Interview with Duane Knapp, World-Class Brand Strategist:
Build Your Healthcare Brand
How to Optimize Patient Experience at Your Practice or Hospital
On the Russ & Randy Podcast we have a treat this week: instead of our usual “TIPS-IN-TEN” episode of practical healthcare marketing tips in 10 minutes or less, we will be taking a deep dive into the Science of Brand with Duane Knapp, author of four books including BrandScience, The BrandPromise™ (my own favorite). He is currently working on his fifth book, on the topic of optimizing perceived value. This is a long recording – about 30 minutes – but there are some pearls in there on how to optimize patient experience for your practice!
While you’re visiting the Russ & Randy Podcast page over at iTunes, also take a listen to “What’s the Difference Between Brand and Reputation” – a chat that Randy and I had about the definition of Brand, and what it has to do with your practice. And while you’re there, please download and rate our p0dcast (5-stars, of course!!).
Listen Here NOW
The following is the “tick-tock” of the podcast audio recording of my discussion with Duane Knapp. That is, the left column denotes the time in the podcast where you may find details on the topic being discussed:
The perception of your practice IS your brand!
Duane clarifies this point: “Your brand is the internalized sum of perceptions of your practice or hospital. Every patient; every influencer; every staff member; every colleague … their internalized impressions of your practice IS your brand.”
Your Message is Not Your Brand
The message that you send out – your logo, your tagline, your website, your “sign posts” – those are not your brand. The brand is the experience that people have with your practice or hospital.
Specifically, the patient experience. And that patient experience accumulates from the patient’s interaction with your practice at every “touch point.”
Every interaction with your practice – every touch point – moves the needle on their “experience-ometer” – either positive or negative – contributing to a “live perceived value.”
That perceived value represents a running total of those interactions with your practice; it is a fluid value, moving up or down on a moment-by-moment basis as the patient interacts with every aspect of your practice.
Duane gives an example of touch points influencing the patient’s “live perceived value” of your practice.
What are the major influences on a patient’s perceived value at the touch-points with your practice? The value-equation … 3 indicators of value for the optimal patient experience:
- The patient’s perception of time: is it being wasted? Is it being respected?
- The emotion or feeling a patient has when interacting with your practice.
- The finances involved.
In Duane’s experience, the majority of healthcare organizations lack insight into the value of time or emotion in a patient’s feelings about their cost of their care. In the current age of growing out-of-pocket expenses for patients, the importance of this value-equation is growing.
Optimize Patient Experience
How can physicians, medical practices, and hospitals use this information to achieve an exceptional patient experience? That is, how to optimize the patient experience? What is the Brand Strategy secret sauce for achieving your successful brand?
“For any medical practice, hospital, or healthcare organization that truly wants their brand to be based on an exceptional patient experience, there is a science to optimize patient experience.”
Duane Knapp’s Four-Step Process of BrandScience™
That Brand Science™ begins with a Four-Step Process:
- Conduct an objective assessment of your brand baseline. How do your patients and your staff feel about your brand now? In Duane’s experience, most health organizations have no concept of how their patients view their brand. So how can they improve the patient experience they provide?
Duane uses the analogy of trying to improve your golf game: these practices are “hitting golf balls at night.” They’ll never improve their game if they’re hitting in the dark: they don’t know where they’re hitting the ball.
Duane insists that the same holds true if you’re trying to deliver an exceptional patient experience, “… If you’re blind-folded, you’re never going to get there.”
- Determine how people want to feel about your brand. How do you want them to feel about your brand? Develop your brand promise. Your Brand Promise™ is an inspirational concept for internal use only. It is not for public consumption; it’s not a slogan; not put on your billboard or website or business cards.
Your brand promise is simply an internal promise for how you will make every patient feel when interacting with every aspect of your practice (or hospital).
May Clinic as an example of the brand promise.
- Build Your Brand Blueprint. Use your brand assessment (step 1) and your brand promise (step 2) to build your brand blueprint – outlining how you will communicate your brand; your brand message. And note that your brand blueprint – your brand message – does not come from a creative exercise to design a new logo or website or change the color of your reception area. Your blueprint is based on how you want your patients to feel about your brand.
- Culturalization of your brand promise. This is the stage where the promise and blueprint are communicated face-to-face with every single person that works in the organization and they decide how they will deliver the brand’s promise themselves, in their position within the organization.
Cleveland Clinic Example
The process using the Cleveland Clinic as an example.
