Catch up with patients to keep your brand relevant

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This post originally appeared on PM 360.

Healthcare is in the midst of a transformation. While many providers have been slow to change, consumers have become more informed and more willing to question the cost, complexity, and opaqueness of the system. They’re seeking less traditional avenues for care—getting diagnosed at grocery stores and in the comfort of their homes. Nearly two-thirds of smartphone users have downloaded a health-related app1 in the hopes that they can stay away from the doctor’s office.

Despite these changes, many healthcare brands are still living in the old paradigm, with value propositions that center on providing care when a patient is sick. But today’s consumers care about much more. In order to remain relevant, brands must achieve three things:

1. Build a brand with stretch

Build a brand with stretch. As the industry shifts to wellness and value-based payments, many health systems are creating new services and revenue streams. For example, St. John Providence Health System runs a Senior Wellness Center. The center goes beyond traditional healthcare, offering support groups, disease education, and fitness programs with the goal of keeping seniors healthier—physically and emotionally.

Cleveland Clinic is branching out through technology. They have eight apps in Apple’s App Store, including wellness tips, health Q&A, and meditation guides, seemingly attempting to expand their role beyond specialty care provider to lifestyle advisor. In order to be credible in new areas, healthcare brands need to expand what they stand for beyond quality care.

2. Clarity is key

Clarity is key. The space is seeing a flood of new entrants from outside sectors, bringing more noise and greater competition. In order to compete with the Apples and CVS Healths, traditional healthcare brands must rely on clarity to cut through the clutter.

Mount Sinai made a statement with its 2015 advertising campaign that noted, “If our beds are filled, it means we’ve failed.” This was one of many ads that reinforced the system’s simple value proposition: To provide continuous care that keeps people out of the hospital. While it may be necessary to include messages around expertise and quality care, communicating a clear and compelling value proposition will help healthcare brands stand out and make an impact.

3. Build loyalty through consistency

As care extends beyond hospital walls, consumers are interacting with healthcare brands in new contexts, and more frequently. In the past, a few key interactions and highly controlled touch points informed perceptions of a healthcare brand: Scheduling an appointment over the phone, visiting the doctor, and receiving the bill. Today, add to that a multitude of digital touch points: Online appointment scheduling, web-based patient portals, disease-specific apps—perceptions could be formed without a patient seeing their doctor at all.

The upside is that brands have more opportunities to make an impression, but they also have more opportunities to let patients down. Consistently delivering on the brand promise—across all touch points—is how brands can truly differentiate. In a saturated marketplace, the healthcare brands that stand out will understand the importance of adaptability, clarity, and consistency, enabling them to connect with consumers in a meaningful way.

Katie Conway is a strategy director at Siegel+Gale. 

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