Marketing Palliative Care to Physicians

More than 50% of doctors do not know the difference between palliative care and hospice (!!!).

This was the finding of a focus group conducted by Transcend Hospice Marketing. While scary, it does point to a strategic entry for increasing your palliative care referrals.

Confusion is understandable

Many of the solutions provided by hospice and palliative care programs are the same:

  • Management of difficult symptoms
  • Focus on quality of life
  • Multidisciplinary approach
  • Overt discussion of goals of care

Indeed, the practice of palliative medicine is the foundation of hospice’s comfort care.

The hospice brand

Add to this the fact that many palliative care programs operate under the logo—and on the website—of the sponsoring hospice service, and it’s easy to see why physicians are not sure of the distinction. If your hospice name and logo are part of your palliative care branding, it’s difficult to understand the difference, even for physicians.

Start with a separate brand

While it’s tempting to leverage the good name of your hospice and to describe palliative care by comparing it to hospice, that seems to backfire. People hear “hospice” and “palliative care” in the same sentence and they automatically associate them, even though the focus of what you are saying is that they are different.

Based on the marketing recommendations of the Center to Advance Palliative Care (CAPC), we suggest:

Talking points for doctors

After you have looked at your program from the physician’s point of view, consider some of the ways we have incorporated CAPC’s recommendations to help doctors easily grasp the distinction (and the benefits for themselves):

  • “Extra layer of support.”This clarifies that the referring doctor is still the one in charge. Your services are ancillary and supportive of theirs. You are just there to assist with improved daily life experience and functioning.
  • “Saves you time.” The deep and often emotional issues that arise in the context of discussing the POLST or life support measures in general can require more time than a doctor has available. Plus, your interdisciplinary team offers experts in the realm of spirituality and emotions that relieve the physician of the heavy lifting, especially if family members are involved.
  • “All ages and all stages.” Use visuals that convey a seriously ill patient in treatment. This is one of the key ways you can help doctors distinguish from hospice without having to say “does not need to forego treatment.”
  • “Reduced readmissions.” In a University of Pennsylvania study, patients referred to palliative care had only a 10% readmission rate compared to the 15% rate for those who had not received a palliative care consultation. (A key determinant was the goals-of-care discussion.)

Ready to boost your palliative care program?

If you’ve decided it’s time to give your palliative care program the attention it deserves, give us a call at 707-477-0700 (Pacific time). We are well versed in the nuances of palliative care and hospice marketing. We offer websites and newsletters with robust educational content designed to quickly and effectively give you a strong presence and set you apart from your competition.

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