Archive for the 'Hospital' Category


Top Ten Things We Learned at SHSMD 2012

Attendees of SHSMD2012 are back at their home locations plotting a return to Chicago in 2013, attempting to sync their Poken and wondering if they missed anything from Saturday morning’s keynote, Thomas Goetz (he only spoke to about 20% of the audience Ari Fleisher had on Thursday). While everyone will have their personal take-aways, Tracy Weise, Jay Weise and I developed a top ten list of things we learned in Philadelphia.

1. Hospitals and all medical facilities are overturning every rock for ideas, actionable plans to reduce readmission rates. The most effective tactic so far is educating the family of a patient and allowing the pressure of a loved one to encourage post-hospital stay behavior.

2. Awesome description of the difference between the nuance of healthcare system and service line marketing: The healthcare system branding creates a promise, the service line marketing delivers on the promise created.

3. The overwhelming majority of attendees were unconcerned about outcome of Presidential election as it relates to healthcare reform. Some things are in place and will stay in place; other things will change regardless of who wins.

4. Acceptance of the “must do” strategies in the American Hospital Association report:

    • Increase Hospital-Physician alignment
    • Improve the quality of patient safety
    • Make advancements in hospital efficiency
    • Develop an integrated information system

5. In a session that included an interactive questionnaire, Lack of strategy, lack of time and lack of staff were the biggest reasons offered for not implementing a robust social media plan. However, an argument can be made that there is still a lack of knowledge about social media in the healthcare marketing community.

    • Only 1.1% of the 1,300 SHSMD2012 attendees checked into the SHSMD 2012 Conference using the location based social media platform foursquare
    • Only 6.2% of the attendees tweeted using the hashtag ‘#SHSMD12

This begs the question, why are healthcare marketing experts reluctant to embrace an important ‘patient experience’ tool?

6. Web 2.0 and social media are working for patient acquisition: There were two case studies, Mayo Clinic and Cincinnati Children’s Hospital with tangible results and the programs were replicable.

7. It is massively important to incorporate a disciplined planning approach to service lines prior to budget season, otherwise you’ll budget before you plan and back into the programs you can afford. At the same time you must engage physicians in the planning process and they must see action otherwise you’ll never get buy-in in future years.

8. Nobody really knows what the ACO landscape will look like, if any so called expert tells you otherwise, they don’t know what they are talking about. They may fool you, but don’t let them make a fool out of you.

9. The quantitative data to effectively manage your medical facility is available, be sure to incorporate qualitative data from physicians to complete the story.  Be sure to deep dive into data analysis if the results are contrary to the generally held opinions of hospital leadership, otherwise you have an uphill battle trying to change minds.

10. Best Quotes from SHSMD2012 – if you said any of these, you know who you are:

    • Overheard at the end of concurrent sessions on day 1: “I am ready to nap dangerously.”
    • In a session when the presenter was making a transition from social media to anal reconstruction surgery, “Before we dive into bowel movements…”
    • In a session responding to a question about strategies, objectives and tactics: “People have a harder time with strategies because they are squishy.”
    • In the exhibit hall, “Hospitals are concerned about patient tracking after they leave the hospital, but why has the term out migration been replaced with leakage.”

Want to find out more about what we learned at SHSMD 2012? Give us a call. Want to add to this list, share your thoughts here or on Facebook at Weise Communications and follow us on Twitter at @Weise_Ideas.


You Want to Put Your Mouth On My What? Communication Principles in Practice at Your Hospital.

At the Side Note Blog we can’t really let a nipple sucking doctor get by without comment, now can we?

The story is rather offensive. A 20-year-old woman went to the doctor for a breast exam because of fluid seeping from her breast. The male doctor decided to “diagnose” the fluid seepage by obtaining permission to suck  her breast. Yes, he sucked on her breast. Unfortunately the Finnish court let the doctor off of sexual solicitation charges brought by the patient because the doctor  asked and obtained permission from the patient to suck on her breast.

Are you kidding me?

What was the patient supposed to say?

I am sure her “permission” sounded something like “uh… uh huh?”

