My team and I work with a number of community hospitals around the country and I’ve noticed one thing these organizations have in common: they are tired. This “community hospital fatigue” comes from fighting the good fight every day for years. Trying to make ends meet. Trying to fight outmigration of patients to major medical centers. Trying to retain physicians, nurses, and other staff who can get better pay and benefits elsewhere. Trying to find ways to improve aging infrastructure that compromises the quality of care. And so much more.
Does any of that sound familiar? It’s exhausting. I want to give a shout out to all those people working at community hospitals who go to work every day with a spirit of hope. Your organizations often serve some of our nation’s most vulnerable populations. Without you, people in your community may no longer have access to healthcare services.
Over the last 10 years, 120 rural hospitals have shut down. New research from The Chartis Center for Rural Health details the large number of hospitals now vulnerable to closure. The numbers are staggering. “The model identified 453 rural facilities which can be considered ‘vulnerable’ to closure based on performance levels. Within this group, two distinct cohorts emerged; a group of 216 which can be considered ‘most vulnerable’ and a second group of 237 which are defined as ‘at risk.’” (The Chartis Group Press Release, February 11, 2020.)
In general, community hospitals are struggling and they need help. Moving forward, we need a business model for community hospitals (urban and rural) that is sustainable. Until that happens, I am concerned for the future of community hospitals and the populations they serve. As a marketer, my job is to lift them up and help to elevate their brands. That often involves having them step away from their “great care, close to home” messaging, and helping them to develop campaigns that promote their real strengths. Being local in healthcare is not typically a winning attribute, at least not on its own. People do not want to compromise by choosing “local” over “high quality.” We all want the best care for our family members. So, what does your community hospital do extremely well? Let’s make claims of quality care and substantiate those through the organization’s marketing.
I’ll close out this post by sharing a video I created on the topic of advertising that promises “great care, close to home.” Enjoy.