Six Truths for Effective Physician Branding

Ross Goldberg

By Ross K. Goldberg

As sure as Disney, Apple and Coca-Cola have brand identities, so too does every physician in practice today. The difference is that many physicians don’t know it. Strong brands approach the market with far more credibility than do their competitors when it comes to name awareness and trust. If computers, cars and coffee (think Starbucks) can make this connection, why not healthcare?  Why not physicians and physician groups?

For many physicians, finding and defining their brand and voice is often a journey of business self-discovery. That’s where healthcare marketers come in and why they are today needed more than ever. But to get physicians on board with the need, power and effectiveness of a brand architecture, a few truths must be acknowledged. Here are six to keep in mind.

  1. Physicians need to begin to think of themselves as a product, as uncomfortable, commercial and counter-intuitive as it might feel. Certainly, physicians are a lot more than that, and the intent is not to depersonalize or dehumanize healthcare. But thinking of a physician that way – and thinking of brands that are most trusted – will help physicians better understand the importance of a brand as well as the qualities that make a brand effective.
  1. Physicians need to remember that branding starts on the inside. They, their partners and their staff must be fully invested in believing in the brand and delivering on it all of the time. It must become such a part of the texture of a physician’s practice that both employees and patients become ambassadors for that practice or medical group. Others who join that practice must understand and practice it, too- new physicians just out of medical school, physicians new to the community, or well-established practices that have merged or been acquired. And it includes nurses and office staff who, too, are a critical part of the entire patient experience before, during and after the direct patient engagement. It gets back to the promise that physicians are making to their patients, business partners and themselves.
  1. Physicians need to learn to use size to their advantage. While it is the brands of the mega companies that are most obvious and make headlines, smaller businesses or individuals have an advantage because it’s much easier for them to provide and control consistent a brand experience. People patronize local storekeepers and restaurants not just for the product or service itself, but for the experience of getting it. Individual physicians, or those in smaller physician groups, are beautifully positioned to create a meaningful brand because of their intimate understanding of the communities and patients they serve.
  1. Physicians need to find a way to use change as an opportunity to enhance their brand. There is a lot of change going on in healthcare, and all too often change threatens to upend an organization’s brand.   Rather than letting change erode the equity they have worked hard over time to build, smart physicians (with the assistance of marketing professionals) should use change to reaffirm their role as a leading and trusted healthcare resource in their community. That means having a well-thought-out strategic approach to how they communicate change to their various constituencies and how they candidly discuss – in words everyone can understand – the road that lies ahead as a result of the change. Most important it means remembering that staying true to their brand is just as critical as any of the legal structures, human resource issues, information technology questions and operational design decisions they are being forced to address in their quest to remain competitive and relevant.
  1. Today more physicians are employed by hospitals than those who work in an independent practice setting. Even physicians not seeking employment are opting to merge with either multi-specialty groups or doctors within the same specialty as a road to financial sustainability. The ACA and its signature payment model, the Accountable Care Organization (ACO), have provided strong motivation for hospitals to seek out physicians who are contemplating alignment, with good reason: while it is possible to become an ACO without a hospital, an ACO can’t exist without physicians. Physicians who already believe they have a strong brand need to carefully consider how their brand will endure as part of a larger organization … or should it?
  1. There is more noise than ever in the healthcare communications marketplace – yet physicians have the opportunity to rise above it through a branding strategy. Taking a strategic approach to branding allow physicians to break through by speaking not only to their strengths but to what the marketplace needs and wants. To do this physicians should simply ask themselves what do I do well, what do my patients value and what attributes or unique characteristics of me and my practice are “ownable” over time? Think of those questions (and answers) as three linked circles. Find the area where those three overlap, and you will have the foundation to building a strong brand.

Ross K. Goldberg is president of Kevin/Ross Public Relations and former chairman of the board of trustees of Los Robles Hospital and Medical Center.



