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How to show your healthcare consumers you care

A look at what Core’s market research study reveals

When Core Health begins work with a new health system, one of the first questions our team asks is, “Why would someone choose you over the competition?” About 90% of the time, the response we receive is, “We care.”

Without a doubt, every health system can say its staff cares with a large degree of truth. Unlike many professions, healthcare providers often feel a call to serve. A quick snapshot of health system taglines demonstrates just how seriously organizations want to position themselves as the leader in caring and compassion in their respective markets.

Healthcare that cares

Caring is our calling

Feels like family

Caring to make a difference

We put the CARE in healthcare

Bringing loving care to healthcare

Where caring runs deep

Our strength is caring. Our focus is you.

Caring people … caring for people

But, positioning a health system as THE market leader in caring requires an entirely different level of, well, caring, to make an impression on a consumer. Every health system cares. To prove that you care more than the competition is a tall – but not insurmountable – order. Just because you say it, doesn’t make it so.

That assumption was confirmed in Core Health’s inaugural research study, “Perspectives in Health and Healthcare.” This research was designed to help to identify key drivers of healthcare choice to help our clients – healthcare marketers – leverage this information when branding and positioning their health systems.

The study was conducted in partnership with Cheryl Stone & Associates as a nationwide, online panel survey from Oct. 25, to Nov. 5, 2018. A total of 1,501 interviews were completed with a confidence level of 95%. Quotas were used to ensure replication of the full U.S. population.

A Driver of Healthcare Choice: Caring and Compassion

“Caring and compassion” was one of six drivers of healthcare choice consumers were asked to evaluate as part of our research study. Other drivers included “performance and results”; “innovation”; “a care experience personalized to meet needs and preferences”; “a focus on wellness and prevention”; and “convenience.”

Unsurprisingly, “caring and compassion” was the second most popular driver of consumer choice. (Learn which driver took first place here.) In fact, 60% of healthcare consumers consider “caring and compassion” to be “very important” (on a four-point scale) when selecting a healthcare provider. But, in order to effectively claim that your health system is THE caring and compassionate health system, it’s important to understand how consumers define these words.

Indicators of Caring and Compassion

Very Important Somewhat Important
Caring interactions of staff with patients and family members
Instances of exceptional care and compassion
Consumer and patient ratings
Involvement in the community
Religious affiliation or sponsorship of the health system

Caring and Compassion: What it means to people

I’ll believe it when I experience it

60% of our sample said “caring interactions of staff with patients and family members” is “very important” when defining caring and compassion. Of the 333 people who added additional suggestions about how a health system can show it cares, most focused on the way patients are treated when on-site for care – something the patient would have to experience themselves. Many of these comments focused on the quality of listening and communication throughout the patient experience, with the acknowledgement that everyone – not just the providers – shares responsibility in providing exceptional care.

“It starts from the time you make your phone call for an appointment to the checker that checks you out. They all add up,” one respondent said.

“Caring and compassion” must be operationalized - a brand commitment brought to life for employees - before a health system can claim it as a position. But, once you do, building stories around the care you provide is key to communicating this consumer choice driver. It's also a powerful way to provide aspirational examples of exceptional care with internal communications programs that reinforce that brand commitment.

Show me, don’t tell me!

Third-party testimonials are as important now as they ever have been. We know that because 41% of our sample said that “consumer and patient ratings” are “very important” indicators of caring and compassion.

Here was our takeaway:

  • Online reputation management is not only important, it’s a critical way to elevate the care and compassion your providers exhibit every day. We’d boldly say that if you’re not actively managing your online reputation, your health system shouldn’t claim “caring and compassion” as a position.
  • Patient testimonials are equally essential. No one can tell your health system’s story better than a patient. Not your CEO, not leaders in your marketing department and not an agency. Your patients can reveal the deeply personal (and, often very touching) brand experiences at your health system in ways you may have never imagined. Provide a platform to allow them to do so.
  • Awards and recognition may lend additional credibility to your health system’s positioning, but should complement – not replace – the caring interactions between staff, patients and family members.
  • Showcasing your providers provides another glimpse of what care and compassion looks like. Today, healthcare providers need to be relatable and accessible. Health systems that claim to be “caring and compassionate” should be able to show proof of this through provider videos. Place a special emphasis on showcasing the human being behind the MD.

Community involvement as an indicator of caring and compassion? Meh.

Only 22% of our sample rated community involvement as a “very important” indicator of caring and compassion. This is not to say that community involvement isn’t important (in fact, community involvement can be critical when looking to drive awareness and preference scores), it’s just not necessarily an indicator of caring and compassion.

Leaning on religion isn’t enough

Consumers in our survey were least likely to believe a religious affiliation is a key indicator of caring and compassion. Only 13% of our sample considered “religious affiliation or sponsorship of the health system” to be a “very important indicator” of caring and compassion.

Care for your position

Establishing a clear and authentic brand identity is critical in communicating your organization’s unique advantages – and stories – within the crowded healthcare market. As key decision driver, it’s important to define what “caring and compassion” looks like within your system.

To download the full healthcare research study, you can do so here.

To learn how Core Health can help you identify and distinguish your brand position, contact Stephanie Burton, Director of Healthcare Marketing, at


Stephanie Burton, APR is the Director of Healthcare Marketing at Core Health.

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