Improving your Brand Image and Competitive Position

Hospital brand

SRA Research Group has been conducting research in the healthcare industry for many years. By being forward thinking, innovative, and embracing change, we help all of our clients prosper and move ahead of the competition. This is one of a series of articles which discusses some of the things we have observed in our various healthcare research projects.

Perceptions of your healthcare brand impact your position in today’s competitive marketplace.

Many years ago, hospitals delivered healthcare to their local community and didn’t have to worry about the competition or consumer marketing. Today, regulation and oversight are intense and cost pressures can constrict margins. However, you can control and shape your brand image to impact your competitive position in the marketplace.

In recently conducted studies, three-quarters of those interviewed said they or a family member had been treated at a hospital in the last three years. Yes, many of them went to the nearest emergency department to obtain care for a child who had an accident or a parent with a medical concern. However, quite a few drove past the closest facility to another hospital or healthcare system. One reason they selected another hospital or system is a strong brand image. In fact, we have seen that both name recognition and brand image are considered among the most valuable assets of a health system.

It’s important to strongly support your organization’s brand.

Having a healthcare brand image that resonates with patients and prospects is critical when fighting to sustain and gain market share. Whether a patient needs attention for a less serious medical problem or has a serious medical condition which requires highly specialized care, you want your organization to be the one they think of first. In addition, you want them to think of you for expertise in the particular product lines where you specialize. Whether it’s cardiac or cancer care or those profitable elective orthopedic procedures such as joint replacements, you want to be perceived as the best place around for patients to receive treatment.

There are a number of successful methods which we see used on a regular basis to support the creation and maintenance of strong brand image for hospitals and health systems. Systems that do it well employ a systematic mix of brand building television advertising along with product line specific content to make them the first place patients think of and to establish expertise in their specialties. Today’s locally targeted cable advertising can make this strategy affordable even for small marketing budgets. The best hospitals and systems are also heavily involved in their local communities by supporting a variety of events and causes, as well as being engaged in community related efforts. The key to all your efforts is to be consistent and have a continuous presence since there are many competitors who are working diligently to steal your market share.

Do your homework to make sure your branding efforts don’t get torpedoed.

In our work, we have seen several things which have a negative impact on the brand image of hospitals and health systems. In a number of projects where we have been asked to “find out what the problem is,” surveys and focus groups with patients and prospects have revealed legacy issues which still haunt a hospital. This is where the intervention of a seasoned PR firm can really be helpful to defeat the remnants of past problems and clean up old perceptions for your brand.

Another thing to do is to be sure your facilities don’t look tired or dated. Our research shows that patients equate old looking structures and dated interiors with poor quality care, while modern and up-to-date facilities promote a healing environment. In addition, it is important to have well-designed waiting areas to accommodate the needs of both patients and their family members. These updates can be a major boost to the image of your hospital and health system.

Investments in brand image and its impact on competitiveness are not that hard to define.

While the potential payoffs from investments in improved brand image can appear hard to define, our successful clients report substantial increases in patients as one measurable result. In addition, our work measuring key metrics such as top-of-mind awareness, image, and product line usage tend to correlate highly with increases in the number of patients.

And remember, if your organization is not actively and effectively working to improve your brand image, it’s likely you are losing ground and market share to your competition. That’s not a strategy for long-term success.

Next in this series…

“The influence of ACA today and in the future.”

“The battle for talent and the nursing shortage.”

About SRA Research Group

SRA Research Group is a solution-based consultancy with the vision to help our clients by delivering the fundamentals – Strategy, Results and Achievement – since our founding 30 years ago. Our firm provides research services and support to healthcare organizations geared toward understanding and measuring how to attract and retain patient and prospects. We are a trusted partner that helps frame issues, develop solutions, and refine opportunities.

Contact SRA at (561) 744-5662

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