TIPS from The Service Line Experts – Growing Vascular Market Share

Amy Newell11Amid the ongoing changes of healthcare reform and the inherent competitive culture of today, there has been a great deal of discussion regarding the sustainability of cardiovascular programs.  Specifically, where does opportunity lie for program growth?  For years, Corazon has recognized vascular services as the “diamond in the rough,” advising clients to focus on this “untapped” service in many markets across the country.  Our team consistently finds that vascular market share is not keeping pace with cardiac market share and this is surprising with the lack of regulation surrounding vascular care (compared to cardiac). Especially as Baby Boomers have reached the age where many, whether aware or not, are likely to have some form of cardiovascular disease.

Hospital leaders typically understand the need to grow market potential and/or position for a re-engineering of services, but aren’t sure how to do so successfully.  By no means does that indicate a decision to cease to offer services, but rather, Corazon advocates re-engineering as a means to re-assess a program’s offerings in the context of the local/regional market and evaluate the best options – clinically, operationally, and financially. 

Corazon has worked with numerous programs across the country focusing on the strategic planning process.   It is through this effort that we act as the catalyst in assisting programs to think about what has been a sustaining factor over the past several years, along with what has been formally evaluated or made a focus.   In our experience, we often find that the reason for not focusing on a particular program area or subspecialty is a lack of understanding of the market potential and/or HOW to take advantage of that potential, which is especially true with vascular services.

Corazon offers the following TIPS as you consider efforts to optimize grow potential in vascular market share:

Identify and engage key stakeholders – Begin by identifying decision-makers, such as physicians (both referring and specialist provider), key executive leaders of the organization, the service line administrator, and front-line clinicians.  Remember that the specialist physician can include many disciplines (cardiology, vascular surgery, interventional radiology) and all of these key members should be brought to the discussions if they are credentialed and interested in providing the services. Engaging all of these individuals in the early planning stages is critical, as each of them play an integral role not only in a patient care capacity, but also from a strategic and operational perspective.   Referring physicians are particularly important and are often left out, or become an afterthought.  For a vascular program, referring physicians in subspecialty areas like wound care, podiatry, nephrology, and endocrinology are also critical, as the incidence of diabetes and treatment of the disease affords significant current or downstream vascular opportunity.    

Understand The Incidence Of Vascular Disease Not only should program leaders know the primary service area’s incidence of vascular disease, but also the secondary and potential future service areas as well.  Mortality rates for all cardiovascular diseases will provide a broad brush of the population, including the incidence of disease; this in turn will assist in defining a clearer outreach model.  The incidence of vascular disease often matches that of cardiac, and often exceeds it in certain regions—very important data to know when considering a vascular focus.

Define Community Outreach – Understanding who will be participating in offering vascular services is key; however, in an effort to grow market share, knowing the locations of communities served and referring physicians is critical.  This can be accomplished by creating and defining within a service area map showing which providers are where.  It is from this information and internal data that a program can begin to understand which physicians, and from what community, vascular patients originate.  This information is quite powerful when meeting with stakeholders as a means to define what other geographical markets within the service area should receive outreach.  Keep in mind, an education session to providers, or defined vascular screening clinics within an existing family practice provider or other referring physician offices are viable and very useful forms of outreach.  In many markets there IS competition, so if you have not defined your opportunity, no doubt your competitor has, or soon will! 

Evaluate Your Collaborative Vascular Model – Although daunting, defining a collaborative multi-specialty vascular model is probably one of the more contentious and difficult tasks to complete.  Which is best: a “one-call” vascular call line, a rotation of “on call” coverage among participating vascular specialists, or an old fashioned referral to a specialist?  Corazon has witnessed many programs believing they have a well-defined model, though in truth, it’s only “lip-service.”  We advise asking key stakeholders to provide input via a short survey or scorecard as to how they feel the existing vascular model functions today.  The results will no doubt shed light on the situation. 

Be Prepared For The Competition – Competition exists for every hospital in some way, regardless of size or location; it is how a program accepts or responds to it that will determine any advantage (or disadvantage) in the market.   Understanding exactly what level of vascular care and/or services the competition offers is vital to the ongoing success and growth of these services.  Such intelligence can give an edge, or at least help with decision-making as to whether or not to pursue a very defined service such as vascular.  And then, subsequently creating a strong vascular brand will help with community recognition; a robust communication plan to both referring physicians and potential patients will help drive positive word of mouth. 

Solid planning and evaluation in order to facilitate vascular growth is the foundation to program success.  Each tip above should be carefully discussed and thought out with the right people at the table. 

Amy Newell is Vice President of Corazon, Inc. Corazon offers consulting, recruitment, interim management, and physician practice & alignment services to hospitals and practices in the heart, vascular, neuro, and orthopedics specialties.  Find Corazon on facebook at www.facebook.com/corazoninc or on LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/company/corazon-inc.  To learn more, call 412-364-8200 or visit www.corazoninc.com.