New Webinar on HOA Board Members and Fiduciary Duties: What You Must Know to Fulfill Your Duty to Your Association and Protect Yourself from Personal Liability

Upcoming Event: An Webinar for Condo and HOA Boards

HOA Board Members and Fiduciary Duties: What You Must Know to Fulfill Your Duty to Your Association and Protect Yourself from Personal Liability

Thursday, November 13, 2014
2-3 p.m. Eastern Members save $30!
Not a member yet? Sign up for a trial membership now.

When you volunteered to serve your community association as a board member, did you realize you were agreeing to set aside your own interests and act as a fiduciary on behalf of the entire association? Are you confident you know every scenario where you might trip up and expose yourself to personal liability by failing to live up to this important duty?

Set aside an hour of your time to learn what you need to know and ensure you’re not risking your own financial security by making common—but easily avoidable—mistakes while volunteering as an HOA board member.

Join us for in an in-depth webinar on November 13 led by two community association experts who will explain in layperson’s terms what it means to act as a fiduciary for your association.

You’ll learn:

  • The legal definition of a fiduciary—and the real-life risks you face if you’re found to have breached your fiduciary duties
  • The specific responsibilities you carry because of your fiduciary duties, including:
    • What it means to act in a “representative capacity”
    • Understanding the “business judgment rule”
    • How to meet confidentiality requirements
  • Tips to help you understand potential conflicts of interest and how they can trigger a breach of your fiduciary duty
  • Best practices to help you avoid the most common conflicts of interest board members face
  • Information to help you identify when providing full disclosure will diffuse conflicts of interest, along with practical suggestions for doing that properly
  • What you need to know about insurance to protect you from claims of a breach of your fiduciary duty
  • Plus much more!

Arm yourself with the knowledge you need to protect yourself and your association. Bring your entire board and make sure everyone knows these critical, fundamental concepts of good HOA governance. By proactively educating your entire board, you may just nip a potential conflict of interest problem in the bud. Register now for this informative event for community association board members.

Can’t attend on November 13? Order the recording.

About Your Speakers
Debra A. Warren, PCAM, CCAM Debra A. Warren, PCAM, CCAM, is a senior vice president at Associa®. She has more than 25 years of experience in community association management and was founder and principal of a successful consulting practice after 15 years as president and CEO of a management firm in Northern California, which she sold in 2005. Warren has also been actively involved in the education of community management professionals and volunteer board members across the country. She has 18 years of experience as an educator and in 2010 was named by the Community Associations Institute as educator of the year..
Matthew Zifrony Matthew Zifrony is a director with Tripp Scott, a law firm in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. He’s the president of one of the largest homeowners associations in Broward County and represents numerous condominium and homeowners associations in the tri-county area, providing counsel on such issues as collections, rules enforcement, contractual review, and association documents. Zifrony is past board member of the Community Association Institute. He earned a law degree, with honors, from the University of Florida and a bachelor’s degree, with honors, from the University of Florida’s School of Business Administration.

How Do Webinars Work?

A webinar is remarkably cost-effective and convenient. You participate from your home or office, using a regular telephone and a computer with an Internet connection. You have no travel costs, hassle, or commute time.

Plus, for one low price, you can get as many people on your condo or HOA board to participate as you can fit around a speakerphone and a computer screen. And now, with our special group membership offer, your entire board can attend—even from different locations. This offer requires an Group Membership. When any group member orders, we will set up access for the entire group. Up to 10 users can attend for one low price. It’s another incredible deal as part of Group Membership.

Because the conference is live, you can ask the speakers questions via the webinar interface. Many attendees tell us this is the most valuable part of the webinar.

You will receive access instructions via e-mail several days before the event. You don’t need any additional materials before the webinar starts. Your conference materials will be available for you to view, print, and download when you log in to participate in the event.

100% Satisfaction Guarantee

If you are not completely satisfied after attending an event, let us know within 30 days, and we will refund 100% of your registration fee — no questions asked.

About’s attorney editors and experienced journalists constantly research the latest developments in HOA law affecting homeowner and condominium associations across the U.S. Then we publish plain-English analyses of what those developments mean to you as an HOA leader, and what you need to do now to comply with HOA laws, steer clear of legal trouble, avoid or resolve conflicts within your homeowners association, make HOA management easier, and safeguard your community association’s property values and quality of life.

Not a member yet? Sign up for a free trial membership here. Sponsors Event Held by SEEDS, a Local Community Mediation and Dispute Resolution Center

SEEDS Community Resolution is proud to sponsor SEEDS Community Resolution Center’s annual Cultivating Common Ground event to be held in Berkeley, CA, on October 16, 2014.

SEEDS is a non-profit organization that specializes in helping individuals and groups find mutually-satisfying resolutions to disagreements and disputes. For over 30 years, SEEDS’ mediation services have helped neighbors, landlords and tenants, business partners, families and organizations solve conflicts without spending the time and money going to court. Over 75% of disputes that are mediated end in a resolution. supports SEEDS because we believe that their conflict resolution services improve our community by helping people find common ground. We want to help them make their services accessible and affordable for all.

Homeowners, tenants, neighbors and association boards can all benefit from the improved communication and better management of disagreements that SEEDS – and services like it – deliver.

To find a similar service in your community, visit the National Association for Community Mediation.

New Webinar on HOA Elections: A Step-by-Step Guide to Plan, Properly Notice, and Execute Successful Elections at Your Homeowner Association

Upcoming Event: An Webinar for Condo and HOA Boards

HOA Elections: A Step-by-Step Guide to Plan, Properly Notice, and Execute Successful Elections at Your Homeowner Association

Thursday, October 9, 2014
2-3 p.m. Eastern Members save $30!
Not a member yet? Sign up for a trial membership now.

Stop us if you’ve heard this one before: You announce an HOA election providing proper notice, yet only a handful of owners show up to vote. You end up short of your quorum requirements, and you have to start all over again with your fingers crossed that next time, your luck will be better, and your election will be successful. Or instead, you hold your election, get definitive results—you think—but then the election gets challenged.

We can help you do better! Join us for an in-depth webinar on October 9 led by two community association lawyers who’ve devoted their extensive—and impressive—careers to solving the challenges HOAs face every day. You’ll log out of the webinar with valuable, workable tactics you can implement immediately to make your election process smoother, more successful, and less contentious.

You’ll learn:

  • How to determine the specific steps your HOA must follow to conduct proper elections
  • Details on the most common mistakes boards make from election start to finish, and the most likely challenges to your election—and how to nip them in the bud
  • Information to help you identify your quorum requirements and creative tactics to ensure you get a quorum
  • Common rules governing who can run for your HOA board, along with insights on the pros and cons of changing your eligibility requirements—and tips on how to do it if you decide you should
  • Suggestions for general rules your board may want to consider passing to make holding elections easier
  • Tips to provide effective notice—and undercut any attempt to unwind your completed election based on claims of insufficient or improper notice
  • What you must know about proxies
  • Techniques you can deploy on the day of the election to avoid on-the-spot glitches
  • Plus much more!

It’s just an hour of your time, but you’ll walk away much wiser and better prepared for your HOA’s next election. Register now for this informative event for community association board members.

Can’t attend on October 9? Order the recording.

