Free next Hospital Newsletter Want to receive the latest hospital Updates? Get all the latest hospital updates for FREE!
    Email Address:
We never sell or give out your contact information. We respect our readers' privacy.

December 26, 2011

Hospital Uses Disney Magic To Improve Patient Satisfaction

Written by:

Ideally, patients come away from their hospital stay not only healthier, but happier too. So how about taking a page from the Happiest Place On Earth?  Yes, I mean Disney Land.

Dissatisfied with its patient satisfaction scores, one Florida hospital has struck a partnership with Walt Disney Co. to pick up some of that Mouse Magic.  Since then, the hospital’s scores have shot up — and patient volumes, too.

Back in 2009, satisfaction was at rock bottom at 200-bed Florida Hospital for Children. To change its luck, the 200-bed hospital decided to make sure of a pioneering program run by Disney, laying out about $200,000 in consulting fees to bring the entertainment company in.

Not only did Disney help the hospital improve its presentation, it also got tips on improving staff morale and treating patients as customers. (The “staff morale” thing is a bit amusing, since, as all former Florida residents know, Disney’s own employee policies have earned it the title “the Rat.” But I digress.)

These days, when little patients and their parents enter the Walt Disney Pavilion, they’re greeted by a “park ranger” who offers directions, a Disney-theme play area and a ukelele-playing greeter in character costume, according to USA Today.

Behind scenes, some staffers have been tagged as Disney-style “cast members,” and work areas have been renamed “back stage” and “front stage” areas.

While some of this may sound a little silly, it’s generated big results.  Florida Hospital’s patient satisfaction scores have climbed to the 80th percentile of all children’s hospitals nationally. Even better, patient volumes are up by nearly half, administrators told the paper. You can’t beat that with a stick.

Though I’m sure kids are more focused on the fun, park-like attractions, my hunch would be that the back-office changes were as important to Florida Hospital’s transformation as the cosmetic fixes. After all, when it comes right down to it, the parents who pay for care are more worried about things like working with staffers who are upbeat and happy with their jobs.  Still, it’s an intriguing approach overall.




April 18, 2011

Google takes over hospital industry, CMS in private leveraged buyout

Written by:

Read the headline?  Those are things that just aren’t going to happen, right?

Well, I’m pretty sure the things that we can expect for the next few years will end up looking just about that strange when we read about them a decade later.

My personal faves are a) Accountable care organizations dominate U.S. healthcare system, b) Most hospitals are connected to doctors via EMR and c)  Emergency departments no longer swamped with uninsured patients.

Anyone else want to volunteer “future headlines” — stuff that might come true but seems impossible at the moment? Or stuff that should happen but just can’t?  Sarcastic or serious, your choice.

So, you got your crystal ball out?  I’ll publish all of your predictions, crazy or not. 🙂


August 15, 2010

Tweet roundup: Data loss at Thomas Jefferson, med records found in dump

Written by:

Happy weekend!  Here’s a group of tweets from the past few days that might be worth a second look.  If you have tweets you’d like to see in our roundup please feel free to share them.


Anne Z.

Tweets for the week of 8/8/10

> @idtexpert #Medical #IdentityTheft Alert: Huge loss of patient data at Thomas Jefferson #University #Hospital in #Philadelphia ;

> @drchrono patient med records found in a Boston dump! sounds like yet another good reason to get an EMR: #emr

> @hcapr Regional Med Ctr of San Jose Uses Pocket-Sized Handout to Improve Quality Scores: #HCA #hospital #cms #healthcare (Hey, I’m intrigued; how about  you?)

> @ShigeoKinoshita RT @ingagenetworks: 3 ways to increase engagement and revitalize your healthcare system #hcsm #health20

> @AndrewPWilson: CDC Gateway to Health Communication & Social Marketing Practice #gov20 #health20

> @HealthYRc Lone bedbug sends Kings County Hospital ER into fumigation lockdown – #New #York #Daily #News#Hospitals#Health >

> @HealthYRc It’s easy to buy babies at govt hospitals – #Times #of #India#Hospitals#Health > (ED: Sounds outrageous but check out the story)


August 9, 2010

Come on, hospitals! Put the social media pieces together!

