How to Keep Your Brand Beating Strong in the New Healthcare Era
There is no question that the healthcare landscape is changing. The implementation of the Affordable Care Act is having a profound effect on how hospitals are evaluated, how care is coordinated and who owns healthcare decisions.
Hospital mergers, partnerships and acquisitions are becoming more commonplace. This has increased the competition among healthcare providers while creating confusion for patients. Just ask anyone as they enter their local hospital without recognizing the name on the building.
This situation does little to help patients feel confident and secure about the relationships they have with their health systems.
The complexity of marketing a hospital in this new healthcare era has increased a thousand-fold. It is imperative that hospital marketers and their agencies adjust their approach to help patients overcome their feelings of confusion.
The most powerful asset in weathering these changes is a marketer’s brand. In fact, brands not only can survive but can thrive in the new healthcare landscape by:
- Differentiating themselves from the competition
- Creating a compelling and meaningful promise
- Delivering an experience that backs up the promise
Differentiating — A hospital can differentiate itself by understanding what the competition stands for and finding the “white space” that is not yet owned. Identifying the areas where your competition lacks expertise can help reveal the shifting needs of your patients and allow you to truthfully deliver on a need.
You will likely find that patient expectations are very different from what they have been in the last several years. Understanding your community’s generational makeup will help define what is important to patients.
The worst way to attempt to differentiate your hospital is to guess or assume you know your patient base. Hospital associates need to talk to and closely observe consumers to understand what they truly lack and how best to deliver a timely and relevant solution.
Creating a Compelling and Meaningful Promise — Talking to and observing consumers will help you define the promise. Use quantitative research to survey, measure and quantify the needs of your patients. This also means talking to physicians, nurses, schedulers and other personnel in the care-giving continuum to really zero in on what you can represent.
Delivering an Experience — Your brand promise can be communicated through your marketing strategy. However, this means nothing unless you can deliver flawlessly on that promise at every single patient encounter. For example, if a hospital promise is centered on “compassion” and the intake staff does not live this, or worse, is rude and shows no empathy, the hospital will lose all credibility with your target.
When communicating the brand promise, the most important audience is your employee base. It is up to them to deliver on that promise every day and to understand why it is so critically important.
There is still a tremendous amount of uncertainty around healthcare, and that will only increase as the decision-making moves from providers to consumers. Hospitals can help patients navigate this change by harnessing their own brand and identifying the changing needs of their patients.
If your hospital has a strong brand based on what your patients need and delivers flawlessly on that promise, your system has the best chance of surviving the future. And that means a healthy community and a healthy balance sheet.