Emergency Department Marketing: Take an Inside-Out Approach
By Scott Serbin
The front door to the hospital – the emergency department – is an integral part of the community’s medical safety net and in many cases is the first part of that net that people encounter. Patients used to rely on the nearest hospital for care, but they no longer select an emergency department based solely on location; a facility’s quality of care, wait times and clinical expertise also factor into the decision.
The result is that hospitals now actively compete for patients. The traditional approach to marketing the emergency department (ED) has been to allocate resources and funding for ED-specific advertising during and after renovations. The goal of course is to increase ED visits. As marketers, our job now is to promote the value propositions (quality, time to provider, patient satisfaction) of the ED versus those of competitors’ emergency departments and urgent care centers.
A significant amount of time and money is spent on identifying the right demographics and vehicles (print, social media, radio) to attract patients and increase ED volume. While this external marketing is necessary, marketing the ED within the institution itself is a vitally important—and frequently overlooked—opportunity in today’s competitive environment. And the best part: the cost ranges from nominal to free!
Start with the basics by reviewing your current ED brochure. If it is outdated – still listing physicians who are no longer at the facility or does not including new technologies – it’s time for an update. And make the new brochures available. Display them prominently and attractively in high visibility outpatient areas. Create a brief highlight sheet of ED facts and successes (i.e., quality, performance, patient satisfaction). Review it with hospital personnel who have patient contact and enlist them as hospital ambassadors by providing a 15-second “elevator pitch” about the ED.
Meet with service line directors, identify how the ED benefits their departments, and incorporate these marketing nuggets in future projects, social media, your hospital’s website and community outreach efforts. And take a good look at your ED to make sure those service lines are positively represented –and of course that the brochure holders are properly stocked and maintained.
These are just a few quick ways to promote your emergency department quickly, easily, and inexpensively, starting with the some of the most important members of your community – hospital employees.
Scott Serbin manages Emergency Medical Associates’ community liaison program and same-store sales growth initiatives. He works with client hospitals to develop and support emergency department-specific service line objectives, and hospital marketing, public relations and community outreach initiatives. He recently received the American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE) Early Career Healthcare Executive Regent’s Award.