Online reviews and other vehicles of comparison have quickly become the new norm across healthcare, as they have long been in other industries.
Rising out-of-pocket costs for healthcare have converted patients into more careful, and warier, consumers: they’re approaching healthcare services with greater cost-consciousness; consulting consumer information sites intended to help them make more informed choices; and paying much closer attention to health system mentions on social media and other informal registers of patient experience.
Currently, patient satisfaction is treated as one proxy for the quality of care a patient receives. While satisfaction scores undoubtedly help gauge the experience of a single episode of care, they ultimately fall short of a larger, more important goal: to get patients to see the health system and its providers in a spirit of long-term partnership and collaboration.
In other words, instead of focusing on episodic patient satisfaction, the way to create real value in today’s industry is to earn patients’ loyalty – in which providers play a key role.
Practicing In An Experience Economy
According to healthcare expert Nicholas Webb, health systems are now joining the “89 percent of companies that expect to compete mostly on the basis of customer experience.”
Another expert, Joseph Fifer, President and CEO of the Healthcare Financial Management Association, says our industry is quickly becoming something he refers to as “an experience economy.”
The new-to-healthcare concept of “experience economy” provides a useful framework for thinking about patient loyalty. This framework explains consumer choices not as cold, objective calculations but rather as decision-making processes involving emotion, memory, and trust. And while Fifer is referring mainly to patients’ financial experience in a healthcare setting, providers should remember that patient experiences affect their trust and their engagement which in turn impact health outcomes.
Earning Patient Loyalty
As this chart shows, some of the patient loyalty drivers can only be tackled at the administrative level. However, five of the top 11 drivers are directly related to patient experience.
These are more subjective (i.e., different people might define “best,” “compassionate,” and “personalized” differently) – and that means they may be influenced more readily.
As a provider, you have the opportunity to make an impact on hospital performance and patient experience through not only high-quality clinical care but also by focusing on the patient and their family’s overall experience. Here are 9 tips you can follow to help improve the patient experience and drive patient loyalty in your hospital.