Along almost every major urban expressway, billboards extoll the virtues of leading area medical institutions.  Smiling faces accompanied by messages like “We put our patients first”, or “Ranked #1 in cardiac care for the 5th straight year” are designed to reassure potential patients that they needn’t look further for outstanding medical care.  Hospital marketing departments and their ad agencies have used this strategy – on billboards, in ballparks, and in the media – for years, convinced that getting reputational ratings in front of as many eyeballs as possible will make them the provider of choice.

But times have changed. Consolidation has created fewer, larger competitors with deeper marketing budgets and ambitious goals for growth. And patients, armed with more information and motivated by steep copays and deductibles, are becoming consumers focused on the cost and quality of the care they receive.

Competition is rising to a whole new level, and marketing strategy needs to follow. If your organization has one or more centers of excellence (COEs), it’s time to consider how to leverage them as key assets.  Your COE can play an important role in giving consumers a reason to utilize your healthcare system, but only if you take steps now to make it a differentiated center of excellence.

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