There’s a tendency to oversimplify what we think of as hospital and medical practice branding. Perhaps we think of the carefully crafted logo and tagline as the brand. For others, the physical structure—a commanding facility with amenities emblematic of the brand. Or perhaps “our brand” is the prestige name and reputation of a long-established practice.
In fact, a healthcare brand is all of these things, but it is also a great deal more. One of our favorite definitions says, "A brand is the total experience that a customer has with your product, service or company." (This definition has been around a while, but is freshly applicable these days in light of healthcare’s renewed focus on the patient experience.)
Our point is that practice and hospital branding is both a big picture and a little picture thing. And it’s the easily overlooked “little things” that can erode the good intentions and hard work of your branding message.
Here are three often-neglected danger zones that deserve an introspective look:
Your telephone: How your telephone is answered is often the first impression that a patient or prospective has of your brand. More often than you realize, it’s a disastrously bad experience. The office telephone is an angry collision of multiple tasks; answer phone, transfer call, greet arriving patients, shuffle charts and files. Well, you know, too many tasks and not enough time and talent.
Here’s a test: Call your own office. Not the back line…the main number. Was the call—and every call—handled in a friendly and professional manner that proudly represents your brand? Although it sounds elementary (and perhaps trivial), a call to the doctor’s office is tremendously important to the patient. (This exercise also tells the staff that, when the phone rings, it might be the boss calling.)
Take the patient’s pathway: When the everyday routine of “going to the office” is an autopilot function, habituation erases awareness of the simple but important details. But for the new patient, the process of going from home to the doctor’s office or medical facility is a first-time wonder. And, long before their encounter with the provider, the patient is assessing your brand and reputation.
Here’s a test: Tomorrow, don’t park in your “doctors only” space, don’t slip up the back stairs, don’t use the side door of the practice, and don’t assume you know the way. From car door to reception area, take the route that new patients use. And take notes.
The office culture: Culture is often intangible, but sour or enthusiastic, it’s easily detectable and a reflection of your brand and reputation. Leadership inspires the office culture, and the staff and employees represent it in attitude and actions.
Here’s a test: Teamwork, professional pride, caring and attention to detail are self-evident in the culture of a patient-centric practice. Generally it begins with hiring individuals who possess and radiate a positive attitude and work ethic. A positive culture—however you choose to define it in your workplace—is evident by employees who are passionate about what they do and where they work. Top-down leadership and vision fuel an office culture
Be aware that brand success begins from the inside out. Patients and prospective patients shape their opinions and assessments around “little things,” and they begin well ahead of the first appointment.
There’s more about the face of hospital and healthcare branding in this related article.