The Best ACOs are Living Brands: Understand this Concept and Leapfrog Ahead of Your Competition

ACO Brands React To Stimuli. They Grow. They Face Risks and Rivals …and they command higher fees and better payer contracts

A well-known, well-respected group of healthcare providers organized into an ACO has an “easier” time attracting new patients and better contract rates. New employees want to work there and carry out the brand’s promise. New doctors and nurses want to practice align and participate and patients want to be engaged, healed or diagnosed there. Payers want to associate their brand with a highly-regarded brand.

ACOs can also charge premium rates and are likely to be more profitable. From this perspective, it is easier to understand the value of creating a strong, visible, living brand. In my firm, we work with clients to shape and build their ACO and organizational brands. What I’ve learned is that most ACO executives and Board Members are physicians that have never taken a course in marketing, branding or public relations. They aren’t even sure if all this marketing and branding stuff applies to them. It does!

Furthermore, at universities around the USA, most health administration majors may have at best, one or two 3-credit survey courses offered in general marketing. Very few students were able to study applied marketing, branding and public relations as they relate to healthcare organizations specifically. This creates a big gap in capacity in healthcare marketing and branding know-how.

General marketing techniques that marketers use to create desire for retail and health and beauty product have no clue about all the overarching regulatory issues we face in healthcare. One slick marketer could land a healthcare client in lots of trouble with regulators such as CMS, the FDA, the Office of the Inspector General, the Federal Trade Commission, Insurance regulators, and others using the same marketing techniques that they were taught to use in colleges and universities across the nation. While they might be able to sell lawnmowers or website development, there are many overarching regulations that impact what healthcare marketers can promise or assert in ads.

Think about all the activities you do every day as a healthcare provider organization that must be consistent with your brand:

• Compassionate Care
• Compliance
• Clinical Outcomes
• Customer Delight
• Community Service
• Competency of the Medical Staff, and
• Quality & Safety Accreditation

These are all part of the ACO’s brand promise and they are all dependent on people that work for the ACO – those who are responsible for your ACO’s living brand.

Activities that might run counter to your ACO’s brand (hurt your desired reputation) and should be avoided.

Increasing your visibility within your target audience of healthcare consumers and referral partners and contracted payers will build your brand, but if that visibility doesn’t help to communicate a well-developed, well-known reputation, you will fall short. That’s why advertising is so often a questionable strategy for an ACO. Visibility, absent the ability to communicate the ACO’s reputation is of limited value.

But that brings up another challenge: Most ACOs are so new that they don’t have much of a reputation of the ACO in and of itself. What does a new ACO do to overcome that? I’ll get to that in a future post.

Branding is a way to maintain relevance, to differentiate your organization in the market and create meaningful connections with patients and their families and friends.

About Mercury Advisory Group

Mercury Advisory Group is a full-service, global consultancy with an exclusive focus on healthcare.

We make it easier for providers to be in the business of healthcare by helping hospitals, clinics, ACO’s, pharmaceutical and device manufacturers and concierge physicians create, manage, and strengthen, measure their brands and their value.

Whether you’re launching a new product or just went through a merger, we have the expertise and tools to help you maximize your brand’s impact. We offer a full spectrum of branding guidance and services for healthcare providers, manufacturers and service partners.  Since 1993, Mercury Advisory Group has developed, organized and launched more than 200 IPAs, PHOs, MSOs, ACOs and other integrated health systems in the USA and abroad, including the world’s first and only Globally Integrated Health Delivery System® granted a trademark registration for this new term of art in 2010 from the US Patent and Trademark Office in Washington, DC.