Houma, Louisiana is situated near the coastal region of United States with an elevation of 10 feet. It is among the principal cities of the state with a population density of almost 3000 people per square mile. The Houma-Terrebonne region was badly hit by the Hurricane Gustav and was among the places which were quite devastated by it. Due to such a demographic profile the health care service that this basic marketing plan proposes is an ambulatory health care service. (Soros, 2005)
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Ambulatory health care services are meant to cater those people who need treatment, advice and care without having to spend a night at the hospital. Due to the occurrence of the Hurricane Gustav a huge number of people were injured and thus, the hospitals were flooded with patients. But with the presence of ambulatory services in the city those patients with relatively minor injuries can be treated without having to occupy a valuable bed at the hospital.
As part of our marketing goal we aim at avoiding situations like regulatory problems, unavailability of products and materials, inability of explaining the benefits of our services, poor quality control and failure to adhere to required industry standards. (Weber, Shenkar & Raveh, 2006) Thus, the overall marketing goal of this business plan is to provide the commoners of Houma with contemporary health care services while at the same time meeting the needs of the stakeholders, achieving the mission and generating enough funds to carry on the service through efficient allocation of resources.
Specific marketing objectives
Marketing health care services, especially ambulatory services, is very challenging and often complicated. There are five specific marketing objectives that need to be focused on while designing an ambulatory service marketing plan. These are:
- Intangibility – Ambulatory health care services are intangible since the patients cannot touch or feel them, like a surgery. Thus, the plan should be able to reveal the various intangible benefits to the customers through its use, like an advertisement of the medicine or surgical programs.
- Reducing Inconsistency – Since ambulatory health services are delivered by physicians and nurses, their services have inherent variability because its delivery changes with individuals. Thus, this business plans aims at achieving as much consistency as possible, mainly by thoroughly training the staff.
- Inseparability – This business plan keeps in mind that the ambulatory services are not separate from the people delivering them, like the bedside manners of physicians. The relation between inconsistence and inseparability underlines the complexity involved in the marketing of ambulatory services. (Dunning, 1999)
- Inventory – For this ambulatory service to handle its cost of inventory, it must either control the services delivered or shift the demand. This can be done by employing part-time workers to handle peak time periods. The demand can also be shifted to non-peak hours for leveling overhead and personal costs.
- Interaction with Customers – Among the vital considerations for marketing of ambulatory services is the maintenance of quality interactions among the service providers and end customers. Since this service involves processes to highlight these encounters we have a customer contact audit which lists the interactions in a flow chart. (Umpleby, 2006)
Specific marketing strategies for achieving objectives and goals
The ambulatory service provided will perform medical procedures at community health centers, outpatient clinics, imaging and diagnostic centers, occupational health centers, primary care centers, mental health clinics, urgent care centers, group practices and emergency rooms. Our ambulatory health care facilities have been inspected by the federal government and we also have voluntary accreditation from AAAHC and JCAHO. We have a wide range of services and numerous departments which conform to national standards. The various departments that have been classified under our ambulatory services are dental, metabolic medicine for endocrine and diabetes, neuroscience (neurology and neurocare), blood donations, rehabilitation, rheumatology, renal dialysis unit, plaster services, phlebotomy, antibiotics, ophthalmology, oncology, ENT and dermatology.
Apart from these we will also have specialized and general outpatient clinics for pediatrics, orthopedics, surgery and medicines. Our ambulatory services also provide dressing clinic, crisis clinic and impotence clinic led by trained nurses. (Rondinelli & Black, 2000) Our services allow the patients to recover at home making it less traumatic and more convenient for them. Also, the procedures and services that are performed at our ambulatory health care centers are almost 40% to 60% less costly than the same procedure performed at hospitals. (Soros, 2005)
We have a number of distribution strategies since not only do we have to cater to the needs of the hospitals but also directly to the patients. For the hospitals our distribution strategies involves full service through the retail distribution channel. We have a direct and on-premise sale for the customers where the former caters in-house calls of the patients and the later is offered through a field organization. We also have self-service distribution strategy. A channel structure strategy has been used for the intermediaries, like insurance officers and drugstores, who are used for moving the goods and services from us providers to the customers. (Dunning, 2002)
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For the promotion of our ambulatory services we have two fundamental promotion strategies called PUSH and PULL. Through the PUSH strategy we aim towards maximizing the utilization of all the available distribution channels for pushing our services into the market. This can be achieved by offering discounts for the services. We will use our sales force for creating consumer demand. Since we also provide direct services to the customer, this strategy helps to sell our services directly to them. Through the PULL strategy we aim towards pulling the end users into our different outlet channels in order to create a demand.
Both these strategies require trade promotions and high degrees of advertising. Thus for advertising purpose we too have a number of strategies. One of them is service comparison advertising. In the actual market the service we are offering will also be provided by others, thus we need to highlight those features which will make a difference when our service is compared with others and are beneficial to the customers, like the discount schemes. We will also advertise the benefits of our services as compared to the older inappropriate and insufficient approaches in ambulatory services. As we also work in collaboration with other hospitals, we will also be promoting ourselves as part of the entire health care corporation rather than simply as a specific entity. (Triandis, 2005)
Since the median income of a household in Houma, Louisiana is nearly $35000, the per capita income of the entire city is around $19000 and 20% of the population and 17% of the households are under the poverty line, we have to keep all these facts in mind while deciding the price for our ambulatory services. (Soros, 2005) Also, due to the Hurricane Gustav, most of the people have lost not only their houses but also their belongings. But since cost is an important factor which drives the entire ambulatory health care service, we have to put a price on our services. We will be implementing a combination of penetration pricing, product line pricing and geographical pricing.
Penetration pricing will be implemented by setting the charges for our services considerably low at the beginning to gain market share. After achieving that we may increase the price of services. (Kindleberger, 2006) Because we offer a variety of services, product line pricing will be implemented to reflect the advantage of the service package. Since some areas of Houma have been badly hit by Hurricane Gustav than others, geographical pricing will also be implemented as there will be variation in prices in different parts of the city. Our optimal pricing strategy will also be dependent on other factors like the customers, availability of products for the services, suppliers and the competitors. For promotional purposes we also have to provide the customers with quantity and cash discounts. (Hymer, 2007)
Action plan used for implementing strategies
In order to implement the above strategies first we have to associate ourselves with a proper hospital and prepare the hospital transfer plans in case we face emergencies. The nurses, physicians, doctors, paramedics unit, etc. needs to be properly trained in their individual areas so as to avoid confusion during emergencies. (Schneider, 2003) Each and every member of the ambulatory service should take proper charge of their individual area and personally involve themselves in implementing the action plan within a set time period. (Dunning, 2004)The service center needs to be properly set up with the required resources and people.
The employees themselves should provide with a list of necessary items, since this accelerates the whole process of implementation. We also need to carry out a SWOT analysis of the different strategies before finally implementing them and once the analysis has been carried out one by one the strategies should be implemented. We will also set up seminars for the employees and customers so that they can learn how our ambulatory service functions and help us enhance its features. (Johanson & Vahlne, 1977)
Since effective communication among all involved in a business is the key to its success, until and unless there is proper communication among all and every department of the ambulatory service, implementation of the above strategies will not be totally possible. Thus, we need to attain total alignment and communication at the key levels for implementing the operations and services of our ambulatory health care facility.
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