Consumerism, language and the changing world of health care brands

Andy Council
It’s our belief that to thrive in the future, healthcare system and hospital brands need to think, act and compete like consumer brands. While in the past, providers were able to be driven by what was best for them, future success calls for rising to the challenge of delivering what’s best for a more empowered, demanding and proactive customer (more appropriate language than patient).

Along these lines, here’s a provocative article by Wendy Leebov on Hospitals & Health Networks Daily website – How Choosing Our Words Carefully Can Drive Change in Health Care.

Her thesis is that vocabulary affects our mindset, and that the words we choose to use influence our aspirations, our imaginations, our strategies and our results. She asks us to consider words like…

customer, client, patient, person…
care for, help, serve, engage, partner, advise…
patient-centered, relationship-centered, person-focused, patient-driven

Along with these pet peeves, among others (which reinforce the perception of a power differential between provider and customer)…

compliance, discharge plan, difficult patient…

She ends her article by saying that we need to heighten our self-consciousness about the words we use and intentionally choose words that move us in the direction we want. It’s a matter of aligning our language with our health care system of the future, not the past.

It’s an important idea given that the successful health care system (or hospital, or physician group) of the future must traverse around a consumer whose got the power to choose whether they want to be a customer, or not.