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Office Solutions – A Workforce Wellness Success Story

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Community Hospital of Monterey Peninsula – An Early Adopter of Population Health Management in California

dan limesand

Dan Limesand
Director of Business Development and Contracting 
Community Hospital of Monterey Peninsula
Monterey, CA

Market Integration
Community Hospital of Monterey Peninsula (CHOMP) was an early adopter of the population health management model. We recognized several years ago that singular reliance on the fee-for-service system was not sustainable. With a payer mix comprised of 70 percent government-based coverage, we were having to cost shift to commercial payers to an unacceptable degree. As a partially self-funded employer, we were also seeing our own expenses increasing and decided we needed to do something about it. We started to develop our own internal wellness programs in 2007, and contracted with Aegis Health Group to offer those programs to our local employers as well. CHOMP also developed an effective disease management program for diabetes, hypertension, hyperlipidemia, and CAD. These initial tools helped us be part of the solution to mitigate employers’ rising costs.

CHOMP enjoyed some early successes in improving the health of its employees. That experience inspired us to develop integrated population health management tools that could be implemented in the broader community when the time was right. CHOMP also partnered with Geisinger Health System to help develop the Patient-Centered Medical Home (PCMH) model primary care physicians located county-wide. In addition to working with local physicians to develop the PCMH concept over the last three years, we have been building a health information exchange (HIE) that links the physicians with data from the hospital. The HIE will eventually entail sharing clinical data multi-directionally within a countywide medical community, that will also include other hospitals, in order to optimize patient care and outcomes. This will give us the foundation for managing risk-based contracts. CHOMP is also utilizing OneCommunity, a health portal to manage relationships with consumers and help local employers track the health improvements of their workers.
Making the Case

In January 2012, the CHOMP Foundation developed a subsidiary focused on integrated population management tools, including sophisticated case management capabilities. Transitional care managers in the hospital and embedded case managers in primary care practices ensure seamless transitions throughout the care continuum. All of these initiatives have taken us from a community-based hospital to a full-fledged delivery system with multiple companies working toward integrated population health management.
Our latest strategy is the development of a Medicare Advantage plan called Aspire Health Plan (AHP), which went live January, 2014. AHP will enable CHOMP to more optimally manage our very high Medicare payer mix (54%), and further deploy and hone our integrated population management resources. We fundamentally believe that we are strategic players who can bring solutions to our local marketplace. At the end of the day, care is local. Our thought is we can do better by getting the dollars upfront by being a health plan and partnering with our physicians to use those dollars wisely by changing the focus to keeping our members healthy and avoiding unnecessary hospitalizations.

Defining the Relationship: Population Health 2.0

As hospitals and health systems adjust to the realities of a consumer-based marketplace, those who are the most nimble in meeting their customers’ needs will have a significant advantage. Patient/provider relationships are not a one-time business transaction. The more health systems know about their patients’ healthcare priorities, the more effectively they can respond. Harnessing every tactic in the toolkit of population health management requires having the right technology, conducting diligent information gathering, close collaboration with our local doctors and deploying thoughtful and targeted communications. Combine that with proper analytics that measure health improvement, utilization and overall healthcare costs, and health systems will be right on target for the Triple Aim – optimal costs, experience, and outcomes – and ahead of the game in working toward long-term financial viability.

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Office Solutions – A Workforce Wellness Success Story

Learn how Office Solutions in partnership with St. Jude Medical Center built a healthier, more productive workforce with measurable results.

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The Shift toward Population Health Management with Clinically Integrated Networks


 Carol Newton,

Director of Acute Pace of Care

East/Southeast Division, Catholic Health Initiatives

 The ACA set another important mandate into motion: population health management. The act’s signature delivery model, the Accountable Care Organization (ACO), is founded on the Triple Aim of reduced costs, improved outcomes and heightened patient experiences. As a result, payers are moving toward value-based reimbursement, and away from fee-for-service payments that reward providers for every test, procedure and office visit. And employers are following suit, asking for value in their healthcare expenditures as well.

Memorial Healthcare System, Chattanooga, TN

Providing stellar value was the primary motivation behind Catholic Health Initiative’s newly established Clinically Integrated Network (CIN) at Memorial Health Care System in Chattanooga, TN.

Employers in our community are asking about risk-sharing when it comes to funding the care of their employees. We are hearing more from them about VALUE – what are they getting for what they are spending? That has not been our mindset in the past. However now, our strategy going forward is for us to become part of the solution, and population health management is our model of choice for how we will deliver that value to employers and consumers overall.