Written by:

Today, in the Baltimore Business Journal, we learn that Charm City hospitals are doing a great deal more social media outreach than they had in the past.  Take health system LifeBridge, the paper says:

The LifeBridge Twitter account and Blogspot blog is updated regularly and provides health care information to patients while its Facebook page is used as a job and career board. LifeBridge also has its own channels on YouTube and ICYou, an online health video source.

These all sound like good initiatives which use the various social media channels appropriately.  It’s clear that LifeBridge is trying to reach out and touch consumers; that it wants patients to be healthy;  that it’s making sure people have access to its job listings and that it’s making an effort to keep people up to date on its activities.

All of which means, well, just about zero if I’m a patient hoping to decide where to have an elective procedure.  Nada. Zip. Job listings?  Meh. Tweets?  Well, I’m willing to be called on it if I’m wrong, but I’m doubting they start thoughtful conversations with consumers.  Health information on video?  Well, I’ll add a few points for the video, as it’s a pretty compelling way to educate people, but just a few.

Bottom line?  Even if they are using the right content for the right pieces, these are a bunch of loosely-connected initiatives that can’t do much to make patients feel safe, comfortable and welcome on their own.  Doing that takes not only a change in content, but also in approach.

It’s time to build social media efforts around a central goal, that of making your key audiences feel connected to your facility. Not informed about what you’re up to (most people who read don’t care about your new parking tower), not educated (there’s a place for that and it’s usually called WebMD) but connected.

That would take a bunch of effort, time, study of what patients, clinicians and staffers want and some serious trial-and-error experimentation. But it would be worth every penny. Try it — I dare you!  You won’t be sorry.


July 27, 2010

Let’s turn patients into evangelists; join our beta and find out how

Written by:

We would all love to see great healthcare organizations rewarded by great community support, both on and offline — but the truth it’s rarely that easy.  If you want feedback — even well-earned praise — you generally have to work for it.

The problem seems to be particularly acute for hospitals. Even patients who have had a great experience with labor and delivery, about the most heartwarming,  upbeat experience a healthcare provider can deliver, seldom go online to rave about the lovely setting, the attentive nurses, the modern birthing practices or family-friendly room design. Still,  it’s a problem for providers across the board.

So, what will it take to get patients to share their feelings online? Let’s find out!

nextHealth Media is pulling together  a group of providers who want to build a better community engagement model, specifically by using social media tools.

Our idea is to create a single plan and implement it across a few environments — making it easier to share ideas and make progress — then tell the story of what we’ve learned.

The model will be very simple and the time we invest fairly modest, but we think the returns could be great.  As things progress, Twitter and TweetChat will keep ideas flowing (#engagedpatient).

If you’re interested, drop me a note at or call me at (703) 537-8105. And if the spirit moves you, please do comment here on what you think it will take to get this project off the ground. Would love to get your input!


July 25, 2010

Opportunities ignored, or, why Target should run hospitals

Written by:

“Do you want to go to Green Hospital or St. Marigold’s Hospital for your procedure?” asked the polite young woman from the specialist’s office.

She paused — and there was a moment of silence on the call. I was wondering whether I had a single reason to prefer one over the other for my upcoming test. “Uh, I think I’ll have it done at St. Marigold’s, please,” I told the still-polite young woman, who didn’t know what the problem was.  We scheduled the test — a fairly pricey and for the hospital, profitable one — and life went on. 

Why did I choose St. Marigold’s?  Well, despite the fact that I know a good deal about the medical business, it wasn’t because I was reading from some quality report. It wasn’t because my doctor recommended one over the other.  It wasn’t even because St. Marigold’s is an easier commute from my home. 

The plain, sort of embarassing truth is that I chose St. M’s because I’d visited once and somehow liked its earnest, 40’s-era community hospital ambience (old fashioned ER sign, brick facade, old oak trees scattered around the campus). I think I was perhaps digging into some stereotype I hold, deep in my subconscious, of where Dr. Kildare would have practiced, or maybe Trapper John.  In other words, it wasn’t exactly a rational decision — and getting the business was a random piece of luck for its management.