About Your Speakers
Stephen M. Guerra Stephen M. Guerra is a partner at Makower Abbate and practices primarily in condominium and subdivision association law, corporate governance law, and real estate development and finance. Mr. Guerra is a member of the Community Association Institute and the State Bar of Michigan’s Real Property Law Section. Mr. Guerra has written articles for the CAI’s Michigan chapter, Michigan Lawyer’s Weekly, and the Michigan Real Property Review and has been a seminar presenter for the CAI Michigan chapter and a roundtable presenter for the State Bar of Michigan’s Real Property Law Section. Mr. Guerra was also named a “rising star” by Michigan Super Lawyers in 2013 and 2014.
Bill Worrall Elizabeth White is a shareholder at the law firm of LeClairRyan in Williamsburg, Va., where she leads the firm’s national community association industry team. Widely regarded as a thought leader in this industry, White is a frequent speaker at CAI events on topics relating to community association law and is a regular contributor to such publications as She teaches a class on community association law at William and Mary Law School, which is the only one of its kind in Virginia and one of only a handful nationwide. White has been named one of the best lawyers in America.

How Do Webinars Work?

A webinar is remarkably cost-effective and convenient. You participate from your home or office, using a regular telephone and a computer with an Internet connection. You have no travel costs, hassle, or commute time.

Plus, for one low price, you can get as many people on your condo or HOA board to participate as you can fit around a speakerphone and a computer screen. And now, with our special group membership offer, your entire board can attend—even from different locations. This offer requires an Group Membership. When any group member orders, we will set up access for the entire group. Up to 10 users can attend for one low price. It’s another incredible deal as part of Group Membership.

Because the conference is live, you can ask the speakers questions via the webinar interface. Many attendees tell us this is the most valuable part of the webinar.

You will receive access instructions via e-mail several days before the event. You don’t need any additional materials before the webinar starts. Your conference materials will be available for you to view, print, and download when you log in to participate in the event.

100% Satisfaction Guarantee

If you are not completely satisfied after attending an event, let us know within 30 days, and we will refund 100% of your registration fee — no questions asked.

About’s attorney editors and experienced journalists constantly research the latest developments in HOA law affecting homeowner and condominium associations across the U.S. Then we publish plain-English analyses of what those developments mean to you as an HOA leader, and what you need to do now to comply with HOA laws, steer clear of legal trouble, avoid or resolve conflicts within your homeowners association, make HOA management easier, and safeguard your community association’s property values and quality of life.

Not a member yet? Sign up for a free trial membership here.

Plain-English Media Acquires Strategic Health Care Marketing and eHealthcare Strategy & Trends

View Press Release »

Plain-English Media announces the acquisition of two newsletter titles serving Health Care marketing, communications, branding and digital strategy professionals. The titles – Strategic Health Care Marketing and eHealthcare Strategy & Trends – were acquired from Health Care Communications of Rye, NY.

Alameda, CA (PRWEB) September 03, 2014

Plain-English Media announces the acquisition of Strategic Health Care Marketing and eHealthcare Strategy & Trends from Health Care Communications of Rye, NY. Plain-English Media is a privately held niche publisher based in Alameda, CA. The two newsletter titles form the core of a new division, Plain-English Health Care.

Strategic Health Care Marketing and eHealthcare Strategy & Trends have served health care marketers and digital strategists for more than 30 years under the expert direction of founder Michele von Dambrowski and her partner Mark Gothberg at Health Care Communications. Through in-depth case studies and analysis of cutting edge marketing and ehealth initiatives, the publications deliver practical insights on what health care organizations can do to increase customer satisfaction, improve patient care, boost service revenues, strengthen their brands, and lower costs.

“I extend to Mark and Michele my congratulations on the legacy they have built: publications that advance the marketing, communications, and business development initiatives critical to health care organizations’ success. I am both humbled and energized to take stewardship of publications with such strong content, expert industry contributors, and knowledgeable, loyal readership,” said President of Plain-English Media, Matt Humphrey. “Look for some new initiatives from us in the coming months as we build on this strong foundation.”

“Exciting times are ahead for everyone who believes in high quality health care services and believes marketing can make a difference. I’m so happy to be able to turn over my ‘children’ to someone who brings such enthusiasm to the worlds of marketing and journalism,” said Michele von Dambrowski, CEO of Health Care Communcations.

Health Care Communications will continue with various initiatives outside of publishing – most notably, the eHealthcare Leadership Awards under the direction of Mark Gothberg. The largest competition of its kind, the awards program is now in its 15th year.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

About Plain-English Media

Plain-English Media adds the new health care division to the company’s established position in the Real Estate market. Plain-English Real Estate publishes, the Practical Guide to Homeowner Association Management. provides practical advice on homeowner association and condominium association governance and management to thousands of HOA board members, vendors, managers and homeowners across the country. Plain-English Real Estate also produces events and provides lead generation and advertising opportunities to select vendors to the community association market.

Strategic Health Care Marketing: Recent Headlines

Inside the June 2014 print edition of 
Strategic Health Care Marketing

  • Sports Performance Hits Its Stride as a Growth Area
  • Just What Do Those Rankings Mean? Health Care Marketers Struggle to Evaluate Benefits and Costs
  • Healthy Food Initiative Strengthens Hospitals’ Wellness Efforts
  • A Turning Point Executive Advisor: The Green Rush Comes to Colorado

Inside the May 2014 print edition of 
Strategic Health Care Marketing

  • Physician Onboarding: Four Steps in One Process
  • It’s Time for Physicians to Own Their Brand
  • Intermountain Healthcare Promotes Living Well in a Value-Based World – Licensees Not There Yet
  • Six Key Digital Roles Needed in Today’s Marketing Department
  • Smaller Institutions Successfully Compete in Shadow of Pittsburgh Titans
  • Fast Takes: News & Trend Lines

Inside the April 2014 print edition of 
Strategic Health Care Marketing

  • Dedicated Men’s Health Programs Can Reach Reluctant Customers
  • New England System Tests Pre-Flight Health Check – Wellness Campaign at Busy Airport
  • Strategic Ad-Visory: What Happens to Marketing When the Boundaries Between a Medical Institution and an Insurer Blur?
  • Marketers Change Tactics as Proton Therapy Services Increase — Reaching Patients Directly Through Online Marketing
  • For This Virginia Hospital, Safety Is on the Daily Agenda

Inside the March 2014 print edition of 
Strategic Health Care Marketing

  • Marketers Take on New Role with Population Health Management — Success Measured by Long-Term Engagement
  • Hospital Rewards Patients Who Take Care of Themselves
  • Strategic Ad-Visory: Nash Health Care’s Success Demonstrates Just How Well It Pays to Advertise
  • Centralized Marketing: Building an Effective Structure
  • A New Model Attempts to Give Health Care Wings
  • Fast Takes: News & Trend Lines

Inside the February 2014 print edition of 
Strategic Health Care Marketing

  • Marketing Call to Action: Focus on Primary Care, Build Identity, and Align with Specialists
  • KidzStuff: Much More Than Stuff for Children
  • Strategic Ad-Visory: Go with Emotional Ads? Or Use Some Ads with Almost No Emotion? A Common ‘Look’? Or Several?
  • A Turning Point Executive Advisor: Good Patient Experiences Are Critical for Desirable Outcomes and Better Reimbursement
  • The Best Way to Be an Effective Storyteller in This Digital Age
  • Los Angeles Area Hospital Finds Benefit in Event with Worldwide Exposure
  • Fast Takes: News & Trend Lines

Inside the January 2014 print edition of 
Strategic Health Care Marketing

  • Ten Sites or Apps That Exemplify Good Use of Mobile Health Care
  • Are You Prepared for the Next Generation of Service Lines?
  • Strategic Ad-Visory: A Massive, Four-State Health System Rebranding Effort Leads to Simple, Informative, Cheerfully Straightforward Advertising
  • Hospital Affinity Programs Reward Loyalty and Give Members VIP Treatment
  • QR Codes are Obsolete
  • The Health Care World Series

