In case you missed it, we recently released the latest edition of our Humanizing Brand Experience Report, available for download here. Here, we’ll dive deeper into a key finding from this year’s report: the surprising new way consumers define what makes a health system innovative.


Real Talk, Not Robots: Understanding the Data

When you hear the word “innovative”, what comes to mind? Doctors tapping away at iPads? Gleaming, spaceship-esque waiting rooms? Robot surgeons? These days, you’d be hard-pressed to find a health system that doesn’t have a commitment to innovation baked into their brand somewhere. Yet, what does innovation truly mean today?

Doctor holding ipad


Today’s healthcare reality complicates what innovation represents. In a landscape filled with interconnected systems, technologies and tools that are seemingly accessible anytime and anywhere, it can be challenging to define.

When conducting research for this year’s report, we went straight to consumers to find out how they define innovation—and what they told us could reshape your vision of it, too.

“Innovative healthcare looks like a team of people that makes me feel like I’m the most important person in the facility when they’re treating me for any ailment. It has the latest and greatest technology and keeps me involved in my care plan, but most importantly…uses proper bedside manner.”

While the latest technology is a component of consumer’s definitions, it is far from the only thing that matters. Just as important to the idea of innovation are things like having the best people, personalized care, holistic approaches, and affordability for all. In other words, the things that make your brand innovative are rooted in humanity and experience, not just cutting-edge equipment and robots.

“An innovative healthcare organization would do much more to coordinate patient care across specialties. It would look holistically at the body, especially for those with chronic conditions, enabling these patients to seamlessly organize their treatments.”

Today’s leading brands recognize that innovation isn’t just about the shiny new equipment, tools, and technology—it’s about doing things differently and not being afraid to break convention to deliver an improved experience for people. This means that instead of focusing all of your marketing and messaging efforts into talking about the new robot in a clinic (even though that’s what physicians often clamor for!) you should really be focusing on how your brand is putting that robot to work on a deeply human level. That’s the kind of innovation that means something to consumers.

Learn More: Humanizing Your Brand – A Guidebook

Strategic Implications
The importance of innovation isn’t going anywhere, so brands will have to adapt to align their strategy and story with consumers’ shifting definition. Here are some key steps to consider:

1. (Re)Define your brand’s take on innovation
Nearly every healthcare organization touts its innovative qualities, but consumers’ definition of what innovation stands for is changing. Today, consumers define innovation as:

        • Technology that meets human needs
        • Having the best people
        • Personalized care
        • Holistic approaches
        • Affordable care for all

Use these attributes to clarify your organization’s innovation definition, strengths, and specific goals. Look at these elements of the definition through the lens of your brand—how would you reconsider innovation in an authentic way that you believe in and can deliver? This will help you stand apart from the crowd with a clear, modern take on innovation that resonates with consumers and employees alike.

Remember, this is only one side of the story. You then have to ensure that your actions as an organization reflect this definition both in promise and delivery. Don’t commit to humanizing the latest technologies if your approach to those technologies is going to be clinical, cold and robotic.

2. Find new words to express your goals
Conduct a verbal exploration of how your brand is communicating about innovation today, and evaluate it against what matters most to consumers. Is your language accessible, relatable, and human? Or, is it cold, technical, and self-serving? If so, prioritize finding alternative ways to express your innovation-related goals and accolades. With so many facets to the changing definition of innovation, you have new opportunities to convey its role in your experience.

Random letters layed out


3. Start with humanity
If you want your brand to be known for innovation in today’s world, you must embrace the holistic, human facets as fiercely as the technological ones. Ground your vision, goals, and plans in the unmet needs of people first—then, use your own unique definition of innovation (technology-focused or not) to solve for those needs.

Remember to always start your communications from a place of humanity, empathy, and understanding. This helps your audiences feel included, seen, and connected to your innovation goals.

Learn More: Ingredients for a Powerful Brand Positioning

4. Think big and plan ahead
Don’t be intimidated by big goals and aspirations when it comes to innovation—after all, every breakthrough has to start somewhere. Instead, pinpoint those hopeful milestones and begin planning for them now, even if their completion seems like years away.

Share these plans internally and externally to stay accountable, bring advocates along for the ride, and perhaps even crowdsource aid. What does this mean for your day-to-day? Think about messaging that builds over time with a crescendo that highlights your approach at some point further into the future. Push yourself to engage with clinicians and leaders as early as possible to understand the technical side of the stories that you hope to tell, giving you time to think through how to humanize them. Define a broader innovation story platform, and carry it wherever you go across the organization to rally people around the language that we know will resonate with audiences.

neon sign


5. Find the right partners
Something that healthcare brands often forget about is the potential of partnership. Making big changes in the industry doesn’t have to be a lone endeavor. Seek out collaborators within and beyond your organization’s walls in order to find efficiencies, brainstorm together, and pool resources to make innovation aspirations real. Do you have someone in your organization, or even in your market or region, that can demystify the complex? Consider storytelling collaborations that bring a fresh humanity to your innovation ideas.

When it comes to innovation, the definition that has often guided our industry has, quite simply, changed among the most important audiences that we serve. As such, we also have to adapt. It begins by ensuring that the organization understands this change. We can then be more effective in our experiences by defining the foundation around innovation that is most authentic to us and most effectively aligned to consumers’ shifting needs.

With these anchor points in place, we can get to work on defining and delivering experiences that show people that we understand their evolving views and are ready to deliver on them.

Curious to explore more insights from our Humanizing Brand Experience Vol 4 report? Check out our earlier blogs in this series where we talk about the great health setback of 2020 and the importance of trust. We’d love to dive deeper with you on these or other insights from the report, feel free to reach out to us to continue the conversation.

Justin Wartell
July 14, 2021 By Justin Wartell