While some hospitals are the only choice for the communities they serve, others are just one choice among many. In today's post, Denise Brown, MD, Chief Growth Officer at Vituity and a former Hospitalist Medical Director, talks about how hospitals can grow their market share. She also shares how outsourcing partners can help, by addressing the unique needs of community physicians and the hospitals’ own specialists.
What’s the secret to growing hospital share?
DB: All businesses grow by doing good work. The work has to speak for itself. Hospitals lead and gain respect in the community — and by extension, build their business — by taking great care of patients.
When it comes to growing market share, to whom should hospitals be appealing, and how?
DB: Hospitals should be appealing directly to patients by way of their marketing campaigns and, of course, through positive individual interactions with patients. But while appealing to patients is critical, it’s not enough. They need to also be engendering the confidence of community physicians, because it’s those physicians who are making hospital referrals. Which means that in addition to providing great medical care, hospitals need to ensure seamless transitions into and out of the Acute Care Continuum so that those physicians feel like everybody is playing for the same team. Creating individual patient interactions and building the confidence of community physicians are both areas where outsourcing partners can really help.
In what ways does the hospitalist program influence primary care physicians' referrals?
DB: Indeed, there are many places where the primary care physicians’ (PCPs') patients have the choice of more than one hospital. So when PCPs are recommending patients as to which hospital to choose, it’s imperative that the care quality meets the PCP's expectations.
It all starts in the emergency department: do those PCPs feel like patients get the care they need? And do the PCPs get the information they need from the ED in order to take care of those patients during follow-up, and in a timely manner?
What’s the most effective way to attract referrals?
DB: Beyond providing great care, hospitals need to go the extra mile in order to help physicians earn the respect and admiration of their patients.
Take orthopedics. Surgeons are busy. And with the mandatory bundled care around total joint replacements, they’re expected to take care of patients in a much broader scope than they did, say, five years ago. They’re being evaluated on all these things that traditionally they wouldn’t have necessarily considered to be in their purview. Partners can help ensure surgeons feel like patients are getting the care they need, that the hospital is being evaluated appropriately, and that the surgeon’s work, when being considered by a potential patient online, speaks for itself.
One way is by offering to help the surgeon manage all the other medical issues that co-occur for patients with something like a hip replacement. For example, hospitalist Partners can sit down with the orthopedics department and offer to take all traumatic ortho patients over the age of 65. It’s as simple as: “You do the surgery and we’ll take care of everything else.” This is transformative for a surgeon; they’re going to want to do more and more of their cases at a hospital that makes such an offer. Ultimately that gets blended over into their elective book of business. That’s how partners help hospitals grow the market share — through the elective business.
It’s a very similar situation with anesthesia. Partners can help to create a white-glove, concierge-type environment complete with efficient scheduling, personal contact with the patient, and so on. This leaves the referring surgeon wanting to have a partner anesthesiologist on their team all the time, because of all the things they do for the patient, both pre- and post-op, that ultimately result in the patient going home sooner. When that happens, everybody wins.
That’s the current situation at Good Samaritan Hospital in San Jose, Calif. They do all the joint replacements together, plus a perioperative pain pathway that the anesthesia group takes on. This is a tremendous value-add for the surgeons, which in turn engenders more surgical preference. That’s how you do good work and grow the business.
How can an outsourcing partner like Vituity help influence patients' care choices?
DB: It’s important to remember that most patients don’t know who’s doing what when they’re in a hospital. They don’t know why they have a great experience, only that they do (or, conversely, don’t).
A great example of this is at Memorial Hospital in Los Banos, Calif. With Vituity’s help, the hospital there took such good care of people that the hospital’s cardiologist took notice. So now there is full-time cardiology coverage at that hospital, which has a significant impact on the care choices of community patients, because now they don’t have to drive hours to get the cardiac care they need. That’s a direct result of the work that was done in the ED and the hospitalist group.
One way partners can help foster patient loyalty is by implementing patient callbacks. People are blown away when they get a phone call from their physician; it engenders a tremendous amount of loyalty not just to the physician but to the hospital. When a patient in a hospital asks for a doctor by name, that’s when you know you’re really making headway within the hospital walls.
Another way is to help get physicians actively involved in community events. Doing so reflects well on the hospital — whether it’s fundraising for the hospital board or serving pancakes at the community Fourth of July picnic. One example is Adventist Central Valley Network, which sponsors the town fun run. Regardless of the activity, it’s good for the doctors to be seen and for the doctors to see patients when they’re healthy.
Growing market share is an imperative for every hospital that wants to continue serving its community over the long term. By making the jobs of everyone from primary care physicians to specialists easier, all while delivering personalized, high-touch care to patients both in and outside of the hospital walls, outsourcing partners like Vituity can help ensure hospitals maintain and increase their competitive advantage.
Originally published July 27, 2016. Last updated March 5, 2019.