Should Hospitals ‘Cherry-Pick’ Patients?

A few weeks ago, Kaiser Health News ran an article discussing how a growing number of hospitals are promoting their services through direct mail campaigns that seem to be targeting certain high-paying patient populations — a practice some in the industry question.

The article cites patient advocate and privacy groups, “who criticize the hospitals for using private medical records to pursue profits.” Legally, however, the hospitals have every right to use the information they’ve acquired in order to market to potential patients who could possibly benefit from their services.

We say: It’s about time. There are powerful reasons for healthcare systems to think like retailers. The healthcare world is just now starting to utilize marketing strategies and approaches that retailers and others have successfully employed almost forever.

By collecting data about their patients, hospitals know and understand who might benefit from services and programs in their facilities. You can be extremely efficient with budgets in reaching out to potential patients, targeting exactly the audience you want. Just turn that data into predictive models that can easily determine your return on investment. When you start with rich, household-level analytics, the results pay for themselves many times over.

One of the service providers quoted in the article stated the advantages of knowing your market and reaching out to those who may need your services: “We are here to serve everybody, but we market for good-paying patients [those with private insurance coverage] because it preserves our ability to serve everyone.”

It’s now a data-driven, retail world for healthcare systems. And no one should be shy about adapting successful retail approaches. Don’t miss out on the strategic opportunities offered when you mine the information that’s right at your fingertips.    

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