Talking the “Four Rs” of Healthcare Brand Marketing at SHSMD

Referrals, Recruitment, Retention, and Reputation

The Lippincott Audience Solutions team just returned from the Society for Healthcare Strategy & Market Development’s SHSMD Connections 2019. This annual meeting of marketers and senior leaders from across the US healthcare industry had a fitting theme being held in Music City, USA: “Composing the Future of Healthcare Strategy.”


For Wolters Kluwer, a publisher of hundreds of healthcare journals and websites, this event is a great opportunity for us to talk to marketers about the importance of positioning their brand to HCPs to achieve a host of strategic goals.


In this blog, we’ll share some takeaways from our SHSMD conversations through the lens of what we call the “Four Rs” of an HCP-facing healthcare brand marketing strategy.


Increase Referrals in the Age of Megamergers


We could have easily begun each conversation with “So how long since your last merger?” While 2018 didn’t have as many total mergers as the previous year, many of the ones that did happen were larger “megamergers”. While one of the benefits of consolidation is a reduction in patient leakage by keeping more patients and payments in-network, referrals will continue to be a top priority for healthcare marketers.


Building and maintaining direct relationships with providers is key to a healthy flow of referrals by fostering regular and open communications and information sharing about service offerings and facility benefits. But staying top of mind and ensuring referring physicians think of your HCO as their first choice for their patients can require a little extra effort and investment.


Review your marketing budget and assess whether referring physicians are getting an appropriate proportion of spend relative to your goals. Are you routinely promoting your new or expanded services to the HCP audience in their specialty journals or the websites they frequent? How about recognition you’ve received for quality or special initiatives like projects that address social determinants of health in your community? It’s likely you are touting patient satisfaction metrics to prospective patients, but are you also sharing them with relevant physicians? These proof points can further cement existing referral relationships while also laying the foundation for new ones.


Recruit the Best Talent in Highly Competitive Specialties


A recent study conducted on behalf of the AAMC projects a total shortage of between 46,900 and 121,900 physicians by 2032. Among specialists, the data project a shortage of between 1,900 and 12,100 medical specialists, 14,300 and 23,400 surgical specialists, and 20,600 and 39,100 other specialists, such as pathologists, neurologists, radiologists, and psychiatrists, by 2032.


Healthcare recruitment is already an uphill climb considering the overall physician shortage, but these days job postings alone are not always enough to prime the pump for top talent. Employer branding campaigns that promote the highlights of working for your organization can help keep the pipeline healthy. Content marketing efforts that strategically place organizational profiles and insights and opinions of your clinical and administrative leadership can go far in encouraging physicians to take another look. Audit the kinds of content you are creating for social media and think about how to expand that reach to target your ideal specialist, even when you don’t have specific career opportunities. Marketing has shifted from outbound to inbound; make it easier for top talent to learn about your mission, values, accomplishments and benefits as an employer, on their time.


Retain Quality Providers During Tough Times


The transition to value-based care has revealed many opportunities for HCOs to distinguish themselves with more attractive reimbursements, new technologies, and innovative patient care designs. Broadcasting those distinctions and building a profile that leads with your unique value proposition not only helps attract new talent, but it can help you retain the ones you have.


Especially in times of transition and change, your current workforce should be reminded of the impact they are having on the Triple Aim. By sharing information about your investments in areas like telemedicine, illustrating how their efforts are directly impacting healthcare outcomes, or sharing case studies about how you’re addressing challenges like physician burnout are all ways to do double duty and bolster recruitment and improve retention.


Manage Your Reputation Beyond the Patient


Many would argue that building and preserving the reputation of your HCO’s brand is a marketer’s north star. To that end, a significant emphasis is put on consumer-centric efforts like your website, monitoring online reviews, and improving the patient experience across the care continuum. A sometimes-overlooked objective that has a downstream effect is ensuring that physicians also perceive the brand positively. This plays out in one very specific way with hospital rankings, like the US News and World Report Honor Roll, when physicians are surveyed about which institutions they believe are of the highest quality within their specialty.


In our conversations with attendees, this goal was often acknowledged, yet very little targeted work was done to impact physician sentiment and improve the likelihood that their hospital would be named.


In our experience, covered in more depth in our collection of client success stories, a deliberate approach to hospital reputation directed at providers can have a measurable impact on overall rankings. Consider a strategic campaign to boost recall and communicate your value by incorporating some, or all, of the ideas mentioned above, with the specific goal of increasing your ratings by surveyed physicians.


Contact us to learn more about how we can customize a hospital branding program to meet your unique needs!

Contact us to learn more about how we can customize a hospital branding program to meet your unique needs.

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