As I have said before, health care is its own animal when it comes to a free market economy. Health care does not operate like cars, groceries or other commodities. You can’t build loyalty among health care consumers only with incentives like points or cash back rewards. When it comes to health care consumers, there are more complex barriers you must overcome in order to transform them into repeat and loyal customers.
Like all providers of goods and services, as health care providers, we all strive to provide consumers (patients) with the highest quality service (care) that will hopefully result in a positive experience and predisposition to return if additional services are needed. However, unlike with other transactional experiences, a positive patient experience and satisfaction does not directly correlate to loyalty. It can certainly help to move the dial in the right direction, but in the case of health care, satisfaction alone does not drive loyalty.
While a patient might have been highly satisfied with the treatment they received, there are still barriers that can prevent a patient from returning the next time they need care. These could include:
- Uncertainty.Not knowing if he/she needs care and which level of care is the most appropriate.
- Research. Relying on various sources to find the right provider. This includes searching online, talking to their primary care doctor or even getting recommendations from friends or family.
- Access. Not being able to easily make an appointment. This could be as a result of technology or capacity issues at an office.
- Location. The location of the provider is either difficult to find or too far away.
So, what can we do to overcome these barriers and ensure their loyalty?
Here are three key steps to help get the patient back through your door:
Communicate next steps in their treatment plan before the leave their initial visit. Let patients know what their follow up care should entail and when they should pursue it. You can do this through warm hand offs to a follow up provider in your service network or even co-locating services in the same building. Have your team make the follow up appointments to ensure a seamless experience for the patient. Ongoing communication with the patient after they leave can also help prompt them to take their next step in care.
Motivate patients to return by helping them understand the health benefits of ongoing care and the burdens (financial, emotional and or physical) of foregoing care. This will inspire them to reengage.
Stay top of mind by continuing to reach out and initiate contact once they have left your facility. Provide them with opportunities to engage in wellness and lifestyle offerings—yoga, meditation or exercise and fitness classes. Often providers can leverage community partnerships to help facilitate and cost share these opportunities. By expanding offerings from treatment for illness or injury to wellness services, providers move from being a one-time medical solution to an ongoing health partner.
At the end of the day, patients want to know there is one place they can go to meet all of their health and wellness needs. From a patient’s perspective, loyalty can not only offer convenience, it can also help cement a level of comfort knowing that they have a medical home to turn to. And from a provider perspective, by reducing barriers and providing opportunities for engagement, you will increase patient loyalty and grow your business and brand.