Like most people, we begin the New Year with great expectations. We see it as a fresh start; a new beginning; an opportunity to recharge and face the challenges ahead. And, this year there will be aplenty.

Many of the questions that we thought would be answered in 2013 are still up in the air. One of particular interest is, “how will the Affordable Care Act impact patient choice?” Regardless of the answer, one thing is crystal clear: Your healthcare brand will be even more important tomorrow than it is today.

To this, some people may reply, “But patients will have less choice in the future when it comes to choosing a hospital.” To which we will answer, “exactly our point.

Even in an environment where choice will be limited, there will still be a choice. For this very reason, you must do everything possible to connect with the patients/consumers who remain financially responsible for their healthcare decisions, including Medicare patients.

These people basically fall into two camps: Those who think with their heads and those who think with their hearts. Value and emotion. They’re the very reasons people choose Allstate (a brand that promotes the feelings of security and quality) over Geico (a brand that promotes savings)…or vice versa.

But consumers are only part of the picture. In today’s unpredictable healthcare environment, you must cast a wider net. Your healthcare brand is an important tool in attracting insurance companies, community leaders and business leaders, as well as the best employees and physicians. Academic medical centers must also maintain and promote their brand to appeal to a national audience, to be considered for national rankings and to attract faculty, students, and important research and donor dollars. And, as networks narrow, the strength of your healthcare brand can mean the difference between being chosen or being carved out.

Like a marriage, you can’t walk away from your brand for six months and expect the relationship with consumers to automatically rekindle. People have short memories. So, how do you maintain that relationship when marketing directors are under increased pressure to deliver results and demonstrate ROI while budgets are being slashed? The answer is that everyone within your organization has to care about your healthcare brand—from the ground up. Any organization that embraces this ideology and dedicates the resources needed to keep their brand fresh will realize great success.

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