Inside the December 2013 print edition of 
Strategic Health Care Marketing

  • Dignity Health Rebrands: Say Hello to Human Kindness
  • Focus on Consumer Needs, Not Provider Needs to Survive Health Care Transformation – Price and Quality Transparency to Gain Importance in Coming Years
  • Turning a House of Brands into a Branded House
  • Will Posting Prices Trigger a Price War?
  • A Unified Brand Has Many Benefits; Need to Give the Process Time
  • 12-Month Index of Articles … January – December 2013
  • Fast Takes: News & Trend Lines

Inside the November 2013 print edition of 
Strategic Health Care Marketing

  • Population Health Management: Fact and Fiction
  • A Strong Hospital Brand Finds That It Needs to Rebrand — and Then Reaps Positive Results
  • For Better Results, Undertake a Customer Intimacy Strategy to Truly Engage Consumers
  • Dedicated Emergency Departments Target Expectant Moms
  • A Turning Point Executive Advisor: Big Data, Little Information?
  • Non-Clinical Care Guides Offer Positive Approach to Patient Care

Inside the October 2013 print edition of 
Strategic Health Care Marketing

  • Comprehensive Cancer Rehabilitation Offers Hospitals
    Point of Differentiation
  • The C-Suite Weighs In on Health Care Branding
  • Beyond Quality and Safety: Patient and Family Advisory Councils Involved in Strategic Planning and Marketing
  • Strategic Ad-Visory: Launched and Celebrated, a Campaign for a New Hospital Service Got Great Attention Before Everything Changed
  • Fast Takes: News & Trend Lines

Inside the September 2013 print edition of 
Strategic Health Care Marketing

  • Internal Branding and Stemming Leakage the Imperative of Today
  • Rehab Center Gets Smart
  • Strategic Ad-Visory: The University of Kansas Hospital Builds a Strong Reputation While Avoiding ‘Image-y’ Ads
  • Personal Connections, Consistency, and More – Advice from a Brand Authority
  • Aesop, The Neuromarketer – The Power of the Simple Story
  • Ohio Health System Develops First Steps to Wellness Campaign

Inside the August 2013 print edition of 
Strategic Health Care Marketing

  • Shooting for Five-Star Ratings? Online Reviews Provide Feedback and Opportunity to Manage Reputation
  • Lessons Learned – Tips for Managing Online Reputations
  • Looking for More Online Reviews? Solicit and Post Them on Your Own Website
  • Behavioral Marketing Puts Dent in Binge Drinking, Car Crashes – Party Smarter, Road Crew Take Off
  • Shared Appointments Improve Access, Quality
  • Pharmacists Help Hospitals Cut Readmissions
  • Fast Takes: News & Trend Lines

Inside the July 2013 print edition of 
Strategic Health Care Marketing

  • Social Media ROI Means Much More Than ‘Likes’ and ‘Views’
  • Consumers Shop Price More, But Industry Response Still Lags
  • Pricing Information Now Expected by Alegent Consumers
  • Strategic Ad-Visory: A New Jersey Hospital with a Century-Old Reputation for Delivering Babies Builds Awareness with Storks and a Cabbage Patch
  • Planetree Hospitals Achieve High Satisfaction, Performance Scores

Inside the June 2013 print edition of 
Strategic Health Care Marketing

  • Community Hospitals Reposition Themselves with Clinical Trials – Innovative, Progressive Care Is a Competitive Differentiator
  • Geographic Expansion Is a Continuing Saga
  • Strategic Ad-Visory: From Television to Direct Mail, an In-House Advertising Agency Does It All for Legacy Health, While Keeping a Lid on Costs
  • Market Research and Engagement Through an Online Community Panel
  • Hospitals Use Health Coaches to Improve the Health of Their Own Employees

Inside the May 2013 print edition of 
Strategic Health Care Marketing

  • Blood Management Programs Extend Marketing Efforts – Patients Choose Bloodless Medicine for Non-Religious Reasons
  • Brain Health Center Offers Model for Comprehensive Alzheimer’s Care – Collaborative Approach Benefits Patients and Family Caregivers
  • The Hemingway Challenge: A Novel Exercise to Improve Communications
  • What’s ‘New’ About New Movers?
  • Strategic Ad-Visory: A Hospital for Kids Touches Musicians – Now Their Music Touches a Community and Helps Build the Hospital’s Brand Awareness

Inside the April 2013 print edition of 
Strategic Health Care Marketing

  • Teaching Hospitals Lead Innovation Movement
  • Strategic Ad-Visory: Differentiating a Brand Image with Emotional, Storytelling Visuals – and a Little Borscht Belt Humor
  • Racing to Wellness: A Marketing Model for Wellness
  • Fast Takes: News & Trend Lines

Inside the March 2013 print edition of 
Strategic Health Care Marketing

  • Behavioral Health Programs Tailored to Niche Populations Gain Traction
  • Ad Campaign Deploys Gas Pumps, Shopping Carts, Car Bumpers, and More to Build Employee Bonds and Create a Cohesive Public Identity
  • Cincinnati Hospital and Local Restaurants Serve Up a Successful Heart Healthy Restaurant Program
  • What’s in a Name? Rebranding Ties Health System Together
  • Hospitals Tackle Risks and Rewards of Insurance Business
  • Fast Takes: News & Trend Lines

Inside the February 2013 print edition of 
Strategic Health Care Marketing

  • Lakeland HealthCare Focuses Its Marketing Efforts on Employees
  • Strategic Ad-Visory: How to Reach Your Target Audience When You Don’t Know Who It Is Yet
  • Letting Go Is Hard to Do – Knowing When to Leave Your Job
  • Racing to Wellness: The Consumer’s Point of View
  • Weekly Huddles Keep Projects Moving – Lean Principles Enhance Marketing Activities

Inside the January 2013 print edition of 
Strategic Health Care Marketing

  • Growing a Cancer Care Program: Promising Ways to Spread the Word
  • A Greenhouse Helps Grow a Vision; Initiative Leads Other Hospital Healthy Food Efforts
  • Racing to Wellness: The Wellness Spectrum
  • Strategic Ad-Visory: A Leading Cancer Treatment Center Focuses on Outcomes, with Eclectic Mix of TV Spots, Radio, and Print

Inside the December 2012 print edition of 
Strategic Health Care Marketing

  • Employer-Based Clinics: Providers and Consultants Show Hospitals the Way to Succeed
  • Innovation or Co-Creation: Which One Is Better?
  • Palliative Care Programs: Three Examples – Second of a Two-Part Series
  • What Are You Worth? Ways to Prove It to Your Boss
  • 12-Month Index of Articles … January – December 2012

Inside the November 2012 print edition of 
Strategic Health Care Marketing

  • Marketing of Employed Doctors Is All Over the Map – Strategies to Keep Abreast of the Scramble and Get It Right
  • ‘Patient Promise’ Petitions Clinicians to Lead by Example
  • Hospitals Tackle Noise – Sustained Success Requires Behavioral, Not Just Mechanical, Changes
  • Strategic Ad-Visory: An Ad Agency Carves Out a Niche to Help Hospitals Market Niches of Their Own
  • Palliative Care Quietly Cuts Costs – First of a Two-Part Series
  • Study: Hospitals Need to Use Social Media Strategically

