I attended a healthcare technology event recently where a hospital CEO told the audience: “physicians are an extension of your brand.” While I liked the clarity of the statement, I felt it only represented part of the unique and complicated relationship between physicians and “the brand.”
As a hospital or a healthcare system, your physicians are more than an extension of your brand; they are consumers of it. And, this dual relationship is critical to understand as you seek to satisfy, engage, align, and whatever else you want to do in partnership with physicians to increase performance.
Before they can become an extension of your brand, or at least an extension of what you want your brand to be, physicians must be treated like your consumers. So, as with any product or service, you need to effectively market who you are, what you offer, and why you align with their existing values and goals (not just hope that they align with yours). If patients are consumers of healthcare, then physicians, in many ways, are consumers of healthcare organizations.
As a cultivated and dedicated consumer, a physician can become an extension of the brand you are seeking to build. (They already extend the brand: good, bad, or otherwise.) You need physicians to share your values, vision, and understand your direction. In turn, you provide the tools and supports for them to deliver on them. Physicians should feel a personal connection with the brand and other high-level leaders within the organization who represent it.
Here are a few recommendations for cultivating the physician brand consumer/extension:
Identify what your brand is – internally – and market it.Marketing campaigns are typically focused on reaching consumers outside of the hospital or system. For the physician consumer, however, your message is almost certainly different than the one targeting the public (albeit ideally consistent from a values perspective). If you understand and believe in the physician-as-consumer, you must commit to strong and consistent internal messaging and marketing.
Connect performance and brand.Good hospital performance means a lot of things: healthy patient outcomes, positive patient experiences, increased safety, lower stress, and a strong bottom line. All of these have an impact at the individual level, but cumulatively they build a powerful brand that people at all levels want to be a part of. So, your branding internally is not about taglines, it’s about values and your collective ability to deliver on those.
Communicate your brand strategically and consistently.Your communication both creates and reflects the relationships you have with your physicians. So, if it is noisy and sporadic and only tactical or transactional, that’s the kind of relationship you will build with physicians. None of us is committed to a brand, whether it’s technology, tennis shoes, or a hospital, that communicates this way. And, if you choose to, your physicians probably won’t commit to you either.