I never went to medical school, but even I can come up with numerous ways of extracting a bodily fluid for testing that does not include anything unhygienic or overtly sexual.

I think it’s time to send med students and physicians back to school for additional communication courses. We are taught from a very young age to trust physicians. To do what they tell us to do. When they prescribe a medicine, we take it. When they order a test, we get it. A 20-year-old women worried about her health, seeking the advice of a physician, probably didn’t know HOW to respond to the physician’s offensive request.

I have had the pleasure to work with many wonderful physicians over the years. They all know that they leverage power over their patients. The good ones don’t abuse that power. The good physicians embrace this power and use it to inspire hope, increase confidence and decrease fear.

What are your physicians saying to their patients? How does their power of persuasion impact the healthcare provided by your institution? And what communication training do you use to ensure there is no offensive behavior at your organization? Tell us your stories here.


How can social media help your patients, not just your hospital?

A lot of space has been filled on The Side Note with information about how hospitals can use social media to help the help grow business, improve community relations, prepare for a crisis and provide general health information. In fact, many hospitals are embracing the use of social media to fill these particular communication needs. But, what about the patients?

Because we have a general policy of not writing about agency work on this blog, full disclosure is required for this posting. Weise Communications was involved in promoting the story I am referencing.  While we worked with the media to get the story placed, we were not involved in the social media outreach I am referring to.

The 7 News, Denver’s local ABC affiliate recently ran the story, “Doctor, Facebook Give Hope to Sick Ethiopian Teen. It is a heart-warming story about a physician, Dr. Paul Sakiewicz, at The Medical Center of Aurora who stepped up to provide charity care for an Ethiopian teenager sure to die without kidney therapy and ultimately a kidney transplant. It is a beautiful story that crosses countries, languages and boundaries.

But here is the kicker. A potential kidney donor was found through the use of Facebook. According to 7News:

“Sakiewicz said Haile’s kidneys are now functioning at just 6 percent, which means she’ll need a transplant. And like most teenagers, she uses the social media site Facebook, where she made a plea for help. Her post reads: ‘Hey everyone, as many of you already know, I’m in search of someone whose blood type matches mine who’s willing to give me a kidney.’

And surprisingly, a single mother from San Diego responded [a friend of a Facebook friend], indicating that she had the same blood type … and would be willing to donate a kidney if she was a match.”

This comment struck me. Many of us, those of us that maintain a skeptical and cautious view of the world and those around us, would see a posting like this on Facebook and immediately recall the dozens of scam emails we received over the years about someone in desperate need of money or medical assistance. But from a positive perspective, this time a life may TRULY be saved.

Can hospitals harness the power of social media to make a difference in the lives of their patients? Requesting organ donations is probably way out of the scope of anything many hospitals would be willing to consider (although organization such as the Donor Alliance or Bonfils might want to look into this option if they are not already), but there must appropriate tactics that fall within hospitals’ scope of services to help patients.

It is time to consider looking past Twittering the locations of the mobile mammogram vans or the dates of the blood drives and health fairs or your ER wait times.What can your hospital do to truly make a difference in the lives of your patients? Is your hospital, healthcare organization or association doing something that is truly unique? Tell all of us about it here.


7 Tips on How Health Care Companies Can Connect with Women Through Social Media

Women are often the caretakers in households. They usually decide when kids and husbands need to go see the doctor.  They decide what cough and cold medicine to take or what remedy will cure that ouchy. Women are increasingly important for health care communicators to get on their side and have them become brand-ambassadors for the company.

So, how do you get their attention? Through social media. Women have firmly established their presence in social media, and account for the majority of users on many popular sites, like Facebook and Twitter. Companies looking to reach women — whether as consumers, entrepreneurs, employees, or advocates — have an unprecedented opportunity to engage them through social media.