Inside the October 2012 print edition of 
Strategic Health Care Marketing

  • Mystery Shopping Provides Unexpected Insights – Evaluate Ease of Access and Consistency of Customer Service
  • A New Twist on an Old Concept: Bringing Physicians Together to Improve Referrals
  • Building a Marketing Analytics Toolbox
  • Budget Friendly ‘Concierge’ Practices Gain Traction – Hospitals Could Become Friend – or Foe
  • Fast Takes: News & Trend Lines

Inside the September 2012 print edition of 
Strategic Health Care Marketing

  • Second Opinions – Taking Full Advantage of the Revenue Opportunity
  • Strategic Ad-Visory: Thinking Outside the Bus – Innovative Ideas That Help Marketers Get an Extra Bang from Media Budgets
  • Targeted Messages Help Engage Employees in Wellness Programs
  • Health Systems Focus on Consumer Perceptions and Patient Satisfaction – More Broad-Based Intelligence-Gathering Still Limited
  • Read It Today! Emphatic Marketing: How to Satisfy the 6 Core Emotional Needs of Your Customers

Inside the August 2012 print edition of 
Strategic Health Care Marketing

  • CRM Improves Value of Marketing Dollars – Targeted Mailings Increase Response Rates and Use of Services
  • Community Health Needs: Approaches and Examples
  • Strategic Ad-Visory: When a Hospital Changes Its Name and Location, How Does it Advertise That Fact?
  • The Pharmaceutical Industry Offers Lessons for Getting a Physician’s Attention
  • E-Tailing on Physician Practice Websites – Conflict of Interest, or Opportunity to Help Patients While Creating Revenue Stream?

Inside the July 2012 print edition of 
Strategic Health Care Marketing

  • Retail Clinics Grow, But Still Face Challenges
  • Hospital Rankings: More Than Your Reputation Is in Play
  • Six Questions to Ask Yourself About Social Media at Your Hospital – Personal and Corporate Use Implications
  • Dedication to Corporate Social Responsibility Drives Many Positive Outcomes

Inside the June 2012 print edition of 
Strategic Health Care Marketing

  • Hospitals Drop Ball on Health Literacy – Iowa Health System Breaks Rank to Simplify Forms, Train on Teach-Back Method
  • Sick Child Care Facilities Help Cement Employee and Employer Relationships
  • Strategic Ad-Visory: Can You Sell a Rehab Center with a Metaphor? One Hospital Decides It Can, Using a Low-Key, Visually Poetic TV Spot
  • Useful Insights from the Mawr Rehab Campaign Interviews
  • On-Hold Messages Can Enhance Overall Marketing Plan – ‘Please Hold’ Presents Opportunity for Branding, Education, and Identification of New Patients
  • A Turning Point Executive Advisor: Community Needs Assessment: Providers Tackle Implementation
  • Fast Takes: News & Trend Lines

Inside the May 2012 print edition of 
Strategic Health Care Marketing

  • Health Systems Discover Benefits of Keeping Older Workers Happy, Engaged
  • Children’s Hospital Shifts Marketing Emphasis from Patient Success Stories to Unique Clinical Expertise – Primary Focus on Physicians
  • Best Practices for Using Video and YouTube
  • Strategic Ad-Visory: Fundraising Ad Campaign Does Much More Than Generate Donations
  • Research Shows First Impression of a Website Forms in Seconds

Inside the April 2012 print edition of 
Strategic Health Care Marketing

  • Hospitals Find Ways to Better Track Physician Referrals
  • Kansas City Health System Sets Out to Improve Bottom Line by Keeping Patients Healthy- ‘Thinking Outside the Bed’
  • Strategic Ad-Visory:Three Different Ways Hospitals Use a Tried-and-True Communication Workhorse to Build Their Brand
  • Marketing Analytics:The Adoption of ‘Big Data’ Thinking to Effect Change and Create Opportunities within the Health Care Organization
  • Swedish Hospital Advertises for ‘Hot’ Nurses – But Don’t Try This at Home

Inside the March 2012 print edition of 
Strategic Health Care Marketing

  • Hospitals Sharpen Efforts to Market Employed Physicians
  • Video Gamers Raise More Than $1 Million for Children’s Hospitals
  • Mind Over Marketing: The Art and Science of Behavioral Change
  • The Case for Using Neuromarketing Techniques in Health Care Marketing

Inside the February 2012 print edition of 
Strategic Health Care Marketing

  • Speed-Dating Model: Did the Attraction Survive the First Date?
  • Strategic Ad-Visory: Storytelling TV That’s Almost Impossible to Ignore in New York’s Hospital Advertising Hothouse
  • Hospitals Mostly Use LinkedIn for Recruitment – Miss Other, Broader Opportunities
  • Partnerships with Churches Improve Community Health and Can Positively Impact Hospital Bottom Line
  • Fast Takes: News & Trend Lines

Inside the January 2012 print edition of 
Strategic Health Care Marketing

  • Idling Open-Heart Volume Shifts Spotlight to Vascular and Thoracic Surgery
  • Search Engine Marketing Boosts Patient Volume for Niche Service – But No ROI Silver Bullet
  • Marketing Analytics: The New Imperative to Measure and Improve Marketing – First of a Two-Part Series
  • A Turning Point Executive Advisor – Community Needs Assessment: A Work in Progress
  • Bringing PR to the Boardroom
  • Fast Takes: News & Trend Lines
eHealthcare Strategy & Trends

The Doctor Will Tweet You Now: Is There a Compelling Case for a Physician-Directed Social Media Strategy?

Featured Article from eHealthcare Strategy & Trends

Ask the Expert … with Susan Solomon

Susan Solomon has been in healthcare marketing for more than 20 years. She has taught at several California universities and was a Fulbright Scholar in 2008. You can reach her at Sussol [at] gmail [dot] com.

Dial back five years and a discussion of physicians and social media would have seemed quite odd. Did we really expect physicians asking to be “liked” on Facebook? What was next? Tweeting during surgery? Fast-forward to now, and the answers are “Yes” and “Yes.” Or, more accurately, “Been there. Done that. What else is new?”

According to the online physician learning collaborative QuantiaMD, 90 percent of physicians report that they use at least one social media site personally. And with so much personal use, the possibility of crossover into their professional worlds seems almost certain. Gabriel Bosslet, MD, an internist at Indiana University Health, describes the rise in interest in social media among physicians as “meteoric.”

Kevin Pho, MD, who writes, the popular blog on physicians and social media, cites two compelling reasons for physicians to actively participate in social media: 1) Connecting with patients and 2) Reputation management.

Making connections with patients

Let’s start with establishing connections with patients. With eight out of 10 patients searching for health information online, there’s obviously a hunger for obtaining quick, accurate online healthcare advice. Unfortunately, some of those online users are going to unreliable sources and either ignoring important symptoms or scaring themselves silly. (Microsoft researchers defined the word cyberchondria as “the unfounded escalation of concerns about common symptomatology, based on the review of search results and literature on the Web.”) Clearly, doctors who regularly connect with patients online are much more reliable sources for information than Yahoo! Answers, which conspicuously disclaims any responsibility for the accuracy of answers provided by posters. And, with healthcare reform kicking in, it’s clear that patients have both clinical and administrative questions that demand reliable responses.

Pho says that his “aha” moment about the importance of social media happened several years ago when news began to leak about the arthritis drug Vioxx and its potential link to heart attack or stroke. Pho blogged about the issue at a time when he didn’t think his blog had many loyal followers. To his surprise, his own patients started thanking him for his informative pieces. “It struck me what a powerful tool I had to connect with patients,” he says.

