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Hospitals have plenty of work to do when it comes to fostering brand loyalty

Despite a growing focus on loyalty, hospitals still have a ways to go to actually achieve it with patients and other consumers.

Jeff Lagasse, Associate Editor

Most large hospitals and health systems have branding strategies in place to promote their names and connect with the community. If new rankings from NRC Health are any indication though, providers still have a lot of work to do when it comes to fostering brand loyalty.

The customer intelligence firm just released its 2017-2018 Health Consumer Loyalty Awards, loyalty-based rankings that are voted on by about 300,000 consumers. CHI Memorial Hospital Chattanooga earned the number one ranking on the inaugural list, while the University of California healthcare system and Kaiser Permanente each placed three hospitals on the list, the only healthcare systems to do so.

They nabbed sky-high scores in categories like access and innovation, but scores in the engagement category remained comparatively low, even among the top performers.

Despite a growing focus on loyalty, hospitals still have a ways to go to actually achieve it with patients and other consumers. And as patients increasingly view their healthcare through a consumer lens, hospitals have to find ways to keep up with those expectations.

The results show that the more proactive hospitals in this regard will be the ones that eventually dominate the market. Though the winners of the awards still had somewhat low engagement scores, they're at the forefront of a shift toward a consumer-centered approach to care -- suggesting they'll continue to be top performers in coming years.

As the shift happens, many providers are looking to dip their toes in the waters of retail, mimicking business models that have long been consumer-oriented. 

Offering products isn't just a means of diversifying and supplementing revenue. Increasingly, it's necessary to survive as providers are now also competing against retail health offered in pharmacies and online, with Amazon and others.

In addition to ranking the top hospitals, the awards showed that increasing competition in large urban areas, like Chicago and Los Angeles, is forcing hospitals to differentiate and do more for patients in order to earn their loyalty. Both cities boasted four hospitals in the top rankings.

Ninety percent of the top hospitals are part of larger networks, yet only 11 systems had multiple hospitals make the list. Regardless, the majority of the winners were primarily hospital-based or flagship facilities, meaning patients experienced a healthcare brand at the facility level, often without being aware they were part of a larger network.

With nearly 40 percent of consumers saying it makes no difference whether a hospital is part of a healthcare system, patients are clearly less concerned with a hospital's affiliation, so long as they receive top-shelf treatment.

Twitter: @JELagasse
Email the writer: jeff.lagasse@himssmedia.com