For healthcare providers, COVID-19 has transmuted the patient into a customer. This “patient as customer” (PaC) is far more aware and critical. They want to know more before committing to procedures, accepting a diagnosis, or paying for a new line of treatment.
The PaC also expects a faster response to queries. They want responses that are customized and relevant to help make the right decisions. In sum, patients today are taking a more active role in choosing how they receive care. They expect their healthcare providers to:
- Know and remember who they are
- Understand their needs
- Anticipate their future needs
These expectations have led to a more consumer-oriented focus on how healthcare organizations need to communicate.
Establish trust through content
Healthcare organizations’ websites offer content with the intent of being informative and educational. They intend to address the public’s health concerns. As patients become more engaged in their own medical care, content articles from sources beyond healthcare providers are offering more in-depth explanations of diseases and medical procedures.
Every day, Google handles more than 1 billion health questions. It is safe to assume that people will rely more on online information regarding medical trends in the coming years. According to a recent Weber Shandwick survey of 1,700 adults, 52% are concerned that today’s health-related information is either false or misleading.
It has never been easier to search and find health content online, yet that content may be incorrect, promotional, contradictory, or overly complex. Misinformation (and public reliance on it) is becoming rampant. Healthcare organizations are feeling pressured to establish their brand as the trusted source for verified medical content.
The importance of a unified brand voice
Achieving a single brand voice across multiple locations in an organization has always been challenging. But it has emerged as a must-have in the backdrop of the pandemic. Several factors have contributed to the renewed importance of communicating to customers as one entity.
The communications department had to take an omnichannel approach in 2020 for the effective dissemination of messages. Meanwhile, they struggled to maintain consistency across different types of audiences. Further, budget cuts affected all departments and specialties in healthcare organizations due to a drop in customer footfall. The increasing cost of acquiring more resources and supplies also drew immediate attention to the need for a single communication plan.
On the other side, the spate of mergers and acquisitions led to chaos and a lack of consistency in communication of the organization’s goals and vision. When viewed from the lens of a provider’s brand promise, the rising need for developing one brand voice to build customer confidence takes center stage.
What does this all mean for healthcare organizations?
According to Ken Gammon, Senior Vice President of RRD Healthcare Solutions, "Patients have grown accustomed to digital healthcare and now expect it from their providers. While building the broader digital front door strategy, organizations must think of innovative ways to use technology for communications."
Gammon says customers are seeking seamless digital interactions, using various devices and channels to get the desired information. The future of healthcare communications will rely on these means. "As providers overhaul their communication strategy, they must rethink their methods of dissemination, education, and engagement," he adds.
Consistent branding, engaging content, and broadening the digital door is no longer a choice. It is a necessity to drive growth and increase the footfalls of life-long customers.
Tom Wozniak is the Vice President of National Sales for RRD Healthcare Solutions.