Memorial’s newly formed CIN is designed to bring all touch points along the delivery continuum together in one coordinated system of care. It will link primary care practices, specialists, home care, labs, pharmacies, nursing homes, ambulatory care centers and hospitals together in coordinating clinical delivery, and sharing payments for patient care. We are moving from being hospital centric to more of an integrated system where care is coordinated across different sites in the community. We have realized that we need to provide non-traditional services, such as nutritional counseling, access to medications, transportation and psychosocial support. We also have discovered that we need to perfect a seamless handoff so that patients receive the right care, at the right level, at the right place and at the right time.

To provide the critical linkages that Memorial will need with local employers to effectively manage population health, our system is employing an ongoing outreach strategy. Memorial works with local employers on collecting personal health profiles from employees to help businesses manage their wellness initiatives. Ideally our care models can connect those employees at risk for certain diseases to the services they need. The goal is that they never even need to go the hospital to make use of needed services.

Of course, most healthcare organizations are still reimbursed under the traditional model of fee-for-service. This simple reality has made the transition to values-based reimbursement a complex undertaking. We’re building for the new vision, but are still operating in the fee-based world too.  It’s still early in our journey. But our goal is to let employers know we are applying evidence-based practices via care models with their employees to deliver higher-quality care and help minimize their cost curve.  We are making progress and can see the value this approach will garner for our community, our local businesses and our hospital.



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Top 10 Physician Complaints of 2013

Top 10 Physician Complaints of 2013


 Rochell Pierce, Vice President Physician Relationship Management

Aegis Health Group

 Maintaining positive relationships with employed and independent physicians continues to be easier said than done for hospitals and health systems.

Rochell Pierce, Vice President, Physician Relationship Management, Aegis Health Group

Rochell Pierce, VP Physician Relationship Management, Aegis Health Group.

Physicians in every market size had similar issues, criticisms and concerns this year, most building on the complaints they had in 2012. Issues from the past year are still troubling physicians, but this year other challenges have overshadowed the complaints of 2012.

The following 10 complaints are what our team of Aegis’ physician relationship specialists heard most about this past year.

1. Uncertainty about the future. Now that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act implementation is definite, physicians are still left wondering how it will directly impact their practice. There’s still a great deal of uncertainty of how this will affect them and their future.

This uncertainty has led to many physicians considering retirement. We’re hearing from older physicians that if they can retire, they are retiring. They’re done.

2. Financial concerns. Closely tied with general uncertainty of what the future holds are financial concerns. Physicians feel they are working harder now to make what they were making 10 years ago. Congress continues to threaten to cut Medicare reimbursements, and physicians who want to remain independent are having a tough time doing so, leading to unhappiness.

 3. Medical group or employment onboarding. As hospitals also adjust to the new healthcare landscape, they are employing physicians or creating medical groups and recruiting physicians to join. Hospitals are “picking teams” and many physicians choose to join.

After the groups are created and the physicians leave private practice, though, some hospitals are falling flat. Physicians join the groups and look at the hospital and say, ‘You’ve got me, now what?’ Many hospitals haven’t articulated an onboarding strategy for after physicians join. We think physicians are getting a little frustrated with the lack of communication they’re receiving from the administration and the institution.

 4. Communication with independent physicians. Physicians that choose to remain independent are feeling undervalued and left out of hospitals’ newly expanded network of employed physicians. These independent physicians are then likely to take their referrals to other hospitals in the area. Some doctors feel like they are now competing with the hospital. Hospitals used to only have a few specialists employed, but now have a cadre of physicians of all specialties, so physicians “see themselves as a direct competitor with the hospital.”

To rebuild relationships with independent physicians, hospitals need to show the physicians they are still valued and they can rely on the hospital to provide not only excellent patient care but also support whenever possible.

 5. OR efficiency. Surgeons want to grow and become more productive and are looking to hospitals for help with increased efficiency in operating room turnover. Physicians are telling us they need dedicated teams to do that; however that takes resources and time on the part of the hospital.

