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Critical Access Hospitals (CAH’s): The Importance of Marketing

As a healthcare professional in a Critical Access Hospital (CAH), you may have the misconception that patients will automatically seek your services when they need acute or emergency care. However, just because your hospital is located in close proximity to folks who live in a rural area, doesn’t mean people are aware of the services you provide for the local community. In fact, the local community — your ideal patients — may not even realize that your CAH offers essential healthcare services right in their own backyard. 

Critical Access Hospitals — along with Sole Community Hospitals (SCH), Medicare-Dependent Hospitals (MDH), and Rural Referral Centers (RRC) — were created and funded to ensure that there is a basic set of services within reasonable driving distance for the communities they support. But, many of these types of rural hospitals are also located just a few miles closer than a major medical facility. So, when patients need healthcare, they may opt to drive a little farther to get what they perceive as a higher level of care and state-of-the-art treatments — often the same care that you, as a local Critical Access Hospital (CAH), Sole Community Hospital (SCH), Medicare Dependent Hospital (MDH), or Rural Referral Center (RRC) can offer. 

This is why it’s important for all types of rural or medicare-dependent hospitals to create and implement effective marketing strategies. It’s up to you to educate the community so they know they can count on your healthcare services when they need them most. 

A purposeful marketing plan helps increase awareness and attracts more patients to your rural or remote hospital. Marketing also helps your organization build positive relationships with future patients and other medical providers in the area, who can become valuable referral sources.

Marketing Dispels Misconceptions About Available Treatments

Marketing educates the community, so they know they can rely on their local CAH, SCH, or MDH when the time comes. Say, for example, someone in close proximity to your Critical Access Hospital is experiencing abdominal pain. While it’s not quite an emergency, the patient needs professional healthcare to determine the underlying cause of the pain. If the patient is unaware or unsure of the services the closest CAH offers, he may choose to drive 35-plus miles to a specialty group or larger hospital in a nearby city. 

Why would anyone opt for a longer drive to receive healthcare when your hospital is just five minutes away? In this example, the patient may assume that the local Critical Access Hospital does not have the medical equipment, staff, or expertise to conduct appropriate testing. Patients have a tendency to believe that smaller, rural healthcare facilities don’t have the latest and greatest facilities, or even enough highly trained physicians, to best care for them.

However, you know that’s simply not true. You know that under the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), a Critical Access Hospital receives funding and benefits that allow them to offer essential medical services — including 24/7/365 emergency care — to underserved, remote areas. But unless you’ve conveyed this to your community, chances are, most people aren’t aware of the types of services you provide. Most people may not even realize that the government funding and benefits allow your hospital to provide the care and treatment patients need, so they don’t have to make the trek to the nearest metro area. 

Marketing Your CAH Builds a Positive Relationship With the Local Community

As a remote healthcare facility, one of your goals is to attract more patients, so you can continue to offer essential services and make a positive impact in the community. Marketing your Critical Access Hospital can help achieve these goals by establishing trust and positive relationships with the local community. 

It may surprise people when they learn about the kinds of healthcare services they can receive within a short distance from their homes. Effective marketing strategies help raise awareness and educate your target audience. It also helps build and support a trusted relationship in the community. 

With established trust in your brand, when the time comes for emergency or acute care, patients feel confident going to their local CAH instead of traveling to a larger hospital. Creating a positive relationship with the local community means your CAH is present, involved, and personal. 

Improving the reputation of your physicians, as well as the reputation of the organization as a whole, can also go a long way in building positive relationships with your local community. A good marketing plan makes sure your Critical Access Hospital’s online presence reflects the outstanding care you offer. You can also improve your reputation through online reviews and patient surveys that shed light on any areas that need your attention. 

Marketing Your CAH Helps Increase Patient Referrals

Beyond educating patients and building relationships with the local community, marketing for healthcare can also help Critical Access Hospitals and rural health centers increase their referrals. Marketing raises awareness and helps build relationships with local medical professionals, which in turn, become patient referral sources. Primary care physicians and other healthcare providers can refer patients to your CAH for specialized care. By establishing these relationships and promoting your services, it helps increase patient volume and revenue.

Through proven marketing practices, such as predictive targeting and paid search ads, you can more easily target and attract your ideal patients. As a result, when patients need your services, they’ll already know what you offer right in their hometown.

Overall, marketing is an important tool for critical care hospitals and rural health centers to reach their target audience, promote their services, and build a positive reputation in their communities. Your CAH marketing plan should aim to:

  • Help your community understand what services and specializations you offer; 
  • Allow patients to easily find you online when they search for those types of services

Keep in mind that as a CAH, MDH, SCH, or RRC, you don’t have to be everything to everyone like the big hospitals are. Be good at what you do for those that need you most, and make it easy to be found online.

How do you accomplish these goals?

Use the right kind of automated marketing tools to help you stand out, so your rural healthcare facility is the obvious choice in your community. If you need some help getting started, the SocialClimb platform offers a variety of healthcare marketing services and tools for marketing organizations of all sizes and specialties. 

Schedule a consultation with us today to learn more about attracting patients and saving time with our automated solutions.


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