But how do you connect with these women? Use these helpful tips:

  1. Formulate a social media strategy to reach women, including new moms
    Start by researching the specific type of woman you are trying to reach where this demographic is specific to social media. Next, develop an outreach plan and messaging.
  2. Develop messages that speak to your target audience
    You should prepare messaging about the company, its goals and purpose as well as specific messages on each of your products, services and audiences. Test messages with groups of women to ensure effectiveness.
  3. Find online communities for women, or start one at your company
    Communities within existing social media, like Facebook groups, are a great place to talk to women and mothers. Also, consider starting a social media space all your own. Invite customers to talk to one another and build a community around your company.
  4. Start a Twitter feed geared to women
    Twitter is a great way to share content about your company and a great space to monitor conversations happening in areas of interest.
  5. Converse with mommy bloggers, work to understand their needs
    Mommy bloggers are out there talking about every conceivable health care topic. Just check out Locate the ones in your area and work to understand how they feel about your area of health care. Address their needs and then tell them how you help solve their issues.
  6. Publicize your hospital’s women-oriented events via social media
    Many social media tools allow publicizing of events. Load your events in the social media sites you participate in and invite women to attend.
  7. Integrate offline strategies to expand your social network for women
    Making sure the people you are reaching out to online know about your off-line efforts and invite women at off-line events to join you online. This will increase the value of your marketing dollars.

Using these strategies will help your health care company connect with a key demographic in an energetic and exciting space. It will help you demonstrate your company’s benefits and help you build relationships with women in social media.

Other resources worth reading:

10 Musts for Marketing to Women on Facebook
HOW TO: Attract and Engage Social Media Moms
Reaching Women via Social Media


Celebrate After a Crisis

Another great lesson learned from SHSMD 2009:

In June 2008, Cedar Rapids, Iowa, was overcome with a devastating flood. Mercy Medical Center, in the heart of Cedar Rapids, did not escape without significant damage. The flood was a crisis for the city, residents, hospital, hospital staff and patients. There were many things the hospital staff did right and did well during the crisis and immediately after the two-week cleanup. But what I like most about their advertising and marketing is what they did a year a later, after the crisis was over and things were back to normal.

A year later, the time had come to celebrate all the wonderful things, some big and some small, that had happened at the hospital since the flood. I like this program because it brings the hospital together and recognizes that it truly takes the entire team to run a hospital when there is a crisis … and when there isn’t. The campaign also recognizes that the community is a huge part of the hospital’s success and was a huge part of the hospital’s survival during the flood.

The THRE3 6IXTY 5IVE campaign is a a sample of 365 great things that happened at Mercy in the 365 days since the devastating flood. Here are a few: Picture 2
#179 “Commitment to Community” fundraising campaign exceeds $184,000 goal
#183 Mock patient room created to focus on patient safety
#235 Mercy joins Twitter to provide electronic updates online
#241 Mercy pilots the upgrade of IV pumps to smart pumps
#247 All materials from demolition of the Family Practice Center were recycled

THRE3 6IXTY 5IVE shows that even though sometimes you need to mark the anniversary of a crisis, you can do it by recognizing the good things that have happened instead of remembering all of the bad things. It’s the best way to celebrate after a crisis.


Heading to Orlando: Society for Healthcare Strategy and Market Development (SHSMD) 2009

Wednesday is the start of SHSMD 2009. While not exhibiting this year, I will be attending as a participant. I am looking forward to hearing speakers Bert Jacobs, founder of Life is Good ® and my new favorite speaker, Steve McKee, author of “When Growth Stalls.”

Picture 15I’ll be attending sessions about hospital development and physician relations as well as participating in discussions about healthcare marketing and public relations practices. I am sure I will discover some new best practices and gain more insight into what is going on around the country marketing-wise in urban and rural hospitals.  I will be blogging about my experiences and tweeting from @tracyweise important updates from the conference. Be sure to stay tuned to get the overview from SHSMD 2009.

If you are attending SHSMD, let me know so we can grab a drink and chat about the new guiding principles in healthcare communications and swap our best practice stories. I am looking forward to seeing old friends and meeting new ones.

For those of you more familiar with Orlando, how about some travel assistance?

1. What is your favorite place to visit in Orlando? (you can’t say Disney World!)

2. Where is a great place to pick up Orlando souvenirs for my staff? (you can’t say Disney World!)

3. Is there anything to do in Orlando besides visit Disney World?


How can your healthcare organization use mobile marketing?

