Health systems that ignore the implications of physician integration to the organization’s brand do so at their own peril. Hundreds of doctors in an employed physician structure can produce hundreds of thousands of patient visits in a year – each visit shaping and reinforcing the organization’s brand reputation.
Without an explicit strategy for creating and delivering a brand-defined experience in physician practices, health systems run the risk of developing a brand reputation they don’t want – formed from inconsistency of service, customer indifference, fragmented care, complex processes, poor medical care.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. The key question for health care executives is how to leverage investments in physician integration to increase total brand equity – to build a powerful, differentiated brand presence and to drive growth from a core positioning platform.
To do so, we must first understand brand as a central and foundational underpinning of competitive strategy. Brands are potent business-building assets for driving growth, engaging customers, building profitability. As you develop and evolve the integrated physician structure, key issues regarding brand and business building strategies should be addressed from the beginning.
So how can a health system turn a potential brand liability into an advantage?
- Determine your unique brand value proposition. How you plan to create and deliver value to current and prospective customers through the fully integrated physician practice is fundamental to long term success. What significant customer-centered benefits (more timely appointments, better coordinated care, personalized service, best in class physician talent, etc.) will your patients gain as a result of the integration strategy?
- Agree on brand identity. Names may be about egos, but brands are about business. The right brand identity should, first and foremost, ease the selection process for your customers. Brand identity for the physician group should be chosen in the context of the health system’s strategic positioning and growth goals, as well as its overall brand building strategy.
- Create brand alignment across operating, clinical and marketing systems, and build a discipline to channel investments into those things that matter most.
- Hardwire customer service, operating and patient care processes to ‘deliver’ on the brand. Patient experience is born through brand activation, a process whereby the brand value proposition is translated and transformed into actionable principles, features, service standards and behaviors. Remember that brand reputation is built primarily through customer experience.
- Enhance brand performance. Establish and monitor key metrics regarding growth, revenue, profitability, brand awareness, brand preference, customer advocacy and staff engagement. Identify growth opportunities in key segments, markets, channels. Address barriers that may limit the power of your brand to move market share.
The mantra for health systems seeking leverage from their physician integration investments is simple. Build the brand. Build the business.