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This Just In: “Systemness” is a meaningful feature for healthcare consumers

Results from Core Health’s Consumer Market Research Study

It seems to make good sense. If healthcare facilities are part of a system, consumers will benefit from greater and more streamlined access to healthcare. And yet, healthcare marketers continue to struggle with the classic dilemma of convincing others that “systemness” matters.

Consider this recent post from the SHSMD chat room (edited to protect confidentiality):

​We have always employed a service-line specific marketing strategy for our health system … When we do brand campaigns we tie it to our system brand and our community events and sponsorships fall under the system brand as well. Our 3 hospital administrators want hospital-specific strategies for their facilities … they are all no more than 7 miles apart. We've explained time and again that people get to the hospitals from their doctors or the ER, yet they are still pushing.

Here’s the good news:

Healthcare consumers value systemness and now we have the data to prove it.

That’s one thing we learned as part of Core Health’s inaugural research study, “Perspectives in Health and Healthcare.” This research was designed to identify key drivers of healthcare choice so our clients – healthcare marketers – could 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 U.S. population.

As part of the study, we assessed six drivers of healthcare choice consumers were asked to evaluate as part of our research study. These drivers included innovation, performance and results; caring and compassion; a care experience personalized to meet needs and preferences; a focus on wellness and prevention; and convenience. (see how all driver categories performed here.)

In addition to driver categories, we asked healthcare consumers about the value of an integrated health system. We weren’t surprised to learn that consumers value the concept of a health “system”.

Consumers were asked whether they felt that an integrated health system offers any advantage for patients, after reading a description of an integrated health system. The vast majority, 82%, considered an integrated health system to offer an advantage, either a big advantage (43%) or a moderate advantage (40%).

Is it an advantage for patients if a health system is integrated?

To that end, 74% of healthcare consumers “strongly agree” or “agree somewhat” that they try to find all of their doctors and services in the same health system.

Consumers are attracted to a variety of services and EMR accessibility across multiple providers

The most prized aspects of an integrated health system are:

  • Offering a wide variety of services in the patient’s local area
  • Having an electronic medical record (EMR) that is available to all providers and facilities throughout the system

And, while consumers highly value having access to a wide variety of services in their local areas, they are much less likely to view a more expansive geographic offering across several states or throughout the U.S. as a potential benefit of a health system.

Importance of Potential Benefits of an Integrated Health System

Very Important Somewhat Important
The system offers a wide variety of services in your local area.
Your EMR is available at all the doctor offices, hospitals, urgent care centers, and other facilities in the system.
The same proven treatment methods are used throughout the system.
The system offers access to specialists from a well-known academic medical center.
The system offers services across a wide geographic area within your state.
The system offers services throughout the US.
The system offers services across a broad region covering several states.

Those aged 65 and older were significantly more likely than others to believe that an integrated health system offers a big advantage.

Implications of this data

This data has some important implications for health system marketers.

  • With few exceptions, marketers should place the health system - not the hospital - at the center of branding and service-line promotional efforts.
  • Promoting the benefits of a health system - particularly, the wide variety of services available - should be incorporated into messaging strategies. This is especially true if a health system can claim a wider variety of services available than its competitors.

Tell us about your challenges and triumphs. Have you successfully helped migrate from hospital-centric messaging to promoting the benefits of a health system? What advice do you have for other healthcare marketers?

You can download complete research study here.


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


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