If a healthcare system plans to establish a new outpatient surgery center marketing research will be needed to assess the potentials of the new establishment. How could one design a marketing plan for this new healthcare system?
Marketing for a proposed outpatient surgical center would presumably be predicated upon an identified need for such a facility in a particular location. Advances in surgical procedures and technologies combined with the exorbitant cost of hospital stays have resulted in an increase in the number of outpatient surgical procedures performed. Outpatient surgical centers have proven advantageous to both health care professionals and patients alike for the informality and expeditious nature of the processes used and the level of individualized care they provide. These centers lack the large, intimidating presence of hospitals, which also instill a sense of anonymity among patients submerged into a veritable sea of sick and wounded people with endless nameless staff scurrying about. When marketing a new outpatient facility, therefore, these are precisely the types of favorable comparisons an advertising firm would focus upon.
As the originally-worded question indicated, marketing research would be used to develop the most effective strategy and make sure the right message is reaching the right people. By their nature, outpatient procedures are less involved than those that must occur inside a formal hospital operating room. They are less time-intensive and seldom involve life-and-death procedures, assuming, of course, that no tissue biopsies reveal cancerous cells. In short, an outpatient surgical center would target its marketing to the young, mobile segments of society: those less inclined to prefer a visit to a hospital to the smaller, more relaxed setting constructed into the design for most such outpatient facilities. Images of smiling, relaxed pre- and post-operative patients would appear in a marketing campaign, as would the substantial cost savings involved in utilizing these facilities relative to a hospital.
Another element of a marketing campaign for an outpatient surgical center would involve location. Again, much smaller and informal in appearance than hospitals, outpatient centers can geographically and aesthetically fit into more urban and suburban locations than large hospitals with even larger parking lots. An emphasis on convenience, then, would presumably constitute another attribute for inclusion in a marketing campaign.
Accumulating data on the need for a surgical center in a particular community could involve identification of the location of the nearest medical complex from which referrals could occur or, conversely, could indicate an absence of a large-enough need for such a facility and the requirement to seek out alternative locations. Health care is a universal need; everybody, at some point, needs some kind of minor surgical procedure. A community that appears underserved by the health care industry would be a logical target, especially if local family doctors are otherwise limited to referring patients to larger, more distant and intimidating hospitals. Surveying community physicians who specialize in family practice and internal medicine would provide invaluable insights into the viability of opening a new outpatient center in the area.
Outpatient surgical centers have concrete attributes that would provide natural areas of emphasis for marketers. Marketing to both family physicians and to surrounding communities would provide a viable strategy for success.