In a recent conversation with Medhost CEO, Bill Anderson, he asked the question that’s the title of this blog post: “How Will Patients Choose Healthcare?” He then proceeded to answer his question by saying, “Healthcare will buy on brand like they do in their other purchasing decisions.” It’s worth adding that Bill and Medhost are working to build their YourCare Everywhere brand in healthcare. You can decide if their business efforts are skewing his perspective or not.

For me, I find the question absolutely fascinating and an extremely important question for healthcare organizations. This question is becoming more and more important since the shift to high deductible plans is forcing patients to be more selective in how they choose their healthcare provider. Will brand be the way that people choose healthcare?

One challenge I have with this idea is that healthcare is a complex decision. I don’t know many people who make impulse healthcare provider decisions. I wonder if there are other complex decisions we could learn from. What is true is that healthcare decisions are often crisis decisions. In a crisis, where do people turn? I think the answer is the brands they know.

As I look at healthcare, which organizations have a true national healthcare brand? The first one that comes to mind is Mayo Clinic. Cleveland Clinic seems to be working down a similar path. Are their others? There are very few national healthcare brands that are trusted.

There are many local healthcare brands. Dignity Health has been pouring money into commercials in Vegas to build their brand. I assure you the commercials are all brand. Intermountain has a brand in Utah and Partners Healthcare has a brand in Boston. We could argue whether they have good or bad brands since they are both so dominant in their region. There are many other examples of local healthcare brands.

On the other side of healthcare brands is the CVS Minute Clinic, Walmart, and all the other retailers trying to make a space for themselves in healthcare. Also competing for brand recognition with a similar direct to consumer, retail healthcare play are the telemedicine providers like MD Live.

Long story short, we’re seeing patients having more power when it comes to selecting their healthcare provider and we see a ton of brand competition. Will a healthcare organization be able to survive without a major investment in their brand? What does this mean for small physician practices?

I’d love to hear your thoughts about what’s happening with healthcare brands. Do they matter? In what ways will they matter? What should a healthcare organization be doing to shore up its brand?