The best ACOs will create patient and payer experiences that have the power to create long-term, emotional connections with healthcare consumers of all ages.

For Accountable Care Organizations, connecting with the market and engaging people to take better care of their health through prevention, healthful habits and treatment recommendations is the holy grail of population health effectiveness. As a careful writer, with 14 books authored, I intentionally didn’t say management, because before one can manage population health, one has to first effect the changes that will later be managed.

ACO Branding, Reputation, and Visibility

After many years working with healthcare provider organizations, pharmaceutical manufacturers, payers, and government economic development agencies, I’ve come to the conclusion that the best definition of branding is the simplest one.

Your ACO’s brand is partly the reputation of your doctors and nurses. It’s what people say about them when they are not around. It’s how people feel about your clinical and service outcomes and the safety and quality of your hospital, clinic, medical practice, or your ACO and what they experience as a patient member of your ACO.

Part of your ACO’s brand reputation has to do with what customers expect when they come to you for care for themselves and those they care about. But reputation alone doesn’t capture the full scope of a healthcare brand. You must also add in the dimension of visibility. How well known is your business (and the partner providers affiliated with the ACO) in your target market? The better the reputation and the greater the visibility, the stronger the brand will be.

But first, let’s strip away some common misconceptions about brands:

• Your brand is not your ACO’s name.
• Your brand is not your ACO’s logo or tagline.
• Your brand is not your ACO’s website or marketing collateral (assuming you’ve developed some)
• Your brand is not your ACO’s mission statement.
• Your brand is not any ACO advertising you may have paid for.

These items may help communicate your ACO’s brand to the world. They may even help clarify it. But they are not your ACO’s brand.

Recently, I had a chat with a psychologist on the west coast of Central Florida with a heavy Medicare and Medicaid base. She wasn’t sure what exactly happened to her referral pool, but her referrals had evaporated. I asked her if she had politically offended anyone in the local ACO and she said “What’s an ACO?” That was in February, 2014. When I named the ones operating in her area, and their officers and directors, she wasn’t familiar with any of them. When I asked the names of the health plans with which she was contracted, she named all the popular panels, each of whom had Medicare Advantage programs, commercial programs and contracts with the local ACOs. How could she be that uninformed about the market around her? Was she an anomaly?

What it told me was revealing in the sense that there were three local ACOs already in an active state of play in her community. None of the three had brand awareness in the market, and therefore no brand recognition or brand promise of any consequence. If the doctors in the market were unaware of the brand, and they worked side-by-side in the market, how could anyone think for a moment that the general public would have any perception of ACO brand choices in the market?

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.