Now, some patients are going to end up at your hospital’s door that way regardless. After all, that’s the way leads work — some just turn up. But I’m surprised neither hospital I heard about did anything to sway my decision, or at least the likelihood that I’ll refer friends before and after I get my care:

Why not give the office appointment booker handfuls of brochures or even a single sheet of information on why patients should feel safe getting test X or procedure Y there?

What about sending a thank you e-mail or calling me to make me feel all comfy about the procedure, educate me about the broad medical facts (heck, a link to WebMD or the like can help)?

Why not offer a nurse line, strongly branded with your facility’s name, offering patients the chance to ask as many questions as they’d like about the basics of the upcoming experience?  (Few if any booking departments know much about the procedures they’re booking, and physicians can only do so much to handhold patients.)

After the procedure/test, it wouldn’t hurt to send the patient a little gift (innocuous one like a plant, perhaps), if they’re in a demographic you’d like to keep interested.  I know that might sound a bit tacky but if done right it could just seem warm and reinforce your positioning strategy.

As I see it, ignoring such opportunities is a huge mistake. And sadly, it’s a common one.  While some hospitals run smart consumer ad campaigns, most don’t reach patients at key touch points, much less do much to maintain loyalty.  Hell, many don’t even try.  

Why don’t  hospitals think about patients the way the retail industry does?  Any number of reasons come to mind, including laziness, inflexibility, hidebound management thinking and a simple failure of imagination.  But whatever’s going on, you’d better hope Target doesn’t go into the healthcare business. They’ll bury you.

July 18, 2010

Generating serious ROI from your content — it's no pipedream!

Written by:

As I’ve met with current and potential clients and partners, I’ve been lobbing what may be a heretical idea over the fence. The idea? That even though they’re not in the business of publishing newsletters and magazines or writing reports, the content they house can be turned into money, sometimes quickly.  And moreover, that they can measure how much value they’ve generated in real-dollar terms, at least some of the time.

When I say content can be turned to money, I have several models in mind. Some of them are already pretty familiar:

Marketing communications: Taking stories you already have internally — such as case studies on successful outcomes — and getting some publicity. That can certainly  help attract patients, though it’s hard to figure out just which patients were influenced by what  message.  Not hard to pull off, as we’re mostly talking text.

Price: $500 to $2,000 per case researched/written up if outsourced to serious marcomm pros

ROI: Potentially, some measurable increase in use of outpatient procedures which are needed, scary and common, as well as as well as new admissions, especially for specialties like OB/GYN where womend o a lot of shopping.  Wild guess in revenue? $500K per year for a 150-bed community hospital if a few good stories are developed and promoted.

* Recruitment:  Gathering stories from clinical staffers on how the find work-life balance and satisfaction when affiliated with your institution.  That can be a bit more complicated to do, as video, photos and scripts may be called for, but the right presentation can be killer — even viral!

Price: From $500 for a crude effort to $2,000 for a glossier series of profiles with backup campaign involved.

ROI: Again using the example of the 150-bed community, if you brought in even four nurses you’d probably save $200K in recruiting costs.

As for doctors, depending on the specialty the amount could vary widely, depending on what in-demand specialties  you managed to attract, but we both know it’s more cost-effective to find someone who really wants to work with your institution than folks who show up because you throw ’em a big bonus.  If all this strategy does is save you having to come up with another $100K to $150K recruitment bonus, mission more than accomplished.

Is that all you got? Nope!

Next, I’ll talk about less conventional ways to add revenue or save expenses through smart use of the content (and don’t be fooled, I mean waaaay more than editorial content).  We’re talking things as important as changing referral patterns and building community support for controversial new ventures through the use of “social content.”  More to come on this!


July 6, 2010

Doctor-patient speed dating: a good idea

Written by:

 At first, I wasn’t sure what I thought about this, but I’ve decided that we’ve looking a  good    idea here. As the following    NPR piece describes, some hospitals have arranged a form of    “speed dating” giving doctors and  patients to meet each other in a friendly, relaxed    atmosphere. God knows this is a more sympathetic approach than the mechanical, soul-less  one already in use, n’est pas?  Both doctors and hospitals appear to win here.

Hospital attracts patients with “speed dating”

“[These programs] aren’t just about marketing to patients. They’re also a tool to reach out to physicians and encourage them to refer their patients back to the hospital.

