Healthcare Organizations’ Marketing in Richmond, Virginia

Introduction

Marketing is critical component for healthcare organizations in the context of the U.S. private consumer-based health system. It allows to provide awareness to the population about the services and facilities that are offered at the location and make it appealable so that individuals choose it for healthcare delivery when needed. Marketing can also create a positive image of the healthcare service to foster patient satisfaction and quality of care. The chosen report will analyze two acute care hospitals in Richmond, Virginia and evaluate their marketing potential.

Overview

The chosen location is the metropolitan area of Richmond, Virginia which is the state capital and one of the biggest cities in the region with a population of over 1.3 million. It has a variety of neighborhoods, ranging from highly urban residential and business areas to a number of suburban residential areas that vary in industry, population demographics, and income levels. However, the focus will be on two large urban hospitals located within the city limits and serve the whole metropolitan area due to their size and high number of specializations.

The first hospital is the VCU Medical Center which is part of the Virginia Commonwealth University. It is a large urban medical center which has several facilities in the nearby location of downtown Richmond, including the main hospital, a children’s hospital, and a critical care hospital, and the Massey Cancer Center. The VCU Medical Center is considered to be one of the best hospitals nationwide, consistently ranking in the top 50 for cancer, heart, kidney disorders, and rehabilitation treatments. It is also the only hospital to have a level one trauma center specializing in intensive in the Central Virginia area. VCU has 811 licensed beds, with over 85,000 emergency department visits and 558,000 outpatient visits per year (VHI, n.d.).

The second hospital is the Bon Secours Richmond Community Hospital. Founded in 1907, it is part of the Bon Secours Health System, a Catholic non-for-profit health system which runs hospitals and other medical facilities across Maryland, Virginia, and Kentucky, and South Carolina. Richmond has several Bon Secours based acute hospitals of which Richmond Community is the primary one. It is an inpatient acute care 104-bed hospital with an additional dedicated 40-bed acute psychiatric treatment unit. The hospital is recognized is one of the best in the Central U.S. for delivery of emergency room services and ER patient satisfaction. The hospital also offers outpatient care out of an adjacent medical office building. The hospital served between 20,000 and 39,000 patients on an annual basis (Bon Secours, n.d.).

Four P’s of Marketing

The product that the VCU Medical Center offers is the most innovative and modern healthcare in Central Virginia. It has some of the best facilities, professionals, and equipment in a high variety of specializations, particularly for cancer and cardiovascular conditions. The hospital’s marketing focuses on this with the brand being synonymous with the most elite and optimal care. The hospital has a good placement being located in central downtown Richmond with highly available public transportation and relatively equal distance from all areas of the metropolitan area.

The only issue may be difficulty with parking, but the medical center offers special parking lots for its staff and patients. In terms of pricing, VCU offers standard health care insurance cooperation. However, standard pricing at VCU Medical Center is generally higher than most urban and regional hospitals ranging from $8,000 to $12,000 per day depending on the condition. VCU attempts to be transparent with its pricing and offers patient a variety of consultations on health coverage. Finally, VCU has a strong promotion strategy. As a large for-profit medical center, it has a large marketing budget that was recently used for completely redefining its brand in 2015. The hospital also benefits from its affiliation with a prestigious medical university and research facilities that are used to support its high innovation healthcare stance.

Bon Secours Richmond Community Hospital is much smaller, focusing on providing key services to its population and priding itself on doing it well. For example, it has a highly efficient and quality emergency department. It also offers general surgery and psychiatric care, which it has excellent records and patient satisfaction in due to its smaller size. Bon Secours is part of a non-for-profit organization, so its pricing is less aggressive and more affordable in comparison to VCU, averaging at about $2,000 to $5,000 per day depending on condition. The location of the hospital is more on the edge of the Richmond urban area, in a single campus with lots of available space, not clustered in various highly packed buildings like VCU. It can be argued that the location is more accessible and easier to identify. The promotion of the hospital is weak as it does not focus on the specific hospital itself but rather than the whole Bon Secours health system. The system does have digital and traditional advertisements which support its patient-first strategy and more intimate and affordable healthcare setting, but people can only find mention of the Richmond Community Hospital by searching online for their nearby Bon Secours location.

