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Patient Experience Drives Patient Loyalty Over Standard Marketing

Seventy percent of patients said they value patient experience over traditional marketing, highlighting a driver of patient loyalty.

patient loyalty

Source: Thinkstock

By Sara Heath

- Positive patient experiences trump traditional marketing tools when it comes to building patient loyalty, according to the latest from healthcare consulting firm Press Ganey.

In fact, patients are five times more likely to select a practice because they had a positive experience there than if the practice has extensive consumer marketing protocol, the report noted.

Based off a survey of over 1,000 household healthcare decision-makers, the Press Ganey report outlined the various consumer-centric strategies organizations can employ to drive better patient loyalty.

Patient loyalty has been an elusive holy grail in healthcare. Organizations want patients who will continue seeing providers in that specific system. There are financial benefits to patient loyalty, as organizations fight for patients’ business in an increasingly competitive industry.

There are also some logistical benefits to patient loyalty. When a patient receives care within the same hospital network, care coordination improves.

READ MORE: How Patient Loyalty Supports Value-Based Care, Patient Wellness

But healthcare organizations may be missing the mark on patient loyalty, the Press Ganey report pointed out.

“Health care systems are spending millions of dollars annually on marketing campaigns designed to attract consumers to serve their long-term care needs,” Press Ganey wrote in the executive summary of the report. “Yet traditional strategies, such as online and print advertising, billboards and mass mailings, do not reflect patients' perceptions of the safety, quality and experience of care, and it is these perspectives that exert the most powerful influence on consumer choice.”

Over 70 percent of survey respondents said that their most recent healthcare visits influence their loyalty to an organization. Additionally, family and friends’ experiences influence patient loyalty.

“Attracting and retaining health care consumers is a top-level priority for health care systems and their leadership teams,” Chrissy Daniels, a consulting partner at Press Ganey, said in a statement. “The research outlined in this paper demonstrates that the most effective way to influence patient loyalty is through the care experience. By gaining a deep understanding of what drives patient experience, systems can align the mission of delivering safe, high-quality, patient-centered care with the business of acquiring and retaining patients.”

The experiences of others are also important pieces of the patient loyalty puzzle, the report revealed. In total, 71 percent of patients consult online provider reviews before booking an appointment with a provider.

READ MORE: Patient Experience, Technology Top the List of CIO Priorities

And evidence shows that those reviews matter.

Patients are influenced by both positive and negative reviews. Nearly 70 percent of patients said they found positive and negative reviews influential, while only 53 percent said neutral reviews were impactful.

“I would be more comfortable going to a doctor who has a lot of favorable reviews, because everyone has different experiences,” one survey respondent said. “If many people agree on the quality of one doctor, this would give me a lot of confidence in choosing that one.”

Negative reviews likewise demonstrated a groupthink mentality.

“Reviews greatly influence which doctor I use,” another respondent said. “If I see the same complaint by numerous people, this usually means it’s the truth and I choose not to deal with that.”

READ MORE: Strategic Goals Need Alignment to Drive Quality Patient Experience

A facility’s hospital or health system affiliation and insurance acceptance are also key factors when patients make decisions about healthcare, although patient experience was overwhelmingly the most important element.

These insights can help organizations overhaul their marketing and patient outreach efforts, the report authors noted.

“Understanding health care consumers’ approach to decision making can help health care organizations design strategies that ensure consumers have access to the information they are seeking via the channels they are most likely to use,” the report authors said. “It is essential for marketing to have a seat at the strategy table, working with enterprise leaders to develop a blueprint for engaging consumers with information that speaks to their needs, values and behaviors through channels that will reach them.”

When designing marketing protocol, organizations should be transparent about patient experience data. This means engaging all hospital stakeholders and discussing all areas of patient experience, even those where the hospital may currently score low.

Next, organizations should consider the drivers of patient loyalty. Using advanced data analytics tools and extensive patient surveying tools, organizations can gain deeper understanding of what brings a patient into the facility – and what keeps them coming back.

Finally, organizations need to make patient loyalty a board and leadership level initiative.

“Board members and senior leaders are increasingly relying on targeted metrics to drive comprehensive transformation strategies,” Press Ganey said. “Giving these leaders a clear line of sight into brand perception and patient loyalty supports integrated efforts to guide their organizations’ journeys to excellence.”

All of this means that organizations need to consider patient experience measures in their marketing strategies. This underscores an overall shift toward more consumer-centered healthcare. As organizations cater to the consumer, all aspects of care must change – experience, safety, care quality, and other aspects that will influence a patient’s experience of care.

“Considering the growing body of evidence indicating that performance on patient experience measures is highly interdependent with care safety and quality, workforce engagement and financial outcomes, this approach aligns well with the principles of a recent integrated framework for achieving transformational change,” the report authors concluded.

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