5 tips healthcare providers should follow to grow service lines successfully

In today’s competitive healthcare environment, it’s starting to feel like offering exceptional care isn’t enough. Patients have more choices than ever before, and they’re demanding a healthcare experience that’s more than just exceptional—an experience that is convenient, personalized, and effective.

One way healthcare providers can address these needs and optimize their services in a competitive landscape is to add new service lines. Healthcare service lines are essentially groupings of related medical services within a facility or practice that share commonalities (like cardiology, pediatrics, or certain procedures). Offering new services is an important step toward filling care gaps in a community and driving more revenue, whether you’re a large health system or a small physician group.

No matter what kind of provider you are, if you want to expand your service line offerings, this guide is for you. Below, we’ll share the five most important tips you should know to help you successfully grow your service lines.

1. Let data lead the way

When deciding to add a new service line, two main categories of data and metrics are crucial: market analytics and financial feasibility. We’ll dig into each of these points in the following sections, but it’s important to start the process from a position informed by healthcare commercial intelligence.

From initial planning to execution and ongoing monitoring to adaptation, let data be your compass as you work to add new service lines.

Here’s why being a data-driven organization is so important. Data can help you:

  1. Identify gaps in service offerings and unmet needs in the community
  2. Make informed decisions about the most viable and valuable service lines
  3. Optimize service line delivery
  4. Measure the performance of your service lines
  5. Adapt to changes in the market and stay up to date on new trends and competitor strategies

In simpler terms, data helps you grow your service lines strategically and focus on areas with the highest potential for success. Keep in mind, however, that there’s a big difference between investing in data and becoming data-driven—it's a multifaceted process involving many stakeholders and teams across the organization. Check out our data & analytics buyer’s guide for useful guidance on becoming a data-driven organization.

2. Use market analytics to understand your patients

At the core of any successful service line expansion strategy lies a deep understanding of your market and the patients you serve. This forms the critical foundation upon which all future decisions will be built. Let’s explore three of the key elements involved: (1) Market research, (2) competitor analysis, and (3) patient insights.

Market research

To gain that comprehensive picture of the market, start with a thorough analysis of your local healthcare landscape. This includes examining demographic data such as age, income, population density, and much more.

Complement your research by digging into healthcare utilization data and all-payor claims to identify areas where there might be gaps in the care continuum, a lack of existing providers, or a high demand for specific services. Are there rising health concerns within the community? Or are there specific population subsets, like geriatric patients or those with chronic conditions, who are currently underserved?

Mining insights from the data you’ve collected and finding answers to these questions help frame the context of the market and the value of any opportunities within.

Competitor analysis

Of course, you’ll also want to analyze the competition to enrich your market-level research. Again, all-payor claims data can be integral here, helping you identify gaps in your competitors’ offerings that you can potentially fill. Consider partnering with a healthcare commercial intelligence company to map out the market—and how you, your competitors, and your patients move within it.

Patient insights

Finally, it’s worthwhile to gather valuable feedback straight from the source: your patients. This can be achieved through surveys, focus groups, or patient satisfaction ratings. What services do patients currently struggle to access within your organization or geographically? Are there preventative or wellness programs that would be particularly valuable to them?

Understanding patient preferences and identifying pain points allows you to tailor your service line offerings to better meet their needs and expectations.

3. Prioritize the most feasible opportunities

Once you’ve gained a better understanding of your market and patients, you can start making decisions around which opportunities to prioritize. While it is obvious to only invest in the service lines with the highest chance of success, it’s important to temper your expectations with data that presents the most feasible, realistic picture of growth for your organization.

In simpler terms: you don’t have to chase every healthcare trend. The growth of your organization shouldn’t come at the expense of financial sustainability. When deciding, prioritize service lines that complement your team’s existing expertise, resources, and goals. Can you leverage your current staff's qualifications or existing equipment to efficiently expand into a new area? For instance, if your hospital has a strong reputation in cardiology, expanding into cardiac rehabilitation or preventative heart health programs might be a strategic fit.

As mentioned earlier, ground your decision-making in data. Conduct a thorough cost-benefit analysis for potential service lines. Factor in projected costs like staffing needs, equipment acquisition, facility renovations and expansions, marketing expenses, and potential reimbursement rates. Will the new service line generate enough revenue to offset the initial investment and ensure long-term profitability?

4. Ensure operational efficiency

Having identified promising service line opportunities, the next step is to build a strong foundation for their successful implementation. This involves creating a supportive, collaborative, and efficient workplace environment.

Here’s how to ensure you can optimize operational efficiency:

  • Get your physicians on board. Physician referrals are a major driver of patient volume, so it’s critical for the success of any new service line that you get buy-in from physicians and specialists. You’ll want to consider any additional resources, training, or time needed to get them confident in referring patients to the new service line.
  • Facilitate collaboration. Effective service line delivery hinges on seamless collaboration between departments within your organization, like nursing, billing and coding, scheduling, and more.
  • Consider technology. Determine how technologies like telemedicine platforms, EHR systems, AI, scheduling software, and more can streamline operations and keep service moving smoothly.

5. Deliver an exceptional patient experience

Like any other service line you offer, you’ll want to deliver an exceptional patient care experience. Here are a few tips to ensure your new service line offering not only meets clinical needs but also prioritizes a patient-centric approach to care.

  • Establish clear communication. Maintain open communication with patients at every touchpoint in their care journey. Provide them with information about their treatment plan, risks and benefits, and expected outcomes.
  • Make service convenient. It should be easy for patients to access your new service line. The right technology and staff can open windows into flexible scheduling options that are convenient for meeting patients on their terms.
  • Demonstrate the value you deliver. Prioritize quality outcomes over just patient volume. Depending on your service line offerings, consider integrating additional services that help patients achieve positive health outcomes.

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but by focusing on creating an excellent experience and ongoing connections, you’ll cultivate loyalty and satisfaction within your patient base, which in turn translates to positive word-of-mouth referrals and a path to sustainable success.

What it all means

By following these five steps, healthcare providers can make informed decisions about expanding their service lines, enhancing the quality of care they deliver, and facilitating more growth for years to come.

Of course, the work doesn’t end once you’ve launched your new service line. Like any facet of your business, you should continuously monitor your performance. Track KPIs like patient satisfaction, referral rates, and financial performance to determine areas needing improvement. Also, be sure to stay on top of changes in the market and at the regulatory level to adapt to new patient preferences and ensure long-term success.

For more information on how to successfully expand your service line offerings, check out these resources:

And if you’re a healthcare provider looking to get hands-on with our healthcare commercial intelligence, start a free trial with Definitive Healthcare today to see how we can help your business grow faster.