In the healthcare field, it is essential to build loyalty and retain patients. We have the solutions you need to exceed the expectations of your clientele.
By Gert Volmer
It’s hard to win consumer loyalty for your healthcare system. To build strong loyalty and retain patients, you must focus on creating and implementing several core strategies.
Patients are savvier than ever, and their expectations are higher. Combine this with the higher customer satisfaction bar set by other industries such as online retailers… and you have your work cut out for you. In an Accenture study, 7% of patients say they will switch providers if service is poor. As alternatives continue to emerge and thrive, that percentage will grow.
It might not be easy to earn patient loyalty, but don’t worry: it’s not impossible.
Convenience is your patients’ top priority
It’s no surprise your consumers want convenience. It’s a top concern for many people. The Accenture study shows almost two-thirds of patients are willing to switch providers to get a quick appointment when needed. More than half of those people would also switch providers to get their appointments at convenient locations.
Consumers are also willing to pay more for convenience. Half of the patients polled agree that it’s okay to pay more for after-hours or weekend appointments. One in five patients is willing to pay extra for virtual doctor appointments. These latest trends are driving new primary care models and helping to establish telehealth. However, as these appointments and models become more commonplace, it’s likely consumers will be less willing to consider these conveniences as luxuries for which they’re content to pay a premium.
So what’s the takeaway? No convenience, no matter how small or big, should be ignored. According to an Advisory Board article, even the most trivial comforts in a hospital make a big difference. Factors such as flexible eating schedules and easy-to-access discharge instructions can affect patient satisfaction immensely.
Focus your culture on customer service and superior patient experience
A Beryl Institute study shows 82 percent of healthcare systems now have some sort of patient experience system in place. Not only that, investing in these types of programs continues to increase, because healthcare systems are starting to realize they must improve consumer experience to prevent losing patients.
If you provide an inferior experience, you risk losing up to half of your healthcare clientele, according to Accenture. That’s a lot of revenue lost just because you didn’t take your service to the next level. On the other hand, you stand to gain that much more if you become known as a leader in this area. Don’t be one of the healthcare systems that simply doesn’t know how to provide quality service.
If you want to build loyalty, you must bridge the gap between service and clinical quality. That’s exactly what Jake Poore from Integrated Loyalty Systems stated during the SHSMD webinar titled, “From the Billboard to the Exam Room: How to Deliver on the Promise of Your Brand.” He asserts that connecting with patients must be a top priority.
Looking back to the Advisory Board article once again, we see that consumers care most about personal attention. It’s a basic human need, and shows that patients demand to be heard.
Improve your patients’ experience to increase their satisfaction level. Again, do this not because it’s “nice,” but because this will also increase your healthcare system’s margins and patient outcomes. The Beryl Institute reports that focusing on the experience is the central and primary means to achieve almost all of what healthcare strives to be — including community reputation, consumer loyalty, financial results, and clinical outcomes.
Systems that only have average or worse patient experience ratings simply don’t maintain loyalty going forward. These are the organizations in danger of losing patients.
Think about quality and outcome differently
You might find it helpful to change your perception of the words “quality” and “outcomes.” You need to consider them from the perspective of your healthcare consumer. Interestingly, your patients simply aren’t as concerned with outcomes to the extent that you think they are. Or, at least, they’re less likely that you might think to use “outcomes” to determine where they receive care. The Advisory Board agrees that consumers aren’t focused on clinical quality aspects. Younger consumers, ranging in age from 18 to 49, want lower prices above anything else. The older consumer, aged 50+, tends to focus on shorter wait times, walk-in availability, and other conveniences.
In fact, these quality conveniences and outcomes are psychologically tied together in patients’ minds. When you base your patient relationships on non-clinical value, your patients will believe you have more positive, better care outcomes.
Aside from convenience and price, patients focus on quality of life more than quality of care. Consumers hope to achieve a higher quality of life more than simple longevity. CEB Iconoculture research shows that when a patient is given one year to live, the majority of them will choose no medical treatment if it meant they could enjoy the time left. Extending life with a lower quality isn’t generally preferred.
These are just some reasons why healthcare systems must move past standard messaging to start building patient loyalty and engagement. Speak to the consumer’s point of view instead of focusing on your organizational mindset. Don’t preach quality of care — focus mainly on quality of life instead. This allows you the opportunity to set yourself apart from your competition and begin to engage your patients differently.
Increase consumer empowerment
As evidenced by the booming fitness-related industries, more people are striving to partake in healthy living. Many people’s highest priorities are to remain physically fit and avoid illness, as stated by Iconoculture research. So wellness is the strongest focus of many consumers, and this doesn’t simply mean “prevention.”
Most consumers face high levels of anxiety and stress, which drains them emotionally. Mindful management and self-regulation of stress has therefore become a component of wellness and fitness. Patients are constantly searching for more information, on this and other wellness-related topics, to feel empowered and in control. This improves their outlook and feelings of stability.
Patients are becoming advocates of their own health in response to healthcare anxiety. They view themselves as self-taught experts, where there’s no stopping them from getting the root cause of health challenges.
This can be very, very good for your organization. By meeting a patient where they are, you can earn deeper, more lasting trust.
Gain higher brand loyalty by fueling your patients’ desire for wellness and health. Go beyond simply promoting your line of services, and engage them with programs that encourage a higher quality of life. Incorporate self-care, stress relief, digestive health and energy maintenance programs into your offerings.
Find out what your consumers are looking for and build programs around those concepts. Build your service line promotions or brand campaigns through the eyes of consumer empowerment to become more effective.
These are just a few strategies to implement higher patient loyalty. There are many other ways to accomplish your goals. Each market and system requires personalized solutions. However, no matter what specific strategies your organization needs to employ, it is vital to follow your patients’ lead for maximum satisfaction.