With healthcare spending quickly advancing towards 20 percent of the GDP in the US, and consumers having more choice about how they receive their care than ever before, the relevance of a meaningful, positive and differentiated brand for healthcare organizations is of utmost importance.
Consistent delivery of a brand promise is challenging enough in companies that have a similar delivery model across the organization. Think about a retailer who strives to replicate a consumer experience aligned with their brand promise across several thousand stores. Yes, it’s challenging, but the fact that all stores have a similar delivery model contributes towards success.
Healthcare Is No Longer a Cottage Industry
But what about healthcare? In an era that is seeing the former cottage industry of healthcare transform to large national systems that operate under a single brand, leaders of these organizations face daunting challenges in differentiating themselves with a meaningful brand promise, and then crafting its delivery across an amazingly diverse range of consumer environments.
Think of the environment of an emergency room, often considered the unofficial “front door” to a hospital, based on its importance in driving necessary business volume. An extremely high percentage of patients admitted to a hospital arrive via the ER making it vitally important to the profitable operation of most healthcare organizations. Most ERs have terrible reputations when it comes to a positive brand experience. Instead, consumers tend to generally associate the ER with extremely long waits, intimidating and confusing clinical environments, and unfamiliar staff with limited visible compassion. All this at a time when they are typically under stress.
Physicians Can Feel Unattached to Healthcare System Brands
Now, contrast a trip to the ER with a regular visit to your primary care doctor who increasingly is operating under the same brand and brand promise. Many people develop very close and personal relationships with their primary care physician. There is a high degree of familiarity, trust and partnership. Within healthcare, however, primary practice physicians can feel rather distant and unattached to the brand of the system they are often now a part of. This is unfortunate, since they make up the vast majority of touchpoints with the consumer and are in the best position to bring the brand promise to life in meaningful ways.
Now, expand the healthcare continuum to include urgent care, rehabilitation centers, hospital in-patient, lab and pharmacy, labor and delivery, day surgery, etc. Each environment is distinctly different in multiple ways, yet, as a consumer navigates these various services as part of their healthcare journey, they will compile a collective impression of the range of experiences into a single and simple belief about the brand and its relevance to their life.
Brands represent an emotional connection with consumers, and few services hold the potential for developing emotional connections like healthcare. Many of the most frightening (major medical event) and joyous (birth of a child) events of a person’s life happen within a healthcare environment.
In part two of this post, we will explore ways to address the challenge of meaningfully delivering a brand experience across the continuum of healthcare that validates the brand promise.
To read part 2 of this series, click here.
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