Why Accountable Care Organizations Need to Become “Hot Brands”—Fast

Is this what an Accountable Care Organization (ACO) looks like?

Wow, what a tough time to be a doctor. For many of them, they must soon decide whether to join an ACO (Accountable Care Organization), a move that will probably require them to significantly change the way they practice medicine and coordinate their patients’ care. But how do they decide which one to join? And what separates one ACO from another, anyway—especially in the mind of the consumer?

The answer to both questions? Branding. 

Today’s healthcare consumers have changed, dramatically.

More and more these days, people go online to search for the best solutions to their healthcare needs. As a result, ACOs must now adjust their branding and marketing to capture them, something I talk about in detail in my recent article for Strategic Health Care Marketing

Why? Because for patients whose physicians are part of an ACO, they are unclear about what this new relationship means for them, especially regarding the network of specialists their doctor now wants them to use to coordinate their care. An effective branding strategy by individual ACOs could help solve this problem.

Why branding needs to be “hot” now

As I explain in my article, a well-defined, clearly communicated branding strategy not only builds trust among the physicians and staff operating within an ACO but also among the consumers trying to choose between different ACOs.

Branding’s crucial role in this differentiating process cannot be overemphasized. Here’s why:

  • Powerful brands and branding convert facts into emotional reasons why someone should choose a solution, whether it is a product, a service or an experience like medical care. Branding captures the essence of something and legitimizes the emotional side of a decision. 
  • Building brand equity for this emerging market of ACOs requires a great deal of talking to people and telling the brand story. This is not a short-term service line marketing campaign. It requires ongoing, repetitive, focused and differentiating marketing and communications strategies using patient stories, patient/physician testimonial videos and omni-channel advertising.
  • Branding strategies are as important for internal branding as they are for external brand development. People within the ACO must “live the brand” that is being promised to the external world. They must know what the brand is supposed to represent and how they should be delivering on it. 

Branding tells people what kind of experience they can expect when they choose you

Many ACOs are beginning to realize that their branding, as never before, must communicate what they stand for. As in any industry, branding is about who you are, what you stand for, and why someone should choose you rather than “the other guy.” 

What I emphasize in my Strategic Health Care Marketing piece is that in this competitive environment, ACOs (and every healthcare organization, for that matter) must go beyond the expected and create compelling stories that separate them from the rest. And then they must tell those stories, clearly and repetitively. This is the only way they are going to stand out amidst the competition and prevail.

Want to know more? Download our white paper about the power of branding in these changing times

Today, hospital brands are more important than ever as vehicles to build, or re-build, relationships with consumers in innovative ways. How can you tell your story so that consumers see you as a highly valued friend? This white paper will explain.

From Observation to Innovation,


Andi Simon
Corporate Anthropologist | President
Simon Associates Management Consultants