As health systems shift their focus from volume to value, they’re adding fewer hospital beds and providing more medical services through outpatient facilities. In fact, some healthcare executives see the hospital of the future as simply an ED, an OR, and an ICU, with all other medical services provided elsewhere.
Partnerships with urgent care centers, ambulatory surgery centers, and other remote facilities offer flexibility for health systems. Oftentimes, this flexibility makes it hard for physicians to keep track of your system’s full range of medical services, leading them to refer outside the system. To keep more cases in-network, health systems need to maintain frequent, ongoing communication with all physicians under their umbrella.
Repeat Your Message
When you acquire a physician practice or partner with a remote facility, you probably send a postcard or other mailer announcing the new relationship. That introduction is essential, but it isn’t enough to ensure that physicians will consistently remember your partnership when the time comes to refer a patient. This is where message frequency comes in.
Imagine that Dr. Stein has been running an independent family practice for 15 years. During that time, she’s built a network of doctors, labs, and diagnostic centers she feels comfortable referring patients to. If she’s used the same MRI center for years, it’s going to be hard to break that habit. No matter how enthusiastic she is about your new partnership, she’ll need quite a few reminders about the services available within your system.
Likewise, when a patient needs care after hours, you want physicians to refer them to an urgent care center in your system. That means you need to keep hospitalists current on the services available outside your hospital, but within your network. Consistent reminder messages about the options patients can access after hours can provide helpful guidance to busy physicians and keep the referrals in-house.
Use Email, Not Snail Mail
To keep your network services top of mind, communicating with practitioners at least quarterly is recommended. Short, monthly updates are even more effective. Traditional print materials are too slow and expensive for this level of communication, but targeted email is ideal.
The creative can be developed fairly quickly using proven best practices for subject lines, pre-headers, calls-to-action, and mobile design, and deployment can be scheduled at the optimal time for the specialty you’re targeting. Analyzing open and click-through data allows you to evaluate your success and refine future campaigns.
Choose a Quality Database
If you use a high-quality database, you’ll be able to segment your physician audiences by many criteria, including specialty, office location, referral pattern data, and claims data. You’ll also have access to each physician’s preferred email address. This means you won’t be sending emails to a general office address that is monitored by a nurse or receptionist, or even the address assigned by your health system, which may be checked infrequently.
As health systems consolidate medical services under one name, but not one roof, communication with physicians becomes more challenging, but also more important. The key to success is to use targeted email to inform and educate all physicians within your network on the range of offerings available across that network.