How to Love Your Patients Like Retail Loves its Customers

How to Love Your Patients Like Retail Loves its Customers

The retailization of healthcare is unquestionably in full swing, changing the way healthcare is delivered. In the new era of health consumerism, patients increasingly demand the same, customer-centered experience they have become accustomed to in the retail setting. Ease of access to healthcare services, multiple choices, convenience, and price transparency, while once optional, are now becoming non-negotiable.

Several trends have contributed to the development of the new healthcare landscape. High-deductible plans and enormous out-of-pocket costs have forced patients to become fully engaged in decisions about their healthcare options. Value-based care and increasing industry competition urge healthcare service providers to meet the increasing demands of a much more engaged health consumer.

The Reality of Retail and the Health Care Industry 

Several trends are shaping the healthcare landscape. Retail clinics and urgent care centers are becoming increasingly popular among patients seeking medical care. Younger segments in particular care much more about convenience than relationships, and they aren’t afraid to take their business to providers that respond to their demand.

While decades ago, patients were willing to let doctors make decisions on their behalf; today’s health consumers want full control over every aspect of their health. Providing exceptional patient experience takes center stage, as hospitals and clinics scramble to figure out how to meet the growing expectations of their clientele. Patients have spoken and clearly expressed their desire for a retail-like experience in healthcare. These trends, along with several others, clearly suggest that providers must think the same way successful retailers do to maintain long-term success in today’s healthcare market.

Digital Connections with Patients

As the use of technology continues to increase in the medical industry, it is becoming apparent that digital healthcare tools can impact patient engagement and the overall patient experience. In retail, people look for ease and convenience. They shop online, want free shipping, and expect their orders to be delivered the next day. They read restaurant reviews on Google before going out for dinner and study customer feedback before hiring a contractor.

Health consumers look for the same ease and convenience in healthcare. It is almost unimaginable today to look for a new family physician without going online and researching. The number of stars next to your practice name on Google creates a powerful first impression which either works for or against you. Patient satisfaction survey results are effective marketing tools and those health systems that choose to showcase them online, automatically attain greater visibility in a Google search.

Connecting with Patients Electronically 

Offering an online patient portal makes it easier for patients to connect with you and your organization. Health consumers today do not want to make several phone calls to find out their account balance. They want to be able to log into their account to review their balance, charges, and other pertinent information. Online appointment scheduling, email marketing, and text appointment confirmations are just a few things that are important to modern patients and help establish long term loyalty.

Benefits of Offering Online Services

Online services offer a whole host of perks to your patients and their family members:

●      Convenience

●      Easy scheduling

●      Transparent pricing

●      Information about treatment options

●      Ability to ask questions without an appointment

●      Improved patient experience

 The Importance of Online Bill Pay

The importance of offering online bill pay option to your patients cannot be overemphasized. Online bill pay doesn’t only provide greater convenience to patients, but it serves to decrease call volume. A simple website where your patients can view invoices, past payments, and set up automatic in bill pay frees up both time and workforce.

 Price Transparency in Healthcare 

Over the past few years, each year patients found themselves paying more for healthcare services. With their out-of-pocket expenses skyrocketing, they have become financially more vested than ever before. Today, patients are much more vigilant about making sure they receive the highest quality care possible in exchange for a larger share of their hard-earned dollars.  

Noticing this trend, healthcare providers have begun implementing some initiatives to offer greater price transparency. Patients want the convenience of being able to log in from anywhere at any time and compare prices for services offered by different healthcare service providers. Some hospitals have responded to the demand for more transparent pricing by providing electronic price charts.

Being upfront about the cost of healthcare services can quickly turn into a competitive advantage, especially in large metropolitan areas where hospitals have to compete for patients. For instance, before undergoing a surgery or a procedure, today’s health consumers not only check the safety ratings of each hospital, they also want to know in advance how much they should expect to pay at each institution. While cost isn’t the only consideration most patients will make, offering competitive pricing and greater transparency can win you plenty of customers.

Healthcare Delivery and Scheduling

People are accustomed to next day shipping and free delivery when shopping online. Amazon has set the bar high, as others scramble to keep up. The same way, consumer expectations regarding the delivery and scheduling of healthcare services are also increasing. To stay competitive, healthcare providers are left with no other choice but to go the extra mile. Offering house calls by LPNs or techs when necessary, is one possible way you can go beyond the norm. Extending your hours of operation is another way to meet the needs of your working clientele. Staying open late, opening early, or offering weekend care is an ideal solution. 

Business Marketing ROI

When marketing direct-to-consumer, the healthcare industry must start taking a serious look at the return on its marketing dollars spent. To reach the highest possible ROI, you must pay attention to both, attracting new customers as well as retaining your existing ones.

Acquiring a new patient is always going to cost more than keeping a current one. Never lose sight of the value that each of your patients represents. Retail businesses know this well, which is why they allocate their marketing budget accordingly. They run considerable campaigns to bring in new customers, but they also offer plenty of perks to existing clients.

Targeted Marketing

Adopting a more patient-centric approach cannot take place without understanding your customers’ wants and needs. Targeted marketing offers a powerful way to attract your ideal patients to your business. Through segmenting your customer base (i.e., dividing your patients into groups that are similar in specific ways, based on various criteria), you will be able to identify your most valuable customer segment to focus on.

By knowing what portion of your existing clients generate the highest return on investment, you can make more sound decisions and spend your marketing dollars accordingly. Your chances of building a successful marketing strategy are much greater if you know what resonates with your ideal clients. The BIG guns of the retail industry have long figured this out and mastered targeted marketing to produce consistent phenomenal results. Targeted marketing is truly a win-win for everyone since you will be much better at serving your clients the way they want to be served.

Building prospect databases to segment your customers is a critical component of targeted marketing. You can use various criteria for your segmentation, such as:

Geography: This is helpful when you want to figure out which geographic area you should focus on.

Demographics: Consider age, family composition, occupation, education, gender, and household income. 

Psychographics:  Learn a potential patient’s behavior, general personality, and lifestyle. Understanding your clients at a deeper level will help you formulate an effective marketing strategy and convert your prospects into customers. 

Behavior: Uncover the unmet needs and wants of your patients.

Providing Seasonal and Promotional Events

Retailers regularly run seasonal promotions to grab the attention of their target audience and create a sense of urgency to make a purchase. Healthcare providers can also take advantage of seasonal promotions and events. For example, during the height of the flu season, offer a flu clinic, or distribute flyers about effective ways to prevent the flu. Both of these strategies will bring value to your customers and are likely to be appreciated. Seasonal tips via email, flyers, website, or regular mail also reach a broad demographic. 



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