Posts Tagged Kaiser Family Foundation


Your Health Insurance Deal in 2014: Calculate Your Cost

CalculatorMost people think they know the basics about health insurance reform in 2014: If they do not have access to medical insurance, they will be required to purchase insurance (costly) or they will be taxed (also costly.)

What many people don’t know is that based on their income, age and family size, they may be eligible for a subsidy to help defray the cost of health insurance.

Here’s a handy calculator from the Kaiser Family Foundation that will help you see your healthcare insurance deal if you are without insurance now, or might be without insurance in 2014. The calculator site says:


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Marketing Your Medical Practice: Evaluate, Strategize, Execute and Monitor

Marketing Plan

The definition for marketing that I like is “the process of establishing and maintaining mutually beneficial relationships with stakeholders to facilitate exchanges.”


To expand that definition, consider:

  • Mutually beneficial relationships are created when the healthcare entity has a service to provide and consumers of healthcare seek out the service and (ideally) are a payer source.
  • Stakeholders can be the healthcare consumer, but can also be the employer who purchases insurance for consumers or directly purchases the services, the federal or state government who reimburses the healthcare entity, the insurance company itself, other healthcare providers including hospitals and physicians, or other companies such as banks providing funding, liability companies providing malpractice insurance, and Independent Review Boards (IRBs) and other third-parties that pay for services. An argument can be made that everyone the practice comes in contact with who has a part in enabling the healthcare entity to be reimbursed for services is a stakeholder.
  • A exchange is facilitated when the payer source wants the service, understands the service, and an agreement is made for the terms of the exchange.

How To Develop a Marketing Plan Part 1: Evaluation Process

  1. Determine the services you want to provide. Basic services may be straightforward to market to a community as many locations have need for more healthcare services, but new or specialized service lines or ancillaries will need a marketing plan. For instance, a family practice medical group may provide primary care to children and adults, but may also want to develop a diabetes clinic to provide more intensive education and care to  a larger diabetic population. An internal medicine or cardiology group may develop an anti-coagulation (coumadin) clinic and a general surgery group may want to establish a wound care clinic. If the new service is developed for existing consumers only, then marketing is largely an internal issue. If your service will be available to new consumers, an external campaign is crucial.
  2. Determine your geographic market. Do you plan to market to the immediate/local consumer, to the regional consumer, statewide, through multiple adjacent states, or state blocks such as the East Coast, the Mid-Atlantic, New England, etc.? Do you plan to market your service to consumers in other countries?
  3. Identify any consumers in your chosen demographic market who have already purchased services from you to evaluate the potential for consumers to drive the distance to purchase your services.
  4. Determine what is currently being provided in the geographic market you’ve chosen and evaluate what potential exists for competitors to provide the same service in the same area. Some places to gather information without cost are:
    1. ZipSkinny (demographics by zip code)
    2. City-Data (includes info on neighborhoods and has a forum)
    3. ZipWho (advanced search capabilities)
    4. State Health Facts (Kaiser Family Foundation)
  5. Other methods to assess the need for your service are:
    1. Focus Groups
    2. Telephone Surveys
    3. Mail Surveys
    4. Mall Surveys
    5. Referring Source Surveys (hospitals, physicians, agencies)
  6. Now that you have all this data, make an informed decision about going forward with your new service, and marketing it.

How To Develop a Marketing Plan Part 2: The Strategy

Once you’ve determined that a need exists for services you want to provide and you’ve identified the target service area, you must develop a strategy for cultivating a desire for the service and encouraging consumers to come to you for the service.

  1. Wrap your brand around the new service, or if the new service will be branded separately, develop that new brand. A brand is a name, term, symbol, special design or some combination of these that is intended to identify the service and differentiate it from the services of competitors.
  2. Determine your target market. Are you targeting consumers directly, or are you targeting care providers, employers, businesses, or payers?
  3. If your marketing budget was not established as part of the pro forma, establish it now.
  4. Select your marketing methods based on your target:
    • Direct to consumer methods include free meet and greet appointments, lectures, personal appearances, direct mail, print advertising, radio, TV, billboards, theatre pre-movie ads and online methods including Facebook, interactive websites, blogs, Twitter, texting, Google advertising, Google Places (not yellow pages), Groupon, Social Living and Facebook advertising.
    • Direct to other service purchasers include online and print press releases, direct mail, invitations to events, personal visits, service brochures and referral sources.
  5. Put together your timeline leading up to the launch of your service.

