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Marketing director boosts volume 8%
(Editor's note: This is the second part of a two-part series on the benefits of a marketing director for a surgery center. In this issue, we tell you about the benefits of having a full-time director with a marketing background. In last month's issue, we told you about the successes of a former RN who increased referrals while working part-time as the marketing director.)
Despite a difficult economy, Lakeland (FL) Surgical & Diagnostic Center (LSDC) has managed to steadily increase its case volume 8% annually with the help of a full-time marketing director. The ambulatory surgery center (ASC) also has received national recognition for its patient satisfaction scores.
David G. Daniel, FACHE, CEO, says he understand that many surgery centers consider having a full-time marketing director to be a luxury that can be afforded only by the largest, busiest, and most profitable centers. "However, even if we were much smaller, I would still highly recommend at least a part-time person dedicated to the marketing role, since keeping the physicians and their office staff content and informed is absolutely critical to the uninterrupted patient flow to your facility, as well as the patient satisfaction follow-up, community involvement, and all the other small, but very significant, marketing and promotion activities which would be overlooked and not done, if it was not for a dedicated marketing professional's attention," Daniel says. "Dedicated marketing in an ASC always pays for itself through physician and patient satisfaction, increased volume, and enhanced community exposure."
Jill Daly, the center's director of marketing, came to the center from a position as marketing director at a local hospital. "She intimately knows, understands, and appreciates all the local health care leaders and the inter-relational politics, which is invaluable," Daniel says. "Because she is a marketing professional and not a clinician who is trying to do marketing 'on the side,' she brings much more to the table in exactly how to approach this task in order to get the best results."
However, if you can only arrange for a part-time clinician to do part-time marketing, "that is still much better than having no marketing at all, and trying to 'wing it' by the seat of your pants," Daniel says. "You really get what you pay for here."
Daly's responsibilities include:
Marketing to physicians and local employers.
Daly says, "The biggest key is knowing your competition, knowing your community, and building those relationships with physicians and group practices."
Her relationship with referring physicians is so strong that they even offer testimonials on the center's web site (www.lsdc.net). "It is great for first-time patients who are visiting our site and read that their physician is so pleased with our facility, the quality of care their patients receive, and our efficiency, which in turn, puts the patients' minds at ease," Daly says.
She also is responsible for marketing to local employers thorough employee health fairs. Daly gives out brochures about the facility, and her booth provides a special clinical focuses during times such as breast cancer awareness month (October) and colon cancer awareness month (March).
Communicating regularly with physician offices.
Daly works closely with the referring physicians' offices to ensure there are no communication breakdowns, Daniel says.
"She meets periodically with all the physician office staff to answer any questions that they may have or address any problems or concerns regarding getting their patients scheduled and properly served by the LSDC," he says. "Without a marketing director concentrating her time and attention on the needs and desires of our physicians and office staff, communication breakdowns would occur and patient volume would surely suffer."
Her responsibilities ensure that the office staff have the paperwork, tools, and knowledge of the center for a "seamless appointment schedule" when referring patients, Daniel says.
Daly is in a physician's office every 2-3 days, she says. She also attends monthly staff meetings at those group practices. "If we've had any changes in paperwork or referral process, I'm the liaison to let them know what changes have happened and what they need to do to ensure it won't interrupt their referral process," Daly says. "I tell them about any changes with managed care contracts." She also helps copy any forms they need.
Focusing on patient satisfaction.
Daly performs a weekly review of patient satisfaction surveys and follows up patient comments with phone calls and personal letters as needed.
The center also sends preprinted thank-you notes to each patient with signatures of every staff person who cared for them. "It speaks volumes having thank you notes," Daly says. "You'll be out in public and you'll hear, 'can you believe they sent me a thank you card for visiting their facility?'" The idea has been so successful that their competitors have adopted the idea.
"Our best marketing tool is our patients," Daly says. "When they leave satisfied, they will tell neighbors and loved ones, which is what I hear continually."
Daly posts quarterly results from the patient satisfaction surveys and also posts comments when patients recognize specific staff members and physicians. "Employees really enjoying seeing what our patients say about us, and it gives them a feeling of accomplishment, that what we do as an organization truly matters," she says.
Her efforts have paid off. In September 2009, the center received one of 23 Apex Quality Award for Healthcare Excellence given nationally by CTQ Solutions in Branford, CT. The award is given for consistently achieving the highest level of excellence in patient satisfaction.
Recognize outstanding employees.
Daly oversees the employee recognition program, called the STAR (Special Thanks And Recognition) program that awards employees who go above and beyond the normal scope of duties.
Staff receive a point in areas such as perfect attendance, service on a committee, submission of a cost-saving ideas or safety suggestions, completion of a degree or certification, teamwork beyond their normal scope of responsibility, or internal/external customer service. Staff can be recognized by employees, physicians, patients, or family members of patients. At quarterly staff meetings, everyone who has been recognized is entered into a drawing for items such as restaurant gift cards, logo apparel, and umbrellas. Three names are drawn at each meeting. Employees also can track their points and use them to purchase these items.
Such programs help boost the staff's morale and the center's image, Daly maintains. "Know your community," she says. "Know what keeps your physicians, staff, and patients happy and satisfied."
Marketing in today's ASC is not a "fluff" job that should be considered a luxury, Daniel says. "It is integral to the success and viability of your organization and will pay off in big dividends, if used and employed appropriately," he says. "The return on investment is huge, and unfortunately not fully appreciated, understood and utilized."