Health care is changing.

The announcement that Amazon, JPMorgan Chase, and Berkshire Hathaway are collaborating on a new kind of health care was just the latest in a slew of unprecedented changes and consolidations of the health care landscape. In a health care world now populated by retailers like CVS—and potentially even big-box giant Walmart—the status quo is no longer an option. Forward-thinking brands and the leaders that guide them have to learn how to survive and thrive in this brave new world of Amazon Prime health care, and how to compete and differentiate with industries seemingly far outside their own.

Many health care brands see the changing landscape as a threat and miss out on the extraordinary opportunities presented by industry disruption. Let’s take a look at a few of the ways industry leaders can and must shift their paradigms and establish their place in the new competitive field.

Think Small: Optimize for Consumers, not Award Committees

It’s tempting to aim for national recognition, like quality-specific awards and rankings. It feels logical—to compete against large, recognizable brands with big budgets and big press coverage, you’d need recognition on a national level, right?

Wrong. Our research shows that consumers really don’t care about highly publicized rankings and ratings. They care more about a health care brand’s emotional drivers. After all, 68% of consumers want to connect with their health care on an emotional level. The challenge is not just for health care brands to encourage meaningful relationships between providers and patients, but also for non-traditional companies to overcome their own reputations.

Big-box retailers are not known for connecting with consumers on an emotional level—just the opposite. In addition, these high-profile, industry-disrupting mergers are in the news and on social media feeds, engaging consumers to conduct their own research on brands and get a broad view of their level of care. It’s not as simple as competing against the existing marketplace; consumers feel like they’re comparing apples to oranges, and industry outsiders have the perceptual advantage of consumer-centric breakthroughs. Health care brands need to remind patients of their unmatched years providing individualized, innovative care.

Think Human: Connect with Patients

It’s not enough for a patient to anticipate quality care that appeals to their desire for connection; they must feel valued in the provider’s office as well. Again, this works in the traditional health care brand’s favor. While these large retail brands may be viewed as innovative drivers of excellence for goods, they are rarely seen as purveyors of human, relationship-based services. In fact, many are known for exceptionally poor service and treatment of employees or simply aren’t thought of at all in the context of care. The winner in this new competitive field will be the one who can differentiate through human interactions, expertise, and people-centricity.

Our research shows that the number one thing people are looking for in a health care provider is the feeling that they are special, unique individuals receiving personalized care. This isn’t new. All health care brands understand this, but many go about it in a clinical, scientific way—charting time spent with patients and or creating individual treatment plans. These are good starts, but ensuring patients feel cared for only happens when they’re actually cared for. Consistently attentive, relationship-driven care for employees, providers, and patients must be an established part of a company’s culture, and less of a statistical box to check.

Think Beyond Patient Care: Connect with Providers

Patients aren’t the only ones concerned about their future in the changing world of health care. Providers are eyeing the newcomers and wondering what the changes could mean for their patients, their practices, and their bottom lines, especially since more are working in hospitals and health systems instead of private practices. As the primary drivers of patient experience, the best providers need to be cultivated and curated by the best health care brands, but how can health care brands differentiate themselves?

It’s simpler than it seems. Just like their patients, providers are hungry for personal attention and respect. Providers often feel like their system management and insurance companies are in a completely different sphere than those doing the day-to-day, on-the-frontlines work of health care. Brands would do well to engage providers as much as possible, to make them feel they are respected, appreciated, and understood. Systems need a well thought out provider value proposition and communication strategy that reflects how critical they are to the success of the organization.

Think Local: Connect with Communities

The new, and potentially large health care entrants could be viewed as being better capable of providing access to the right care, in the right place, at the right cost. Their deep experience with operations and their sheer size may make this partially true—but are not necessarily what patients seek. Sure, recognizable national chains may be more convenient and accessible, but how well do they really understand their local communities? Part of the personalized, relationship-based experience patients are seeking is based on how well a provider understands their lives, their regional dynamics, and cultural norms. Health care initiatives can be extremely successful in Boston and fail miserably in Biloxi, and those with an established foothold in a region are already ahead. These local roots should be celebrated, deepened, and promoted as levers of distinction for legacy enterprises.

Think Big: Be the Disruptor

Outside industries will undoubtedly churn the waters as they dip their toes into the health care pond, but they don’t have to be the only ones. Now is the time for established health care brands to be just as bold and disruptive as the newcomers. The market shake-ups prove that patients are eager for a disruptor; they think change is needed and wonder if change can only come from outside the industry. Providers are also hopeful that the injection of new blood will improve processes and procedures to make health care better for all.

One thing is certain: business as usual is no longer an option, nor is patiently waiting to see what the new paradigm will be. To thrive, the industry stalwarts must become the in-category disruptor.


For a deeper look into the opportunities and perceptions affecting health care brands, using insights garnered from more than 3,400 consumers in 12 U.S. markets, read Monigle’s groundbreaking research report, Humanizing Brand Experience.

Gunnar Jacobs
May 18, 2018 By Gunnar Jacobs