Hospital Marketing: Can You Stop Patient Out-Migrating?

image010Consumers who are younger and more internet savvy are more likely to travel out of market.

Although there is much discussion these days about patients traveling out of their local market for healthcare services, the practice is not as prevalent as it seems. Only 2% of patients travel to hospitals more than 100 miles from their home according to a study by Thomson Reuters. But those who do usually have some common characteristics. According to the study:

  • They are affluent
  • Tend to be younger – under the age of 54
  • Married
  • Select hospitals based on reputation
  • Value latest technology
  • Use the internet for medical research

Even though you hear a good bit about mainly celebrities who travel out of the country for healthcare procedures, which are not provided in the U.S., or because the cost is lower, this practice is not very prevalent. It is more likely that a person would travel domestically to seek healthcare. There are some obvious and unalterable reasons some travel for services – they require specialized services not available in their local market.

Others, and the ones marketing professions can impact, are those who research to find a “top hospital”. These households are heavily penetrated with media and they use the Internet to research hospital ratings and the availability of the latest technology. Hospital marketers should engage this group by being transparent and providing information about the hospital’s ratings, value of services, physician expertise, and available technology. Hospital websites and non-traditional media are strong venues for communicating to these individuals.

The good news for community hospitals and regional medical centers is that healthcare is still local. 98% of inpatient discharges are for patients within 100 miles of the hospital.

So yes, the domestic healthcare traveler has some common characteristics and can be targeted with specific media.  But local competition is the key battleground and that is where the fight is waged and the victory is determined. 

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