5 Secrets to Build a Powerhouse Surgery Center Marketing Strategy

Bill HazenAmbulatory surgery centers have a great deal of value to offer patients, but one of the biggest challenges is effectively displaying this value. A vast marketing budget is not a luxury most surgery centers can afford, but the right strategy isn't based on bundles of marketing dollars. Bill Hazen, administrator at the Surgery Center at Pelham in Greer, S.C., explains five ways his surgery center markets itself – without sweating over the budget.

1. Demonstrate the ability to fill a niche hospitals don't. Hospitals have always been the giants of healthcare, overshadowing ASCs with huge market power. Surgery centers have always responded by offering what competing hospitals do not or cannot: lower costs, lower infection rates, more personal service, etc. This is the most potent marketing tool surgery centers have at their disposal.

At Surgery Center at Pelham, Mr. Hazen and his staff continue to find ways to step up and offer what hospitals do not. Currently, his team is focusing on introducing procedures that can be unique to their center. The center is taking on hemi knee replacements, which aren't often done in the outpatient portion of its market, and specific physicians prepared to perform these procedures.

Surgery Center at Pelham also offers a text message-based reminder service for patients. Once signed up, patients receive texts before and after their procedure with reminders and courtesy messages. Mr. Hazen has found patients prefer this service to emails and phone calls, a service not frequently provided by hospitals. "Hospitals are hesitant to spend the money, but with our smaller volume it is not that expensive," says Mr. Hazen.

2. Tackle social media and the online platform. Social media is free and reaches a large audience. Surgery Center at Pelham has a Facebook page and a website. The center's clinical director heads the social media campaign. She oversees the Facebook page and is considering adding a Twitter account. All of the employees interact with the Facebook page, which ensures its introduction to large pools of potential patients.

As with any targeted effort, tracking progress shows whether or not the effort is bearing fruit. "Look at the number of hits on the website. Look at your patient volume," says Mr. Hazen. On the Surgery Center at Pelham's electronic patient survey, a question asks where the patient found out about the surgery center. Successful social media strategy will be bolstered by sustained effort and continual tracking.

The surgery center's website contains links to each of the physician's websites. Patients are often unsure of how to come to a surgery center. Their provider may only perform surgery at a hospital, but this strategy offers patients a tangible link to physicians that open the door to the surgery center and all of its benefits.

3. Form mutually beneficial partnerships with vendors. Mr. Hazen's center is located in an aggressive market with an oversaturation of hospital employed physicians, making smart marketing even more crucial. The surgery center was initially partnered with the same IT company as a neighboring hospital, with unimpressive service. The surgery center found a young, aggressive IT company that was seeking to enter the healthcare space.

"Partnerships open up the road to lower prices," says Mr. Hazen. In this case, the surgery center provided the company with a step forward into the healthcare market and the company offered benefits while creating the ASC's website. Now when the clinical director wants to make small changes to the website she can do so easily and free of charge.

4. Use word-of-mouth as a tool.  Breast biopsy is one of the procedures performed at the Surgery Center at Pelham. Mr. Hazen explains that is his center women coming in for the procedure are met at a private entrance and provided the best possible experience at the center. The center and its staff make a concerted effort to put these patients at ease as they move through a very difficult time. "It is more about what we do, rather than spending money," says Mr. Hazen. "If patients have a good experience, they are going to tell people."

5. Cater to the changes in healthcare. As 2014 approaches and healthcare continues to change, patient deductibles are going to rise. This is going to quickly pave the way for the growing trend of healthcare as a consumer industry. Patients are no longer going to be passive recipients of care, they are going to shop.

"I cannot stress how important patient shopping is going to become," he says. Mr. Hazen says his surgery center is going to consider bundled pricing, a step towards becoming the ultimate consumer product in healthcare.  

To be a complimentary reviewer at the 20th Annual Becker's ASC Meeting on Oct. 24 to 26 in Chicago, please also email Sbecker@beckershealthcare.com or call 18004172035. There are approximately five spots left to be reviewers.

More Articles on ASC Issues:
5 Reasons to Bring the Surgery Center Pre-Admission Process Online
5 Tried & True Tactics for Attracting Physicians in an Age of Hospital Integration: 2 Surgery Center Administrators Weigh In
Achieve Higher Surgery Center Case Volume: 4 Proven Low-Cost Tactics

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