In addition to Pho, there are many examples of physicians who have become masters of connecting with patients through social media. Jay Harness, MD, a breast surgeon at St. Joseph Hospital in Orange, CA, launched the website, which offers more than 200 YouTube videos of doctors (including Harness) providing health information. Visitors can also submit questions. Since their launch last November, the videos have been viewed more than 1.3 million times.

Of course, not all doctors will want to devote the time or consistent study of social media techniques to maintain a presence. However, they could join the editorial boards of established health information sites, form a discussion board with other medical colleagues, or partner with their affiliated hospitals’ social media efforts.

Additionally, social media provides an opportunity for physicians to connect with one another. Sermo, the exclusive online physician community founded in 2006, provides an opportunity for doctors to exchange clinical information, as well as discuss pressing issues such as healthcare reform.

Social media for reputation management

Now let’s talk about reputation management, which is becoming more critical for physicians in an age when doctors are receiving a plethora of online consumer ratings. The trick to online reputation management is to take control of the search engine process and literally “rise above” any negative reviews. That isn’t always easy, given the search engine dominance of HealthGrades and Vitals in most markets. As most physicians know, a HealthGrades or Vitals entry (often with consumer ratings) almost always rises to the top for most online physician searches. Even more disconcerting are the consumer sites such as Angie’s List and Yelp, which invite consumers to rate doctors right alongside local house painters and bistros. Unfortunately, comments are not always positive. As we all know in marketing, a customer who has a good experience will tell one friend, but if there’s a poor experience, that person will want to tell everyone.

In the old days, simply seeding personal website copy with key search terms was enough to take control of search engine marketing, but today it’s more complex. Google’s Panda and Penguin programs were originally designed to limit search engine spamming, but the latest updates also penalize many so-called “white hat” search engine tactics, such as adding multiple links or super-optimizing pages. Now, search engines give higher rankings to rich content, including video and participation in social media.

How can physicians ensure better search results and, ultimately, improve their reputation? A robust presence on Google+, for example, will result in optimizing one’s profile on Google. Physicians may also want to try the Google+ Hangout feature that lets them chat with up to nine participants (which may be perfect for a small patient information session). A presence on LinkedIn, too, is a good idea. Many physicians prefer LinkedIn to other sites because of its professional slant.

Advising doctors to have a Facebook profile is another issue. If they do want to go the Facebook route, then the advice is to keep a personal Facebook page separate from the professional one. Twitter is also another great tool that needs to be used with obvious discretion. We’ve all read about politicians and athletes misusing Twitter, primarily because they believe it’s a tool only for communicating with a close circle of people – it’s not, but it is considerably more powerful if used well.

Studies show that video is becoming one of the best activities for search engine optimization as well as patient engagement. Short, well-edited videos provide a total picture of the physician and come close to replicating the patient-doctor visit. Video is obviously also preferable for physicians who aren’t natural writers. For those who truly want to commit to YouTube, take a look at 1HappyDiabetic, the YouTube channel set up by vlogger Bill Woods. Woods is a patient, not a doctor, but he covers topics ranging from everyday living tips to advice for newly diagnosed diabetics. He also has extended the community to his website and responds to questions.

Is it socially acceptable to ask for good reviews? Online rating agencies such as Yelp discourage solicited reviews and warn that they will be filtered, right along with staff members who think they’re being helpful by posting reviews under pseudonyms. Instead, they suggest posting a Yelp sticker in the office and online. More realistically, it doesn’t hurt to ask a satisfied patient to recommend a practice on social sites. Just don’t provide the script of what to write.

Of course, there’s always the realm “where only the bold dare go,” which includes those new media marketing tools that may still be considered a bit more edgy. Groupon and LivingSocial, for example, have been filling up email boxes with daily deals since 2008. While dental cleanings, acupuncture, chiropractic services, and even vision exams may seem commonplace, other medical procedures and tests may raise eyebrows.

Opportunities for healthcare marketers

Clearly, with more physicians making good use of social media, it’s logical that marketers should also use these tools to communicate with “connected” doctors. Several health systems are already incorporating social media into their physician engagement plans. Here are a few trends we’re currently spotting:

  1. App Technology. Physicians love their smartphones just like the rest of us. Popular apps for doctors include Medscape, Epocrates, iRadiology, MedPage Today Mobile, Medical Radio, and MedCalc. At my health system, St. Joseph Health, we just launched an app to take the place of the traditional medical staff newsletter. The keys to success of “The SJH Pulse” have been frequent content updates, robust health industry news, and links to the rounding tool for the system’s electronic medical record. Just to add some excitement to the app’s debut, we designed special smartphone covers with The Pulse logo. In the coming months, we also plan to add online continuing medical education programs to the app.
    Similarly, University of Minnesota Amplatz Children’s Hospital has an app provider directory for smartphones. The application is used by clinicians and patients to look up doctors. It features information about pediatric specialists, a list of specialties, and a pediatric dosage calculator.
  2. Blogs. Doctors who love to blog are wonderful, especially for healthcare marketers. The Facebook page of Boston Children’s Hospital often includes links to blog posts from its physicians. Claire McCarthy, MD, is a frequent blogger for the hospital as well as for Huffington Post. Her entries are particularly insightful as she presents medical information from the perspective of both a doctor and a mother.
    Although rarer, doctor-to-doctor blogs are also valuable. Several years ago, MemorialCare Health System in Southern California used a blog to help physicians learn more about electronic medical record implementation.
  3. Twitter. Hospitals are quickly learning that doctors are on Twitter and will follow a healthcare organization’s Twitter feeds if the content is relevant to capture their attention. Healthcare organizations should also look to partner with Twitter-enthusiast doctors. Currently, there are some 1,300 doctors who have added themselves to, a site that lists “the most influential doctors on Twitter.”Another helpful strategy is to assist doctors with setting up digital dashboards. For example, provide stats on visits to physician bio Web pages. And don’t forget to recommend Klout and other methods for busy doctors to monitor their own social media effectiveness.

Clearly, physician enthusiasm for social media will grow even more and, most likely, at exponential rates. Smart organizations will reach out to doctors and partner with them to make the most of their social media presence.

eHealthcare Strategy & Trends

Responsive Web Design Enhances Mobile Browsing

Featured Article from eHealthcare Strategy & Trends

by Theresa Jacobellis

Susan Kohari, Web manager at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt in Nashville, TN, found that in September 2012, the number of people using mobile devices to access her website had doubled over the same period the previous year. “In the last 30 days, 18 percent of all of our site visits came from people on a mobile device, but during the same time frame last year, 9 percent of visits came from a mobile device,” Kohari says. “I think those numbers are going to continue to go up.”

To stay ahead of this trend and create a satisfying online experience regardless of whether the user is on a mobile device, laptop, or desktop PC, Kohari incorporated responsive design into the launch of the hospital’s new website ( Responsive design is an emerging technology that ensures that sites will dynamically conform to the device on which they are accessed. That means size, orientation, and even content and navigation may adjust to the specific characteristics of the user’s device.

More open, less brand control

Responsive design is an evolution in Web design, moving away from a static, branded medium toward a more functional, consumer-focused platform. Lin Borkey, president of ByteJam, a website and online application design and production company in Richmond, VA, says that responsive design will not work with what he calls a “print mentality.”

“It is not a pixel perfect paradigm,” says Borkey. “It is more open, more fluid, and more centered on making sure the content adapts itself to a situation, as opposed to brand design rooted in a brand persona.”

Depending on the specific screen size, design elements may shift to different areas of the page. Likewise, navigation elements may move to different locations or disappear altogether. This aspect requires that brand managers relinquish some of the control they enjoy with traditional Web page design.