Five P’s of Healthcare Marketing

As a large medical center, VCU has a large number of physicians many of whom are well-accomplished. Physicians largely recall a positive culture with an appropriate level of autonomy and salaries. However, in a large system, physicians feel they have limited impact unless it is a senior employee, but overall physician concerns are usually addressed. VCU Medical Center relies on a high volume of patients for business offering high quality of services in some of its specializations. However, it lacks the quality and efficiency in some of the more commonly utilized services such as emergency care or some inpatient care. Furthermore, VCU has faced much criticism over its years-long practice of suing patients over unpaid hospital bills, a practice only recently ended (Hancock & Lucas, 2019). VCU has long-lasting relationships with insurance providers and government insurance, both of which also have headquarters in the city. Payer structures are well defined as VCU is a for-profit organization. Public perception of VCU is positive and highly recognized. The hospital’s presence in the Richmond community and association with the university is unparalleled and many Richmonders see VCU as the pride of the city from a healthcare perspective. In politics, VCU meets all modern FDA and other health standards as well as often being the leader in health policy in the state legislation due to its proximity in the state capital (Etters, 2015).

Bon Secours Richmond Community Hospital is a more tight-knit healthcare environment. Physicians in the system are highly valued and are often passionate about patient work. The Bon Secours health system is known for gaining physician consensus on health policy before implementing it and offering initiatives to help physicians embrace teamwork. Bon Secours patients are diverse, but the hospital typically serves families who value the atmosphere and close care. The hospital patients are often loyal and choose to return there in the future (Wager, Lee, & Glaser, 2017). The hospital has a good relationship with payers, being more affordable it does not experience many issues with payment. It accepts major insurance providers and Medicare or Medicaid coverage. Public perception of the Richmond Community Hospital is based on the general message of the Bon Secours system that values intimate care and excellent quality. Politics-wise the hospital is non-profit meeting all regulatory standards and has not experienced notable issues with legislation and implementing modern health policies and tools in its system.

Marketing Potential

Comparing the marketing mix of both hospitals, it seems that the VCU Medical Center has the most marketing potential for the local population. This conclusion is based on the fact that it is more consolidated as one large medical center, has greater brand recognition, offers a greater variety of highly innovative services, and has more influence over its future direction and local health policy. With the ever-growing presence of digital and social media in all aspects of life including healthcare, hospitals are expected to utilize these potential technologies for healthcare marketing. Information sharing through marketer-controlled platforms such social media and websites is present. Furthermore, telemedicine is an emerging omni-channel which is used to reach consumers and preferred by many for information exchange and informed decision-making (Swan, Dahl, & Peltier, 2019).

VCU has greater potential in terms of marketing due to its already tremendous brand name presence in the area and online. In addition, its budget and highly innovative technical capabilities can allow it to engage in more experimental marketing areas such as telehealth, introducing multi-specialist teams for remote treatment. Furthermore, its close connection to the city through politics and even a cultural presence as a facility focused on medicine and its research can be highly beneficial to build on in healthcare marketing.

Marketing Strategy

The marketing strategy for VCU should be focused on expanding its services in the area. Successful healthcare marketing is tasked with finding competitive differentiation, finding service quality, and improving productivity. It is vital for any service firm, including a hospital to deliver higher quality of service than competitors (Tripathi, 2018). The Richmond area has a high number of relatively large hospitals, and there are large medical centers in cities within 150 miles in practically all directions. Therefore, expansion to new markets would not be highly efficient or profitable. It can be done on a minor scale to advertise VCU as a leading center for trauma and cancer treatment.

The majority of patients for VCU will come from Richmond itself, and it is important to meet the growing needs of the population. This includes potentially expanding its services to offer psychiatric help and improving the quality of its emergency department that struggles due to volume behind its competitors. Using VCU’s significant influence and budget, it may be viable to invest in newly innovative services such as telemedicine described earlier or screenings for populations, particularly the vulnerable minority populations that commonly reside in the downtown area of Richmond. Attracting new patients from the suburban hospitals is vital as well by improving accessibility, both physical and in terms of hospitality. VCU is a growing medical center and brand which has significant potential in the local healthcare industry to become and hold leadership. Marketing is a vital tool to achieving that success since without satisfied patients, there will be no growth.

References

Bon Secours. (n.d.). Richmond Community Hospital. Web.

Etters, C. (2015). VCU Medical Center ranked among the best hospitals in the country and No. 1 in Virginia by U.S. News & World Report. Web.

Hancock, J. & Lucas, E. (2019). VCU Health halting patient lawsuits that affected 56,000 over 7 years. Richmond Times Dispatch. Web.

Swan, E.L., Dahl, A. J., & Peltier, J. W. (2019). Health-care marketing in an omni-channel environment: Exploring telemedicine and other digital touchpoints. Journal of Research and Interactive Marketing, 13(4), 602-618. Web.

Tripathi, D. (2018). Practices in marketing of healthcare services. Journal of Retail Marketing & Distribution Management, 2(1), 7-16. Web.

VHI. (n.d.). VCU Medical Center. Web.

Wager, K. A., Lee, F. W., & Glaser, J. P. (2017). Health care information systems: A practical approach for health care management (4th ed.). San Francisco, CA: John Wiley & Sons.