5 Outreach Efforts That Can Get Your Healthcare Business in Trouble

As the demand for healthcare practitioners continues to grow because of our aging baby boomers, increased population, better and more innovative technology as well as the Affordable Care Act, competition among medical practices continues to be as fierce as ever.  Practices with more resources are hiring advertising agencies and PR firms to manage their Outreach strategies.

Smaller and mid-size practices are doing what they can to keep up whether it’s by hiring an internal Outreach director or working with an independent consultant. No matter if you hire the best agency in town, using an Outreach intern from the local university, or just managing your own efforts, bad Outreach practices can happen if you’re not careful. Below are five Outreach efforts that can mar your organization’s reputation and hurt your bottom line.

Failing to asses your population’s language needs

One of the biggest mistakes medical Outreach professionals make is failing to do a complete assessment of their population’s language needs. This includes an analysis of not just the language, but the country/region of origin, health beliefs and health literacy level. Bridging the language gap is key to ensuring your culturally diverse communities enjoy equal access to healthcare.

For example, if you can’t apply an Anglo marketing model to reach Latinos. Family is center with most Latinos, and often the Latino family isn’t the traditional family by Anglo standards.

Instead it’s an extended family and community with a belief in the collective ‘we’ and a focus on cooperation instead of competition. In many cases, Latinos buy to enhance experience with family and community. Decisions are based on cultural norms and word of mouth. Plus, brand loyalty is high compared to Anglos and passes from generation to generation.

Regence BlueCross BlueShield, the largest health insurer in the Northwest/Intermountain region, learned this lesson when they discovered that their previous brand tagline “Together we can take charge” didn’t resonate well with Latinos. So they worked with the marketing department to keep the brand but modify it to “Juntos podemos” or “Together we can,” which was a more suitable message for their outreach to the Latino community.

After making this change, Regence’s net promoters score (NPS)—a customer loyalty metric—grew exponentially, confirming that Regence was communicating the right message.

Marketing everywhere

Some business, and even medical practices, will try every single Outreach tactic possible and see what sticks. Instead, you should go granular with your Outreach tactics. Find out where your customers are actually discussing their medical problems—whether on or offline—and then implement an Outreach strategy to capture this audience.

A great way to do this online is social research, where you are able to aggregate social conversation surrounding your brand and industry. You are able to quickly gather volume and sentiment by channel and decide where the most valuable target consumers are online.

In addition, while setting goals for your Outreach campaigns seem like a no-brainer, many companies advertise in places they think they ought to be. Instead, only use marketing tactics that satiate goals and put a plan for clear measurement in place. If your Outreach goal is brand awareness, for example, implement a plan to measure it prior to engaging the new initiative. This will help your quickly assess whether or not your marketing is working and make data-driven decisions to grow your practice.

Violating email privacy

One way you can quickly reach a mass audience is through email Outreach. Anyone can spend hours online each day sifting through company websites and collecting employees’ email addresses. While it can be a time-consuming and exhaustive process, you can have an impressive looking database of names to which you can send off promotional emails. Right?

Don’t do this.

Not only is this blatant spam and an unethical practice, but you could also be in violation of anti-spam laws. Email marketing is a great way to connect with your patients and even reach new ones, but you need to collect email addresses in a permission-based fashion such as a double-opt-in subscription link on your website or collecting this information when patients register at your sign-in desk. Once you obtain these email addresses properly, keep all permission-based email lists on a secure server.

Don’t allow insecure access to your patient email information. If you collect email sign-up registrations on a public list, as at a health fair or walk-for-life, where members of the public can see who added their names to your email registration form, remember to use a privacy screen, or better yet, switch to a tablet computer where all entries are kept secure and private.

Improper use of social media

Like email marketing, social media also plays a large role in many organizations’ Outreach initiatives. While the medical industry is well regulated, it doesn’t mean your physicians and staff can’t use social media.

It means they need to know the rules and play by it. First, never share any patient information online. If you have to give some information to the patient, call or schedule an appointment—do not send your patients a Facebook message. Even though the message is private, you never know how secure the account is.

Also, don’t stop monitoring your accounts. You can’t control what others will say, so you need to make sure no one is in violation of the HIPPA and PHI regulations on your page, even other patients. Make sure no one is sharing information or pictures about other patients without proper authorization.

One social media marketing effort that can get you in trouble is offering medical advice via social media. Even if you know the patient,  be careful with what are you posting on your page.

Your patients can see that as advice. Make sure you let them know that what you are posting is a way to educate them and you are not recommending anything.

Implementing Black Hat SEO techniques

Most practices have a website these days; however, to be found online you need a rather robust search engine optimization strategy. By developing a sound content marketing strategy, you can be listed among the first few pages of an online search. Be careful that you employ ethical strategies. Google and other search engines often penalize websites that use certain black hat search engine optimization techniques to get higher search rankings. Some of the more common techniques include keyword stuffing and adding invisible texts on website pages—anything that manipulates search engines.

If you’re accused of using such techniques a search engine could remove your site from all searches essentially making you invisible online.

Since many people rely on Google search to have their potential clients find them, what people really don’t want to do is get penalized by Google. The search engine giant currently has two penalties that are so severe that 80 percent of sites do not recover from them if they are ever penalized.

With Google’s last two software updates (Panda and Penguin), you can be penalized if your site contains a lot of thin or duplicate auto-generated content and too many links pointing to your sites which were purchased. Per Google policy, purchasing links can get you penalized since it is an attempt to manipulate their search rankings.

What do you think? What are some other Outreach strategies that can get you into trouble?




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