5 things you never want to hear at your hospital

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On the journey toward value-based healthcare, health systems are facing stiff competition. Consumers’ costs are going up, their expectations are higher and they’re not afraid to comparison shop when it comes to their health and wellness. Add nontraditional healthcare channels like pharmacy and grocery into the mix, and the battle for market share becomes even more crowded.

“To compete in a retail-driven healthcare market, health systems need to take a customer-focused approach to attract and retain both customers and top talent,” said Vicki Eickelberger, Managing Director at Big Red Rooster, a JLL company. “Creating experiences that connect with customers and their needs has been a strategic premise of successful retailing for decades.”

Healthcare is expensive, messy and fraught with emotion. Gaining customers’ trust requires a care-centered brand fueled by strong culture and service standards. If you’re hearing any of the negative statements below within the walls of your health system, reconsider your brand experience.

“I’m lost.”

Hospitals play host to patients, caregivers, visitors and other guests, meaning there’s a need to build out multiple customer experiences within the same environment. It’s the reason many systems have tapped a Chief Experience Officer, and why OhioHealth turned to Big Red Rooster for an easy and intuitive wayfinding system.

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After interviewing stakeholders to understand needs and desired outcomes, Big Red Rooster journey mapped each audience’s experience to identify the best placement of branding and signage. Prioritizing simplicity and projecting a sense of calm, public spaces became uplifting landmarks that oriented people efficiently. That consumer-centric filter has extended across the system’s culture, process and design, resulting in valuable continuity across ambulatory, outpatient and pharmacy sites.

“This is so inconvenient.”

As health systems expand from purely clinical settings to more retail-driven locations both on campus and within communities, building and operating with a consumer lens becomes even more critical. Outpatient care is a delicate balance between consumer behavior and operational efficiency, and health systems need to think carefully about elevating the “product” they are selling—health and wellness.

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Sometimes that means gleaning best practices from outside your competitive set. Take Giant Eagle supermarket’s vision for a new store format that consolidates and elevates commodity categories into a family health and wellness destination. Big Red Rooster translated their mission into a health and wellness position to guide environmental design and messaging, reorganized the store to integrate health, beauty and baby categories into the pharmacy area and enhanced wayfinding and visual merchandising. The concept has been rolled out across 30 stores and counting.

“This place is stressful.”

One challenge health systems face is creating a consistent patient experience within a campus that has become a grab bag of real estate product, from 100-year-old buildings to new developments. In high-acuity environments, stress levels are high and intuitive guidance is key. At Nationwide Children’s Hospital’s ground-up tower in Columbus, Ohio, the architect designed from the physical box in, working in partnership with Big Red Rooster’s effort to ignite public spaces from the user experience out.

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With nearly four miles of corridors as their canvas, Big Red Rooster leveraged a bright color palette, nature themes and optimistic “animal friend” installations to seamlessly connect old and new sections of the hospital’s campus. Visitors’ welcome begins in the parking lot, and this approachable design language allows them to find their loved ones immediately.

“The staff doesn’t care.”

There’s nothing worse than being down for the count and not feeling well taken care of. Brand building starts from the inside with a strong culture, and a health system that is dedicated to its employees is better able to attract and retain the top talent that customers seek.

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Atrium Health (formerly Carolinas HealthCare System), the second-largest health system in the country, came to Big Red Rooster in the midst of rapid growth. Facing employee attrition, the system charged Big Red Rooster with designing an onboarding program for the thousands of new associates joining the team annually. An in-depth study of new employees’ first 90 days in this life-or-death environment revealed a communication void. By developing unique ceremonies, rituals and artifacts, Big Red Rooster built a framework from which Carolinas’ new desired culture of caring could evolve.

“I can’t tell what this brand stands for.”

Ok, your patients probably aren’t saying this out loud but that doesn’t mean they aren’t feeling it. The exponential consolidation across the healthcare industry has been a significant trigger for brand identify reflection. Mergers and acquisitions expand health system’s market share overnight, but the patchwork nature of their new real estate portfolios results in brand fragmentation and a loss of identity.

Customers and employees exhibit loyalty and brand preference to missions and visions they connect with emotionally. After receiving approval to build a 120-bed rehabilitation hospital in Richmond, Virginia, the joint venture between Sheltering Arms and Virginia Commonwealth University Health System took a proactive approach, looking to Big Red Rooster to tell the story of the JV’s new brand and manifest that two-dimensional identity as a three-dimensional experience.

Health systems’ reimbursement rates are increasingly tied to their outcomes, and one outcome you can’t overlook is patient satisfaction. Design strategies rooted in your brand, consumer and business ultimately reduce anxiety, promote confidence, increase comfort and create that desired point of differentiation.