Theory #1: nextHospitals must serve anyone they can reach

Until recently, a hospital’s service area was defined almost entirely by the  the neighborhood in which its campus was based.

In essence, hospital executives and board members could choose a physical boundary, be it a county line, a large highway or a ring a few miles in diameter around their facility, and declare that to be their home base.

Today, this approach is is hopelessly outdated.

Of course, hospitals will continue to put their immediate, physical community first, as there’s no getting away from that aspect of their mission. But increasingly, hospitals–like every other business–are being drawn into new relationships fostered by social media tools, mobile phones, YouTube, provider rating sites and more. And it’s time that they use those channels to expand their role.

Many hospital leaders seem to see these tools solely as a channel to blast out their corporate message, but they couldn’t be more mistaken. The people on the other end of these communications, folks, are also your patients.

In fact, this is so much the case that you’ll probably end up sinking big bucks into new communication strategies and technologies, even at the risk of putting off that multi-million dollar pavilion you’d planned to build.

The nextHospital leader will find a way to serve the needs of any patient his facility reaches, by implementing the smartest telemedicine, wellness support, education and virtual support groups available. (And no, we’re not talking static reprints of basic family medical guides you can find on WebMD or ADAM.)

If serving your virtual patients properly means developing a completely different health planning process, so be it.  In today’s world, it’s your responsibility and there’s no excuse to duck it.


So, folks:  Comments? Questions? Complaints?  Facts to contribute which undermine or strengthen my thesis?  Have at it!

About the author

Anne Zieger

Anne Zieger

Anne Zieger is a healthcare journalist who has written about the industry for 30 years. Her work has appeared in all of the leading healthcare industry publications, and she's served as editor in chief of several healthcare B2B sites.


  • This was always my intention. Our local geographic reach was cut off by “big” local competition so growth and survival were tied to creative outreach and unlimited boudaries. (See Nick Jacobs on You Tube, unlimited opportunities.) In the twelve years that we worked there we had patients coming from all of over the U.S. and Canada for special services, vaccines, integrative medicine, etc. We tripled in size when the “locals” realized that we were attracting nationally.

  • Katherine:

    Thanks for starting this dialog. I like the idea of a manifesto.

    As far as social media tools are concerned and what a ‘values based manifesto’; might look at, as well as how hospitals should not look to Twitter or or other micro-blogging or social media platform, see:

    Many dynamic forces are converging to contextualixe what a re-engineered hospital organism need assimilate including: health2.0,, participatory medicine, and retainer based medicine.

    This is an unparalleled moment to ‘de-silo’ our cathedrals of medicine and legitimately put them in service to the communities’ they serve.

  • For the truly visionary nexthospital, their reach will only be limited by their imagination. About fifteen years ago we helped blow away the walls a of a major childrens’ hospital. Others have followed. Out of the safe confines of the medical centers. Across state lines. International. Others have followed and it is now one of the chief traits of a “leading” children’s institution is that they know no walls. Information flows both ways – the push and pull of knowledge going out to the net, schools, associated professionals, PARENTS. Also information flows back in – research protocol results, exotic cases from far away, knowledge from the rest of the world. People flow as well. Research, teaching and treatment teams to the nearest barrio, the neighborhood school, associated nexthospitals a world away and back again as students, researchers, clinicians and patients.
    So whats so threatening about “no walls “? Getting away from fixed, sunk assest can be liberating.

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