As The Side Note has already mentioned, mobile marketing is continually and significantly increasing in importance and influence. I recently had the opportunity to present some mobile marketing ideas to a regional hospital and I thought it might be helpful to share some of those ideas here.

The important thing to ask when you are considering a mobile marketing campaign is: Are you going to produce a business-to-consumer campaign or a business-to-business campaign? Both can be implemented for healthcare organizations. Here are some ideas:

Consumer Marketing:

  1. Remind patients of periodical check-ups and examinations
  2. Announce upcoming events, such as health fairs or the location of bloodmobiles
  3. Remind patients to get vaccinations
  4. Offer health and safety tips, such as reminders to drink fluids when outdoor temperatures rise
  5. Post banner ads with click-to-call referral numbers for scheduling appointments

Business Marketing:

  1. Alert EMTs of emergency room diversion status
  2. Provide referring physicians click-to-call referral numbers
  3. Promote upcoming events, such as Webinars and CME courses

Weise Communications recently published a white paper on using mobile marketing in healthcare organizations. If you would like to receive a copy of this white paper, leave a comment and we will be happy to send it to you.

Is your healthcare facility using mobile marketing? Share your stories here.


breaking through the clutter: reaching potential patients


Breaking through the clutter. This is exactly what the Baptist Health System did in San Antonio recently in a promotional campaign to raise awareness of expanded services. More specifically, the hospital system recently introduced the Brain & Stroke Network, which according to their website, “brings together all the necessary components to treat patients presenting with stroke.” The network provides services at each of the system’s five hospitals.

Baptist Health System’s marketing team set out to raise both awareness about their expanded services and educate the population about strokes in general. They did this by hiring actors to visit locations around the city and stage fake strokes.  Afterward, the actors handed out “Stroke Happens” cards. These cards had educational information about strokes and their symptoms. Baptist Health Systems also used 80 mannequins, all dressed in “Stroke Happens” t-shirts to represent the number of San Antonian’s that die from stroke each year.


I think Baptist Health System did a good job creating a memorable event and informing San Antonian’s that they do not need to go outside of San Antonio to receive treatment for a stroke.

It seems the hospital system’s marketing team was influenced by the “Truth” advertisements about smoking and tobacco companies from a couple of years ago.

Do you think this takes anything away from the campaign or do you like the attention grabbing nature?


How Sarasota Memorial Hospital is leveraging social media to build better relationships. Q&A with Shawn Halls.


Recently, Weise Communications sat down with Shawn Halls of Sarasota Memorial Hospital (SMH) to discuss social media’s impact on SMH and the way in which they communicate with the community. Below is our Q & A session.

Weise: How long has Sarasota Memorial Hospital (SMH) been using Twitter?

SMH: We registered the site in November 2008 and promoted a $49 cardiac disease assessment special we were offering in December. But we didn’t start actively posting or following anyone until March 2009.

Weise: How has SMH’s Twitter account been able to add value to your patients’ experience?

SMH: When we first started we were like a lot of organizations, just trying to figure out how, or even if, Twitter could be part of our larger communications strategy. We tweeted our hospital promotions and a few stories from patients who had called to praise our care.

Then in April we were contacted through Twitter by a former patient. She had a somewhat negative experience while in our care, but actually had more of a negative experience trying to figure out who she should contact to discuss the issue.

Suddenly, Twitter, and social media in general, became not just a platform to communicate to patients, but a tangible way for our community to communicate directly with us as well.

Since that first patient contact, we have been Direct Messaged through Twitter by other patients with various questions. In our experience, more often than not a patient’s frustration is not about the care they received but the challenges associated with navigating healthcare.

Many people still prefer to call us directly, but increasingly customers are using Twitter and other social media platforms to initiate contact. It’s an interesting dynamic.

Most recently we had a patient’s family member find us on Twitter and ask for the name of a local florist so they could send flowers and ensure delivery prior to the patient’s surgery. This was a really easy one to handle, and we were able to communicate back to him within 10 minutes of his initial contact.

