Northwest Business Magazine

Cultivating a Brand in the Health Care Industry

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In today’s health care industry, having a brand is critical. A local expert explains the significance of branding and why it’s so critical to businesses in this field.

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As the saying goes, “Everything old is new again,” and that’s especially true for the health care field.

While the technology and innovative approaches to medical care and treatments have surpassed even our wildest imaginations, the way in which the majority of us find a physician has fundamentally remained the same, and in some cases, returned to the basics: a trusted referral.

Trust is at the heart of any emotional decision and there are few things more sensitive than medical concerns. Impactful health care marketing needs to focus on the “Brand” (with a capital “B”) which is critical for each hospital, private practice or independent clinic to not just survive, but thrive. Brand is more than the sum of your marketing efforts. It reflects the authentic emotional connections you create with patients and influencers and results in what others think, know and feel about your organization. A Brand must be cultivated across all channels including your digital presence, advertising, campaigns and more.

Today, patients are exhibiting traditional consumer behaviors as they make choices about their health care services. They “shop” for health care providers and services in much the same way they evaluate other purchases like televisions and cars. They weigh the costs, review ratings and do research. They ask around and get feel for an organization before taking the next step.

What does that mean in practical terms? Let me share by example.

•In the past two weeks, how many of us have seen a Facebook friend seek recommendations on the area’s best (fill-in-the-blank) specialty doctor?
•In the past year, how many of you or your immediate family have been influenced by an online medical rating system or social media a post regarding a physician, clinic or procedure?

In today’s marketplace, the growth and success of any business – including health care – is strongly influenced by popular opinion. Friends trust friends and consumers trust other consumers to help them make buying decisions. Health care is no different.

Recent studies have shown that:

•59 percent of adults have looked online for health information in the past year
•80 percent of health inquiries start with a search engine
•92 percent of consumers trust recommendations from friends and family over all other advertising
•88 percent of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations
•74 percent of consumers identify word of mouth as a key influencer in their decisions

As competition heats up among large systems, private practices and specialized clinics nationally, medical organizations are seeking to set themselves apart from competitors through reputation management.

In many cases, understanding the patient decision-making processes – determining who sets foot in an office, who stays away and why – can be as critical to driving patient volume and managing reputation as the treatment and care within the practice.

It should go without saying that quality patient care, solid outcomes and administrative processes that ensure top-notch patient experiences are ground zero for Brand development and reputation management. With so many choices in the health care industry, an excellent patient-centered experience is the only way to create an army of Brand ambassadors to positively build your reputation.

Online reputation management can include posting positive patient stories on your social media outlets, including patient video testimonials on your website; sharing unique patient outcomes through public relations efforts; and setting up a process to encourage patients to review and rate doctors on key medical practice ranking sites. Additionally, continuous communication to current or past patients keeps a medical center top of mind when these individuals are asked for health care provider recommendations.

Health care organizations need to recognize and understand the significance of reputation management and how to ensure the positive care they provide to patients is shared with others by the patient. It’s a powerful, authentic approach to share the perspective of the ones that matter most – the patients.

Rebecca Epperson is the President of Chartwell Agency. Founded in 2002, Chartwell focuses on an integrated approach to help clients exceed business goals.

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