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Facing Health System Capacity Challenges? Leverage Rapid-Response Marketing.

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Supply chain and labor shortages. Higher acuity patients. The unpredictability of what’s next for COVID-19 and hospitalization rates. 

Geez. And we thought healthcare marketing was challenging before now!

So what do we do?

A. Sit on our hands and wait for clarity.

B. Pin strategic directions to a dartboard and see what the darts say to do.

C. Create rapid-response marketing strategies. 

We suggest C. 

Here’s why. Marketers need a more agile approach to marketing. An approach that still drives the mission of your organization while accounting for the need for flexibility. After all, the unpredictable nature of our current healthcare landscape requires marketers to approach planning and campaign deployment with an agile mindset: one that can account for the crises and “pivots” of the day while also still honoring the organization’s strategic goals.

We call this approach to planning rapid-response marketing, and we also refer to it with our health system clients as “Capacity Marketing,” as quite often, the capacity to deliver care is a key constraint for health systems. By planning around capacity challenges and opportunities, healthcare marketers can deliver value back into the organizations while helping to guide patients into the appropriate site of care.

Let’s look deeper at the concept of rapid-response marketing and key use cases.


1. Guide Patients to the Appropriate Site of Care

Our job is to connect patients with providers and health solutions. Yet many health systems are reporting staffing shortages in excess of 20%. Reduced staff often means reduced capacity to serve patients, or at the very least, provide a level of customer experience that health systems strive for. 

That’s why the first principle of rapid-response marketing is to guide your patients to the appropriate site of care, such as:

  • Emergency Departments with shorter waits for care
  • Urgent care centers with more capacity
  • Physicians with same-day or next-day appointments
  • Telehealth visits over in-person appointments

In addition, we’re working with our health system clients now to deploy enhanced telehealth appointments using retail technology. These enhanced telehealth solutions share vital health stats to the provider, forgoing the need for in-person visits to diagnose health needs like ear infections. 

2. Real-Time Feedback for Service Line Utilization

Rapid-response marketing encourages marketers, providers, and clinical professionals to remain in constant communication to identify which services can handle more patient volume, and which service lines are hovering at or exceeding capacity. 

Rapid-response marketing seeks to answer the question: day to day, what are the services that can benefit from new patient acquisition, and what are the service lines that are at or over capacity to handle new patients? 

At Hailey Sault, we aid our clients to manage capacity planning through our real-time dashboard systems: collecting both clinical and marketing performance data to aid our clients in insightful service line planning decision-making.

But don’t let data gaps stop you from leveraging rapid-response marketing. Good old-fashioned communication with key stakeholders will help you: 

  • Get a real-time pulse on which service lines can handle new clients
  • Know where to encourage patients to seek care
  • Determine which services you should pause marketing efforts until capacity is back online

3. Leverage Brand Engagement During Peak Capacity

During the first phase of the pandemic, when hospitals were closed to patients other than emergencies and COVID-19 responses, one of our wise clients chose to keep a brand presence in the marketplace. Her strategy was to simply keep her health system’s brand name out there in digital marketing as a top-of-mind reminder, along with positive messages of remaining safe.

She bet that as hospitals reopened, her health system would rebound its patient volume. 

It worked.

If your organization is experiencing capacity challenges, whether it be through staffing shortages, supply chain issues, spikes in COVID-19 hospitalizations, or serving a backlog of patients who put off care during the pandemic, we recommend deploying brand-driven messages in your marketing channels. These brand messages aren’t designed to drive immediate volume, but rather, long-term brand loyalty and utilization of your organization’s services: when your health system is ready to care for an influx of new patients.

4. Develop Campaigns at Stages of Market Readiness

To address the often daily changes in service line marketing needs, at Hailey Sault we began deploying the creation of multiple service line campaigns at one time for our clients, and pulsing out the completion of these campaigns—based on market need and capacity opportunities.

As a contrast to this model, in the “old days,” agencies and in-house teams would focus on one service line campaign effort at one time, concepting and creating finished assets for deployment. But this model didn’t account for the real-time and agile planning and deployment needs of health systems. Just because you have a service line marketing campaign ready to launch doesn’t mean the service line is ready to handle new patients. 

To solve for this, we began creating multiple service line campaigns at one time, phasing in and staggering the completion as the marketplace and health system have the need and opportunity to engage patient audiences. 

With this rapid-response marketing principle, the time to finalize and deploy new campaigns is cut in half or more, as campaigns are already near completion. Reducing the runway to deployment by having multiple service line campaigns at near-completion stage allows health system marketers to have more agility and flexibility to address the needs of the day. 


At the time of this writing, late February 2022, it’s still too soon to predict what the future holds for COVID-19. But one thing we know is certain: the future is hard to predict. 

Should we sit on our hands?

Throw darts on the dartboard to determine our next moves?

Or create strategies that are agile and responsive to the needs of the day?

You know how we feel. What about you?

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