“The design can’t be static. This is not a still life,” notes Rob Johnson, senior developer at ByteJam. “[The Web page becomes] a series of individual components that may be reorganized in ways the original designer may not have envisioned.”

Responsive design eliminates the need to create a parallel, mobile-optimized site. Instead, the main site automatically resizes and shifts orientation to conform to the screen on which it is viewed. Page design elements such as headings, number of columns, and column width may change.

Altru Health System in Grand Forks, ND, offers a prime example of responsive Web design in action. Visit its website ( from a desktop PC, and the site is a well-designed portal with Flash images and navigation bars linking to information for patients, visitors, providers, and job seekers. Visit the site via a mobile phone and the site automatically shifts to a palm-size version. The three-column desktop design is replaced by a one-column version in which the Altru logo takes the place of a gallery of photos across the top of the site. Immediately below the logo is a search box, followed by four navigation buttons customized to the needs of the mobile user. These are labeled “patients and visitors,” “find a provider,” “services,” and “locations.”

Along with shifting elements and page orientation, responsive design also allows for content customization. So, for example, an article may be displayed in its entirety to desktop users, while only an abbreviated version is shown to mobile device users.

With responsive design, navigation options may also be customized to ensure that the site is fully accessible whether the interface is a mouse, a keyboard, or a touch-screen. “So many navigational tools are dependent on using a mouse,” says Ben Dillon, vice president and e-health evangelist at Geonetric, a Cedar Rapids, IA, firm that specializes in healthcare digital communications. Responsive design techniques can shift site navigation from a mouse-dependent drop-down menu, for example, to a few simple buttons that respond to the tap of a finger for touch-screen device users. “With responsive design, the way users work through a site is natural and consistent, regardless of the platform,” notes Dillon.

Many benefits

Since the Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital site launched in July, Kohari has noticed a number of advantages of responsive design. “It works on any device or phone, with any browser. That’s very important,” she says.

Kohari also points out that a responsive design site is more “future-proof.” “As new screen resolutions appear in the market, the site will continue to work across the board,” she says.

Another benefit of responsive design, according to Dillon, is search engine optimization. “In many cases, mobile-optimized sites have their own, different domain names,” he says. “Responsive sites in part get an added SEO boost because the page is the same page with the same domain name and same URL, no matter what device it is being accessed on.”

One URL can lead to increased traffic because visits are not split between the main and mobile site, which can, in turn, lead to better page rank. In addition, Google penalizes sites for duplicate content, which occurs with a mobile-optimized site. Responsive design takes care of that issue.

Responsive design also simplifies the process of making updates and changes. “We used to have a separate mobile site to maintain, so if we made changes to one, we would have to go to another,” Kohari observes. “Now we just change things in one place.”

But more work at outset

On the downside, because the site design includes contingencies for multiple platforms, responsive design sites may take longer to plan and implement and could be more costly.

“There is more code, because essentially we have to build four sites into one,” says Kohari. “One of the things we had to spend a lot of time on was backward browser compatibility. We still have machines in the hospital and a small external audience using IE 6. Responsive design is really compatible with IE 7 and above.”

In developing Altru Health System’s site, which launched on August 28, Jennifer Neis, website coordinator, was pleased to find that all of her site’s interactive features could be adapted to responsive design. “We could pretty much do everything,” she says, searching employment opportunities, viewing the baby photo gallery, sending an e-card, making a donation, or paying a bill. “Nothing interactive had to be sacrificed [for the sake of responsive design].”

Consumer behavior shift

The technology to create websites using responsive design isn’t new. However, it wasn’t until recently that advances in hardware and increases in bandwidth contributed to a major shift in consumer behavior, driving the demand for responsive design.

Just a year or two ago, “we assumed that at home or in the office, people would prefer to use a desktop computer and not bother with a little tiny screen held in their hand,” Dillon says.

Those assumptions are no longer valid. “Tablet sales have overtaken traditional PC sales. People are doing their primary Web browsing on mobile devices,” says Johnson of ByteJam. “There is a huge audience of people who are consuming content through nontraditional means.”

According to Geonetric, across all industries, information-seeking behavior using mobile devices showed a 76 percent increase from December 2010 to December 2011. However, Geonetric found that the growth was even more pronounced in the healthcare sector, increasing more than 130 percent over the same one-year period.

“It is not uncommon for one in four visitors to a site to be using a mobile device,” Dillon says.

At the same time, Geonetric notes an overall increase in website traffic from all sources. “So it isn’t that mobile users are replacing traditional computer users,” says Dillon. “At least some of that traffic is mobile visits that people would not have thought to do later in the day at their computers.”

Outside of the healthcare realm, ByteJam’s Borkey points to the automotive industry as an early adopter of responsive Web design. Consumers are accustomed to checking car dealers’ websites for vehicle specifications and pricing information. Using responsive design, they can access the same information using their mobile devices while on the lot.

Information at patients’ fingertips

As patients become more savvy mobile online users, they will find that responsive design puts a world of personal health information at their fingertips. “A big driver in healthcare is the EMR,” said Borkey. “If a patient is at his doctor’s office and needs to pull up a piece of his record, then a mobile-focused solution for that is critical. That is a perfect application for responsive design.”

Altru patients already have access to this capability. Altru’s responsive website links up with MyHealth, the patient portal powered by electronic medical record provider Epic Systems. “Patients can look for their previous appointments, see their lab test results, look at past prescriptions, or pay their bill using the mobile site,” says Neis.

“Consumer expectations are getting higher and higher every day,” says Johnson. “We are going to have to be better and better.”

Theresa Jacobellis, MS, has more than two decades of experience in healthcare marketing. She is director of public and external affairs at Good Samaritan Hospital Medical Center in West Islip, NY. You can reach her at thjacobellis [at] optonline [dot] net.

Strategic Health Care Marketing Logo

The C-Suite Weighs In on Health Care Branding

Featured Article from Strategic Health Care Marketing

by Candace A. Quinn

Marketers have spent the past 10 to 15 years focusing on emerging brand development initiatives for their organizations. Marketers want the brand equity of a Cleveland Clinic, Mayo Clinic, or Johns Hopkins Medicine, yet most of them represent the typical community-based hospital or health system that is slugging it out with the other hospitals or health systems in the area.

I had the opportunity to speak with seven C-suite occupants who had either recently undergone efforts to redevelop their brands or were in the midst of doing so. From my own experience as a brand consultant, I knew that C-suite members typically have wide-ranging views on the value of brand development. The editor of Strategic Health Care Marketing and I thought it would be interesting to see if I could capture those thoughts.

The interviewees had the caveat that they could remain anonymous, recognizing that their brand strategies (and philosophies about the same) are among some of their most strategic assets. When relevant, I have provided a brief description of the organization, its marketplace, or other pertinent parameters within which to couch the subject’s comments.

Q. Your organization is in a very competitive market. How would you describe your brand position today? What prompted you to undertake brand development work? Has your brand changed since you began that work? In what ways?

A. Specialty hospital in a major metropolitan market with big-brand competition. Before our brand work, we were really misunderstood. The brand was sleepy and essentially unrecognized. Today—three years later—we are better understood by both consumers and providers. And it is leading to a better contracting position for us.

A. Large academic medical center. Our brand journey began over 15 years ago. It started with a focus on brand architecture and resulted in the creation of very new brand experiences. Today, we are a single brand across multiple entities and are applying our brand experience work across multiple centers of excellence.

