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Understand patient expectations to foster loyalty

Article

What delights patients and what leaves them wanting more?

block letters spelling loyalty © polarpx - stock.adobe.com

© polarpx - stock.adobe.com

What delights patients and what leaves them wanting more? There’s no better way to know than to ask them directly about their healthcare experiences and expectations. RevSpring’s most recent Voice of the Patient survey of 1,000 consumers across the country, revealed plenty of insight for small physician groups and major healthcare systems alike.

Perhaps most noteworthy for physicians is the finding that patients—particularly younger ones—won’t hesitate to switch providers after a bad communication experience—from pre-service to payment. The survey reveals that patients feel that access to self-service for payments is a satisfier and the overall billing and payment experience is improving, yet paperwork and check-ins remain a source of dissatisfaction for many patients. Here are some other cues from patients that are opportunities for healthcare organizations to secure patient loyalty.

Closing the Gap between Expectations and Reality

Fostering patient loyalty begins by eliminating the gap between what patients expect and what they experience. While consumers in our survey generally expressed a high degree of satisfaction with their ability to understand care information and schedule appointments, they were less satisfied with the check-in process and completing paperwork.

Completing forms revealed a significant gap between patient preferences and experiences. More than 50% said they preferred completing forms at home prior to their appointments, yet the highest percentage of respondents said they routinely completed forms on paper in the office just before their appointments. Digitizing the intake process can be a quick win for providers, and technology like optical character recognition (OCR) and pre-filled forms will reduce errors in entry and transcription while providing delightful patient convenience.

Billing: Empathy is Critical

Studying patient behavior and acting on behavioral patterns and stated patient preferences is the basis for patient empathy. Using patient data and behavioral analytics to guide the patient experience across their entire journey, patients are more likely to engage. Engaged patients are more likely to show up for appointments, follow a care plan, and pay their healthcare bills on time.

For example, data analytics make it possible to understand your patients as individuals, including their engagement behavior, channel preferences and ability and propensity to pay. Leveraging this information to fit payment options to each patient and automatically utilize the channels they are most likely to respond to, yields positive outcomes for patients and providers.

The survey responses support the need to fit payment options to each patient, because what motivates them varies:

  • 70% of all respondents said they would pay faster if their provider presented them with the best option for their ability to pay
  • More than three-quarters of all respondents agreed they would pay their full balance by the due date if they received a discount
  • 64% agreed they were more likely to pay on time when their provider gave them an estimate in advance

Preferences are Complicated

Consumers have different preferences for receiving different types of healthcare communications and for how they make payments. For example, we learned that e-mail was the most preferred communication method for receiving pre-care cost estimates, post-care instructions, test results and marketing information. Text messaging was the top preference type for appointment reminders and pre-care instructions, while print is still a desired channel for many patients for bills and statements.

Yet these preferences varied somewhat by age categories and other demographic differences. Key takeaway: individual patient preferences should take priority over demographic patterns to avoid alienating some patients.

Poor Experiences Impact Loyalty

What factors contribute to a poor healthcare experience? The answer depends on individual patient expectations, but roughly two-thirds of total survey respondents reported that they would be somewhat or very likely to switch providers if they experienced poor communication during the pre-care experience. Another 56% said they would be likely to switch due to a poor billing experience.

There is a generational correlation to loyalty. Younger respondents were particularly likely to have established a relationship with a new provider in the previous year. In general, older patients tend to be more loyal. Fostering loyalty, particularly with younger consumers, means getting to know patients as individuals and ensuring that all communications reflect your level of knowledge.

For many patients, younger and older, a good billing experience is one that happens on their own terms and allows them to make payments in ways they prefer. Digital payment methods, text links to payment portals, even credit cards on file all can empower patients while building trust with their provider.

The Bottom Line

We will never stop learning from patients. Listening to patient voices is revealing and provides actionable insights for strengthening patient trust and fostering loyalty. You can access the complete National 2023 Voice of the Patient Survey white paper online.

Kristen Jacobsen is vice president of marketing and OmniChannel engagement at RevSpring. Kristen has more than 25 years of experience with leading customer experience and healthcare technology companies.

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