The healthcare landscape is continually evolving, and for mid-sized healthcare organizations, this evolution presents both challenges and opportunities. While larger healthcare systems may have more resources to tackle growth, smaller entities like medical groups, community hospitals, and rural hospitals often find it difficult to develop and implement growth strategies that can make a significant impact.
For that reason, headlines are replete with news of medical group buyouts, acquisitions, and hospital mergers. For instance, just in the second quarter of 2023, a staggering 20 hospital mergers and acquisitions were announced, marking the highest number since early 2020, according to a report by Kaufman Hall. This trend, while a strategic move for some, is not a choice for others, particularly for those middle-sized medical groups and hospitals that prefer to remain independent.
In this article, we’ll delve into a growth playbook that can guide mid-sized healthcare organizations through this complex environment. We’ll explore the importance of patient-centrism and how to utilize technology to implement it as such, ultimately driving sustainable growth.
1. Understanding the challenges and strengths of being a mid-sized organization
Recent research has brought to light that hospitals, upon being acquired during mergers and acquisitions, have experienced a 6% reduction in operational costs, primarily stemming from reductions in staffing expenses, but also from enhancing regulatory compliance and being able to meet patients’ expectations for digital patient journeys heads-on.
In the domain of private equity, the primary focus lies in achieving financial returns, a distinct advantage in the market. Private equity excels in the art of investment management and the pursuit of cost efficiencies, areas where smaller organizations often have room for improvement. This suggests that mid-size organizations should consider borrowing a page from the playbook of private equity, including their savvy investments in technology.
However, it’s important to acknowledge that for private equity, financial optimization has come with its trade-offs. Mergers and acquisitions have had adverse effects on patient access to care and the personalized experiences that patients highly value in specific areas. The research leads us to the conclusion that balancing cost efficiency with patient experience is a challenging, yet vital task for achieving growth.
Fortunately, this is where the strengths of smaller organizations come into play. These organizations are characterized by a strong human touch, deep-rooted community relationships, and patient loyalty. In contrast to capital-driven equity groups, the human element is deeply ingrained in the core values of mid-size organizations. This unique quality gives them a significant advantage in attracting and retaining patients, provided they adapt to evolving patient preferences in the digital age.
2. From patient bonds to patient-centrism
Now armed with a deeper understanding of mid-size organizations’ unique positioning, let’s explore how they can utilize their strengths as a growth motor.
The first step is building out a patient-centric mindset as the foundation for practice growth, technology adoption, and potential partnerships in the industry. This means, that every facet of an organization, from patient interactions and staff engagements to technology, should align with the overarching goal of ensuring patient satisfaction and focusing on their experience with the healthcare provider.
So, what does patient-centrism entail? Let’s break it down:
- Patient-centrism means simplicity, short wait times, seamless experiences, and secure access to data and information.
- Patient-centrism means personalized care before, during, and after the visit. It also means communicating with patients rather than waiting for them to come to you.
- Patient-centrism also requires involving patients in their care and allowing them to leave feedback and reviews.
Implementing each of these elements not only strengthens the existing personal patient relationships but also bolsters an organization’s reputation. It will help build on the unique strengths that mid-sized organizations have while kicking off the necessary innovations and adaptations to current market and patient demands. Ultimately, this will help with attracting more patients, increase retention rates, and grow the number of services delivered to each patient. But how can organizations put these principles into action?
3. Integrating new tools and technologies to build patient-centric workflows
Patient-centered care must now evolve in ways that ease the workload on staff and streamline processes for faster, more straightforward operations. The key to achieving this transformation is technology, specifically digital patient engagement tools powered by AI and automation. These technological advances not only expedite processes but also empower patients to take a more active role in their care.
In essence, implementing online self-scheduling, digital pre-registration, and treatment communication becomes imperative. Now, supplementary features can facilitate round-the-clock communication, provide access to crucial health information, ensure seamless unified communication, and maintain a HIPAA-compliant interface.
