Today, patients have more choices than ever when it comes to healthcare. Whether it’s about which GP to see, which hospital to go to or even which healthcare app to download, there is a choice. That’s why healthcare branding is playing a more prominent role in building and managing trust in the quality of hospital care. A hospital brand must have a positive association with care and give a sense of hope to patients for positive outcomes.
Healthcare branding offers an opportunity to differentiate amongst competitor healthcare providers. Healthcare audiences expect expertise, compassion and technology with convenience; above all they want to trust that healthcare brand. A trusted brand can deliver economic value and help the organisation provide cost-effective care that outlasts the competition. A brand that is strategically managed can help bridge gaps in the ever changing healthcare environment and transform attitudes to the range of speciality services being offered.
Making an emotional connection and creating a meaningful brand relationship is critical. Evidence suggests that 85% of the decision-making process related to choosing a brand stems from emotional factors. Patients choose the quality of care that best suits their personal health needs – they will have an emotional attachment, often in delicate circumstances. So, healthcare brand engagement has to be about real emotion, connecting with the hearts and minds of all your audiences. It’s vital that visual identity is shown consistently to foster long term bonds. An emotional connection with a healthcare brand can be stimulated right from a patient reading the name of the organisation and the configuration of its logo.
Sharing one vision
Hospitals can lose patients who have the power to go elsewhere. A healthcare organisation needs to have a clear vision underpinned by the brand’s core values and clearly identified strategic goals – it’s about who you are, what you stand for and how you’re different. For the majority of staff in the healthcare profession it’s not just a job, it’s a dedicated vocation. They work together in a highly-skilled team, where all of their individual actions impact on the successful delivery of integrated healthcare. It’s not always about the pay and long hours, but about the authentic common cause. They all know what they need to do to achieve positive outcome for all their patients, day in, day out.
Healthcare engagement starts with why an organisation does something in a particular way, the way they differentiate and position their patient care and safety. If staff are not connected to this brand ethos, it’s unhealthy. From the start as a new employee, in the early stages of induction, staff should be encouraged to feel connected to the brand. They need to understand what it represents and how they have a role in communicating key messages that shape patients’ perception throughout the whole care process, from admission to discharge. Investing in a brand can help give assurance of quality and support the importance of clinical governance (minimising the risks to patients) which is critical for hospitals.
For those patients that have a choice, they will consider carefully why they feel more connected; trust that provider above others to care for their condition. More often than not the decision to be cared by the NHS has already been made for most patients. For those patients, their immediate concern is about how they are or will be cared for. Many have little choice but to place their trust in that treatment and have to be confident they will receive the very best care. Healthcare professionals play a vital role in reassuring them by directing them to make the right choices for a positive outcome for their future health needs. It’s therefore very important that the patient pathway from admission to discharge is communicated factually, with compassion and respect so that where possible, patients still have a choice.
In 2014, patients have a wider healthcare knowledge and have higher expectations. A brand operates both internally and externally and it must galvanise all parties to adhere to its values. It’s important to remember transparent multi-channels, both traditional offline and digital online, to communicate simplified messages cohesively. Brand guidelines and staff handbooks should clearly set out protocols to help manage and protect your brand and ensure all are acting in unison. A clear editorial style can set a consistent tone of voice for all branded communications across all engagement channels. All collateral should be patient friendly and professional, providing information that can increase their knowledge and yet be easily understood.
Social media gives the opportunity to personify your brand and it can be used to join conversations and communities to cultivate an open, responsive environment to build stronger patient engagement. This must be supported by a connected internal team who are aligned to deliver consistent messages and experiences; the medical staff’s reputation can reinforce positive brand values and in turn become brand champions. If a brand can inspire confidence, it can more easily control messages, improve internal efficiencies, reassure wider communities and unify all stakeholders.
One vision for the future
A carefully managed brand with thoughtful leadership from the top will appeal to more patients. Healthcare leaders are expected to leverage their evolving brand and ensure that internally, staff remain unified and inspired. A hospital brand requires disciplined management to ensure promises made are delivered to reinforce trust in the brand. These need to be synchronised with the delivery of patient care. Externally strong brand awareness encourages a better understanding of the healthcare organisation. These approaches will help build strong brands and encourage brand loyalty and earn reputations for state-of-the-art facilities, speciality expertise and respected clinical staff.