The Value of Patient Loyalty
Current research indicates that healthcare consumerism is on the rise, with more individuals taking charge of their own healthcare decisions: who to see, when to go, and how to pay. These savvy consumers are shopping for their medical services the same way they’d shop for a new car—finding providers with all the bells and whistles that meet their individual wants and needs.
While insurance still plays a role in provider choice, many people look outside of their networks (and the caregivers they’ve seen for years) to find the fit that’s right for them.
But what impact does a “switch economy” have on healthcare systems, or, conversely, what value can be placed on patient loyalty? Besides the income benefit of retaining patients, the cost of servicing longtime patients decreases, and returning patients receive fewer unnecessary tests and screenings. And those tests and screenings cost hospitals a significant amount each year.
Additionally, this type of care is more effective. Care coordination is boosted when patients stick to one system, meaning their providers are more apt to communicate with each other effectively with less chance of disconnected health records. This results in patients trusting (and following) care recommendations and, ultimately, better outcomes – the goal of all levels of caregiving.
The trend toward consumerism provides a challenge to healthcare systems, who have had the luxury of taking patient loyalty for granted. As consumers scrutinize the quality and cost of their healthcare, the question becomes, “How do healthcare systems and providers stand out above their competitors?” Below are 3 ways.
1. Patient Experience
Patient experience has long been important for healthcare systems; it is now critical in creating and retaining patient loyalty. According to a study by NRC Health, “82.3% of consumers said hospitals and healthcare systems should consistently meet and exceed their expectations.” When those expectations aren’t met (or exceeded), consumers begin to look for alternatives, just as they do in other industries.
Since patients, according to Press Ganey, are five times more likely to select a practice because they had a positive experience over traditional marketing tactics, it’s clear that connecting with patients, providing personalized care, and involving patients in their own care are key tactics in creating patient loyalty.
Thanks to the internet, smartphones, and even Amazon, individuals are used to 24/7 access to everything, from information to products. It isn’t surprising, then, that when they want to schedule an appointment or see their provider, they want to do it now. Offering online appointment scheduling, telemedicine, walk-in times, and extended hours help to accommodate patients’ desires for the convenience they’ve come to expect.
3. Price Transparency
The KFF 2021 Employer Health Benefits Survey found that 28% of covered workers are enrolled in high-deductible healthcare plans, and the average general annual deductible is 92% higher than the average deductible in 2011. That’s nearly double what they were paying just a decade ago! This increase means that patients are more concerned than ever with the cost of their healthcare. Providing upfront information on out-of-pocket costs and different payment options is a top healthcare priority for consumers.
Listing prices for standard procedures on the provider’s website and letting patients know what they can expect to spend out-of-pocket are good starting places to meet transparency needs. Other tactics can include starting the financial discussions early and offering flexibility around payments.
These days, patients switch providers and practices because of their patient experience, convenience, and price transparency is commonplace. By meeting their needs and earning their loyalty, however, healthcare systems and individual providers have the unique opportunity to impact their patients' overall health and improve their bottom line. Creating loyalties takes time and effort, but the outcomes benefit all.