Enhance Your U.S. News Best Hospitals Ranking with Physician Content

by | Jul 18, 2018 | Physician Marketing

What physicians think of your hospital plays a key role in its U.S. News & World Report rankings. Content is a powerful tool to boost reputation as part of an overall physician engagement strategy.

It’s no secret that the hos­pi­tal rank­ings land­scape is crowd­ed, with enti­ties rang­ing from the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment to Con­sumer Reports to the most ven­er­a­ble of them all, U.S. News & World Report, which has been rank­ing adult and pedi­atric hos­pi­tals since 1990.

For­get the debate—and it’s robust—over how much stock the health­care indus­try and con­sumers should put in such rank­ings. The fact is, peo­ple pay atten­tion to them, espe­cial­ly the U.S. News & World Report Best Hos­pi­tal rank­ings. In 2016, Ben Hard­er, chief of health analy­sis at U.S. News & World Report, told the Chica­go Tri­bune that his publication’s web­site received approx­i­mate­ly 100,000 dai­ly vis­i­tors in search of hos­pi­tal and physi­cian information.

A Matter of Reputation

Rep­u­ta­tion score—as deter­mined by physi­cians from a vari­ety of spe­cial­ties who vote in the U.S. News & World Report Best Hos­pi­tal rank­ings surveys—is esti­mat­ed to account for one quar­ter of a hospital’s over­all rank­ing. While the method­ol­o­gy is fre­quent­ly updat­ed based and weight­ed heav­i­ly toward patient out­comes and safe­ty, the rep­u­ta­tion score is a sig­nif­i­cant fac­tor in deter­min­ing a hos­pi­tal’s over­all ranking.

The roots of reputation’s role in influ­enc­ing the Best Hos­pi­tals rank­ings run deep. For health­care mar­ket­ing pro­fes­sion­als seek­ing to boost their organization’s rank­ings, mov­ing the nee­dle on rep­u­ta­tion rep­re­sents a chal­lenge and an oppor­tu­ni­ty. You have the pow­er to shape your hospital’s rep­u­ta­tion through the con­tent you deliv­er to physi­cians, as the rep­u­ta­tion score is based large­ly on a sur­vey of physi­cians with­in each of the 16 adult and 10 pedi­atric spe­cial­ty categories.

In a way, your hospital’s rep­u­ta­tion is only as good as your content.

How and when should you com­mu­ni­cate with physi­cians, and what sorts of sto­ries should you tell? In our expe­ri­ence work­ing with nation­al­ly ranked pedi­atric and adult hos­pi­tals, email and e‑newsletter cam­paigns are effec­tive ways to get your mar­ket­ing mes­sage in front of physi­cian vot­ers. They work best when hos­pi­tals adopt a long view of rep­u­ta­tion build­ing, says True North Cus­tom Man­ag­ing Edi­tor Emi­ly Main.

“Ongo­ing cam­paigns seem to have the most suc­cess,” says Main, who has worked with large, nation­al­ly-ranked children’s health sys­tems on both coasts to improve their U.S. News & World Report rank­ings. “ Rep­u­ta­tion build­ing, which is, essen­tial­ly, what the rank­ings are built upon, becomes stronger when a brand is repeat­ed­ly putting itself in front of its tar­get audi­ence, rather than only dur­ing the U.S. News & World Report three-month sur­vey vot­ing peri­od in the winter.”

As for the con­tent itself, regard­less of for­mat or medi­um, tell the sto­ries that high­light the out­comes, ser­vices, pro­ce­dures, tech­nolo­gies, and oth­er ele­ments that make your hos­pi­tal stand out—and, if pos­si­ble, have your physi­cians do the telling. Physi­cians val­ue and want more per­spec­tive from their peers.

“Know your com­pe­ti­tion,” Main advis­es. “It’s dif­fi­cult to dif­fer­en­ti­ate a hos­pi­tal from its com­peti­tors if mar­keters aren’t aware of what their com­peti­tors are offer­ing. Learn­ing more about the com­pe­ti­tion can be as basic as sur­vey­ing physi­cians at your facil­i­ty. Physi­cians attend many con­fer­ences and belong to pro­fes­sion­al orga­ni­za­tions where a lot of knowl­edge is shared. They can offer valu­able infor­ma­tion about what to mar­ket and what isn’t ter­ri­bly unique. Keep your mes­sage focused, which again, is eas­i­er to do if you have a long-run­ning campaign.”

Test-and-Learn Approach

Ear­li­er this year, True North Cus­tom worked with a large children’s hos­pi­tal in a major met­ro­pol­i­tan area in the Mid­west on a physi­cian-focused email cam­paign to improve its U.S. News & World Report rank­ings. The cam­paign tar­get­ed spe­cial­ists in car­di­ol­o­gy, oncol­o­gy, neu­rol­o­gy, and orthopedics.

“Arti­cles about inno­v­a­tive treat­ments and accred­i­ta­tions were well-received by the tar­get audi­ence, where­as physi­cian-pro­file pieces didn’t per­form as well,” says True North Cus­tom Man­ag­ing Edi­tor Eri­ka Ben­nett. “Also, mul­ti-arti­cle teasers in the sub­ject line of an email per­formed much bet­ter in click-to-open rates than broad or vague sub­ject lines.”

Also, pulling one arti­cle head­line and using it as the email’s sub­ject line drove most read­ers direct­ly to that arti­cle. For exam­ple, a mul­ti-arti­cle sub­ject line had a 29% click-to-open rate, where­as a broad­er sub­ject line had a 14% click-to-open rate.

Build­ing Rep­u­ta­tion Boosts Rankings

In part­ner­ship with True North Cus­tom, a major children’s hos­pi­tal in the South­west devel­oped an email cam­paign designed to boost the U.S. News & World Report rank­ings by bur­nish­ing its rep­u­ta­tion among physi­cians in key spe­cial­ties, includ­ing oncol­o­gy, car­di­ol­o­gy and heart surgery, nephrol­o­gy, neu­rol­o­gy and neu­ro­surgery, and urology.

The campaign—an ini­tial mes­sage high­light­ing spe­cial­ty-spe­cif­ic, lead­ing-edge care at the hos­pi­tal, fol­lowed by an addi­tion­al mes­sage to non-openers—resulted in a year-over-year improve­ment in U.S. News & World Report rank­ing of at least 20 points for each of the afore­men­tioned spe­cial­ties, includ­ing an improve­ment of 30 points or more for two of them. The improved scores were enough to move sev­er­al of the spe­cial­ties into that year’s top 20 in the nation­wide rankings.

Download the Full Report

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