(SMH’s Twitter account)

Weise: Were there any reservations about using Twitter to communicate with the general public? If so, how did you overcome/justify establishing an online presence?

SMH: We did encounter resistance, because there are still a lot of unknowns about Twitter and other social media platforms as they relate to business. All social media platforms are blocked in our healthcare system, so we had to petition the chief information officer to allow our team access to Twitter. There is a valid concern that spending too much time online may distract employees, but we believed a balance could be struck. An organization with quality managers who engage their employees on a daily basis greatly reduce the risk of distraction. Certainly there are some who might abuse the privilege, but there are ways to prevent abuse that do not include a blanket policy to block access for all. Remember the era of codes to access copy machines? The idea was companies would lose too much money if employees had free access. Copy codes seem absurd in 2009, but we’re facing a similar issue with social media access today.

Weise: Do you think all healthcare providers should establish an online presence via social media? Why?

SMH: We do believe it’s important to have a social media presence. While social media won’t replace other avenues of communication, it’s important for providers to encourage communication through avenues people are using. With 200 million people on Facebook and nearly 10 million on Twitter, healthcare providers are missing an opportunity if they do not have a social media presence. Increasingly, healthcare is about building relationships with our customers. In this era of choice, patients choose which doctor to see, which outpatient lab to use, and certainly which hospital they choose. Social media helps us foster relationships with our customers by humanizing the healthcare system. We’re not just Sarasota Memorial Health Care System, we are 4,000 individuals who are part of our larger communities, and we enjoy communicating with our customers because they’re also our neighbors and friends. Certainly there are challenges for healthcare providers in establishing their social media presence, but we believe the benefits outweigh the challenges.

The one caveat, I’d say, is don’t create a social media presence if someone is not directly responsible for maintaining that presence. As effective as social media can be, an unanswered contact or an infrequently updated Facebook page could have n opposite effect, leaving prospective customers wondering if other aspects of their care would be hit or miss as well. At a fundamental level, social media is an extension of your healthcare brand, so it’s important to treat it with the same level of attention as other communication strategies.

Weise: SMH also has a Facebook fan page. What value is your page creating for the hospital and your community?

SMH: Hospitals and healthcare providers are brands people typically prefer not to interact with. Most of the time, people only use our services when they are sick or otherwise vulnerable, and healthcare is one of the few brands that can literally have life and death implications.

As I mentioned above, increasingly healthcare is about fostering relationships, and while Twitter is excellent for communication, Facebook allows for a more intimate interaction with our community. We are able to post photos of community events and share information that may not necessarily be hospital business but impacts the community in which we live and operate.

We recently posted information about eight students who received educational scholarships from us because they are going into the healthcare field. There isn’t really another format where we could have communicated that information, but it’s perfect for Facebook.

(SMH’s Facebook page)

Weise: Does SMH have any plans to adopt more social media into their marketing strategy? Perhaps, creating a YouTube channel to show video testimonials, events, interviews with doctors etc.?

SMH: Each market is unique, and Sarasota is no different. What’s splashed across the media today may not be the same next year. Since social media is so dynamic, we let our customers dictate which platforms to use based on their adoption of it. We are in the process of coordinating our first Twitter surgery broadcast – an amazing brain mapping procedure where the patient is awake during the entire procedure – and we’ll use YouTube to archive it. We’re also actively developing our Flikr, MySpace, and Delicious accounts and believe there are tremendous opportunities in those applications to help with patient education.

Weise: If you had one piece of advice for someone new to Twitter, what would you offer?
SMH: Don’t be afraid to bring a little personality into your tweets. It’s a lot more engaging for your followers and a lot more fun for you. ☺

About Shawn:

Sarasota Memorial’s Twitter feed is managed by Shawn Halls. Shawn is the market research manager at Sarasota Memorial and is responsible for measuring and communicating consumer insights throughout the organization. Before joining Sarasota Memorial, Shawn knocked ‘em dead at the University of South Florida as a senior statistician who had the unusual skill of being able to communicate complex statistical findings to statisticians and non-statisticians alike. Shawn holds a master’s degree in applied sociology from the University of Central Florida, proving you can actually get a job with a sociology degree.

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