The pandemic has accelerated buy-in for digital platforms and technology growth within the healthcare industry more rapidly than any other event in recent memory. The sudden pivot to a remote lifestyle demanded that health systems implement a variety of patient-facing digital touchpoints in a short timeframe.
This means that now is the time to evaluate and strengthen and unify your brand across these new channels and platforms to ensure that your patient experience is cohesive and unified.
Patients initially adopted the new digital healthcare paradigm out of necessity, and they did so in staggering numbers. And now? They are more familiar and comfortable with the virtual healthcare options available to them and are likely to continue to use these convenient modalities whenever possible.
This all adds up to unparalleled opportunities for delivering an enhanced brand experience, but it makes the need for brand consistency, governance, and standardization more urgent than ever before. Here are some considerations and tips to help you navigate this new terrain.
The importance of brand consistency in the patient experience
Brand consistency is about more than just making sure your logo is used correctly in every place it appears. It’s really about creating a dependable brand experience that orients your patients when navigating complicated and unfamiliar terrain.
Let’s face it — most patients aren’t terribly excited about entering into the healthcare arena. When they do so, it’s often because they are facing a difficult health event or emergency. Even a routine wellness visit can spark apprehension. A consistently executed brand can serve as a comforting reminder of the excellent care patients can expect.
If your patients’ online experience with your brand feels nothing like the in-person encounters they are accustomed to — or if they suddenly encounter an unfamiliar name or brand look — their overall experience can become jarring, fragmented and confusing.
Here’s how to achieve consistency for your healthcare brand in the exciting, rapidly evolving digital landscape we find ourselves in.
Expand your operational brand governance
As a marketing leader, you know how important it is to have clear guidelines, processes, and approvals in place in order to effectively govern your brand. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel now that you have more channels to consider. But you should think through how the pillars of effective brand governance — people, process, training, and technology — apply across these emerging touchpoints.
For example, the first pillar of brand governance is people. As more and more communication moves to digital platforms, many healthcare systems have expanded their social media presence to communicate directly with their patients. Therefore, you’ve probably hired social media managers to manage these channels — or asked existing employees to assume new responsibilities. Have you trained them on your brand guidelines? Do they have a thorough understanding of the nuances of your brand’s language and style? Are they familiar with the processes they should follow before they post an update or reply to a dissatisfied patient?
Ask questions like these across all new channels to be sure each area is folded into your existing brand governance infrastructure.
Audit new channels for cohesive brand experience
To achieve brand consistency, conduct a thorough audit of everything that your brand touches. And to really understand that inventory through the lens of the patient experience, put yourself in the shoes of your patients. Taking time to understand their varied experiences will shine light on the areas where your brand promise needs to be more consistently upheld.
Conduct user experience journey mapping
Perform journey mapping to simulate how patients progress through various levels of your healthcare system. For instance, a hypothetical day-in-the-life journey map might focus on all the steps and related dependencies involved with making and keeping a telehealth appointment, as follows:
- A patient visits your convenient new telehealth appointment landing page to make an appointment. Does that page look and feel like the rest of your website? If it links to an outsourced partner’s website, is there any indication that the two entities are connected?
- It’s time to provide insurance information. Will the patient have to navigate how to upload that documentation or does your system automatically pull in their stored information to provide a seamless brand experience?
- Now the patient needs to complete online intake forms and sign a HIPAA waiver. Do those digital forms reflect your brand, or is the patient encountering an unfamiliar name and logo?
- After the appointment is made, the patient receives an automated email confirming the appointment. Does it look and read the way a message from your brand voice should?
- Text message reminders are automatically generated 24-hours prior to the appointment. Is it clear that the text message is part of your health system’s brand and not an unwanted spam message?
- Prior to the appointment, the patient sees a tweet about new COVID-19 related protocols they’ll need to follow. If that tweet is linking back to your website, is the form or landing page branded correctly?
- After the appointment, the patient receives their bill. Is it clear that their telehealth appointment was an extension of your healthcare system?
Expand the number of journey maps based on the types of platforms you’ve adopted and the personas you’re reaching. It will put you on the path to brand consistency and a better patient experience.
Evaluate two-way channels to actively manage brand reputation
The recent increase in patient-facing touchpoints has amplified the need for active brand governance in terms of reputation management. Therefore, your audit should also include a close look at the feedback and metrics that your two-way communication channels provide.
Patients have the opportunity to react and respond to their healthcare experiences in more ways than ever before. Whether they are providing feedback as part of a formal patient experience survey or posting candid thoughts on your social media platforms, they want their voice to be heard. In response, you may need to find ways to shield or protect your brand’s reputation by answering concerns authentically and then redirecting conversation in a more positive direction.
Furthermore, two-way channels offer quantitative data that provides valuable insight into the patient experience. Using this feedback will benefit and provide helpful information to your internal stakeholders like doctors and service providers — who have a keen interest in how their patients are cared for across channels. Evaluate metrics like:
Number of weekly appointments
Percentage of cancellations and no-shows
Speed of response time to respond to patient inquiries
Average wait time for an appointment
Average appointment length
Provide this helpful information to your internal stakeholders and use it to influence your brand and marketing strategy.
Make brand consistency an ongoing priority
COVID-19 will eventually fade into the background of normal, everyday life. However, there will always be accelerants and disruptors that impact your brand. Therefore, it’s crucial to approach brand governance through the lens of continuous improvement.
Make it a priority to audit your in-person and digital channels to evaluate all metrics involved at least once or twice a year in order to maintain the brand consistency you’ve worked so hard to achieve. Doing so will protect and improve your patient experience, lead to higher levels of brand loyalty, and further increase your brand’s value.