For most organizations, determining which tools to invest in and where to achieve the greatest return on investment (especially in light of limited revenue) is a complex decision. I recommend adopting a phased strategy, commencing with the integration of marketing automation with online scheduling and patient communications. Subsequently, one can gradually introduce personalized campaigns, electronic payment solutions, and other enhancements to retain patients and serve their needs in a personalized 1:1 manner.
It’s also essential to establish an IT environment that is user-friendly for both staff and patients. This entails employing integrated tools and cultivating an intuitive online experience that facilitates all functions for staff. In many cases, all-in-one platforms hold a significant advantage over piecemeal solutions, particularly in mid-sized organizations with limited IT staffing capacity.
4. Building patient-centric marketing campaigns
Enhancing patient acquisition and optimizing workflow efficiency represents one facet of the equation, while effective marketing to both existing and prospective audiences forms the other. Organizations should embrace a holistic approach that actively engages existing patients through personalized messaging and simultaneously targets new patients to enhance visibility. This will not only build further loyalty and trust amongst existing patients but also close care-gaps and drive superior outcomes.
A foundational element of patient-centric marketing involves simplifying the process for patients to discover the organization, explore available services, comprehend unique value propositions, and share vital health information.
When researching social media and websites, patients seek to get to know a healthcare organization, and its dedicated team, and they enjoy reading the stories of patients. Additionally, they increasingly look for informative campaigns regarding news, health updates, new services, and more. Ideally, this information is accessible from a single, trusted source – their healthcare provider.
Once again, smaller organizations can leverage tools to streamline their marketing efforts. One notable help here is generative AI, which proves invaluable for broad outreach. With its assistance, teams can craft compelling content and campaigns tailored for social media, websites, and platforms like Google My Business. This can significantly enhance an organization’s online presence while ensuring that all information is accurate and up-to-date. Just keep in mind to pay attention to precise prompts and double-check facts to increase efficiency when using these tools.
5. Improving reputation management
A good reputation stands as a cornerstone of growth, enhancing the online presence and cultivating patient loyalty. This, in turn, serves as a catalyst for attracting more patients to an organization and fostering a high demand for quality services. If you’ve crafted a patient-centric organization, your reputation naturally emerges as the fruit of your labor. Still, ensure that patients actively contribute to building and sustaining this reputation.
This calls for two vital actions: Firstly, encouraging patients to share their valuable feedback, often with enticing incentives like discounts or free gifts, both during their visit and through personalized prompts after their appointments. Secondly, responsiveness to this feedback, addressing questions and concerns promptly and adeptly. This approach ensures that organizations not only gauge patients’ sentiments but also respond thoughtfully, extend gratitude, and demonstrate appreciation for their input.
Embracing automation for patient feedback proves to be a powerful ally in garnering more reviews, ultimately elevating the prospects of substantial reputational growth. A strategic move in this area positions organizations ahead of competitors, propelling an organization to market expansion and unlocking new streams of revenue.
Profits vs. patients is a myth – they go hand in hand
The notion that cost efficiency outweighs patient experience is a prevalent belief in the private equity industry. However, the truth is quite the opposite, and this is precisely where smaller, independent organizations shine. Prioritizing investments in patient-centric experiences via technology and partnerships not only draws more patients in but also keeps them coming back for follow-up care, new procedures, addressing complications, and utilizing various services.
This commitment to valuing patients serves as a robust foundation for smaller organizations, bolstering their revenue streams and enhancing their position in the market. This stands in stark contrast to industry giants, where patients have often been reduced to mere numbers, instead of who they really are: our families, our friends, our neighbors, our teachers, and students. To put it short: our community.
About Sridhar Yerramreddy
Sridhar Yerramreddy is the founder and CEO of Steer Health Inc., a user-friendly AI-powered healthcare growth and automation platform. Coming from a family of esteemed physicians, Sridhar is deeply invested in spearheading efforts to leverage AI to personalize patient care, streamline medical workflows, and transform how we perceive and experience healthcare.
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