by Lisa Kersey
While medical tattoos are not new, they do seem to be growing in popularity. Rather than wear a bracelet or “dog tag,” many people, including diabetic patients and those with strong feelings about how they want caregivers to respond if their heart stops, have opted for a tattoo as a matter of convenience.
Medical tattoos convey a message that is very personal to an individual. Whether it’s making sure others know that they are diabetic to ensure appropriate medical attention in an emergency, or declaring their advanced directive, the medical tattoo is a brand - in both senses of the word. Yes, it’s a physical mark intended to convey a message, but it’s also intended to evoke a response and influence the behavior of those who see it.
As the healthcare industry continues to consolidate, branding is increasingly important. Successful hospitals, health systems and healthcare companies would do well to assess the current state of their brand to minimize any integrity gaps, connect with their stakeholders and build reputation. Consider the following questions:
- Is your brand in need of being refreshed?
- Does your growth or acquisition strategy require that an entirely new brand be developed?
- Do you have a gap between who you say you are and what you deliver?
- Do you know whether your brand has meaning for your key stakeholders?
- Can your employees articulate your brand?
Whether you’re at the top of the heap or trying to get there, here are three important reminders about the power of a brand:
Strong brands are built from the inside out, not the outside in.
By any account, the Cleveland Clinic enjoys a strong national and local reputation. But even the Cleveland Clinic recognized the need to refresh its brand. In a recent interview with HealthLeaders, Dr. James Merlino, Chief Experience Officer for the Cleveland Clinic, explains that the legacy of the organization is physician-focused, yet the health system wants to be famous for being patient-focused. For such a cultural shift to take place, employees needed to understand their role in the patient experience.
Over a period of several months, Cleveland Clinic invested $11 million to engage the entire staff of 42,000 employees, from surgeons to housekeeping staff, in half-day sessions to discuss the patient experience. It’s important to realize that you don’t have to be the Cleveland Clinic or invest the same amount of money to build a lasting brand. The real lesson is intentional investment to build your brand from the inside out, rather than the outside in.
Strong brands are emotional, relevant and strategic.
For healthcare providers, the emotional and relevant part should come easy. Healthcare is a very personal experience for people.
Sadly, many hospitals and health systems are engage in “selfish branding.” Branding from “the inside out” is remaining true to your values – selfish branding is inwardly focused in all communications, and makes brand about the hospital rather than the patient. That’s not to say that these facilities don’t care about patients. Rather, there is an integrity gap between their desire to be patient-focused and how they actually deliver on being patient-focused. You can see it in their messaging, their interaction with patients and communities, and their investments. To be successful in the era of health reform, many hospitals will need to make a 180-degree turnaround to ensure that their brand is focused on patients.
Strong brands make good business sense.
A brand is strategic. It’s how you will distinguish yourself from your competitors and how you create a meaningful experience for people, both today and in the future. In healthcare, your brand has the power to influence HCAHPS scores, philanthropic efforts, recruitment and retention, market share and the bottom line. But the brand can only influence these things when there is an intentional approach and an executive commitment. Make sure you clearly articulate how branding is connected to the strategy of your organization.
While tattooing your tagline on all employees may not catch on, investing in how your brand is communicated to employees and delivered to customers must be “inked” into the budget, if you want to experience measurable results.