Have We Banned Brand Discussions from the C-Suite?

Recently a colleague asked my opinion on educational topics for healthcare executives focused on physician integration and alignment. We talked over the usual suspects – varied alignment models, integration frameworks, physician governance and leadership, transaction issues. culture – to which she asked, ‘these are all important, but what isn’t yet being talked about when it comes to the integration of health systems and physicians?”

“Brand,” I replied. “No one is talking about the brand impact of large-scale physician integration strategies.”

“Oh,” she said, “but these are executives, not marketers. They’re not really interested in brand.”


Just imagine this conversation if we were discussing Apple, Proctor and Gamble, Starbucks. Can you see Steve Jobs dismissing brand as an issue central to a company acquisition? Howard Shultz declaring that brand is the lone responsibility of the marketing department?

The problems lies not in whether the C-suite is interested in brand, but whether it understands and embraces brand as central to creating customer value. When the first brand question raised is “what do we call the new physician enterprise?” rather than “what competitively unique, relevant brand value proposition will this combination bring to market to grow our business in new and exciting ways” then it’s clear that brand is still seen as a communications tool rather than an asset to be leveraged for market gains.

Branding is a management perspective — the totality of activities to define, shape and deliver customer perceived value. Are we to leave this to chance after spending millions to effect physician transactions?

In an earlier post (Keeping Your Brand Healthy After Physician Integration) I stated, “Assuming the average primary care physician sees about 5,000 patients visits a year, back of the napkin math shows us that a health system with 100 employed physicians brings in a half million visits or so annually – with 300 to 400 physicians that number can rise upwards of 2 million. Now assuming that brand impressions are shaped through familiarity and frequency of use, then it’s easy to see how a large employed physician practice can be the catalyst for building – or unraveling – brand reputation.”

Brands drive customer perceptions. Customer perceptions drive business outcomes. This isn’t a topic of interest for the C-suite?


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