Siegel+Gale study: Healthcare brands need to better connect with consumers

The branding firm surveyed 1,100 consumers in the US and UK, who rated healthcare areas such as primary-care physicians and specialists, pharmaceutical companies, health insurers, hospitals, and pharmacies.

NEW YORK: With consumers increasingly involved in their healthcare decisions, pharmaceutical companies could benefit from being consumer-connected, not just consumer-focused, according to research from Siegel+Gale.

The branding firm surveyed 1,100 consumers in the US and UK, who rated healthcare areas such as primary-care physicians and specialists, pharmaceutical companies, health insurers, hospitals, and pharmacies. Respondents gauged them on concepts: putting patients first, empowerment and access, and science and innovation.

Elspeth Ross, Siegel+Gale strategist, said the difference between being consumer-focused and connected is that "they need to take off the lab coat and have conversations with consumers."

Consumers in the US and UK differ on perceived value for services provided. By the numbers, 54.3% of UK respondents gave hospitals a rating of six or seven on a seven-point scale versus 39.3% of US consumers. However, 29.2% of US respondents said health-insurance companies are valuable for their services provided, versus only 16.2% of UK respondents.

That’s because the UK has a single-payer system, meaning individuals there do not have as much interaction with healthcare companies as their US counterparts, said Mike Bowen, insights director. He added that putting patients first drives both a company’s "favorability and perception of value when it comes to healthcare."

More than half of respondents in both countries said they value primary-care physicians with 52.3% of US consumers saying they consider their services valuable and 50.5% in the UK saying the same.

The study also found that consumers view pharma companies as "the brains of the healthcare industry."

One question asked what an "ideal" pharmaceutical company could do that today’s firms are not. The response: "The ideal pharmaceutical brand has a strong emphasis on people."

Pharma companies may otherwise be seen as "operating at arm’s length," or not directly affecting people’s lives but acting "in a Big Brother way," said Howard Belk, co-CEO and CCO at the firm.

Ross referenced Roche as a brand that is working to connect with consumers. Its website’s homepage is a mix of a glimpse inside its lab, patient stories, and examples of it giving back to communities.

Ross added that it’s important for a corporate brand to take hold, whether ahead of a merger or acquisition or efforts like consumer responsibility and sustainability, instead of relying on individual products on the shelves.

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