Written by Keith Schneider, Director, Consumer & Brand
A healthcare marketing team is tasked with trying to shape the image of the organization within the community. Branding is not just for designer clothes, soft drinks, or other consumer goods; it is extremely important for healthcare institutions as well. However, branding is not just about saying you have high quality care or the best doctors. A brand is not what you tell others you are, rather what others think you to be.
If you think about what affects the public’s perception of a healthcare institution, the perception of care from patients who have received care is front and center. I often tell my healthcare marketing contacts that to be effective in marketing, you must have a strong product or foundation. In the case of healthcare, that product is high quality care.
Among other criteria, recommendations from friends and family plays a role in how people decide where to go for care. From PRC’s research, we know that patients who feel their care is “Excellent” are four times more likely to recommend that hospital than those that feel the care is “Very Good.” This shows the importance of not only providing a good experience, but an excellent experience. Consumer study research through PRC aims to measure the perspectives of the general population: Who is best? Who do they prefer? What has the most impact on their decision making? Conversely, patient experience research aims to determine how actual patients feel about a specific experience with the given institution: How was the quality of care? How do they rate various aspects of their visit? Ideally, between the two, we get a view of how each population feels, and whether there is commonality or disparity between them.
Any hospital or health system can place themselves in one of four categories:
- Patients = excellent care| Consumer perception = primarily positive
- Patients = NOT excellent care| Consumer perception = primarily negative
- Patients = excellent care| Consumer perception = primarily negative
- Patients = NOT excellent care| Consumer perception = primarily positive
In all likelihood, that last one doesn’t really exist. If patients don’t feel you provide excellent care, it is most likely that your brand is suffering in the public, which is #2 above. If #4 doesn’t exist, this means that if you want to have a positive brand in the eyes of the public, the only remaining option is also having patients feel you provide excellent care.
This is important because all too often, many leaders push marketing into “mending” the reputation the hospital or health system has in the market if the public perception is not positive. I suggest that if a consumer study suggests potential for improvement in public perceptions, you must first look at patient perceptions. If your patients feel you are excellent, there is a disparity between patients and the general public, and that becomes a marketing task to inform the public about what patients already know. In this case, you already have the strong foundation built and can focus on marketing. However, if there is a lot of room to improve the patient experience, that means the foundation is not strong enough for marketing to have the greatest impact. As such, the focus of leadership should be internal on improving that patient experience first.
This doesn’t mean marketing should go dark. Healthcare marketing is still important on keeping awareness top of mind, but expectations for this marketing to create a large shift in public perceptions should be tempered.
In addition to patient perceptions, PRC also helps healthcare organizations measure the engagement of employees and physicians. Along with a variety of solutions to improve the patient experience, we also know that patient perceptions are largely driven not by their environment, but their experience led by employees and physicians that they encounter. If you do not have engaged employees and physicians, it can be extremely difficult to implement tactics to improve the overall patient experience. While a consumer study measures perceptions of the public, if your patients are not feeling you are excellent, lack of movement in consumer perception scores may speak more to those patient perceptions than the effectiveness of marketing. If your patients feel you are excellent, a consumer study will more accurately measure performance of your branding efforts.
All of this is why it is important for healthcare leaders to focus on ensuring the foundation of care is strong. I often quote David Ogilvy who said, “Great marketing only makes a bad product fail faster.” To me, this means you need to put a strong product on the table, and only then will your marketing be set up to succeed. The results from your patient experience survey will tell you how you are really doing. Ensuring employees and physicians are engaged will ensure they are delivering the best care possible, and that they have the tools, equipment, and technology to provide that care. That will lead to better perceptions of care and set your marketing up to create a brand campaign that will ensure the rest of your community knows what your patients know. To learn more about how PRC can help you with Patient Experience, Employee Engagement, Physician Partnership Solutions, or Consumer & Brand, visit us at PRCExcellence.com or contact us at [email protected].
About the Author
Director, Consumer & Brand
Joining PRC in 2002 with a lifelong passion for branding, Keith employs a deep-seated set of marketing and research skills to help clients obtain actionable insights that will enable them to make strategic decisions to deliver quality care in ways that elevate their brand. During his tenure at PRC, Keith has managed hundreds of complex, custom research projects for healthcare organizations throughout the United States, overseeing the sample design stages, script-writing functions, and sample generation for PRC’s computer-aided telephone interviewing system as well as electronic surveys. Through timely deliverables and engaging, informative presentations, Keith helps ensure that clients have the data they need to assess their image, interpret the findings and fulfill all their research objectives. He currently leads PRC’s Consumer & Brand division and guides custom research to enhance clients’ marketing and branding efforts. Keith earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration from the University of Nebraska–Omaha.