Tuesday, May 07, 2013

The unhappy hospital CEO

Dr Desai is a bright young hospital CEO . After finishing his M.D. in internal medicine he completed his MBA and now runs a 100 bed multispecialty hospital. The hospital is doing well , but he is unhappy . He knows that his hospital has excellent equipment and that his doctors are very skilled and competent. However, he is concerned that his bed occupancy is still low. He wonders what he is doing wrong and why more patients don’t come to his hospital.

One major problem is the competition. Most patients prefer going to the big brand-name hospitals such as Apollo and Fortis, because they have much larger marketing budgets , and can spend much more on advertising and creating brand-name recognition. This is why it’s easier for them to attract patients – and there’s no way he can spend so much money on advertising !

What can he do to make sure that patients will come to his hospital, rather than go somewhere else ? He knows that even though his hospital is smaller, the quality of clinical care is actually much better , because it's much more like a focused factory . They only do certain procedures , but they do these extremely well , which means they can provide high quality services much more cost effectively than the larger hospitals.

Thus, his hospital does not offer expensive and esoteric treatment options such as transplantation. Now while transplantation programs attract a lot of headlines and seem to offer cutting-edge medicine , in reality they impact only a very small proportion of patients However , to run a transplant program requires a lot of infrastructure and expenditure , and because the large brand name hospitals are so focused on promoting these high profile specialty departments , they spend a disproportionate amount of money on these , as a result of which their other more basic departments ( such as general surgery and obstetrics ) will often get second-class treatment.

This means that these departments, which provide  the bulk of the common medical care which most patients require , end up being treated with much less loving care then the high-profile departments . Even worse, they often over-charge, because they need to subsidise the glamorous high-tech departments such as robotic surgery or transplantation surgery.

The CEOs’ problem is – how can I explain these facts to potential patients ? How do I show them that even though our hospital is not so large , we are much better at taking care if them because we don’t have all the fancy bells and whistles. This is quite a challenge , and something which he's been grappling with.

How can he reach out to patients directly ? The traditional route was to go through their family physician, who was often the point of first contact when patients fell ill. In the past, patients would trust their family doctor to guide them and select the right specialist and the best hospital or them. However, times have changed – and many patients don’t even have a family physician any more !

The answer is simple – go to where the patients are – and all patients are online now ! They are hungry for information and will spend lots of time in trying to understand their disease; research their treatment options; and get a second opinion. The good news is that if he focuses on addressing their needs, he can capture a large proportion of these affluential patients.

Dr Desai is confused. Our hospital already has a website , which means it’s easy for patients to find us. What else should we be doing ?

This is part of the problem. While it’s true that Dr Desai’s hospital does have a website, it gets very little traffic, because the website just talks about the hospital and the services it offers. It offers very little information on what the patient is interested in -  his symptoms; or his disease ! However ,writing high quality medical content specifically for patients can be a very difficult and time consuming to create.

The good news is that he can now instantly license over 30000 pages of reliable updated trustworthy patient education content from the world leader in patient education, Healthwise Knowledgebase !  After seeing the demo at www.healthlibrary.com/healthwise.php, Dr Desai is convinced that this is a very cost effective investment, which will help him:

Engage  with online patients
Encourage them to call his hospital as the provider of first choice
Build trust
Increase patient satisfaction
Build loyalty and stickiness

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