The Small Batch Hospital: A Marketing Perspective

Small Hospital Branding

As health systems expand, opportunities emerge for smaller hospitals.

Here at our scenic CT shoreline headquarters, we are surrounded by monster health brands.

Yale New Haven Health, the dominant regional Academic Medical Center, is right next door. UCONN and Hartford Healthcare are slugging it out in the center of the state. Humana is a longstanding client.

[Looking back, one reason health systems have evolved as they have is because the Affordable Care Act promotes health network development. If you’re interested here’s some wonky research on the topic

The anatomy of today’s health systems is still growing, but it usually involves a clinical headquarters such as a hospital, accompanied by a research center, a network of affiliate hospital partners, and “magnet” facilities in outlying communities offering primary and urgent care and other non-hospital based practices such as physical therapy, orthopedics, dermatology, and so forth. Yale New Haven Health even has a Center for Emergency Preparedness and Disaster Response.

Which brings us to the small, specialty hospital. As healthcare systems expand and brand, and consumerism continues to exert pressure on healthcare for clarity, an opportunity emerges for smaller hospitals to compete more effectively.

Positioning means defining where you stand

Specialty hospitals are not new, nor is their regulatory history. Women’s and Children’s hospitals have been established across the country, many have thrived precisely because of their defined positioning.

Even the peer-reviewed American Journal of Managed Care has identified the benefits of concise healthcare positioning. And in our view this is an opportunity for smaller hospitals – even if they have been bought or are being managed as part of a larger health system.

Rationale: Healthcare consumers are becoming avid researchers who are alert to brand identity, messages, and differentiators. To them, health care is a service industry. And brand positioning is one way they evaluate options.

Smaller hospitals need to cultivate their niche and articulate their value in qualitative terms that speak to their market position. This can be a powerful differentiator alongside health networks whose positioning categorically centers on size and institutional power and reach.

Small batch branding in practice.

Self-serving example: A critical access hospital, Memorial Hospital in North Conway, NH, is practically in the White Mountain National Forest. They’re been around for 100+ years.

When they were acquired by Maine Health (a system that includes 8 hospitals), Memorial wanted to retain its community-based identity.

Our content embraced Memorial’s highly credentialed doctors as neighbors and community members to brand Memorial as “The heart of a healthier community.” The positioning makes Memorial a trusted resource, rather than a corporate holding.

As a result, Memorial continues to rank highly in community awareness and good will, the currency of any healthcare brand that wants to stay strong amidst change.

Healthcare positioning matters. If it matters to you, contact us.