A. Large Midwest system. We also started with a brand architecture project and recognized that our current brand had no solidarity of meaning and no real differentiation from any other organization. In fact, our system meant nothing; we were simply a collection of area hospitals.

A. Large community hospital in a two-hospital town. As competition heated up, and advertising wars were a way of life, we realized that differentiation was going to be even more critical. We knew what set us apart, but we suspected that our communities did not. A hospital is a hospital to the average consumer. We embrace some very special values as an organization, and we need to find a way to position this difference to resonate with our communities.

Q. Did your organization go beyond naming, logos, and external elements of the brand identity in your project? What role did the brand experience play in your brand development work?

A. While we did logo, look and feel, and external messaging, we also knew we had to go beyond great patient satisfaction scores. We had to set service standards based upon a process to identify a host of consumer expectations—we needed to match promises to practices and vice versa.

A. We found the voice of the patient to be a compelling and motivating agent of real change. In every instance where we have engaged patients in the experience design, we have found sustainable results.

A. We are always developing the experience. Our brand is built on the experiences of the people we serve. We tell our brand stories through the eyes of the patients and their caregivers. We have extraordinary stories to tell. We serve an enormously large population from across the country, and people come back to us because of the brand experience.

A. Our brand is based on a brand experience that no one else can offer in our market, so we empower every team in our organization to put that difference to work in its area. We are continuously overlaying the principles of “how” we do our work to show how we are different.

A. We had the great fortune to be able to build a new facility and took that opportunity to go beyond building a physical building. We wanted to build an experience. So we engaged Starizon, an experience design firm, to assist us in a formal design process that forced us to rethink every encounter, every touch point, and every aspect of the patient experience to determine if and how we could differentiate ourselves from the competition.

Q. Would you describe your brand position today as meaningfully differentiated from your competition? In what way?

A. We learned that spending more money did not equal better advertising. Telling better stories—tying back to our brand through warm and fuzzy stories—is touching, but our brand is also about serious medicine. Finding that balance and staying on brand have allowed us to put great distance between our brand and our competition. Fortunately for us, competitors are still trying to figure out what their brands stand for.

A. We’re getting feedback already from our community that our brand is really resonating. Our marketing initiatives have adapted to the new look and feel at the core of our brand, and we are seeing results. We recognized that all the advertising in the world won’t make a difference if our patients don’t have a meaningful brand experience. Case in point: Since we’ve focused on improving our brand experience in our ED, we went from below the 20th percentile in overall satisfaction to the 89th percentile—in just three reporting periods.

A. While we continue to differentiate ourselves around our triple aim of improving the health of the populations we serve, keeping health care affordable in our community, and improving the individual’s experience, it is really the latter that will truly differentiate us. Quality standards are so high today that patients are assured of reasonably sound levels of quality, and in a competitive market, cost or price is driven by the contracting parties. So in the end, it will boil down to the experience.

A. Meaningful differentiation—we are on the road to it. We want to be a national brand one day. To do that, we have to become a stronger regional brand. As we compete with full-service providers and other specialty hospitals in our specialty, we will need not only the best talent, the easiest access, the lowest pricing, we will need to deliver the best, most unexpected experience to capture a national audience.

Q. How are you measuring the value of your brand today?

A. We use HCAHPS scores, recommendation scores, consumer studies, and we trend market share across all service lines. We are intrigued by the concept of a Net Promoter Score, developed by Fred Reichheld, a business strategist at Bain & Company. In essence, it is derived by subtracting the percent of detractors from the percent of promoters. Determining whether one is a detractor or promoter depends on how one answers “the likelihood of recommending your hospital” question. An ideal score would be 100 percent. We have a way to go, but have seen improvement throughout the journey.

A. We are three years into our brand journey. We’ve seen 10 percent growth in volumes, two-point growth in market share in just the past year—but there is more to it than the numbers. I see value in the new confidence our physicians have in our future. They are prepared to invest themselves when they have other options for their practice. We have numerous business opportunities coming our way; it seems everyone wants to be our partner today. We are recruiting the best doctors in our specialty across the country, taking them away from some very prestigious organizations. I’m not sure how you “measure” that, but it’s very real.

Q. Looking ahead to health care reform, ACOs, and all of the market consolidation, what will be the impact of having a strong, well-defined brand? Do you anticipate any brand strategy changes?

A. We are already seeing the benefits. National employers are looking for national centers of excellence for specific services. Regionally, we are already at the top of the list for our specialty and are moving up in national rankings by every measure. We have to have a strong brand, meaningfully differentiated among our competition, because national contractors are seeking that out. We want to be on everyone’s short list for our specialty.

A. We have come to realize that it will all come back to relationships. Do we have the relationships with the providers that we need across the continuum, and what will be the basis for the relationship? We believe it will be shared values, shared philosophies, and at the core of that will be our brand experience. We can control how we treat one another, how we treat our partners, and how we treat our patients and their families. We are already a strong partner across our region and have had an overwhelming response to our brand experience, as evidenced by the number of new partners coming our way. I don’t see any major brand strategy changes on the horizon, but the dilution of the brand across new partnerships is a concern to me. We can’t leave that to chance and are working hard to put brand standards in place that transcend look and feel. Our brand standards will be about the experience.

A. I firmly believe that strong brands can demand more from ACO relationships. Regardless of the insurer, strong brands will be included in contracts because without the strong brand, the insurer can’t sell plans. I also caution my CEO colleagues to gain a better understanding of the cost/value equation. So often I hear about or see my colleagues slashing the marketing budgets in their organizations to reduce costs. In reality, their focus should be on growth—gaining share and improving overall financial performance with the kind of business that generates revenues, to support the business that doesn’t.

A. As a result of the Affordable Care Act, we anticipate the industry consolidating significantly. The advantage—if all else is equal, including financial and market share, and you have a strong brand and are living that brand—is that you will attract a strong, loyal patient base and that will attract strong partners. Aligning those strong brands across common shared value systems will result in strong affiliations. For so many of us, it’s not if – it’s when. We want to be in the driver’s seat when that day comes.

A. We’ve been watching and experiencing that consolidation already in our market. We have been in the control position for nearly two decades. But as a top brand, we can’t rest on those laurels. We continue to focus on our vision, but at the same time, we focus on how we treat our partners—our physicians, our employees, our payers, our customers. We stay on top of their needs, we develop new services only when partners that share our values can’t be found, and we continuously reach out to our customers and stakeholders as a strategy for continued growth and guidance. In return, these customers and stakeholders are our advocates and our catalysts for continued improvement. We believe that brands do evolve, and with growth comes a renewed focus on maintaining the core values of the brand. However, as consolidation continues to occur, we believe if we keep our customers and stakeholders at the center of our decision making, we will deliver on our brand promise every time.

Candace A. Quinn is CEO and senior consultant for
Brand=Experience in Loves Park, IL. You can reach Quinn at candace [at] brandequalsexperience [dot] com.

Strategic Health Care Marketing Logo

Marketing of Employed Doctors Is All Over the Map; Strategies to Keep Abreast of the Scramble and Get It Right

Featured Article from Strategic Health Care Marketing

by Michele von Dambrowski

“The growth of employed physicians has occurred so fast in some systems that … it has outstripped the ability of the marketing department to keep up,” says David Marlowe, principal of consulting firm Strategic Marketing Concepts in Ellicott City, MD. Marlowe’s observation comes in part from a qualitative “convenience” survey that he and Kriss Barlow, a principal with consulting firm Barlow/McCarthy, conducted recently.

