7 Tips for Marketing Your Second Opinion Program

Without marketing strategies, your program’s growth will likely progress much slower than expected, costing time and money, and losing precious momentum. Below are a few marketing tips to consider as you roll out your online second opinion program:

1. Raise Awareness! Don't Rely 100% on Brand Equity 
Your brand may be world renowned, but don’t expect patients to automatically arrive at your ‘virtual front door.’ Raising awareness for both second opinions and your program is critical. Some patients are still unaware that getting a second opinion for serious, complex, or risky treatments, like surgery, is recommended by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid, as well as many centers of excellence. Since telehealth options are fairly new, they may also be unaware that they can initiate a second opinion online from many institutions, thus removing the geographical barrier.  

In other words, unless your brand popped up in their quest for information or is already local to them, it may not have come to mind. By implementing some of the tactics outlined below, patients can more easily find your program. Starting with a strong brand is absolutely beneficial, but it is just one part of the equation. 

2. Get Specific

As noted above, patients often search by diagnosis, symptoms, treatments, and other information specific to their case. Highlighting specialties and subspecialties that your health system is already known for will make you stand out when patients are on their quest for answers. Featuring cutting edge treatments, clinical trials, and services will set your organization apart and empower patients with a better understanding of their options. 

When you take this targeted approach, you also benefit from piloting your program within a smaller environment. This can provide insight into what would work well operationally as you expand the program throughout the rest of the hospital.

3. Choose Locations by Licensure
Roll out your initial program to locations that have the least licensure risk or that would be most convenient should a second opinion patient wish to become an inpatient or require a procedure. Proximity could influence conversion from an opinion to a procedure.

As of 2022, the Interstate Medical Licensure Compact (IMLCC) is an agreement adopted by 35 states, the District of Columbia, and the Territory of Guam that gives providers who want to practice in multiple jurisdictions a streamlined pathway to obtaining licensure. Assuming your state has joined the compact, providers are then empowered to apply to provide remote consults and second opinions to participating states and territories. Most states provide a licensure exception to enable physicians to provide consults directly to a patient’s local physician. 

4. Obtain Internal Buy-in
The success of any second opinion program relies on engaged physicians. As you start planning your program, it’s essential to build awareness and get your physicians on board from the beginning. They may have questions about the program, concerns around how it will impact their work, and ideas for making it successful, so make sure you take their perspective into account. Many hospitals provide financial incentives for physicians to participate in these programs.

After you launch the program, don't forget to check-in with physicians often. Measuring physician satisfaction and adapting processes to better integrate within their busy days makes for much happier physicians and administrators. Some will champion the program for you, gaining further internal buy-in and support for your program.

5. Leverage Physician Word-of-Mouth
Many of your physicians are already providing remote consults to their colleagues in other organizations. If that’s the case, consider giving them talking points or a link to a landing page for referring physicians that explains and initiates the opinion. Help make it easy to convert these casual consults into true second opinions, aiding both the financial impact of your program and avoiding risky liability.

6. Create Content - Be the Expert
Patients often search for second opinions when they are facing an especially complex or serious issue that requires a specific expertise. They do most of their research online, looking towards the world’s experts for guidance. Referring physicians, notable foundations, patient support groups, friends, and social media channels all act as sources for advocacy and guidance. Be sure to think about how to collaborate and engage with these groups in your circulation of content.

Creating content that helps patients learn about their diagnosis and options, establishes trust and the beginnings of a potential relationship with your organization. Patient testimonials are especially powerful and helpful to patients and their families who may be navigating their medical issue for the first time. Lisa Craine, a long-time advocate for second opinions, shares an incredible story about how a second opinion saved her life. Sharing this information within the right channels will help patients find answers, empowering them to take next steps.

7. Shape the Path

As authors Chip and Dan Heath outline in their book ‘Switch,’ we must  ‘shape the path.’ The patient will need a clear understanding of where to go to initiate a consult and how these programs work. 

Proper placement within main navigation and calls to action ensure that the patient is able to learn about your program while on their search for expertise. Creating a second opinion landing page that details why and when second opinions are important, what types of cases are and are not appropriate, how the program works, and frequently asked questions, is a great place to guide your call to actions. The Children's Hospital of Los Angeles and Cincinnati Children's Hospital provide great examples of landing pages. From here, the patient can initiate their online second opinion when ready. 

Second opinion programs can serve as a ‘virtual front door’ to your hospital. With a thoughtfully designed intake process, patients can be guided to initiate different types of reviews from your expert physicians. Second opinions can take many forms, from an orthopedic patient who needs a quick read of their medical records to know whether it’s worth coming in-person, or a cancer patient who wants a written report that outlines additional treatment options available to them.

Simply put, these programs open access to people who likely don’t have the specialized expertise they need local to them. Helping patients to navigate and find the right information so they can move forward in their journey for a solution could be life changing, or life saving. 

Want to learn more about second opinion programs?
Read the Advisory Boards, 'Second Opinions 101,'
written in conjunction with Purview or talk to us.



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