads/Tablet PCs and "the cloud" are revolutionizing how brand recognition is earned.
For future patients, the most important searches are for a surgeon's area of sub-expertise and other patients' experiences.
Patients seeking orthopedic and spine surgery are looking for information that identifies the physician's skill level, i.e. "I specialize in minimally invasive knee surgery for athletes in contact sports. I love it when my patients can quickly return to the activities they love." Online searches for simple terms such as "orthopedic surgeon" are slowly disappearing as patients become empowered with the information available to them.
Unfortunately, many patients diagnose themselves and seek online resources they think are best. The amount of misinformation on the internet that supports those misdiagnoses is troubling.
Physicians are losing the battle with Dr. Google. "Dr. Google" is replacing the initial physician contact, but at the same time, "Dr. Google" can be a physician's biggest ally. He gives you all the tools that you need to reclaim the physician's status as the trusted source of medical education. All you have to do is embrace those tools — website technologies, analytics, advertising platforms and social media. If you can dominate the space where patients are searching for providers, your brand recognition will be entrenched for many years to come. You won't have to rely on advertising if you can become a trusted resource of this valuable information.
Advertising elective orthopedic procedures
In the case of patients seeking elective orthopedic procedures with out-of-pocket expenses, there was one statistic that really stood out. One hundred percent of such patients went to Google to pre-screen doctors before calling for an appointment, even if referred by a PCP or another specialist. This was a very significant finding we encountered in the third week of advertising an ASC. How did we catch it? We noticed that all the new patient leads were jumping off the ASC website, going to various physician review sites and not returning.
What happens on Google?
Almost 60 percent of the surgeons at both the ASC and the hospital subscribing to our brand management software had outdated listings. Forty percent had reviews for patient experiences significantly below "national average," and 20 percent of their physicians had bad reviews. The biggest question we had was whether those bad reviews are valid reviews. Overwhelmingly, they were not, and more importantly, most of them were two to four years old.
Testing the hypothesis
What if we ran a PR campaign for the physicians' reputations and sub-expertise before advertising the brand? What if we made their patients into advocates right at the follow-up visit (when they can recall the whole experience) by utilizing the software for patient experience feedback and published them? What if we were to verify every review as an actual, verified review? What if we were able to recognize dissatisfaction before it ever became public knowledge?
The results for the hospital
After testing our hypothesis at the hospital, we saw the following results:
1. Case volumes for fee-for-service patients at the hospital increased by 120 percent.
2. Advertising budget decreased by 60 percent.
3. Click-through rates on internet advertisements went up to 10 percent (industry average is 0.5 percent).
4. 50 of 350 reviews were negative. In all 50 cases, the physicians were blamed, and the most common dissatisfaction was patient waiting time. A strategic hire of a nurse practitioner effectively resolved this challenge.
Customer satisfaction improved so much that even though reviews were used for internal purposes, the patients felt compelled to go to Yelp, Vitals and Google to talk about their great experience
The results for the ASC client
After testing our hypothesis at the ASC, we saw the following results:
1. We fixed reputations for 6 of 15 surgeons (owners of ASC).
2. In three weeks, we were able to completely dominate the entire first page of Google results with the physician's names, the ASC's expertise and reviews from patients
3. At week four, 33 new out-of-network cases were scheduled, bringing $132,000 in surgeons fees alone (not including the facility fees and other costs).
4. Three major complaints were managed.
At our Health 2.0 meeting in New York on July 31, we compared our results to a big-name NYC hospital that ran a focused public relations campaign for physicians at one of their Centers of Excellence before running an advertising campaign. Similarly, the hospital focused the campaign on the physicians' expertise rather than the brand. Cost of the campaign was almost 1,500 percent less expensive, won interest from TV and online publications, and increased case volumes by 30 percent in eight weeks. Their brand advertising campaign, which lasted two years, increased volume by only 5percent. Big difference.
When will other U.S. hospitals and practices start featuring their physicians as their brand? When will marketers realize that people want to connect with real-life physicians, not just a physical location with a logo?
Learn more about Health Care Marketing COE.
© Copyright ASC COMMUNICATIONS 2012. Interested in LINKING to or REPRINTING this content? View our policies by clicking here.