Barriers to Branding an Academic Medical Center


The healthcare industry has changed over the past decade, and patients are demanding the same things they demand from traditional brands. Healthcare systems no longer compete on the traditional healthcare attributes.

Convenience: In a recent Primary Care Consumer Choice Survey, six out of the top 10 attributes consumers look for in a hospital system center around convenience. Patients want easy access and a smooth healthcare experience. 

Patient-first Care: Patients search beyond the diagnosis and treatment relationship. They yearn not just for a doctor, but for a doctor who provides patient-first care. 

Expertise: Hospital systems are constantly competing to offer the most innovative treatments to their patients. Patients seek expertise and innovation when choosing a healthcare provider. Patients keep tabs on the latest innovations in the medical space.

Many hospital systems communicate their convenient access to healthcare, patient-first care and deep expertise. However, academic medical centers (AMC) face several barriers that keep them from meeting these patient needs. Academic medical centers have an opportunity to turn what patients see as negative aspects of their business model into positive messages that demonstrate they also provide convenience, patient-first care and expertise.   

There are many ways AMC can overcome negative perceptions.

Patient Belief: A community hospital is more convenient than a large AMC, and a large hospital just makes the whole healthcare experience complicated.

Patients see smaller hospitals as providing more convenient care options. However, AMCs attract a variety of specialists along with doctors who provide standard care. AMCs should emphasize the convenience of having all services under one roof. Standard care and specialties are unique to AMCs and help patients address all their medical needs in one place; this is something many community hospitals can’t offer. 

Patient Belief: Patients are treated by students and residents, not a real doctor.

Many patients believe they won’t get attention or proper care from a doctor at an AMC. When communicating about your AMC, be transparent that there are lots of students and residents learning at the hospital, but it takes a very knowledgeable and experienced doctor to teach these medical students and that learning and teaching approach won't interfere with patient-first care.

Patient Belief: Academic medical centers believe patients are guinea pigs. I'm not getting the best care if I'm treated like a guinea pig.

When branding an AMC, it’s important to reiterate that research doesn’t mean testing out new approaches on patients; research happens behind the scenes and is closely monitored. Research doesn’t exist to try out new experiments. It’s there to find innovative medical solutions for patients. Don't be afraid to highlight your AMC's research efforts, but be sure to show how that research is conducted. Be transparent when talking about your research methods and demonstrate how it brings expertise to your services.

Convenience, patient-first care and expertise are all considered by patients when they are making their healthcare choices. It's important for academic medical centers to demonstrate how their healthcare model can bring convenience, patient-first care and expertise to the forefront despite patients believing otherwise.