The Tattoo Mentality: the typical “branding exercise” where someone decides that they need a new logo, a new brand. Duane equates this with getting a new tattoo. “That doesn’t mean that tattoos are bad or anything. It just means that you can have a lot of mixed messages if you have a lot of tattoos.” Especially in healthcare, Duane says, if you want to become one-of-a-kind brand experience, you must deliver the exceptional patient experience everywhere, “… but especially in the last three feet of the patient experience.”
“The Last Three Feet” – When a patient is interacting with your brand online, or speaking with someone at your practice on the phone or face-to-face, “they are within three feet of the brand.” Your Brand Promise must be delivered in every instance where the patient is within those last three feet of the brand. Ideally, optimally, your brand promise is delivered at every touch point; but it is crucial that it be delivered in “the last three feet.
It is the experience with your brand that drives that exceptional patient experience. Not some hype or tagline that says “we provide the best care” or “we’re going to make your life better.”
Conclusion of the Science of your Brand.
The somebody that drives the brand promise must be the CEO, or Chief Medical Officer, or one of the key leaders of the organization. They work with a team; but it must be led by a true leader in the organization.
Another example, based on the Cleveland Clinic’s entry into social media.
How To Optimize Patient Experience for Small Practice or Hospital?
All this may be well-and-good for the Mayo Clinics and Cleveland Clinics of the world. But how do I, in my solo-practice, or in my three-physician practice, use this 4-step process and develop a brand based on the exceptional patient experience? Does Duane have any guidelines for us mere mortals?
Smaller is easier: Less inertia, requiring fewer resources to implement the 4-step process: fewer people survey for a baseline objective assessment; more nimble team to develop the brand promise; fewer people to obtain buy-in from during the culturalization process.
Duane relates another example from his experience with a small community hospital.
Small Details are Key
How you greet your patients is key – and by “you” we don’t mean the physician.
According to Duane: “In every practice, and in every medical care experience, the greeting starts to determine perceived value, and sets the tone for how they’re going to feel about the experiences to follow. So when you look at those touch-points, it may be as simple as who answers the phone.”
In every practice, the lowest-paid person on the entire staff is the receptionist, or the person answering the phone. And yet, they are the fact of your practice. That may be the most important person in the practice, including the physician.
It’s All About the EXPERIENCE!
Duane: “Any mention of brand, any conversation that gets to the brand discussion, needs to be immediately transferred in your mind to ‘experience’. What is the experience with our brand? Do we want it to be the very best experience they’ve had?”
Virtually all physicians provide excellent care. That’s not what determines the quality of the patient experience. Eighty percent of the patient’s experience is outside of the physician.
Duane: “Right. What matters is the conversation, the interaction that’s occurring well before the physician … all the process that’s occurring. Is that an exceptional patient experience?”
Duane tells a story about his advising a clinic of eleven physicians. This story reflects the alienation that many of us in medicine feel as our time looking at forms and computer-screens has overtaken the time we get to spend with our patients; it reflects a loss of the doctor-patient relationship that brought most of us into healthcare. Sadly, the story reflects how much of modern healthcare has become recipe-based and formulaic, based on statistics and demographics, and has lost a focus on how our patients feel.
Wrap-up, thanking Duane for sharing his experience and insights.
Duane Knapp is an authority on building successful brands, and is a pioneer in the field of Brand Science. He is Founder and Chairman of Brand Strategy, Inc., advising over three-hundred brands in seventeen countries worldwide. His clients include corporations, societies, associations, institutions, countries, colleges, universities, athletes, and celebrities – in short: anyone whose goal is to optimize their perception and success.
Brands that Duane has helped to develop include:
- Delta Airlines
- The American Academy of Family Physicians
- The American Academy of Ophthalmology
- Mercy Health
- And numerous hospitals and healthcare practices
Duane Knapp has taught and lectured at universities throughout the U.S., including Vanderbilt, Stanford, and many more. Duane earned his BA in business administration from Western Michigan University, and his MBA from the University of Toledo. His studies also include completion of Stanford’s post-graduate program in Strategic Marketing at the Stanford University Graduate School of Business.
Duane is THE keynote speaker on the subject of BrandScience™, and I feel fortunate to mine his experience in order to apply some science to developing your BRAND.
If you haven’t already, get your hands on Duane Knapp’s book, the Brand Promise (Amazon affiliate link). His book will change the way you think about your brand! AND how you optimize patient experience at your practice or hospital.
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