Marketing makes all the difference in improving patient flow.

The healthcare industry is always looking at ways to improve the process of moving patients effectively and efficiently through the system—from changing admission and discharge policies, to enhancing staffing structures—and these efforts have helped. For this reason, many in the industry continue to focus on what can be done internally—improving document processing, automating tasks, structuring workflow differently, and even redesigning building floor plans. While all of these changes can improve patient flow, let’s talk about how to improve it from the patient side of things.

We have posted a few items on how changing healthcare’s approach to marketing from a consumer industry-based perspective (selling patients on the benefits of healthcare) to a more educational approach (teaching patients about the process). We have also discussed how government oversights can be beneficial in marketing to patients even though it might seem counterintuitive. But what about once the patient is actually in the hospital or engaged by the hospital itself due to an illness or injury? How can marketing actually help patient flow?

First, it’s important to remember that marketing is a continual process; it’s not something that stops the moment the patient is engaged.

A car manufacturer doesn’t tell its salespeople to stop selling the moment the customer walks into the showroom thinking the job is done; on the contrary, that’s when it begins. But that’s exactly how healthcare marketing works, at least from the patients’ perspective. Once they enter the system, there’s often a loss of engagement. Marketing has done its job—gotten them in the door—beyond that, it doesn’t do much to keep them engaged.

What would happen to patient flow if the same messages that got people into the system were present once they became patients? Why not keep them connected to the overall experience by providing consistently present marketing? Create visually appealing signage that direct patients to the correct desk or room. Design displays that are interactive and entertaining, or collateral that educates them about what’s in store for them during their visit? What about flowcharts that help them navigate the admission and discharge process? Carry language, design, themes and thought process from the original marketing concept all the way through the patient experience, from first touch to the moment they walk out the door—and beyond.

Streamlining internal processes within Healthcare is important to improving patient flow—but it is only half the equation. The other half is keeping patients connected to the process all the way through their experience.

That requires a sound marketing strategy, and it can make all the difference.