When Hippocrates was composing the Hippocratic Oath, he could never have foreseen the impact consumer, peer-to-peer, and third-party commentary could have on a hospital’s ability to serve its patients.
From trusted sources such as U.S. News & World Report, Consumer Reports, and Healthgrades to buyer-based entities like Google and Yelp, it seems everyone has an opinion. We all know—as discussed in a previous blog—a numbered score doesn’t always tell the full story.
The mediocre service a Yelp reviewer received at a new restaurant may not have been the wait staff’s fault but rather underperformance in the kitchen. One individual’s negative experience with a vehicle might not reflect the brand as a whole but still left a sour taste in his mouth because, by chance, he got a “lemon.” A low rating shouldn’t automatically indicate the company in question is neglecting its patrons.
Hospitals and health systems have a slightly greater challenge to address low ratings, as their brand holds significance for both employed professionals (physicians, nurses, support staff) and the patients. But, a health system could not exist without its doctors at the helm, so it’s important to address perceived problem areas from the top down.
Email Helps Untangle a Sticky Web
The intertwined web of how health systems provide care can get sticky when all eyes are watching. A hospital could receive an inferior rating due to readmission rates, even if it means the care provided puts the patient’s well-being first. For example, in our U.S. News & World Report ebook, a case study analyzes an oncology department that got “dinged” for readmissions following lung cancer surgery. The department’s goal was to minimize post-surgery complications down the road, including additional surgical intervention, by readmitting patients under non-emergency conditions. The health system’s decision to promote better care—to advance patients’ health—led to “worse” readmission rates.
The intertwined web of how health systems provide care can get sticky when all eyes are watching.
Another scenario includes poorly-graded hospitals that get unfairly penalized for treating a higher number of low-income patients, also closely related to the readmission rate concern. These facilities—often teaching hospitals or safety net hospitals—typically end up in one- or two-star categories.
Can you picture Hippocrates turning over in his grave?
Unfortunately, this happens all the time. Unless health systems are prepared to address misconstrued rankings, they’ll continue to fall to the bottom of the pile. Referrals will dwindle and recruiters will face even greater obstacles than already present. The best strategy to encourage physicians—both in- and out-of-system—to reevaluate poor rankings is through targeted email.
Email’s Implementation: Mechanism vs. Execution
Email is by far physicians’ preferred mode of professional communication, whether accessed via a mobile device (tablet, smartphone) or desktop computer. Unlike a postal piece that gets lost in a stack of office mail or a print ad buy placed in a publication you hope they get around to reading, email is easily accessible, actionable, and convenient. Dr. Underwood may have a few minutes to scan his inbox on a quick lunch break. Your message grabs his attention (thanks to a killer subject line), and he “stars” it to delve into later.
However, understanding that docs’ preferred messaging mechanism is email isn’t enough. As a health system marketer, you must be responsible with your execution. That means:
- Using a physician email list that’s refreshed daily, 100 percent double-opted in, authenticated, and third-party verified—thus ensuring you’re sending to a doc’s favored email address.
- Segmenting your audience into targeted groups in order to address department-specific matters.
- Providing high-value, personalized content that physicians find relevant and meaningful.
- Contacting physicians at a desirable time of day/week and with appropriate frequency.
- Making sure email communications are optimized for a mobile experience.
- Following up in a consistent yet considerate manner, based on physician preferences.
There’s no one formula for building connections with physicians. If there was, everyone would be getting five stars. However, by adhering to these email principles, you’re taking the necessary steps to strengthen those relationships and solidify forthcoming success. Anything less, and you’re putting the future of your health system at risk.