Healthcare Providers Struggling to Keep Patients

According to a recent patient engagement study, healthcare providers are experiencing high turnover rates with patients who are increasingly less likely to stay loyal to one healthcare provider anymore.

The study was done by the professional services company, Accenture. They found that there are three newly-significant contributors to patient loyalty (or the lack thereof). The first is that there is a new “marketplace” reality to the medical industry that simply didn’t exist before. People have no choice but to go shopping for providers like they shop for shoes. The healthcare industry is not as accustomed to being a consumer type industry, so providers are losing patients that in past years would have simply remained loyal to a provider they liked “well enough.”

The second contributor provider switching is digital health capabilities. Previously, many patients stayed with healthcare providers because it was simply a headache to transfer records when everything was on hard copy. Today, digital records, online portals, and scheduling apps make it very easy to move to a different provider. Patients are also increasingly choosing virtual healthcare, including video appointments and e-visits, which is moving them away from their previous providers.

The final contributor to patient switching is in the area of recommendations. Healthcare providers have been late to the party when it comes to encouraging and promoting recommendations of their own services. Because there were dozens of sites for such things, providers relied on those services and platforms to gather recommendations. Outsourcing this important piece turned out to be harmful to many providers, as not enough positive recommendations are gathered and far too many negative ones show up.

Following the study, Accenture’s main recommendations to stem the tide of changing loyalties, were for healthcare providers to take a page from the playbooks of other consumer industries. They state:

“By adopting patient engagement practices from highly competitive industries that have always had to work hard to keep customers loyal, healthcare providers can earn consumers’ loyalty in entirely new ways.”

The recommendations from the study are as follows:

Analyze and Target Customers: Like any other consumer industry, healthcare providers will have to work to learn what their customers want and to find ways to give it to them. They will have to give them compelling reasons to choose them or stay with them.
Get the Recommendations: Providers need to make it easy for their patients to positively review them via social media and highly-visible online channels.
Make it Easy to Choose: From specially-designed first-time visits to record transfers and from scheduling to follow up, healthcare systems and providers must find ways to beat out the competition.

Whether we like it or not, the entire ecosystem of healthcare has changed. Providers either have to change with it or lose their patients to their competitors. The smart ones will find a way to help their patients choose them time and time again.