Competition in healthcare is everywhere! How practices differentiate themselves has never been more important to the bottom line.
Be like everybody else and, well, you’ll be like everybody else. Worse yet, promise something you’re not, and you’ll be out of business fast (as we shall see momentarily).
The solution is to offer patients a unique healthcare brand and message that translates to a positive patient experience, where patients prefer you over competitors.
But what exactly is brand and message?
Say I’m visiting a practice as a new patient. Chances are I’ve already visited the practice’s website and Facebook page, assuming they have one. I’ve probably also seen their practice signage, usually a logo with one or two colors. Already I’ve formed an impression – specifically, the words and images the practice uses to personify itself have passed muster. They’ve gained my trust and offered a promise of competent, reliable care that has my best interest in mind.
I drive to the practice and there’s the recognizable sign, yet it’s attached to a decrepit old building in need of painting and gutters. Not what I envisioned based on the website. Apparently the photos were taken 20+ years ago. I enter the lobby, and nobody greets me. In fact, the receptionist doesn’t even look at me as she appears to be “busy” on a personal phone call! Her desk is in disarray with sticky notes and paper everywhere the eye can see. Remnants of her morning snack and coffee are in plain view.
After I finally “interrupt” the receptionist, I complete the tons of paperwork and am then abruptly called to a door and taken to the back by a person who fails to identify himself. The exam room is cold and impersonal (where did all those bright logo colors go?). The doctor I’m scheduled to see is not the one I’m seeing. In fact, they can’t figure out who I’m supposed to see. When a doctor does see me, the part about “highly personalized care” on the physician bio page quickly goes out the window.
After my visit, I’m directed to checkout where I wait in line. When it’s my turn, the checkout person swears I haven’t paid my co-pay – that is, until I show her my receipt. She doesn’t ask me if I had a good experience or had any questions. She simply shoves several sheets of paper into my hand and sends me on my way.
Naturally, I decide never to return to this practice. Rest assured I’m going to tell at least 24 friends about my bad experience! I may even search out the practice online and give it horrible ratings on all of the physician ranking sites I’m able to find.
As you can see, brand is not only what you look like and say but, most importantly, how you behave. When I visited the website, the message seemed to be, We’re professionals committed to the patient. However, I found the opposite to be true. The practice broke its brand promise and now they lose me, the patient, and source of revenue! The practice’s bottom line just decreased by $200,000, the estimated loss of income from a single dissatisfied patient over the lifetime of the practice!