Core Exchange: The Patient Experience is Your Brand

nurse holding patient's hand

Health systems can enhance their reputation by emphasizing improved customer touchpoints. Listen to learn how.

Episode 3: Employer Branding—More than Smile Lessons

You can listen to the episode using the player embedded above, or you can read a full transcript below. Be sure to subscribe to Core Exchange on iTunes.

  • Core Exchange | Better Patient Experience

Episode Transcript:

Ward Alles: Hi, this is Ward Alles with Core Creative and we’ve got the Core Exchange here today with Kristin Baird, the founder of the Baird Group. And your company is really focused in on driving change in the health care setting by really developing the customer service or the patient experience and trying to improve patient outcomes by training staff, whether it’s nurses or doctors around the brand promise.

Kristin Baird: Absolutely, and really it’s not only training, it’s also the communication end of things. We want to make sure that the leaders know how to really communicate thoroughly. We want to make sure that the leaders know that this isn’t smile lessons. In order to really deliver on the brand promise, to deliver a consistently positive patient experience, people have to connect to purpose. The mission, vision, values shouldn’t be something that is a plaque on the wall. This is an opportunity to help people understand in their hearts what vital role they play in living out that mission, vision, and values, and of course the brand, with every encounter with every customer every single day.

Ward Alles: So how do you get people that are scientific, they’re medical, they’re clinical, to care about the brand?

Kristin Baird: You make the connection. You’ve got to make the connection from the head to the heart. I look at storytelling as a great means to move data from the head to the heart. For instance, you might have patient satisfaction data that is showing that you have problems with communication. And people might feel like, no, we’re communicating really well. When we go in and do mystery shopping, for example, we would be using ethnography to observe what are the communication patterns between the doctor and the patient or the nurse and the patient. What is the emotional response of the patient? And then we’d come back and we would share the story of. This is what we observed, this is what the patient told us. And by taking that story we’re able to say, “Here’s what the data said, but here’s what Mrs. Jones said when you came in and talked to her at 2:00 on Tuesday afternoon.” By using stories that are real, we’re moving the information from the head to the heart.

With your brand, you want to make sure that people have an emotional connection, and before the consumer can have that emotional connection, you gotta make sure your employees do too, that they are the guardians of the brand. Every encounter with every customer, every single day is their opportunity to preserve that brand promise, to deliver on it.

Ward Alles: You know, you said something earlier about reaching people emotionally. At Core, we talk about reaching and teaching and moving that new health care consumer, and we talk about “new” because they’re are so informed now, they’re engaged, they have choices, they’re searching for health care solutions online. But to move them to take action, you have to appeal to them emotionally. You also said you start with why, or the purpose behind the health care system. That too is a Core tenant. It’s the Simon [Sinek] model of starting with why, and it’s something we hold near and dear to our hearts and try to bring to the attention of our clients. At the C Suite, do you see them accepting the concept of starting with why, or do you have to do a lot of convincing, that’s the way to improve quality outcomes within their health care system?

Kristin Baird: I think that some of the C Suite are very driven by the why when others really are going to be driven by the bottom line. Part of the art and science here is speaking the three key languages, head, heart, and wallet. The head part is the business imperative: What we know about the bottom line and how the business is impacted when you can build customer loyalty and therefore market share over time. The heart, why, is because it’s the right thing to do. We’re doing the right thing by the people of our community, by the people we serve. And then of course the wallet. Then there’s the bottom line. We know we have fewer lawsuits when we have highly satisfied patients. We can build market share, we can increase patient loyalty, we can improve outcomes in a value based purchasing environment.

You have to be prepared to speak the three languages in any one of those C Suite discussions.

Ward Alles: And then finally, can you tell a story about how you helped a health care system or a medical practice go from a rather tough situation and really improve their culture over time? (We) Understand it takes time, but does any story come to mind that you’d like to share as what’s possible when you audit correctly upfront, strategize together, and put a game plan together to train around the brand?

Kristin Baird: Yeah, I can definitely think of one example. And it was in a very troubled market. It was highly unionized, it was a huge system. They had been through really rough times financially. They had a reduction in force. There was a real lack of trust. Coming back with that culture assessment and being able to tell the leaders, “There’s a real lack of trust,” from what I observed, the leaders were acting very responsibly for the sake as stewards of the organization as stewards of this health care resource that was so essential in their community. So the decisions they had made were solid. But now they were in a place of recovery. They had to earn the trust back of their employees, and in turn, the trust of their patients.

Part of that was helping the leaders be comfortable saying, “It’s a new day”. We’re gonna embrace what has happened, and we’re going to put it in the past and embrace today as a new day, and here’s what you can expect from us.”

Helping those leaders to articulate very clearly what people could expect and then moving forward with leadership development so that the front line managers knew what to say and how to say it. So not only communication, but they became better coaches. They were setting forth expectations so that everybody knew what to do, how to do it, and would want to do it.

And then at the same time we rolled out training. We call our training “Power of One,” and it’s named that for a very good reason. We want every person in the organization to recognize that he or she has the power within them to make a difference in the lives of those they serve. By getting them excited again, whether you were the security guard or the maintenance man or the person delivering food trays or a nurse, getting people excited again and thinking about, we are not this organization without you, and you have the opportunity to be the face of this brand, of this organization during every encounter. It really helped to build a sense of pride, and once that started happening, people took the whole initiative much more seriously. It was supportive to the leaders, and the leaders then in turn could be more supportive of the people.

Ward Alles: A final question would be around the role of an agency. What role can we play to support you in building a really healthy culture around that health system’s brand promise?

Kristin Baird: I think there definitely is opportunity to support one another. There’s nothing I get more excited about than very clear brand strategy. When an agency is working with the executives on that strategy, to be able to bring in what is the strategy around patient experience or human experience, because it’s going to be more than patients. It’s going to be your employees, it’s going to be your providers, it’s going to be your visitors, it’s going to be the community. So what is the strategy around the human experience? And you can’t have one without the other. So I think they dovetail beautifully.

Ward Alles: Okay, Kris. Thank you so much for that information about the Baird Group. There’s a lot of opportunity out there to help health care systems around the country improve how they deliver on the brand promise and really impact people’s lives.

Kristin Baird: I definitely agree that there are opportunities out there, and thank you for the opportunity to speak with you today. It is absolutely my pleasure.


Ward Alles is the President and Brand Consultant at Core Health, Core Creative’s specialized healthcare marketing practice.

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