By Andy Pollock, Senior Director, Client Services from BrandActive
Here’s a fact worth noting: 90% of the hospitals with the highest loyalty scores are part of larger healthcare systems.
Over the past 15 years, a flood of M&A activity has expanded the market share of healthcare systems. More patients than ever now seek care at these large institutions. Their scale allows them to invest in providing a cohesive customer experiences across touchpoints. And it seems to be moving the needle on patient preferences.
The aftermath of a major M&A transaction—as your hospital or healthcare systems rebrands—is a perfect time to make long-term, patient-centric improvements in patient experience and brand consistency. You’ll need to address all online and physical brand assets anyway—so why not increase effectiveness in driving preference? (Think of it as tuning up the engine when you the care is already in the shop for repair.)
Patient experience starts in the digital landscape and continues when they step foot on-site
Deloitte recently surveyed 4,530 U.S. consumers to better understand their decision-making process and attitudes regarding healthcare. Nearly half, especially younger people, expressed willingness to use technology to improve their healthcare experience. In the future, more healthcare experiences will occur online.
So, you’ll need to consider the digital touchpoints a patient encounters before even leaving the house. Does your brand architecture make sense online? How do patients access your site using a smartphone or laptop? Do they know to use your hospital’s online directory to find locations and doctor specialties? These initial touchpoints are critical for positive momentum. Now is the perfect time for you and your brand strategy or customer experience agency will want to take a deep dive into this.
Once your patient sets foot in your facility, you have the opportunity to make a good first impression and put the patient’s mind at ease. Enhance their experience through smart branded systems.
One client I worked with did an especially thorough job in addressing these touchpoints as part of a rebranding implementation initiative. They created clear-cut signage to identify each wing, improved wayfinding in parking lots and entrances, and revamped the color-coded uniforms for all their healthcare professionals. Their rebranding budget paid big dividends in an elevated customer experience.
Understand that patient experience is an organization-wide goal
Making these widespread improvements during times of brand change requires a team effort that extends far beyond the marketing department. For efficient and cost-effective rebranding cost analysis, scenario planning, and implementation logistics, many healthcare systems turn to a brand implementation firm. First, this type of consultancy identifies the scope of work and based on that, who at your healthcare system needs to be part of the brand change team and how much the overall effort will cost. While it is probable that Marketing will lead this process, it’s likely that chief medical officers and chief experience officers will be primary approvers. Many other hospital staff members will be involved as well, including facility management, legal, IT, fleet and representatives from every facility in the system.
For many healthcare systems, a new brand often ushers in new messaging and a revised brand architecture. These changes impact all functions and stakeholders. One system that recently rebranded placed a big emphasis on revamping the messaging to non-patient audiences. That included recruiting for new doctors and administrative staff, community outreach, fundraising efforts and interactions with regulatory bodies.
Most marketers quickly realize that rebranding implementation must support all interactions with the master healthcare brand as well as any sub-brands—wings dedicated to children’s cancer or maternity, for example, clinics, and more. It’s a big job—no doubt about it—and you need to set priorities as part of your plan of attack.
Essential rebrand elements that contribute to the patient experience
Some branded assets that need to be changed may be glaringly obvious, like signage and fleet vehicles, while others may not be. For example, a patient may not initially notice the color-coding system for doctor, nurse and custodian uniforms. As they visit the hospital more frequently, they begin to understand that nurses wear green and doctors wear blue. If this aspect of staff organization is lost during a rebrand, it could leave patients and confused and frustrated.
I’ve already mentioned the increasing important of digital. Today, close to 50% of all healthcare consumers consult online physician or hospital ratings in their decision-making process. The way a patient interacts with your digital landscape can be a pleasant, useful experience—or a mind-numbing one. When websites carry old legacy logos, or when some sites use the old logo while others use the new one, patients can get confused—and regulators may throw a penalty flag.
Clearly, vendors also need to be brought into the loop. I believe the earlier these conversations take place, the better, as it gives everyone involved the time to make sure systems are analyzed, rationalized, and branded properly at reasonable cost.
About the Author
Andy Pollock helps healthcare brands with the financial analysis and logistics of rebranding in his role as Senior Director of Client Service at BrandActive. To date, he’s worked with more than 35 hospitals, healthcare systems, pharma companies and medical technology firms. He began his career in integrated sports and marketing, focusing on building market share and brand image for national clients including Chrysler Corporation, Siemens, Rolex, Callaway Golf, and Glaxo Smith-Kline. For several years, Andy managed corporate marketing for Briggs Equipment/Sammons, a global industrial supplier. He holds an MBA from the University of Texas at Dallas.