Gaston End-of-Life Coalition
Owned by CaroMont Health, Gaston Hospice is the largest, most respected and recognized hospice care provider in Gaston County, NC.
Despite market share in excess of 80 percent, Gaston Hospice reported a shorter length of service than national averages and low overall utilization of hospice services countywide. Meanwhile, the national hospice market continued to battle societal tendencies that favored curative treatment.
Rather than explicitly promote Gaston Hospice, Walker Marketing identified opportunities to increase awareness through consumer education. Often regarded as an option “downstream” the health care continuum, hospice admissions are largely dependent on physician referrals. To combat this dependency, strategies were designed to reach consumers directly and lessen reliance on health care professionals to advocate hospice.
Since length of service is intrinsically linked to timing of a referral, strategies were also implemented to encourage physicians to initiate discussion about end-of-life care options earlier in the continuum with patients and families.
A media relations plan was developed to educate and inform the public about the benefits and appropriateness of hospice care as a means to elevate awareness of hospice as a viable care option. Emphasis was placed on opportunities to connect with referring health care providers.
Hospice referrals are largely dependent on a physician’s willingness to engage in dialogue about end-of-life care and treatment futility. A DVD that featured various end-of-life care scenarios was produced to facilitate productive doctor-patient discussions about treatment options and encourage physicians to provide all available options once a terminal illness diagnosis has been made. The DVD presented patients with the information they need when facing decisions about end-of-life care thereby reducing the burden on physicians.
The Gaston County End-Of-Life Coalition was created as a resource for the community to learn about options for end-of-life care. A microsite featuring educational content and local resources was developed to lend support for the organization and serve as an unbiased platform for Gaston Hospice to promote access to hospice services.
Consistent with other tactics, radio advertising educated and informed consumers about the availability of hospice care in Gaston County. The spots featured caregiver, counselor and physician testimonials designed to emphasize the quality care, support, and resources available at Gaston Hospice.
Both the microsite and the DVD won awards for sensitive handling of critical end-of-life care issues and were credited with increasing local awareness of hospice services. Gaston Hospice cemented its status as the preferred provider in the region, and noted an increase in inquiries, referrals and length of stay. More importantly, the formation of the Coalition helped establish a platform for longer-term marketing activities and provided an authoritative “voice” for hospice providers in an underserved community.