In the healthcare industry, patient experience and patient satisfaction are more important than ever before. This slice of reality may be an eye-opener for some doctors, administrators and medical marketing executives:
For healthcare consumers, personal experience
is the number one reason for choosing a doctor or hospital.
Unlike every other industry studied, “price” is not the top consideration. In healthcare, patient experience is the primary driver in the purchase decision. Put another way, healthcare is the ONLY industry where patient experience trumps price. In fact, customer service (patient experience) is 2½ times more important to the healthcare consumer than in any other industry.
The source report—titled Customer experience in health care: The moment of truth, by the Health Research Institute of PwC US—is authoritative marketing intelligence and worth reading cover to cover. In short, both healthcare consumer expectation and the healthcare delivery system are changing. Some of the dynamics include “inspiration from other industries, competition, health reform, consumer demands and/or the bottom line.”
The PwC report (based on a survey of 6,000 consumers across a dozen industries) observes that “agile [healthcare] companies are changing the way they get to know their customers, moving beyond basic transactions and embracing their patients and members as consumers and customers.
“In many respects consumer expectations in healthcare track closely with other industries. Convenience and speed are high on the list, whether purchasing clothing or choosing a doctor. Like the banking and travel industries before them, healthcare companies are recognizing that customer retention comes with repeatable, memorable experiences that match individuals’ wants and needs.” (Emphasis added.)
The emergence—and now dominance—of a people-centered, satisfaction-oriented healthcare standard has grown from, surprisingly, the seemingly impersonal digi-techno world. The Internet opened the information and communications floodgates, and consumers (patients) have become increasingly aware and empowered in their healthcare decisions.
Other influences include the shift among healthcare consumers to more conservative spending decisions and families paying a larger share of costs in health expenses and insurance. The “consumerism” mindset is relatively new in the healthcare sector, and now more closely parallels the long-established service expectations that are typical in the retail world.
What’s more, the patient-focus in healthcare—and managing the customer experience—is likely to continue or grow. As the various dynamics of healthcare reform continue to phase-in to the delivery system, over 20 million individual shoppers will enter the marketplace in the next five to six years.
Accordingly, the healthcare industry in general—and providers in particular—are [or need to] “redesign its business models to better capture, serve, and keep a growing class of empowered customers,” according to the PwC report.
The survey quantifies what many marketing-minded professionals already understand. Healthcare consumers are “more aware of their care options and more willing to exercise their choices. In short, they are acting more like consumers and less like patients.”
Adopting a stronger patient-centric approach harbors many benefits for the provider, the hospital or healthcare facility, and especially for the individual patient. A positive patient experience clearly improves patient compliance, adherence, quality of care, and ultimately leads to better outcomes.
Consistently delivering a positive patient experience and exceptional customer satisfaction is increasingly tied to revenue. Indirectly, satisfaction and loyalty also inspire patient and professional referrals.
Delivering service that enhances the patient experience is simply good business. In fact, “The patient is not an outsider to our business,” according to Cleveland Clinic Co-founder Dr. William Lower. “They are our business.”
Additional findings and healthcare marketing discussion from the Health Research Institute of PwC US report, Customer experience in health care: The moment of truth, are presented in this additional article [Part 2] by Dr. Janice Frates.