As a physician, your goal is to treat patients and help them with their medical problems. When you have patients to care for, you probably aren’t thinking as much about the business aspect of your practice.
However, in this changing medical landscape, it is more important than ever for physicians to be thinking about the business aspect of medicine. A large part of that is protecting your brand as a physician.
What is Your Brand?
Physicians may not always think of themselves as a “brand,” but it’s important to think about in terms of being successful from a business standpoint. When you think of other brands, you might think of things like a logo, a tagline, or other similar things. However, a brand is so much more than those elements. Your brand is more than just your practice’s logo and mission statement–although they should be in line with your brand and reinforce your message.
A brand evokes thoughts and feelings when you think of it. When you think about an automobile manufacturer, clothing brand, mobile phone company, or any other product or service provider you’re familiar with, you probably have very specific thoughts about that brand–whether good or bad. Patients often think about physicians and medical practices in the same way.
Your brand is important, no matter the size of your practice–whether you’re in a solo practice or part of a large institution. If you are part of a larger practice, you can still have your own individual “brand.” There is no reason why your brand and your practice’s brand have to compete with each other. Ideally, your brand should coexist with your practice’s brand and help reinforce it.
In essence, your brand is your reputation. Your brand is what your patients think and say about you. The medical landscape is changing, and certain aspects of your job as a physician may be out of your control. Your brand is something that you can control, and protecting it can help you maintain control of your practice. You may not practice at the same place for your entire career, and your reputation will likely follow you wherever you go. A protected brand can give you a head start if you do move to a new practice.
How to Protect Your Brand
There are a lot of different aspects of protecting your brand and conveying your philosophy to patients. Online marketing, reputation marketing, and the patient experience all factor in. Let’s take a look at each of these aspects of your brand.
Online marketing is a big part of how you convey your specialties and care philosophies to patients, especially prospective patients. All of your online marketing efforts, including your website, content, social media, etc. should be in line with your message and how you want patients to see your practice.
If you aren’t focusing on marketing your practice online, you have a long way to go in terms of establishing and protecting your brand. Your marketing materials serve as the foundation of your brand, and you have ultimate control over what you say and do in your marketing. You can provide details about your practice and how you can help patients so that patients can learn more about you.
However, marketing can only go so far in establishing and protecting your brand. You need to focus on reputation management and patient experience to completely protect your brand.
You can control how you present your brand in your own marketing materials, but you can’t completely control how patients perceive your brand and what they have to say about it. You’ve probably noticed that review sites like Healthgrades and Vitals have become much more prominent in search results for physicians. Patients have more options when choosing a physician than ever before, and they are researching and weighing their options before they make a choice. A recommendation from a primary care physician or a friend or family member may weigh on that decision, but many patients are also going online to do their own research. When those patients search for you, there is a good chance they will look at those online reviews, possibly before they ever look at your website or other marketing materials.
Reputation marketing is more than just trying to prevent or get rid of negative reviews. It’s also about encouraging more reviews from your patients so that prospective patients get an accurate picture of what to expect when they read your reviews. As with many other types of businesses, most reviewers are extremes–either they felt you went above and beyond for them, or they’re very upset about their experience. These types of reviews can drastically skew the perception of your practice. In reality, if you surveyed all of your patients, you would likely find that the vast majority are completely satisfied with your practice–they just didn’t think to go online and post a review.
Your brand also encompasses what patients see and experience while they’re in your office. If you’re effectively managing your marketing and your reputation, patients will already have a certain impression of you before they even walk in the door. However, those impressions can quickly change if the experience in your office doesn’t match what they expect. You need to provide a consistent experience from the moment a patient hears about you all the way through the appointment and any subsequent visits.
The way you interact with your patients is certainly the biggest factor in how patients perceive their experience, but it isn’t the only factor. Your office itself is another part of the experience. Is it clean and well-organized? Is it easy to find? Is there adequate parking? Your office staff is another part of the patient experience. Even if a patient likes you as a physician, a rude encounter with a member of your office staff could give patients the wrong impression. It’s important to set expectations with your office staff, and make sure everyone in your practice works together to provide the best experience possible for patients.
All of these things that patients see and experience–your marketing, your reputation, and the experience itself–collectively make up your brand. Do you know how patients perceive your brand?