WASHINGTON, DC: At a time when health systems and hospitals are facing more intense competition for customers than ever before, a new book claims that PR has become perhaps the most pivotal part of the marketing equation.
WASHINGTON, DC: At a time when health systems and hospitals are
facing more intense competition for customers than ever before, a new
book claims that PR has become perhaps the most pivotal part of the
Branding Health Services: Defining Yourself in the Marketplace (Aspen
Publishers), co-edited by well-respected healthcare PR veterans Nancy
Hicks and Gil Bashe, takes a critical look at the way PR and marketing
have increasingly become used as ’positioning tools’ by healthcare
systems and hospitals.
Hicks, senior counselor and director of the US healthcare provider
practice in Hill & Knowlton’s DC office, sees an accelerating trend
toward consumerism in healthcare services. Employers, she explained,
have a choice regarding the managed care packages offered to their
employees. The more prestigious the brand they offer, the more likely it
is that their employees will be satisfied with their care choices.
While individual hospitals and health systems find themselves placing
greater emphasis on their overall image (rather than stressing specialty
care areas), consolidations during the last five years have forced many
to completely revamp their brand image. Enter PR, which has become the
first option for establishing new internal and external identities while
at the same time reinforcing existing strengths.
Of course, this is somewhat of an oversimplification. A chapter written
by Tony Swartz Lloyd, special counsel to corporate communications for
the Boston-based CareGroup, uses the merger between Beth Israel and
Deaconess, two teaching hospitals affiliated with Harvard Medical
School, as a case study of the way PR comes into play during a merger
scenario. The book also contains a chapter on the communications
challenges posed by Aetna absorbing several other companies.
Bashe, formerly worldwide director of H&K’s health and pharmaceutical
practice, is now CEO of Health!Quest Global Communications Partners.