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You Don’t Own Your Brand, Your Patients Do

Amy Austin

Written by Amy Austin

Your brand is developed around how and what you offer to your patients and conveyed to them through the messages and interactions they have with you and your staff. What they think of your brand and how they choose to share it with others is their perception of the brand. And they own that powerful tool, not you.

What’s the Difference?

Think about your practice. If you are a pediatric clinic, what makes your practice different than another pediatric clinic in your service area? Author Sally Hogshead uses this example in her book Fascinate, Revised and Updated: How to Make Your Brand Impossible to Resist:   

You are in line for the Mission Space ride at Epcot. There are two options for the ride – one takes an orange ticket, the other a green ticket. As you stand in line waiting, you aren’t sure which line to take but you see and hear a noticeable difference about the two lines. The line taking the orange ticket is noticeably longer and the atmosphere is more excited, filled with anticipation. The line taking the green ticket is much shorter and the enthusiasm is lacking. Before you can pick which line you are going to take, you hear someone say that the green line is for kids and old people.

You take the orange ticket and wait for 45 minutes for your turn. As you are waiting you read the warnings on the ticket – nausea, back injury, etc. Finally it is your turn. The ride lives up to the hype and the excitement promised by the feeling of the waiting line. People exit the ride with a collective sense of accomplishment.

Now you decide to do the ride again, this time taking the green ticket. The line is shorter and the warning list for the ride is almost non-existent. No one was leaving the ride excited to do it all again. The ride starts, and just as quickly it is over. The ride is the same, the structure and story of the ride is the same, graphics are the same – except it lacks intensity, emotion, and energy.  

This example represents the essence of differentiation. It is easier to be different than it is to be better. And if your practice is providing the same specialty care as another (pediatrics, for example), what points of differentiation can you leverage? When diagnosing an ear infection, there is very little differentiation between one provider and another. The steps taken to make the diagnosis are going to be very similar. The difference comes from the customer/patient experience.

Embrace the Difference

Many a research study has found that a patient’s satisfaction with your practice has as much to do with their perception of experience as the actual care provided. Articles published by The Beryl Institute, The Institute for Healthcare Excellence, and Health Catalyst identify common priorities:

  1. Respect
  2. Communication between providers
  3. Happy providers

To quote Simon Sinek, “People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it.” When our actions reflect a passion for what we are doing, our customers or patients have a better experience – a more authentic and positive experience – and are more inclined to return and share that satisfaction with others. Patients feel respected by the professionals they encounter as well as see the mutual respect and communication between the providers. Additionally, when the providers are passionate about the work they are doing, they are happier (and it shows).

On the flip side, if our actions reflect a distaste or lackluster opinion of our work, our patients have a less-than-satisfactory experience and that opinion is shared to others. In these experiences, the patient does not feel respected. Instead, they likely feel as though they are a burden and often close down in terms of their openness to share with a provider. The patient becomes frustrated, furthering the perception of poor communication. And overall, no one involved is happy.

Let’s go back to the example of the Mission Space ride – the rides are the same but the experience is vastly different. Which do you choose?

Published: July 25, 2016