Niche services increase patient volume

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Strategy Section

Adding a “niche service” for treating specific co-morbidities provides new ways to refresh and promote behavioral health programs. Typically, niche services can be developed without significantly revamping the overall program’s clinical services or schedule. Examples of “niche” services include treatment for substance use that co-occurs with depression, or behavioral strategies for managing diabetes. Older adults who have recently moved into assisted living may have a significant adjustment disorder in addition to depression. A niche program for helping patients adjust can be developed and promoted to assisted living facilities.

Niche services can be used to differentiate your program from the competition. Behavioral patients with common physical ailments or social concerns provide referral and business development staff with additional program features and benefits to promote to referral sources.

These are special “add-on” diagnoses that the program can typically address with education. When there are several patients with the same co-morbidities, additional groups can be provided for the patients referred for these services. Once staff and programming are ready, the niche programs is then specifically promoted to referral sources by business development staff and dedicated promotions.

There are a variety of ways to identify niche service opportunities. Review the education, research, publications and resumes of the providers and clinical team to identify areas of specific expertise or interest. Ask your clinical team what common co-morbidities they observe in your patient population. Watch the news media for conditions that are making headlines.

For Example

1. In November, Clinical Psychiatry News reported findings of a recent study indicating a 70% increase in risk for self-harm or suicide among bariatric surgery patients in the years immediately following the surgery (MDedge Psychiatry, November 21, 2018). Rates were highest among patients who received the Roux-en-Y gastric bypass. If your market has acute care hospitals with bariatric surgery programs providing the Roux-en-Y gastric bypass, the program can be a source of new patients for a unique bariatric surgery patient service. All that is needed is a few bari-chairs, staff and patient educational information and collateral materials you use to promote your service.

2. Anxiety is a significant symptom that sends many COPD and CHF patients to the emergency room for multiple visits throughout the year. Your clinical team already treats anxiety, so developing and marketing a specific niche service for anxiety in COPD patients is relatively simple.

One word of caution: don’t clutter the programming with niche services. Identify one or two with the greatest potential, and promote them frequently and consistently. Become the acknowledged expert in your market for that particular niche. Your referral community will come to think of your program first whenever they have a patient with that condition.