Blog - how a strong brand contributes to patient retention

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In the 'old days' you could not choose, you just went to the nearest hospital and to the trusted family doctor. Nowadays, the patient is transformed into an informed healthcare consumer. For whom distance, habit, convenience, and even costs are no longer decisive. The choice of a hospital or specialist increasingly depends on the image of the healthcare provider. And a strong brand is an important factor in this! New patients will not yet know the quality of the healthcare you provide, so you'll have to show them.

How does the healthcare consumer choose?
What are the new decisive criteria, now distance, convenience and habit are less important? Well, quality is one of them. Research from Newcom shows an increase in the number of patients that are willing to travel a greater distance. Furthermore, the perceived quality of healthcare becomes more relevant when the illness is more severe. Although every patient has a unique decision-making process, some factors are important to many patients:
  • The own experiences with the healthcare institution
  • The experiences of people in their own network
  • The opinion of a general practitioner or referrer
  • Online information and patient reviews
  • The general reputation of the healthcare institution
  • The specific reputation for a specialism

Isala The healthcare consumer wants to have the assurance that the healthcare institution can properly solve his or her health problems. If the nearest institution is unable to do so, the consumer will consider other providers.

Advice from the general practitioner is less important
It is notable that the opinion of the general practitioner or referrer is no longer leading. Nowadays, around 58% of patients follow the advice of the GP (survey by the Dutch health insurer Zilveren Kruis in 2017). Healthcare marketing should therefore not be limited to referrers but targeted at (future) patients as well. Although referrers certainly remain important, as is shown in this US research (link). Marketing aimed at both the patient and the referrer has the best effect. Of course, you should always confirm what you say in your marketing with good business management.

A strong brand as a shield against bad publicity
A strong brand is partly the result of a good quality organisation. It is no secret that a health care institution that performs poorly will get problems sooner or later. No brand, logo or marketing campaign can change that. But if you, as a health care institution, deliver good quality and give the patients the confidence that they are at the right address, you create loyal patients.

Radboudumc An American analysis showed that the reputation of strong brands is much less influenced by negative publicity. And Newcom's research also shows that negative messages do not always have a major impact on the image of the preferred hospital.

The importance of a strong brand in healthcare
In addition to the shield against bad publicity, a good brand is also important for securing existing patients and recruiting new ones. A strong brand ensures that (future) patients know what you stand for and how you distinguish yourself from competitors. A strong brand creates trust. If the organisation is doing well in this aspect, consumers automatically assume that the rest will be good as well. Moreover, it ensures the recognisability of the organisation. If the brand has been consistently implemented, this is a confirmation for patients that they have contact with the same organisation every time. That the hospital where they arrive is the same as the one they have already researched online, and from which they have already received the first information at home.

How does a strong brand contribute to patient retention?
Now that the importance of a strong brand is clear, the question remains which aspects characterise a powerful healthcare brand. In short, how can you, as a health care institution, create patient loyalty with your brand. We asked Jaco Emmen, director of Teldesign and he gave us a number of important aspects:
  • A clear name, preferably one rooted in history and/or the region
  • Communication from outside to inside, not what do I have to offer the patient, but how can I help the patient?
  • Be open about collaborations with other parties in the healthcare chain
  • Brand identity is subordinate to communication and is fully focused on the clear display of information
  • The tone-of-voice is at least as important as the look and feel of brand expressions, if not more important.

Jaco Emmen also indicates that there are two clear trends in the healthcare sector in terms of design and style.
  • abstract and clean
  • personal and based on soft values

Radboudumc gevelsignIn recent years, the trend is that an increasing number of hospitals opt for an abstract and clean brand. The last hospitals that we, as RGN, have supported in rebranding chose this style as well.


Wondering how we can help you with the creation and implementation of a strong healthcare brand? Contact one of our advisors!