Same-Day Surgery Manager

How do you keep the porch light on?

Websites draw patients to your facility

By Stephen W. Earnhart, MS
Earnhart & Associates
Austin, TX

Way back when, most people had a porch light on their house. It was what we all did. Last night when walking my foo-foo dogs, I noticed that most people don't have their porch light on. I looked behind me at my house, and it was ablaze in petro-sucking electricity. I could hear the electric meter spinning from down the block.

I walked up to one of the houses to see if there was, indeed, a fixture still there. Suddenly the porch was aglow with light! Peeking in closer, I noticed the little motion sensor on the wall and realized that these people would light the way to their home for you, but only if you made the first move toward them. (Author note: Hang with me. I'm building up to a great analogy here!)

After a couple minutes of motionlessness, I backed up, and the light turned off. I returned home, but it did get me thinking.

If you are like many of the surgical environments out there right now, you are focusing on numbers. I love/hate numbers! If I were a presidential candidate involved in one of the debates, they would nail me with one question: "What is your stand on numbers, Mr. Earnhart?" Elective surgery is run on many things: insurance coverage, the economy, ability to get time off from work, the individual's priority (based upon pain and/or discomfort), the surgeon, etc. Nowhere do we as facilities fit in there! We are not a factor in patients having surgery. We probably never will be.

What we need to do is create an environment that, all other factors being equal, they will want to have their surgery with us! Why would they pick us? Because our porch light is on! (I did it!)

Marketing our hospitals and surgery centers is no longer an ad in the yellow pages or a blip or two in some trendy social media campaign. It is not waiting for someone to approach you before you show them how great you are. You do it to make them want you!

For example, your website. That is a beacon of light in the night, and not just to the patients. They will not go to the web site unless invited by their surgeon. You are advertising to surgeons. Splash them on your site! Link their office location, their airbrushed photo, their bios, their office staff (especially their scheduler!), their credentials, etc. When they book a case at your hospital or surgery center, make sure your website is glowing in terms of the material the patient receives. Encourage your patients to register online via your website.

Link them to their surgeon. Remember that many patients are referred to a surgeon by a primary care physician; blast that person's website as well. Close the circle on the link of how that particular patient came to you. Post a video of the procedure the surgeon is going to do at your facility. Animate! If you're not sure of what I mean, go to the website of one of Earnhart & Associates clients and see what we did at Also, if you are a member of a state association, you might be able to link to their website, which can be especially useful if they have a "how to find a facility near you" listing.

We all want to be noticed. If one facility notices a surgeon or makes him or her look good to their patients, then they are going to direct as many cases as they can to that facility. Feed the ego! Make them look good! Look at what we did for Gary Mason, MD (above), and imagine what it could do for you! Don't just post Twitters and comments; go all out if you want to be rewarded! Make sure you keep your porch light burning. It is dark out there! [Earnhart & Associates is a consulting firm specializing in all aspects of outpatient surgery development and management. Contact Earnhart at 13492 Research Blvd., Suite 120-258, Austin, TX 78750-2254. E-mail: Web: Twitter: @SurgeryInc.]