How To Attract Patients in a Consumer-Driven Healthcare Market
In the current dynamic healthcare market your patients are encouraged to choose among individual practitioners, health plans, provider settings and technological options. One response has been an increasing focus on customer service values across the healthcare sector. In an examination of what drives healthcare consumerism, a 2015 study from McKinsey & Company indicated that, in general, consumers want services that make their lives easier.
In the current dynamic healthcare market your patients are encouraged to choose among individual practitioners, health plans, provider settings and technological options. One response has been an increasing focus on customer service values across the healthcare sector. In an examination of what drives healthcare consumerism, a 2015 study from McKinsey & Company indicated that, in general, consumers want services that make their lives easier. That goes for healthcare services as well:
“Customer expectations are being set by non-healthcare industries, and meeting those expectations is likely to be critical to ensure satisfaction and loyalty.”
Since we are all, at times, patients with busy lives, this desire for convenience makes sense. Of course we prefer that an appointment to get our teeth cleaned take place at the scheduled time with no waiting. When we can get immunizations after regular work hours, or take advantage of after-hours urgent care for sick kids, we appreciate it. If parking is easy and there’s room for everyone in the waiting area, that’s even better.
That may be why a majority of study participants were willing to see practitioners other than their primary care doctor, based on availability. And 16 percent preferred the services of a multi-doctor primary clinic for reasons that included accessible locations, less waiting and ease of scheduling. Nearly two-thirds of the study participants indicated that they would be willing to use the services of a retail pharmacy or clinic for similar reasons. Twenty percent had already accessed retail services for healthcare in the last two years. Participants of all ages liked the idea of using websites and apps to effectively and conveniently communicate with practitioners and schedule appointments.
But patient satisfaction with healthcare services is based on more than convenience; health outcomes matter and emotional factors play a role. “There is often a disconnect between what consumers believe matters most and what influences their opinions most strongly,” state the authors. They found that “empathy and support” were factors that influenced patient satisfaction in a hospital setting, for example. Information provided to participants during the hospitalization and after treatment also resulted in a higher satisfaction score by these former patients.
“Providers should not take patient loyalty for granted or underestimate the role that experience-related factors such as convenience and empathy play in consumer satisfaction and loyalty.”
So, while patients today want convenience, they also want positive health outcomes, including supportive treatment environments and informative communication from practitioners. Patients may loudly demand convenience, time saving technology and efficiency, but they also place a high value on good, caring healthcare services that include effective communication.
What can you do to make your healthcare services more appealing to these modern patients? Are there ways to take advantage of new technologies and care models that will make your life easier, as well?
Here are a few suggestions:
- Provide formal or informal referral networks for after-hours care
- Use your patient portal more effectively, and experiment with text and email
- Train clinic and office staff in customer service values
- Provide information and resources to your patients online
- Connect your patients with support groups via secure social media channels