Think like a retailer to shape a better patient experience

Taking cues from leading consumer brands can help healthcare providers deliver a more consistent experience as they bring care out into communities

Today’s healthcare consumers have a dizzying array of care options, from a doctor’s office or telehealth visit to a quick stop at a clinic in their local pharmacy or shopping center. Yet, as healthcare organizations push care into convenient community locations, some are borrowing from the retailer handbook to deliver a consistent brand experience across their care networks. 

In the competitive healthcare landscape, winning consumer loyalty is key—and that hinges upon providing a positive and reliable patient experience. Whether your organization is growing organically or through mergers and acquisitions (M&A), unifying your network requires that your locations look and feel the same, offering a distinct brand experience no matter where a patient experiences care.

The “retailization” of healthcare has brought care to new and often creative locations. Now, you can take the retailization concept a step further by adopting new ways of thinking about how to design care spaces. The most successful retail brands offer several key lessons that can help shape a consistent patient experience across your portfolio of healthcare locations.

Build a brand experience around your customer

Smart retailers know that building a customer-centric business doesn’t start in the boardroom—it starts on the ground, talking to real consumers about their needs and preferences. The same market research methods can help you gain a powerful understanding of your patients. Through surveys and interviews, you can discover their attitudes about your brand and locations, and what drives their decisions on where to seek care.

These insights can help shape how you design the experience of your facilities—starting with the first signage consumers see as they drive up to the moment they step into an exam room. Brand experience designers like Big Red Rooster will even co-create experiences with consumers as a pre-cursor to the design phase, ensuring that their needs and desires are integrated from the very beginning.

Delivering a common experience—from your big hospital campus to small retail clinics—starts with setting standards and creating a brand guide to be used by everyone involved in facility planning, from the marketing department to architects and construction teams.

Deliver consistency across all locations

A brand guide is only useful if you have a skilled project manager who can ensure that standards are consistently applied in every location. If your portfolio is geographically dispersed, you will likely have different construction teams on the ground in every market. Centralizing project management across sites is the key to ensuring compliance with the brand guidelines.

When rebranding your locations or integrating new physician offices following M&A, the transition can be challenging for employees on the ground who are used to a different aesthetic or facility design. Your project manager will play a key role in managing the change, helping to win buy-in from doctors, nurses and staff.

Protect the patient experience through change

How many times have you walked into a store and seen a “pardon our dust” sign in the midst of remodeling? Retailers frequently refresh their brands and store layouts to adjust to changing consumer preferences. Throughout renovations, leading brands strive to deliver outstanding customer service to ensure the disruption doesn’t impact sales.

The challenge for healthcare companies is even more significant, given the need to ensure patient safety and privacy. When renovating a hospital or clinic, you will need a plan to minimize disruption to the patient experience. Your project manager should be prepared to schedule construction teams to work at night, adjust traffic patterns when entrances are blocked and make a whole host of other accommodations to support consistent patient care.

Are you ready for the healthcare and retail convergence?

Staying competitive in the new world of healthcare requires providers to think more holistically about their brands and the patient experience. It means thinking more like a retailer when it comes to designing and rolling out a brand across a portfolio of hospitals, outpatient facilities and retail clinics.

For a smooth roll-out, look for partners that understand both consumer-oriented businesses and regulated healthcare environments—and have experience managing complex, multi-site projects. With the right team, you’ll be on your way to delivering consistent experiences that exceed patient expectations.