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Evolving your health system’s brand

Positive outcomes in health systems are increasingly beyond a manager’s direct control, yet accessible to his or her influence. As patients demand a more active and ongoing role in their personal health decisions, successful systems should conduct a self-assessment audit: of their core values, their brand voice, and how they communicate the experience they provide to customers.

To CEOs and health system executives, it feels a lot like being squeezed from two directions: On one side, government mandates now hold their systems financially responsible for patient outcomes – outcomes that are often affected by lifestyle choices that occur far away from their facilities and care. On the other side, patients increasingly insist on making their own lifestyle and health management choices. When pay-for-performance is at stake, this clash can drive a health system to financial woe. The burden now rests squarely on each health system to ensure that all its stakeholders—from clinicians to educators to patients and their families—adhere to best practices.

In the new health care world, health systems must ramp up their ability to influence these behavioral choices. To help systems evolve within this “new normal,” consider these ideas that successful systems are now embracing:


  • Define what business you are in. Health care delivery is indeed a business, even for nonprofit systems, and companies need to strategically compete for influence over patients and providers. Consider the business you’re really in. What key words and ideas are used to express your brand and to frame your business both internally and externally? Is your system primarily in the research business, the health behavior business, or some other distinctive frame? The more clearly you define it and rally around it, the easier it is for stakeholders—internal as well as external—to align their interests with it, leading to a consistent user experience and a desire for further collaboration.


  • Know, and communicate, a compelling value proposition.  How do you distinctively deliver on your business offer? Why is that way the best? Successful systems provide internal and external stakeholders with not just a declaration of what the system stands for, but more importantly why that stance is meaningful and important to each of them. They wear their core values on their sleeves. Strong systems understand their values and set clear goals to empower their staffs and patients to achieve them.


  • Live the brand identity. What does your system look, sound, and feel like to its market? A customer’s point of view is shaped by how consistent your system’s behavior is with what you say your values are. Is your front desk staff and billing department sending the same messages that your clinical staff does? It is increasingly vital for system executives to model influence and collaboration within as well as outside the system’s walls. Speak out so that your internal stakeholders can rally behind you—and so that your communities know about it.

Where health systems once primarily competed via national/regional rankings, marquee clinicians, surgical prowess, and clinical breakthroughs, today success also requires becoming powerful agents of social, behavioral, and economic change. How impactful is your system, and how can you redefine your brand to increase its influence in the future?


Chief Executive Officer, InterbrandHealth
Director of Marketing, InterbrandHealth