Marketing: Use uncertainty to open lines of communication

Q. How can providers use the competitive bidding discussion as part of their marketing plan?
Monday, April 23, 2012

A. National competitive bidding (NCB) is on everyone’s mind. It seems like whether you bid or not, these are the type of regulatory changes that will touch every provider. In the storm cloud of NCB, however, there is a silver lining when it comes to your marketing: education. Patients and referral sources are both groups who will also be affected by NCB and the direct communication from CMS, as you know from experience, isn’t always crystal clear. Since you are doing your own research already, be their resource for information.

•Explain the basics of NCB and how it will affect them personally. Remember that you are their partners in health care; patients may need to go to a different or secondary provider and referral sources may need to change where they send orders. Your customers will appreciate advanced notice. 

•Inform them of what your company is doing to continue providing quality service. Your message should include points that are relevant to that particular individual. This is especially important with referral sources since, hopefully, you may still be doing business with them in non-bid product areas. Customers place value in knowing you are on top of the details. 

•Recruit patients and referral sources to be part of the legislative process. Each customer is a voter and this is an election year. Provide information for how to contact their senator, send them a link to online petitions, talk to them about the market pricing program.

By keeping customers informed you become more than just a provider, you establish your company as a valuable resource and an expert in your field. Those types of customer service experiences bring value to any professional relationship. 

In a time of such industry uncertainty, look at the positive. We can’t control CMS, but we can control how we react, respond and engage our patients and referral sources. Use the uncertainty as an opportunity to open the lines of communication.

Anna McDevitt is president of Laboratory Marketing. She can be reached at or 248-227-6930.