Marlowe and Barlow interviewed representatives of 21 client and colleague organizations of varying size and number of physicians they employed – anywhere from less than 25 doctors to more than 1,000. “There [was] no consistent pattern” in their approach to marketing, Marlowe told attendees of the annual conference of the Society for Healthcare Strategy & Market Development held in Philadelphia in September.

In total, the organizations employed more than 6,800 doctors, including care extenders such as nurse practitioners. The majority of participants reported, somewhat unexpectedly, having a higher percentage of specialists than primary care physicians. Half of the organizations reported having a single employed group brand identity. In the case of the other half, “the marketer was desperately trying to get” a single system name, says Barlow, who commented during Marlowe’s presentation.

Less than one-third of the organizations stated they had marketing staff dedicated to employed doctors. Almost half had a dedicated marketing budget, with the remainder stating that dollars for marketing employed physicians was part of the overall marketing budget. The budget range per physician was huge, says Marlowe, from a paltry $55 to a princely $8,333.

Drawing on a 32-year career as a practitioner and consultant in health care marketing and planning, Marlowe also provided advice on how marketers can have a significant, positive impact in supporting employed physician groups and protecting their organization’s investment.

Understand practices

Given that hospitals are frequently criticized for not knowing how to run physician practices, Marlowe says, how can they be expected to know how to market them? Since there aren’t many role models for medical practice marketing, hospital and health system marketers need to spend time with doctors and practice administrators, attend Medical Group Management Association programs, and do other research and reading. “There’s a culture, and nuance, to practices that you must understand before you can effectively market them,” Marlowe states. Most practices are small businesses, he adds, and they run accordingly.

Getting inside the heads of physicians is also critical, such as realizing the emotional implications for doctors who cede control of their practices. Marketers also must grasp that their own job can involve more tactical thinking.

Critically, marketers must understand any given physician’s financial and legal arrangement with the organization. “Don’t assume that because you have 200 doctors in your employed group, they all have the same deal. Are they really employed? There are a whole bunch of contractual structures … and only at a certain end of the spectrum do they cross the Stark lines and allow you to [legally] market the practice,” says Marlowe.

Knowing the financial model is also important in understanding a physician’s goals. Marlowe notes that a doctor who is on a pure salary arrangement isn’t likely to resist having a new physician join the practice, unlike a doctor who is solely compensated on the basis of patient volume.

Balance employed and independent

“Strategically, it’s untenable for a hospital or health system to remain half independent and half employed [in makeup of the medical staff] for too long,” Marlowe says. “It will just tear your organization apart” in being confronted by marketing, political, and structural challenges. It’s his view that once employed physicians exceed 50 percent of the organization’s volume and revenues and the trend upward is clear, there is a need to commit to marketing the employed group.

Marlowe notes that more than five years ago, a real but unnamed two-hospital system fully committed to marketing its employed physicians – currently about 90 percent of the area’s primary care physicians. The system’s independent orthopedic groups responded by banding together to open a surgery center and eventually a hospital. The system countered by hiring its own orthopedic group, to which primary care physicians direct referrals. “This is a marketing issue,” Marlowe observes.

Deal with leadership promises

Hospital and system leaders frequently make marketing promises in their efforts to recruit physicians or negotiate practice purchases. As one New Jersey hospital marketing department found, the result was the acquisition of eight groups that each maintained its own name. “One group went out and bought radio ads,” says Marlowe. “Another wanted its own logo.”

The best practice calls for having a clear onboarding process that gives specific levels of support and has leadership’s blessing and backing. To head off potential chaos, the marketing department of one Midwest system designed a three-tier method of support. The third tier, representing physicians without any capacity for additional patient volume, receives only maintenance support. The first tier, representing high-opportunity growth services, receives two or three times the money of the second tier, including mass media advertising and customer relationship management support.

Handle physician expectations of marketing

“Your job is to show the doctors what they really need as opposed [to a billboard],” Marlowe points out. Among the areas to address are customer service, relationships with referring physicians, and access.

“Capacity is a huge issue,” he says. Mystery shopping of physician practices, he adds, “should be as routine as doing your consumer survey every year or two. If patients can’t get in to your channel of access … then you have a significant marketing problem.”

Efforts to open up more practice slots through changes in office hours and operations or recruitment of additional providers should come before promotional support. Addressing access issues “is part of the marketer’s job,” Marlowe observes.

Move to dedicated resources

As employed physician groups become larger, they will demand dedicated marketing support from the system, and failing to get that support, they will hire people on their own. Some organizations, says Marlowe, are viewing these groups as a service line and assigning marketing resources accordingly.

Boost familiarity and referrals within the group

Marlowe notes that it’s not unusual for physicians within newly formed employed groups not to know one another. Marketers need to delve into their basic toolbox to create social event opportunities, take physicians to meet other doctors in their offices, deploy print and electronic communications vehicles, and develop other avenues to promote intragroup cohesiveness and referrals. “One communication methodology between doctors doesn’t cut it,” he warns.

Barlow recommends that at the time physicians sign on, marketers assess the new physician’s familiarity with the other doctors in the group. “Inventory some of those referral patterns and begin right away to assign a liaison to start introductions,” she says. “The bad thing is that we sit tight for six months and let them continue with their old patterns.”

Limit leakage

Marketers need to keep close tabs on referral patterns for each provider, including nurse practitioners and physician assistants, and determine the reasons – and solutions – for referrals leaving the group. Is the driver of leakage a case of old habits that die hard? Lack of access on the part of in-group doctors? Absence of service capability in-house? Insurance requirements? Quality concerns? My-patient-requested-the-referral reasoning should be “taken with a grain of salt,” says Marlowe. “It’s true to a degree, but it’s rarely true to the percentage that you will hear it.”

In one case, Marlowe relates, a hospital found that many of its 125 employed physicians tended not to refer to the organization’s three employed urologists. After discovering that one urologist had a six-week wait for an appointment and the other two were of marginal quality, the hospital encouraged one of the marginal physicians to retire and recruited two new, high-quality doctors in the course of one year.

In the absence of quality or access concerns, dealing with a physician who continues to send only half of his referrals in-house begins with discussion and persuasion. An intermediate step might be to structure group financials, whereby the group is penalized by a member’s out-of-group referrals. Ultimately, the system can choose not to renew a physician’s employment contract, Marlowe notes.

Build a group brand identity—and value

“I don’t believe it’s a fatal strategic flaw to not have a branded über group,” Marlowe says. “But if you ever want to have the dominant physician brand in the market, it won’t happen if you have 28 different names.”

Marlowe reminds marketers that the brand also has to provide value to its market – a tough job given that most groups have been in existence for less than five years. He relates that a large group of 200 providers established its value by adding a number of desirable services and marketing them to consumers. The value-added services included full access to an electronic medical record, centralized scheduling, after-hours primary and urgent care coverage, and specialized screenings. A measure of the group’s success is the fact that it added 30,000 new active patient charts in a year. “You start differentiating your group from the other options in town,” says Marlowe.

Seasonal Bids Lists HOAleader As One of the “Top 15 Property Management Influencers on Twitter”

Thanks to the folks at Seasonal Bids for recognizing’s content in their recent blog post on property management influencers. Here’s their quote about us:

great resource for HOA leaders who are interested in staying up to date with what you need to do now to comply with HOA laws, steer clear of legal trouble, avoid or resolve conflicts within your homeowners association, make HOA management easier, and safeguard your community association’s property values and quality of life.

Read the entire Seasonal Bids list of “Top 15 Property Management Influencers on Twitter” on their blog.

Follow us on Twitter at @HOAleader.