It’s easy to assume that healthcare’s biggest challenges come from pressure to lower costs or growing consumer frustration. But Prophet has just published its fifth Brand Relevance Index, revealing a larger threat: Most people view the non-healthcare companies invading the industry as more relevant to their lives than traditional healthcare providers.

Our researchers ask thousands of consumers about hundreds of brands they’d consider using. Only one healthcare provider–Mayo Clinic (No. 24)–cracked the top 50 of our index. And the brands consumers say are most relevant? Those include tech companies that are rapidly rolling out healthcare-related offers, like Apple (No. 1), Amazon (No. 7) and Google (No. 13).

While there’s no denying these brands dominate in other areas, many established healthcare organizations aren’t as worried as they should be. They see these outsiders as indirect threats, perhaps because they are less likely to provide direct care. But as these invaders create greater relevance in healthcare, their disruptive potential is growing. They can commoditize the delivery of care and marginalize providers.

Others see the tech threat as imminent. They believe that as people–doctors and patients alike–feel increasingly at home with tech, traditional healthcare models will get left in the dust. And because these invaders are powered by so much data, they can offer health innovations that are potentially faster, easier, cheaper and safer.

Here are few examples of tech companies disrupting the healthcare space:

  1. Amazon – It’s now adding skills to Alexa that are HIPAA-compliant, making it simpler for providers to use voice-recognition. Pillpack, its online pharmacy, is threatening giants in that field. It’s partnering with Berkshire Hathaway and JP Morgan Chase to form Haven, a still-vague initiative devoted to lowering cost and improving care. And it just launched a virtual clinic for employees, which many believe is a model for future offers.
  2. Apple – The tech giant has also announced plans for its own clinic, is winning with Apple Health Records, breaking down EMR silos and making data more portable.
  3. Alphabet – It is clear the company has a massive healthcare agenda, with efforts that include Google Health, Google Fit, Verily and Nest’s health-monitoring services. Last year, it hired David Feinberg, MD, who had been the CEO of Geisinger Health, to oversee these fragmented efforts. It’s also poached Toby Cosgrove, MD, a former CEO of the Cleveland Clinic, as an executive adviser to its Google Cloud healthcare and life sciences team.

Why isn’t healthcare more relevant?

Consumers are crazy about these tech brands, which have built relationships with people that are deep, immediate and intense. With average relevance scores in the 95 percent plus range, they do well on all four core drivers–they are customer-obsessed, ruthlessly pragmatic, pervasively innovative and distinctively inspired. When asked about these brands, people often tell us, “I can’t imagine my life without it.”

Yet the scores for healthcare organizations are in the 70 percent-range, on average, with some as low as 43 percent.

Frankly, we find this a little baffling. After all, healthcare is about life and death, feeling good instead of lousy. Shouldn’t we see healthcare organizations as more relevant to our lives than a two-hour grocery delivery or the new season of Stranger Things?

So we dug into the data, trying to discover why consumers are relatively indifferent to traditional healthcare organizations, even those that are undergoing impressive transformations.

After dissecting the relevance scores of 23 healthcare providers, we found inherent strengths. Almost all achieve very high scores on our measures of purpose, beliefs and values. And there are common weaknesses, especially in terms of access. Consumers give healthcare providers much lower scores for “Is available when and where I need it” than for other industries.

Along with Mayo Clinic, organizations like Northwestern Memorial Hospital, MD Anderson Cancer Center and the Cleveland Clinic rose to the top. When we compare the scores of the top three performers in the category with the bottom three, studying how they fare in each of our 20-plus attributes, we find three essential insights. They offer clues for organizations that are genuinely committed to driving a relevant brand.

The most relevant healthcare brands…

Consistently deliver on their promises

Healthcare is about flu shots and colonoscopies, not trips to Disney, so we’d expect these brands to score lower on measures like “Makes me happy.” But consumers want healthcare organizations to be practical, not joyful. They say the most relevant brands provide remarkably consistent experiences, and that they live up to their promises. They expect healthcare organizations to meet their most pragmatic needs. They are impressed when providers do so and well aware when they stumble.

Make sure they’re seen as modern, in touch and better than competitors

While it might seem obvious that communicating state-of-the-art offers is essential in healthcare, our survey shows it matters more than most organizations think. The top-performing brands typically score as much as 40 percentage points higher on questions like, “Has better products, services and experiences than its competitors” and “is always finding new ways to meet my needs.”

Aggressively cultivate trust

Trust is complex. It’s not something an organization does, but rather something it earns. Yet, being seen as trustworthy is an essential ingredient of success. Between 70 and 90 percent of consumers say they trust our top healthcare organizations. For the bottom three, those percentages barely make it past 40 percent. The best healthcare brands carefully track trust measures, including how people feel about data and privacy.

When consumers trust a provider, they’ll be more open to innovation. That engenders relevance, creating a positive cycle. In the case of Piedmont Healthcare, for example, more than 80 percent of consumers say that they would be willing to try anything new it offers them. For the lowest-scoring brands, that willingness hovers at around 30 percent.

Final Thoughts

Facing disruption from invaders like Amazon, Apple, and others, the healthcare industry is on notice. Finding ways to deliver better experiences and to remain relevant with consumers should be top of mind for all healthcare executives. At Prophet, we characterize the organizations that are committed to consumer-centric transformation Evolved Healthcare Enterprises. Read more about the four attributes of healthcare organizations dedicated to driving uncommon growth in the digital age.

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