When “brand image” is dissected, it’s simply the reputation of your practice.
Too often a practices brand image is misinterpreted for their brand identity. Your brand identity can be classified with facets such as your logo, colors, and catchphrase.
While each is imperative, brand image goes deeper than a nice color palette.
There’s no substitute for a positive reputation
At this moment, if you have seen at least one patient in your career, you have a brand image. You have a reputation and that patient has something to say about you to their friends.
A Doctors POV on this Topic
We sat down with our friend Dr. Brad Abrahamson MD and asked him a few questions to get his take on this subject – here’s what he had to say.
Question 1: How important are great patient experiences to you?
They are extremely important, I left a big company in order to provide a more all-encompassing experience for patients.
Question 2: How would you say patient experiences affect your practices reputation and brand image?
As a small integrated sports medicine company, I rely heavily on word of mouth. Therefore the patient experience is paramount in how they explain it to their friends. It’s how I get most of my patients.
Question 3: Do you think a practice, no matter the size, should be building a positive reputation?
Yes, there is no substitute for a positive reputation.
Question 4: How do you make sure patients have great experiences at your practice?
From the second we meet and all the way through the visit we make sure to listen and understand what their needs are, we also strive to understand what their basic goals are and communicate back to them that we’re on their team to help them communicate their goals, so that they end up with a more personal and aligned approach that isn’t normally seen in modern medicine.
Takeaway from Dr. Abrahamson’s point of view on Patient Experience:
“Patient Experience is Paramount” – Dr. Brad Abrahamson MD
Your patients are likely to share their experience with someone close or in the form of an online review. Regardless if the experience was positive, you now have a reputation.
Brand Image + Practice Revenue
If patients who take the time to visit you are having a positive experience, you should anticipate seeing more patients.
However, when this changes up and the experience they have with your practice is negative, you won’t see an influx of patients anytime soon. Despite the thousands of dollars, you spend every month spamming your community with television and mail-in Ads. (To the three MD’s reading this that definitely still do that, there’s hope for you)
This math is very basic.
Put forth the time and effort to become a practice patients enjoy going to and you won’t worry about making payroll.
The Medical Practice Brand Image Calculation
Positive reputation and Patient Experiences = new patients + good reviews = Revenue Dollars
Negative Reputation and Patient Experiences = fewer new patients + bad reviews = Low Revenue Dollars
When choosing to do the right thing for your patients is a must, every day, it leaves little room for your brand image to take a low hit.
Controlling negative brand image
Can a negative brand image be reconciled? There are two arguments on this subject, and we have the final verdict.
Before we elaborate deep into these arguments, we’re going to tell you a story.
The Story of Mike
(any relation to the living or dead is completely coincidental)
For a moment, imagine yourself as the kindest and most honorable doctor who has ever stepped foot on earth. Patients absolutely adore you, and you love what you do. But one day your phone system encounters a hiccup, and your prospective patient (Mike) is trying to call your practice, unaware that he could have created an appointment on your website.
He’s left with the impression that creating an appointment today is impossible.
His misunderstanding, by default, has become the fault of no other than your practice.
This minor error, in your patient’s eyes, has done a dishonor to their entire family dating back 6 generations. And for this great dishonor, you have earned yourself a 1-star review on EVERY site your practice has a listing on, but not just any one-star review. You received a one-star review, that if they could have made it a negative one-star review, they would have!
Collectively we can all agree that this scenario isn’t anything to lose sleep over.
You can place confidence in other patients witnessing Mike’s frustrations by publicly finding a mutual solution with him.
This happens every day to the kindest Doctors around, 110% out of your control. So don’t sweat it.
This story will help our first argument to control negative brand image…
Argument #1: You can control a negative brand image
At Belmar Health we confidently stand on the side of argument #1, you can control negative brand image. Though it is entirely circumstantial.
No neuroscience here. What damaged your practices brand image? Do the right thing to fix it. Outside of murder and few other heinous crimes, there’s not too much you can’t come back from.
