Hospital branding: the importance of physician engagement

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Good article in Business Journal, What Too Many Hospitals Are Overlooking, written by Craig Kamins, Senior Practice Consultant at Gallup.

His main point is that engaged physicians, much like fully engaged employees, are vital to a hospital brand, or health system’s brand success. In one health system researched by Gallup, for example, engaged physicians:

• gave the hospital an average of 3% more outpatient referrals and 51% more inpatient referrals than physicians who were not engaged or who were actively disengaged
• were 26% more productive than less engaged counterparts, which amounts to an additional $460,000 on average in patient revenue per physician per year

The full article goes on to talk about the challenges of getting physicians engaged, measuring their engagement and how to improve physician engagement.

To Craig’s first point, internal engagement (regardless of whether physicians or employees) is crucial to unlocking brand and business potential. Here are five points that we’d contribute to his argument, based on what we know to be true – brands are built from the inside out:

1. Branding that’s true to the organization (that aligns and supports business strategy and should build trust and credibility for the brand inside and outside) needs to first be informed by and serve internal audiences, who must live out the brand’s promises and who live each day within the brand’s organization.

2. Internal branding is not just a Marketing, or HR, function. It needs to start with the CEO and the leadership team, and then be driven in tandem between the two functions – articulating how every employee will contribute to delivering on the business vision, strategy and objectives. It also should not be viewed as just another one-time marketing or recruitment campaign.

3. Internal branding is more akin to a marathon, not a sprint. People don’t suddenly snap into action once they’ve watched a brand video, attended a workshop or a fancy lunch in the cafeteria. Engaging employees to deliver on the brand is a process that requires planning, ongoing dialogue (e.g. regularly scheduled town halls), checks and balances and cross-functional collaboration.

4. Speaking of collaboration. Employees, as the front line of your brand, need mechanisms in place to provide feedback, contribute suggestions and help improve upon delivery of an integrated brand experience based on their specific role. It’s important that this is done with the recognition that internal audiences need to be segmented just like external audiences, which will better enable them to take ownership of their role in brand delivery.

5. What you are inside is what you are outside. Walk around. Observe. Be a fly on the wall. Do you get a sense that colleagues (whether employees or physicians) buy into your purpose, beliefs and values. This is particularly important given that your healthcare organization relies heavily on employee engagement to shape customer experience. Beyond this, does your organization align policy and practices around the brand, and clearly define the criteria and behavioral expectations that reflect employee commitment to the brand?

In the end, you need to determine how to express your distinct culture in an authentic and appropriate manner, and harness it to empower your people. If for no other reason, do it for those tangible proof points cited by Gallup.