Could Micro-Hospitals Be the Solution to Patient Centricity?

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With their limited service lines and added convenience, micro-hospitals offer quick door-to-door times and high patient satisfaction.

Micro-hospitals — local hospitals with 10 beds or fewer — have emerged as a low-cost alternative to larger hospitals with multiple service lines. Though smaller in size and scale, micro-hospitals are designed to meet most of a community’s needs while providing convenient and accessible care.

Micro-hospitals have found success in suburban neighborhoods, but offer the potential to revolutionize healthcare in rural regions. For areas with smaller populations and less extensive emergency needs, micro-hospitals offer a lower-cost, localized solution.

Because of their limited space and resources, micro-hospitals provide a few key services and send other serious conditions to larger hospital facilities. Advisory Board reports that micro-hospitals intend to meet 90% of local healthcare needs with short-term stays of 48 hours or less. Services vary depending on the community, but most micro-hospitals offer emergency, pharmacy, lab, and imaging resources. They may also provide primary care, women’s services, and minor outpatient surgeries.

A Patient-Centric Solution

In a recent report, Advisory Board traced the trend of micro-hospitals to healthcare providers’ desire to reach new patients, downscale, and anchor to existing ambulatory villages.

“The strategic flexibility comes from placing more convenient and accessible centers in communities where you’re going to have a certain amount of patient volume that utilizes those sites because they’re more convenient,” said Zach Hafner, partner at Optum Advisory Services.

Micro-hospitals often boast better door-to-door times than larger hospitals as well. Emerus operates 28 micro-hospitals, and their ED physicians usually see patients within 15 minutes. Most of their emergency visits are completed within 90 minutes or less.

“They have the capability to admit patients when necessary, keeping patients closer to home and away from the ‘big’ hospital when they don’t need to be there,” added Vic Schmerbeck, EVP of strategy and business development at Emerus. “Patients benefit because they receive the same high-quality services in the convenience of their own neighborhoods.”

Dignity Health, one of the largest health systems in the U.S. and partner of Emerus, has had positive feedback so far on the performance of its micro-hospitals. The company reports 90% patient satisfaction, an average diagnostic evaluation time of 13 minutes, and a median ED visit time of 93 minutes.

In addition, micro-hospitals are more capable of aligning with the view of healthcare as a consumer-focused industry. These local facilities can help providers deliver value-based care — a practice that focuses on helping patients improve their overall health as opposed to billing primarily for fee-for-service solutions.

How Digital Marketing Can Grow the Success of Micro-Hospitals

Digital marketing can help expand the reach of micro-hospitals and attract new patients while remaining cost-efficient. As micro-hospitals focus on scaling down and delivering affordable care, it’s important for them to invest in marketing strategies that drive results.

The first step to implementing a successful digital strategy is to create a quality website with a streamlined user experience. Research shows that 83% of patients visit a hospital’s website before booking an appointment, so it’s important for micro-hospitals to use their web presence to create a positive first impression. This means that medical marketers should make sure a site is mobile-optimized and easy to navigate. It should also load quickly — in three seconds or less — in order to minimize bounce rate.

As a local-driven service, micro-hospitals may also want to focus on increasing their prominence on local search. Research shows that 75% of people who find helpful local information in search results are more likely to visit a physical business. Local search is therefore one of the most promising ways to draw new patients to neighborhood providers like micro-hospitals.

To build their local presence further, micro-hospitals should create profiles on Google My Business, Bing Places for Business, Yahoo!, Yelp, and Facebook. Providers that share consistently accurate details like their URL and contact information are more likely to been seen as trustworthy by search engines, and therefore show up toward the top of local search results.

As the healthcare industry shifts toward patient-centricity, micro-hospitals that provide convenient and localized care are likely to become go-to options for patients. Their success may also inspire other medical providers to deliver more convenient, accessible, and value-based care.

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