How Will Patients Choose Healthcare?

In a recent conversation with Medhost CEO, Bill Anderson, he asked the question that’s the title of this blog post: “How Will Patients Choose Healthcare?” He then proceeded to answer his question by saying, “Healthcare will buy on brand like they do in their other purchasing decisions.” It’s worth adding that Bill and Medhost are working to build their YourCare Everywhere brand in healthcare. You can decide if their business efforts are skewing his perspective or not.

For me, I find the question absolutely fascinating and an extremely important question for healthcare organizations. This question is becoming more and more important since the shift to high deductible plans is forcing patients to be more selective in how they choose their healthcare provider. Will brand be the way that people choose healthcare?

One challenge I have with this idea is that healthcare is a complex decision. I don’t know many people who make impulse healthcare provider decisions. I wonder if there are other complex decisions we could learn from. What is true is that healthcare decisions are often crisis decisions. In a crisis, where do people turn? I think the answer is the brands they know.

As I look at healthcare, which organizations have a true national healthcare brand? The first one that comes to mind is Mayo Clinic. Cleveland Clinic seems to be working down a similar path. Are their others? There are very few national healthcare brands that are trusted.

There are many local healthcare brands. Dignity Health has been pouring money into commercials in Vegas to build their brand. I assure you the commercials are all brand. Intermountain has a brand in Utah and Partners Healthcare has a brand in Boston. We could argue whether they have good or bad brands since they are both so dominant in their region. There are many other examples of local healthcare brands.

On the other side of healthcare brands is the CVS Minute Clinic, Walmart, and all the other retailers trying to make a space for themselves in healthcare. Also competing for brand recognition with a similar direct to consumer, retail healthcare play are the telemedicine providers like MD Live.

Long story short, we’re seeing patients having more power when it comes to selecting their healthcare provider and we see a ton of brand competition. Will a healthcare organization be able to survive without a major investment in their brand? What does this mean for small physician practices?

I’d love to hear your thoughts about what’s happening with healthcare brands. Do they matter? In what ways will they matter? What should a healthcare organization be doing to shore up its brand?

About the author

John Lynn

John Lynn

John Lynn is the Founder of, a network of leading Healthcare IT resources. The flagship blog, Healthcare IT Today, contains over 13,000 articles with over half of the articles written by John. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 20 million times.

John manages Healthcare IT Central, the leading career Health IT job board. He also organizes the first of its kind conference and community focused on healthcare marketing, Healthcare and IT Marketing Conference, and a healthcare IT conference,, focused on practical healthcare IT innovation. John is an advisor to multiple healthcare IT companies. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can be found on Twitter: @techguy.


  • You’re right that health care isn’t necessarily an impulse buying decision, but many other factors of retail marketing come into play such as trust, familiarity and convenience. Health systems have traditionally marketed their location, providers’ expertise and innovative treatments. Now they need to also explain why it’s better to physically visit a doctor’s office rather than the convenience of telemedicine or a Minute Clinic.

  • Great article, John! You’re absolutely right that patients are gaining more power in what healthcare provider they go to. While I agree that choosing a provider is not an impulse decision, I do think, at times, the decision tends to be one based off of convenience. Telemedicine clinics like Health Spot have a differentiation that healthcare systems are going to have to figure out how to compete with.

  • Leslie,
    Health Spot is actually an interesting model that I almost mentioned. They don’t want to staff the doctors, so they’re actually building on the backs of the local brands. This could play out as a great strategy for them.

  • John,
    That sounds like a great strategy – and also helpful to systems in the way of competing w/ the already mentioned minute clinics.

  • Leslie, John, and Jared,

    To come at it from another angle, don’t you already have brand loyalty to your pharmacy? If given the choice between two corner drug stores, a Walgreens or a CVS, you’re more likely to choose the drug store that already has all of your information, your prescriptions on file, etc.

    Now, if it’s 8 p.m. and your daughter has an ear infection and you need a quick antibiotic and you’re facing those same two corners, isn’t a consumer more likely to pick the walk-in clinic brand that’s also attached to the drug store where all of her daughter’s information already is? After all, it’s a short walk from the clinic to the pharmacy counter.

    Disclosure: I’m the Content Strategy Manager for YourCareEverywhere. (If you haven’t checked out the site yet, would love it if you did!)

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