The shift is on and loyalty is the ‘new-new’ coming to healthcare

Published: January 19, 2021

Do you believe your patients are “loyal”? Think again. 

Disruptions from COVID-19 could lead to 25 million people considering a switch of their regular healthcare providers. According to NRC Health survey, 80% of patients would consider switching providers for mere convenience factors. The COVID-19 pandemic has just accelerated this provider switching behavior of patients. 

While all patient demands are valid from an experience perspective, the health systems struggle to understand and deliver an exceptional experience thus impacting influence on patients/consumers preferences to stick with a particular health system.  

In the realm of the new healthcare market consumers present competition. Owing to the growth of the digital health disruptors and the lagging loyalty —providers become vulnerable and  consumers switch to competitors. On an average a Accountable Care Organization (ACO) loses 38% of their patients year-over-year as loyalty among patients decreases. The major challenge faced by a healthcare provider is understanding the influence and developing loyalty from a patient's perspective much like other industries have mastered with their respective customer bases. 

Health systems live in closed and siloed environments. The technology adoption has evolved slowly in comparison to other segments, resulting in data "lock" in proprietary systems and limited data interoperability. With traditional contact center systems, agents struggle to provide personalized service, making the process time-consuming for agents to capture information from siloed systems. This frustrates the consumer, as slowness impedes their satisfaction.  

Patients get irregular information on prescriptions and care at different phases of their care plan, which adds to the risk of patient-provider switching. Addressing the health system's worries, the irregularity in the information provided to the patient is one of the leading causes of inpatient readmissions. 

The digitized world makes loyalty important 

The world is more connected than ever and patients are adept as well. However the patient connection is not intrinsic; it is reactional and transactional. This transctional approach to deliver healthcare does not build loyalty. Digital health capabilities like consumer portals, online appointment scheduling, and electronic health record makes it easier for patients to switch providers. 

The significance of healthcare and what is being handled between servicer and patient or person is so much more intimate than consumer products; thus, loyalty has a higher significance level.  This makes it important for healthcare organizations to develop a trusted and empathetic connect.  For example, call center technology can't operate in a silo. It needs to mesh with connection points and insights from various other channels and information to understand a situation and address what is need.  In some cases, call centers have to be ahead of a caller before a call is even made.

To combat the digital disruption providers needs to implement cross-industry loyalty starategies and earn loyalty. Loyalty leads to better continuity of care, thereby enhancing patient satisfaction and delivering more cost-effective treatment. It is beyond a few feedback forms and a few connects with a patient. It is subjective, attitudinal, longitudinal and comprehensive. Various factors that defines loyalty for a provider are brand score, engagement, need, access, motivation, experience, and word-of-mouth. 

The consumers today are exposed to interactive systems and gamification of their health progress. Digital health firms are organizing events to improve participation of users in healthy lifestyle and are even helping users to utilize these points to redeem in their programs that improves the overall health. Organizations like Apple, Samsung and Fitbit are building the culture of gamified health tracking to improve health and further build healthy lifestyle. Association with these digital age organizations can be a huge boost to the loyalty towards participating providers. Even though this is completely opposite to how traditional health systems operate, the shift towards providing preventive care will help increase loyalty and benefit health systems increase their revenue, improve margins, and the quality of care. 

But, the secret sauce is in speeding up the technology underpinnings

The shift of priorities to preventive care have changed the type and mode of care delivered to consumers. In 2020, health became a commodity, and a healthcare facility has become a retail store that has multiple offerings and price tags available against each of those. Healthcare is moving fast, provider networks are expanding, and payers are expanding their options and choices of provisions; thus, the consumer of healthcare has choices. 

The technology disruption has occurred at a much slower pace in the healthcare provider ecosystem and it needs to catch up and underpin the framework of loyalty. Rather than being disrupted, healthcare providers can disrupt with digital capabilities to drive patient loyalty and growth. A new mindset and robust technology advancements can help providers focus on better patient engagement. 

Success hinges on focus and commitment 

Patients more likely  engage in digital health experiences. 49% more likely to use at-home lab testing, 34% more likely to use health monitors, and 31% more likely to mail-order pharmacies. Apple, Walmart, Samsung, Google, Amazon, and so many companies are entering the market with digital healthcare offerings that will revolutionize patient care. These organizations are building an ecosystem that focuses on providing better care and experience to their users.

Detailed research entails that a patient's lifetime healthcare value is about $1.4 million. The right interventions can develop loyalty to the provider brand. Even a 5% increase in loyalty is estimated to increase provider profitability by 25%. 

Providers need to join this new phase of digital and experiential health care delivery to peel off the layers of factors that drive the loyalty of consumers. The digital offerings can help organizations reach those objectives that drive growth and sustainability in health care delivery.


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