Quality: It’s Time to Change the Playing Field by: David Jarrard | posted November 6, 2013

Last week, the Joint Commission released its Top Performers list, which came on the heels of Leapfrog’s safety scores the week before. These announcements bring a classic healthcare communications and marketing challenge back to center stage – how to talk about quality.

For years, our industry has struggled with this debate. Most acknowledge the ratings are imperfect and inconsistent. What’s more, an attempt to explain away a low score can appear defensive.

On the other hand, good scores are often touted with pride across multiple marketing, communications and advertising vehicles.  Which can be great, until another survey comes out with your competitor on top. This time.

Of course, ratings can be important tools for improving your performance. But it’s a risky approach to positioning and one we think doesn’t substantially influence consumers in any event.

It’s time for a change.

Rather than allowing your quality message to be consumed by the ratings-of-the-month short game, consider changing the playing field.

Invest time and resources to understand how your audience defines quality.  From there, show them how you meet (or exceed) their expectations. Frame the conversation about quality in terms that are meaningful to your organization, your patients and your community. Yes, that’s the “experience” of engaging with your brand. But it’s so much more.

Healthcare is a unique business in many ways, but is like most things in this: If you can offer consumers what they value, many will pay a premium for it. The key is truly understanding how your patients (and physicians and other caregivers) define quality. I’ll bet it’s not your HCAHPS score or those five stars for which you paid $100,000 to use for a year.

By repositioning the idea of quality, you have more than talking points at your disposal. You have a position that goes to the heart of that which your consumers care about most and a story that they can endorse because of their experience with you. That’s how you create advocates and the freely given word-of-mouth support that is the highest goal of any positioning effort.

Best of all, this is a way out of the ratings trap and may be the path to enhancing the long-term value of your hospital in the eyes of consumers.

Tell us how your hospital defines quality. We’ll share responses in a future blog post. Email them to us at info@jarrardinc.com

One Response

  1. I was considering a blog on “Going Public with Your Public Report Card” until I read this post. Now I think the best I could hope for would be redundancy. The currently reported quality metrics are akin to Tee-Ball in simplicity, errancy and lack of meaningful differentiation among competing teams. It’s OK, perhaps necessary, to begin learning the game at that level, but the big show requires internally generated metrics and the ability to hit the wicked breaking stuff: biologic variability and local context.
    Excellent blog.

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About David Jarrard

David Jarrard, Jarrard Inc. CEO and partner, is a strategic healthcare public affairs counselor who has led communications campaigns for nearly two decades, addressing mergers and acquisitions, regulatory, crisis and leadership issues. He is a former journalist, business advisor and corporate communications executive. Contact him at 615-254-0575 or djarrard@jarrardinc.com.