Healthcare talks about quality a lot. In fact, it often feels like it is the only thing we can talk about. We define it and measure it in awards and accolades, citing popularized rankings and leading with scores received from industry publications. But what does “quality” mean to consumers? And does the way we describe it match up to the quality indicators consumers actually look for?


Last year, we surveyed more than 15,000 consumers across the country to understand how they define quality in their own words. The results were eye-opening. What we discovered is that the #1 way consumers develop an understanding of quality is through direct, person-to-person interactions with healthcare providers and employees. For consumers, quality care is less about having the best stuff, and more about having the best people.


“Quality healthcare is a health care system that has doctors and staff who truly care about your needs.” –Male health care consumer, Northeastern U.S.


Lady cooking with her family

These findings support what we’ve been talking about in our Humanizing Brand Experience reports since the beginning: people want to feel like they matter and be treated like an individual—it’s that kind of direct, very human-centered attention and behavior that delivers a true sense of quality. And it’s not limited only to the care interaction. Consumers develop a sense for quality throughout all the different moments of human interaction and connection that happen in between treatments, too.


Learn More: Leading with Brand: 3 ways brand marketing can create more human health care experiences


3 brand behaviors that demonstrate high-quality care:

1. Be present

“I think that quality would be things such as how long the doctor is with me as a patient and how he deals with my ailments and problems personally. If they are truly listening to my concerns and asking questions to make sure I’m getting the best health care possible.” –Female healthcare consumer, Midwest U.S.


Consumers we spoke with emphasized the significance of feeling listened to throughout their healthcare experience. We can demonstrate close listening by asking follow-up questions, providing thorough answers to questions, and spending extra time with patients to ensure they understand and feel comfortable with their diagnosis and treatment plan. For patients, this level of listening indicates that they are being valued as a person, and that the care is unique to their individual needs. Being present and communicating in this way is also a key driver of consumer trust.


2. Be informed

“I’ve known my PCP for over 20 years.  Because he knows my history, it saves time in explaining my issues and he already knows what has been tried in the past.” –Female healthcare consumer, Northeastern U.S.


Feeling like their healthcare provider knows and understands their medical history is important to consumer perceptions of quality. When staff members remember important personal details, it conveys that they are paying unique attention to the patient and their care and their lives—in and out of the exam room. This quality-suggesting level of informed can take many forms. Not only do consumers expect a high-quality provider to be informed and knowledgeable about their personal history and illness, they also want to know that their provider is up to date on the latest medical practices and research.


3. Be accessible 

“Waiting time is a good marker too of quality. It’s when providers are overbooked or just trying to see patients too quickly that wait times get long and out of control. When wait times are short, that usually means that the provider has given themselves an ample amount of time to truly take care of each patient.” –Female healthcare consumer, Western U.S.


Another key way consumers evaluate quality is through the availability and timeliness of appointment scheduling and services. They expect high-quality healthcare organizations will be able to schedule their appointments quickly and efficiently, and that they won’t be kept waiting for long after they arrive. This is people assessing quality through your efficiency with others! This helps patients feel like their treatment is prioritized, increasing their confidence in the quality of care overall.


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Learn More: Leading with Brand: 3 ways brand marketing can address health care’s cost problem


While other indicators of quality can factor into consumer’s evaluations (including cost, ease of billing, accurate diagnosis, and perceived reputation), these three behavioral “be’s” are the most essential to get right. Bake them into your brand, your employee handbook, your technology roadmap and your culture. They are already imperatives for your consumers—it’s time to make them imperatives for your organization and your employees, too.


Get ready, as Humanizing Brand Experience, Volume 3 is on its way! With new insights, bigger consumer size, and important new trends, you won’t want to miss getting your hands on this report. Want to set up time to review the new report? Reach out to us here.

Justin Wartell
March 11, 2020 By Justin Wartell