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Patient V. Customer: Patient Preferences

Posted by zelen304 in Branding, Healthcare

Thanks to the “Eight Dimensions of Patient-Centered Care” research, we now definitively know that the patient is no ordinary customer. Nor should a savvy marketer mistake them as such. The research by Picker Institute and Harvard Medical School demonstrated that there are “certain things, certain behaviors no less, that are instrumental to patients’ healing, feeling cared for, and having a positive patient (not customer) experience.”

With many, many different aspects of service, facilities and care that can affect the experience of your patient, we must act on those that most efficiently create a positive experience – hence the value of this new research. Creating a positive patient experience is even more important today as “word of mouth” is now the primary factor in up to 50% of product or service purchase decisions, according to McKinsey Quarterly (April 2010). It seems the noise of competitors in a crowded marketplace leads to confusion. And those who are confused look for trusted sources for more information and referrals. Add the tools of technology and social media and “word of mouth” becomes absolutely huge.

One of the “eight” factors to influence your patients experience is “respect for patients’ values, preferences, and expressed needs.” Now you could give a nod to your institutions understanding of these preferences in your advertising. You could even describe in the copy how your staff responds to such issues, but it likely will fall short of success. Why? Because, like we say at Walker Brands, it’s not enough to  “say it,” you have to “live it.”

A first step to “living the brand,” is understanding exactly what your brand platform is and ensuring everyone on the team “gets it.” They must also know how to consistently translate it into a meaningful behavior for the patients benefit. You may want to consider a “brand experience assessment” before you climb back into the ring – if so let me know, I’ve got your corner.

But, back to patients preferences and what you can do to help shore up this important aspect of their experience. Not to mention influence what they will tell at least a dozen or so people. Since patients indicate a need to be recognized and treated as individuals by hospital staff, it’s all too obvious we should be nicer – welcome “customer” training 101. But, that’s not nearly enough. That’s like a mini-flyweight (105 lbs) with inflatable gloves facing a belt toting, bare-knuckled heavy weight (200 lbs).

The patient wants to be kept informed about their condition, be involved in medical decisions and treated with dignity and respect. This is a tall order and well beyond that of a traditional customer. This requires the right people, the right processes, and even the right place (branded environments). These form the brand framework, which is supported by a well-articulated and distinctive brand purpose – the foundation. Beyond advertising, communication pieces and even social media is creating brand-infused systems and processes, training staff for “on-brand” performance and taking a hard look at physical spaces to leverage opportunities to express the brand – everything is a touch point – everything counts.

Next time we will go head-to-head with two more dimensions, Coordination of Care and Information and Education.