The solution may be responding to that review, making a phone call, patient reimbursement, admitting you’re wrong, firing someone, or staying after practice hours. Making a practical decision that shapes a solution in your patient’s eyes will always be the answer to making amends.
Argument #2: You can’t control negative brand image
This is completely false for the reason that actions within your practice, that patients presume wrong, can always be improved.
Our world moves quickly, and what isn’t happening today is yesterday’s news. In essence, if you truthfully settle the issues that irk your patients, the disagreement will halt, and you can control its adverse effect on your practices brand image.
Final Verdict: Can you control a negative brand image?
Yes. Our reasoning is backed by argument number two.
There will always be areas of your practice you can’t control. For example your co-workers… That’s an HR conversation for another day.
Brand Images Influence on Appointment Making Decisions
Like any decision people make, there is no magic formula. We are going to do what’s in our best interest, it’s not selfish. It makes our lives more efficient.
When a patient is contemplating an appointment with your practice, the same idea applies.
Here are two things patients strongly consider before creating an appointment with your practice:
1. What Insurance you accept
2. Brand Image
1. What Insurance You Accept:
Straightforward, if you don’t accept their insurance, they won’t visit.
2. Brand Image
As soon as the insurance question is out of the way, they’re taken to brand image. A prospective patient discovers you from a referral, organic search, or a paid ad. Regardless – there is no question that you need to make it easy for them to create an appointment, learn about conditions you treat and find your office.
Falling short in these areas? So is your brand image. Swiftly scheduling an appointment on your website should never be a hassle, ready to read specialty-specific articles on your website should be accessible, and getting directions to your practice needs to be convenient for patients.
These aren’t bells and whistles, they’re necessary expectations from patients who keep your practice in business.
Implement this in a practical way: Follow the Checklist
• Ensure you inform patients of your business hours, this is when you answer phone calls
• Offer the option to make an appointment online
• Follow up the same or next business day, any later is unacceptable
Tips: ZocDoc or Native forms are great for online appointment making
Providing Content on Conditions you treat
• At least one article per condition you treat
• Use an email list to share the content regularly
• Make sure the articles won’t scare patients away, write them in a welcoming tone
Tips: Be factual without striking fear in patients
Finding your practice
• Provide your practice location in a consistent fashion across your listings online
• Create buttons on your website that immediately open their native maps application
• Be descriptive about your suite number or if an elevator needs to be accessed
Tips: Avoid sending patients to the web browser version of Google Maps
Tip: You have no alternative
How does that build brand? By removing friction for patients.
Your practice will be known as welcoming and easy to access.
Though these initial steps are overlooked, they’re still very important, and a great way to begin building a brand image for your practice.
Creating your practices brand image
When rolling out a plan to find your brand image it’s best to create a profile of your practice, it’s doctors, staff, and location.
That profile needs to describe your “Why”
Why do you practice in your specialty?
Why do you care so much about your patients?
What sets you apart from other Doctors in your same specialty?
What’s your mission?
What are things your practice as a whole feels strongly about?
What type of experience can a patient expect at your practice?
Is there family history within your practice?
What are causes your practice stands for?
By carefully answering these, you provide clarity to the meaning behind your care. It creates a brand image.
Now that you have answered the “Why” questions about your practice, use that messaging throughout your website, Facebook, Instagram, ads, and in office, signage to keep the message consistent.
Then, let your actions speak louder than the words you conveyed online.
Medical Practice brand image is sustainable
When a story and image of what you stand for is so compelling to your community, it’s hard for that image of your reputation to just die.
Year after year and after for each advancement in this world that occurs, your brand will always stay intact. Your brand will live on so long as you don’t stay romantic about what is working today – because tomorrow it will change.
What does that mean?
In 1970 the actions that backed your brand image could be handing out lollipops to children after appointments and calling adult patients the next day to thank them for visiting, something simple but appropriate in that era.
An example of today would be a family practice having an Alexa Skill that provides one awesome tip every morning that helps keep your family healthy.
We implore you to take the opportunity for yourself and your patients and begin building a stronger brand image that will differentiate your practice, you’re worth it.
by Joseph Lucero
Director and Founder of Belmar Health