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Business lessons for health care

The healthcare landscape is one that continues to change quite rapidly due to technological advances, governmental policies and demand for personalized and affordable care. While many healthcare systems nationwide currently operate on a for-profit basis, many more are still considered nonprofit entities.Regardless of revenue models, however, all healthcare organizations can stand to benefit from approaching certain communications, service lines and operations from a business perspective—a perspective that maintains the bottom line and utilizes tried and true processes to be most efficient. A perspective based on a few of these ideas:

Embrace the corporate
At the end of the day, healthcare is about helping others. It’s about providing care and improving the quality of life for community members. Embracing the corporate in this approach is about looking ahead to implement processes that streamline the services provided, hold employees accountable and seek new sources of revenue in order to continue the level of care provided well into the future.

Be generous with your product
Savvy businesses know that one of the best ways to raise demand for products and services is to give them away. While healthcare organizations can’t give away care, per se, there are pieces that they can give away in order to foster relationships and encourage patients to return for future care. Free consultations, cafeteria vouchers for visiting family members, free day-passes to onsite fitness facilities and even free promotional items like pill boxes and hand sanitizer are all doable options in the healthcare field.

Know that familiarity equals value
In the past, many businesses built their efforts on supply and demand—the scarcer you make something, the more valuable it becomes. However, the Internet has thrown a wrench in this model. Instead, some businesses find that investing in processes that allow for the standardization of expectations is what works best today. Hospitals and clinics can mimic this principle by establishing consistent customer service training to all employees, branding all hospitals and clinics and service lines under one umbrella brand, and offering consistent signage throughout your buildings. If your health system does currently have multiple names and logos, attempt to connect the dots for the patients through branded badge holders or stethoscope tags.

Never underestimate the power of marketing
Speaking of branding, most businesses spend a significant portion of their budgets on marketing efforts to grow business and recruit new consumers. In order for healthcare organizations to remain viable throughout healthcare reform in the U.S., this will be key to recruiting those patients with a choice in care. Advertising, public relations, media relations, social media and direct mail should all work together in an integrated marketing plan to promote your organization within the community. Send thump mail with an introductory letter and a logo’d pen or first aid kit to reach out to new patients or follow-up with new patients after their first visit.

And finally, treat patients like customers—because they are
Establish help lines to answer billing questions, explore online nurse chat features, integrate online scheduling with your electronic medical records—essentially, focus on customer service … care that extends beyond the exam room. More and more patients have a choice in where they receive care; make sure to treat them as valued customers so that they choose to return to you.

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