Branding in Good Health - Part 2

November 21, 2005

There is a fundamental branding issue with consumer-directed healthcare. First, the United States is branded as the leader of the free world, yet it is known as the country whose healthcare system cannot take care of its poor, huddled masses. We are starting from a deficit of goodwill.

Second, assuming that leaders of healthcare companies read this, the opportunity is yours to become the brand that owns the benefit of making healthcare simple.

Until somebody seizes this opportunity to lead, confusion will prevail. So what can providers and managed care organizations do to address consumer needs? How can visionary companies break from the herd, set their industry on its ear, and assert the title ìbrand leader?î

As a simplification expert who has helped clients build equity through improved brand execution and customer experiences, I offer my prescription not just for a better system, but also for becoming an industry leader in this brave new consumer-directed world:

†† †† †1. Create an internal body of experts, consumer advocates, marketers, and legal and compliance officers† † †† †to review operations and critical points of consumer interaction and propose cost-efficient ways to improve brand performance.

†† †† †2. Define and promote consistent, simple terms for healthcare services and benefits to improve comparability and create informed consumers.

†† †† †3. Cull the options in Medicare Part D. This is a work in progress since the program † †† †just launched, but the timing is right.

†† †† †4. Apply non-industry expertise to help solve the billing, terminology, and process † †† †challenges while shortening the time and ideally, reducing the expense of change.

†† †† †5. Put customers first. Too many healthcare professionals are in the position of † †† †determining who pays whom before agreeing to provide services. Worse yet, consumers are all too often left to sort out financial responsibility because medical services and payment schemes are neither transparent nor intuitive.

Lastly, if a company can focus on one thing only, it should work to make consumer-directed healthcare simple, understandable and predictable to consumers. Imagine if yours is the company that cracks this nut first. What would that say about your brand? Better yet, what would you be saying about yourself?

- Patrick Ohlin

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