To address this problem, Aegis has created a surgical score card for different service lines, which a high-level team — think COOs, CMOs and OR directors — can use as the basis for discussions with surgeons about how the organization is performing and what should be done to improve.

 6. Regulatory requirements. New regulatory requirement tasks take physicians away from what they want to be doing: caring for patients. Physicians are spending more and more time doing things that aren’t related to patient care and it’s a cause of frustration and concern for them.

7. EMR and HIEs. Tied to the last point, requirements around sharing information, electronic medical records and health information exchanges have physicians concerned about the use of their time. Dealing with just these two concerns are taking up an inordinate amount of time – time that takes them away from their patients.

 8. Leadership requirements. New care delivery models, like patient-centered medical homes and team-based care, require physicians to take on more of a leadership role than they have in the past — and many are not trained or prepared to take on those tasks. Physicians are being pulled into committees and care teams, but they’re ill equipped to be successful in that setting.

Hospitals can help in this area by setting up physician leadership academies to build physician leaders. Hospitals can provide mentoring, education and workshops or bring in outside consultants to help grow its base of physician leaders, which will ultimately lead to the success of the new delivery models.

 9. General access to the hospital or system. Large health systems can be unwieldy, and communication, access and navigating the systems have been issues for physicians this year. It is not easy for physicians, independent or affiliated, to get information on a patient or make a referral. Many hospitals have not done what is needed in regards to streamlining the communication process, and this represents a significant opportunity in building “physician satisfaction.”

 10. Work-life balance. This is always an issue. Indeed, it appeared on our 2012’s list of physician complaints. Physicians have new responsibilities beyond direct patient care — but only want to work eight hours a day. These just don’t match up. It will be a constant struggle for physicians to maintain work-life balance they so sincerely desire.

It is important for hospital and health system leadership to address these 10 complaints and continue to work closely with both employed and independent physicians so they can maintain a solid patient base and move confidently forward with changes under healthcare reform.

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Top Five Game-Changers for Hospitals in 2014

Top Five Game-Changers for Hospitals in 2014

Yale Miller, Executive Vice President
Aegis Health Group

While 2013 was a game-changing year for the healthcare industry, Aegis Health Group anticipates five key developments that will alter the healthcare landscape for hospitals in the coming year.

1. Population Health 2.0 – As the Affordable Care Act has intensified the nation’s focus on improving health and preventing chronic disease, hospital CEOs have moved population health management up the priority scale. “In 2014 we expect more hospitals to make investments in consumer-directed technologies that put their population health programs at the fingertips of local consumers,” says Yale Miller, Aegis Health Group’s executive vice president of operations. “With almost three-quarters of Internet users looking online for health information, we know this is essential.” Tools like online population health portals will allow hospitals to collect, track and act on the health risks of area consumers before they become patients.

2. Payment Reform – Providers will continue to live in two worlds as they capitalize on fee-for-service while incorporating pay-for-performance into their business structures. This year healthcare executives will find themselves optimizing the former while solidifying strategies to remain viable in a performance-based environment.

3. Clinical Integration – Hospital alignment and integration with medical staffs gained popularity last year as hospitals began considering the Accountable Care Organization (ACO) and similar models. “Clinical integration is becoming an increasingly attractive option for hospitals looking to share the load and optimize their operations,” notes Miller. “We anticipate that more health systems will move in this direction in the coming year.”

4. Colossal Data – “Big data” is becoming old news as technology is allowing healthcare organizations to collect massive amounts of data. The key in 2014 will be to make data actionable by employing practical methods of leveraging it in a way that grows revenues and offers insight to strategies for increasing market share.

5. Consumerism – Not only do hospitals need to execute consumer-directed healthcare practices that differentiate them as “providers of choice” in their markets, they also must identify ways to meet consumers where they are, predicts Miller. “As an industry, we must communicate with consumers in a way that is personal, engaging and actionable if we are to expect them to adopt a healthier lifestyle,” he adds. These communications solutions can run from personal health desks to a variety of Web and mobility options.

Aegis anticipates that these five elements will have a lasting impact on how hospitals connect with consumers, manage their back-end operations and build industry partnerships in 2014 and beyond.

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