“Physicians drive health care, period,” says Travis Singleton, a senior vice president at Merritt Hawkins, a physician placement firm. “Ninety percent of the health care dollars that are spent in today’s marketplace are through the physician’s pen, whether that’s patients they admit, whether that’s tests they administer, whether that’s procedures they order, whether that’s insurance they bill.”Do you think this is a good idea?  Why or why not?


July 2, 2010

Why don't doctors care what you say?

Written by:

Your job depends — at least in part — on communicating with doctors, right?  You need to make sure you  know what your physicians want, see that your business goals are matched with theirs and make sure you win  as much loyalty as possible. And you certainly need to make sure every deal you do with them is kosher, legally  and financially, something that requires just a bit of trust.

And how do most healthcare organizations establish this warm-and-fuzzy connection?  Well, we’re probably talking about a few meetings, a few e-mail messages, some paper mail and maybe a party or two. It’s irresistable!

OK,  sarcasm off.  The truth is, while healthcare organizations do a decent job of reaching out to consumers, I’d give most a C-, at best, at communicating with clinicians.  Executives may attempt to speak to doctors, but it’s from some sort of ivory tower which, as I see it, usually isn’t compatible with straight talk.

So, what to do?  Well, I’ll admit it:  as a media and community dev specialist, I’d argue that it’s time to bring some professional media smarts to the doctor-exec relationship.  A few on-point newsletters with zero fluff, a complete and intelligently designed Web site, thoughtful tweets or a slick magazine — any of these can work.

The bottom line is that whether you go the media route, or just get someone with a gift for plain speech to take a look at your communications strategy, it shouldn’t be an afterthought.  There’s just no excuse for trying to rule by fiat — or pomposity.

And another thought…

You can find videos like these all over the Web:

But how often do you see a video that addresses physicians’ daily needs?  Their business plans?  Their professional expectations?  Seems to me that the communications department doesn’t touch that stuff.


June 30, 2010

Losing patients before they arrive

Written by:

     Here’s a fact that gets too little attention: Patients dread having to contact their hospital or doctor. They hate having to explain their health needs to strangers, feeling rushed and knowing nothing about the doctor they’ll be seeing. 

What a waste! Here’s a golden opportunity to form a bond with patients, share information about you facility and get doctors prepared for the encounter.  Instead, most front-line personnel make people feel — in advance — like they’re already shivering, nearly nude, in a barely decent johnny gown.

Don’t tell me that your call center staff or receptionists are lovely people, and this should be enough.  They can be veritable saints, but if their job is to get you on and off the phone — no matter how nicely they do it — most people will find it at least a bit intimidating.

Here’s a few ideas for taking the chill off of potential patients:

*  E-mail a “welcome” document to those who have e-mail addresses.  Make sure it includes directions to your facility, a layout of your parking garage — and warnings if it tends to get full — and hey, why not a coupon for a free cup of coffee and snack?  Also, offer a link to form allowing people to list their preferences and questions.  All letters should have links to the physicians in the department or practice they’re visiting, as well.

If someone doesn’t have e-mail access, snail mail the same documents, and in those mailings, include a bio of the doctor the patient will see.

*  Ask patients, when they’re setting their appointment,  if they need help getting there, and reassure them that this won’t be a problem.  If they have transportation troubles, you may be able to help them;  if they need someone’s arm or a wheelchair to get from the door to their appointment, make that happen.

* Send patients a “thank you” note after they’ve had their appointment, and in the note, mention their next visit.  The thank you note, which can of course be via e-mail or snail mail, can include information on their condition and how they can help themselves.  This can make people feel far more connected to an institution than one that simply moves them through the assembly line.

*  If they’ve visited a hospital and had a procedure, make sure the patient or their caregiver has been sent a list of symptoms to be aware of and clinicians available to call.  Too many surgical patients – – myself included! — get sent out the door, shoveled into their loved ones’ car and told “call your doctor if you have a problem.”

Now, at nextHealth Media, we focus on content and community development solutions — but obviously, those can’t do the job alone. Other than smart content, what other steps do you think should be taken to make patients want to walk into your front door?