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5 signs your patients are going to leave you

Blog
Article

Health care providers who don’t adapt to changing expectations will drive their patients to seek care elsewhere.

Patients want more customer service: ©Syda Productions - stock.adobe.com

Patients want more customer service: ©Syda Productions - stock.adobe.com

For at least the past 20 years, we’ve been talking about the “consumerization of health care”—the idea that providers in the U.S. are going to need to take a customer service approach to care delivery, or else risk losing patients. And for 20 years, these warnings have gone largely ignored, with patients routinely waiting weeks (or, if they need to see a specialist, many months) for appointments.

Up until now, patients have more or less been forced to accept the status quo. But today, we’re seeing bold, aggressive moves into the health care space by companies like Amazon, Walmart, and Costco. These are customer-focused organizations with decades of experience providing people with what they want in a timely fashion and with the capacity to make inroads in a new industry quickly. Health care organizations that fail to center the patient experience will be the first to feel the effects of this shift.

Here are five signs that you might be at risk of losing patients to competitors in the coming years.

1. You Compete on the Wrong Things: When prospective patients look at an advertisement for a health care organization in a magazine or a subway station, they’re likely to see the results of “best hospital” rankings. They might learn that a health care system is the best regional provider of oncology care or that its gastroenterology program is nationally ranked. But most patients don’t need an oncologist or a gastroenterologist. And even if they do, they likely care less about how a hospital performs on some opaque ranking system and more about whether they can actually get an appointment. Health care systems that spend more energy bragging about plaudits than improving the customer experience will soon learn what their patients actually value.

2. You Don’t Address Patient Loyalty: According to one study, 65% of health system leaders say that patient retention is the primary obstacle to reaching financial goals. And in our own Amenities Health surveys of thousands of patients, we have yet to find anyone who says they obtain all of their medical care from a single health care organization. The retailers I mentioned earlier are all world leaders in building brand loyalty, and they do it by providing a consistently excellent customer experience. Amazon’s leaders know that customers will turn elsewhere if the products they buy arrive late or defective, even if those customers have had years of good experiences with the retailer. Similarly, health care organizations must try to re-win their patients’ loyalty during every interaction.

3. You Don’t Address Cost: To be blunt, health care leaders often try to have things both ways: They run their organizations as nonprofits with missions centered on the well-being of their patients and communities, but they resist any responsibilities for the cost of care to the patients, often claiming that doing so will distract from their focus on patient care. We only have to look at successful companies in other industries—companies, again, that are making moves into the health care sector—to see that low costs and high quality can coexist. In our internal research, patients say their largest concern is finding affordable care options. Health care providers must find a way to help their patients address this pain point.

4. You Put the Primary Care Relationship on a Pedestal: For most of modern medical history, patients’ relationships with their primary care providers have formed the cornerstone of their care. But increasingly, people don’t really expect to have a longstanding relationship with one doctor. Part of this is because of how mobile both patients and physicians have become. But also, people have grown accustomed to visiting urgent care clinics and even emergency departments when they are sick because their primary providers lack capacity. Rather than privileging the primary care relationship, health care systems need to recognize this sea change and help their patients to conveniently schedule same-day appointments with the earliest available providers.

5. You Don’t Embrace Technology: Finally, health care systems risk losing patients when they fail to adapt to new technologies. Years ago, my health insurance provider put a genius little feature into its mobile app: For every day that I walked 10,000 steps, I received a dollar. This not only incentivized healthy behavior, but it also created a “sticky” relationship between me and the app, ensuring that I opened it every day. Health systems should be actively embracing these sorts of patient-focused IT initiatives, rather than resisting change.

The rising rates of chronic conditions and an aging population mean that health care is going to continue to grow at a rapid clip. By providing a better experience, incumbent organizations can capture this growth rather than lose patients to emerging competitors for whom prioritizing the consumer experience and competing on price are second nature.

Dr. Aasim Saeed is the Founder and CEO of Amenities Health -- the industry's first Digital Membership Platform for health systems. Prior to Amenities, Aasim led the Digital Health Office at Baylor Scott & White Health as the VP of Digital Health. There he oversaw the development of the industry-leading MyBSWHealth app, which helped over half a million new patients get care at BSWH since 2020 (equal to half of all new patients at BSWH during that time period). Prior to joining BSWH, Aasim was a leader in McKinsey's Health System practice, advising multiple top US health systems on strategy, operations and technology. Aasim received his MD and MPA from Duke and Harvard Universities respectively. He is a Presidential Leadership Scholar and volunteers with the Texas Boys State program.

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