Our colleagues have decades of experience working with hospitals, clinics, medical groups/doctor’s offices and nonprofit health care entities, so it makes sense that we are an industry leader. We are kicking off a health care article series to help readers understand ‘what is what’ in health care.

In Memphis, like many other markets, most of our hospitals are part of smaller insurance contracts (narrow-network health plans) and where a patient goes is driven by what insurance plan his or her employer offers. So, you might ask, if your patients have to come to you anyway, why waste the money advertising? Brand awareness and recognition gained through external communications assure your nurses and doctors, your patients and those who carry your insurance that your hospital offers the very best. Reinforcing your reputation is always a good thing.

Health care advertising is about much more than driving business.  We all know that perception drives reality and nowhere is that truer than in health care. It is critical that people think highly of your institution and are aware of the great work being done inside your facilities.  Patients need to feel confident that the hospital affiliation in the insurance their employer is offering will give them access to high-quality services. Employers need to feel confident that the hospital affiliation in the insurance they are offering their employees has highly perceived value.  Branding plays a big part in determining that value. 

How and where you present yourself to the market also matters. Think about the ads with grateful patient testimonials and doctors in white coats. While those are effective, what differentiates one hospital or practice from another in the minds of the audience? We believe there are better, and more effective, ways to facilitate an emotional connection with your health care brand. You must be in the market in a meaningful way. This does not always mean advertising.  For example, targeted sponsorships can gain awareness and create a positive image by association.

A positive public perception of your hospital or private practice will also allow you to attract the best doctors, hire the best nurses and offer the best technology — all leading to the best clinical outcomes.

Even if you already own the vast market share and patient preference, you still need to be publicly proactive. You simply cannot retreat and allow yourself to be defined by your buildings and the stories people share with each other.

Politics aside, with the Affordable Care Act and many Americans opting to not secure insurance through their employers, their choices are opening up. Where will your hospital be ranked in terms of customer preference when given a choice? A strong brand through good advertising, positive media coverage, association with the right partners and thought leaders, and constant communication of your messages keeps you top of mind when that choice becomes a reality.