How To Develop a Marketing Plan Part 3: Execute and Monitor

  1. Prepare a table or spreadsheet of your strategy and timeline, assigning responsibility for each phase of your plan.
  2. Be prepared to collect data both in person and online to analyze which marketing mediums produced conversions (consumers buying your service). Ask every single person who uses the new service “How did you hear about us?” and log it. Use analytics programs to assess online activity surrounding your brand and service.
  3. Evaluate your results from different marketing mediums and eliminate those producing poor results and focus on those producing conversions.

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Posted in: Practice Marketing, Social Media

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Six Reasons Why Your Doctor’s Office Doesn’t Call You Back and a Few Solutions

A patient having his blood pressure taken by a...

Patients want to know why they can’t get a return call from their doctor’s office – here are six reasons why the calls have increased and physician offices are having trouble meeting the needs of their patients.

  1. Medication questions and requests for a prescriptions change. The average number of retail prescriptions per capita increased from 10.1 in 1999 to 12.6 in 2009. (Kaiser Family Foundation calculations using data from IMS Health, Because it is not easy to access prescription cost by payer in the exam room, medical practices get lots of callbacks from patients asking to change their prescriptions once they arrive at the pharmacy and find out how much the prescription costs.  Related issue: Many national-chain pharmacies have electronic systems that automatically request a new prescription when the patient is out of refills.  Also related: Patients calling to ask for additional medication samples.
  2. Patients are delaying coming to the physician’s office by calling the practice with questions. Patients want to forestall paying their co-pay or their high-deductible by getting their care questions answered without coming to the doctor’s office.
  3. Patients call back with questions about what they heard or didn’t hear in the exam room. They may not remember what the physician told them, they may not have understood the medical jargon, or they may have a hearing problem and were not comfortable asking the physician to repeat something.
  4. Impatience: we live in an instant gratification world and patient expectations are not aligned with what physician offices can realistically provide.
  5. Some patients will not leave voice mail messages and will call back multiple times until they get a live human being or will punch in options until they find someone to answer the phone.
  6. Physician offices are often understaffed. Physicians find it untenable to add more staff to do more tasks for less money or no money at all.

And here are some possible solutions:

  1. Have formularies for all major health plans on hand in the exam room. These could be paper lists, or electronic lists for the tablet or smartphone. (Note: Epocrates currently has a deal with Walgreen’s to support their discount program on the smartphone.) Don’t underestimate the patient satisfaction and reduction in callbacks for sending the patient out of the exam room with the right prescription.  Automatic refills are not an appropriate function of pharmacies.  Physicians should provide samples (check the formulary!) and a prescription to get filled if the samples do the job.  If a patient can’t afford the brand name prescription, a prescription assistance program is the next step.
  2. Patients need to be advised appropriately when they need to see the physician and when they don’t. Good triage nurses can be worth their weight in gold, but you can hold the costs down by hiring a triage nurse or several to work from their homes taking calls from your patients.  The nurse will need to have access to your practice management system to schedule appointments and to document the conversation if the patient is given advice.
  3. Provide patients with different modes of assimilating health information. Some patients are recording office visits via voice or video and one of the goals of meaningful use is providing patients with an office visit summary when they exit the practice. Websites should be loaded with educational information that physicians can “prescribe” to their patients. Some physicians help to cut down on return calls and improve understanding by asking the patient how they’ll describe the visit to a family member.
  4. Give patients (on the web, in the practice, on your on-hold messages) realistic timelines for callbacks and make it so.
  5. Yes, some patients will game the system to get their needs met ahead of others. Ask them to adhere to the practice guidelines. There will always be some cheaters, but most patients will respect you if you respond to them when you said you would.
  6. The only answer to understaffing is technology. Use a patient portal to allow patients to request refills, schedule appointments and chat with billing staff or nurses. Replace paper charts with EMR. Use efaxing to eliminate paper faxes. Use the cloud to store information and collaborate.

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Posted in: Day-to-Day Operations, Physician Relations

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