Sunday, February 16, 2014

How are you retaining and engaging the healthcare consumer?

The financial stakes have never been higher as healthcare change steamrolls along. There is the growing and choice confident healthcare consumer demanding price and quality data. Reimbursement declines in Medicare and Medicaid continue unabated. Then there is the shift from fee-for-service to risk-based payments and new care models appearing nearly every day resulting in inpatient utilization declines.

And all of this has the greatest effect on how an organization engages and retains in network the healthcare consumer across a wide variety of touch–points, encounters and channels.

You know the old adage, it costs five times as much to find a new customer than to keep an existing one. 

It is truly a new day in healthcare.  Patients are becoming highly informed consumers making purchase decisions based on price and at some point will be utilizing quality data in that process.    

So what does that mean for the healthcare provider?  Without strong healthcare consumer engagement and retention strategies, the financial ramifications of losing the healthcare consumer to other providers and seeking care outside of the network can be ruinous.

This means that one needs to understand the healthcare consumer as never before, anticipating their needs by being proactive in establishing a meaningful relationship with a consistent stream of two-way communication.

It is an opportunity to reinforce your key brand promise and messages.

It's an opportunity to create customer evangelists for your healthcare organization, which through word-of-mouth marketing will bring additional healthcare consumers and revenue.

Here are five items one should consider for proactively retaining and engaging the healthcare consumer:

1.) Transparency and Quality dashboards.  This is about improving care, using best practices, learning and improving as a system to the individual level by engaging the patient.  A provider must be prepared to provide individual level utilization and quality patient reports, to engage the person in a meaningful way to create change in health behaviors, and foster appropriate utilization of services in the right setting.

2.) Voice of the Customer (VoC) program.  One has to be in constant contact and monitoring member attitudes, beliefs and reactions.  It's all part of the patient experience program and process. Engagement and retention strategies are all based upon the needs of the healthcare consumer, not the organization.

3.) Understanding the ongoing customer experience management program and process.  This isn't just about delivering an exceptional customer service at the point of care. You must identify all customer touch-points, from beginning contact to end point, and manage that experience across all of those touch-points. 
4.)  Developing comprehensive member communications that are transparent, meaningful and drive engagement customized to the individual level. This is really ongoing communications beyond health and wellness tips. They must also be delivered the way that the member wants them, be it on an Ipad, member web portal, email, hard copy, direct mail, telephonic etc.  One size does not fit all.

5.) Engaging the healthcare consumer through social media. Social media methods in engaging and retaining the healthcare consumer as a customer are nearly immediate and regardless of age group or demographic characteristic are growing exponentially.  Failure to include the social media channel in the organizational engagement and retention strategy is well, inexcusable.

With so much on the plate of healthcare leadership in trying to survive, healthcare consumer retention and engagement can appear at the bottom of the list. Going forward in the brave new world of healthcare consumerism, it’s one of the new critical essential business mandates whether one realizes it or not. To engage and retain is to survive and grow.

Happy Birthday to Healthcare Marketing Matters! On February 17, 2007, I started writing Healthcare Marketing Matters blog, and it hardly seems like HMM should be seven years old. But it is with hundreds of post and tens  of thousands of page views, here’s to the next seven years.  Thank you for reading, commenting and working so hard day-in and day-out to make healthcare marketing more strategic and visionary.  


Patty Cisco said...

Michael I agree that due diligence needs to be spent nurturing existing patients. I'm curious on your thoughts regarding why healthcare providers are slow to get on board with fully utilizing social media as a form of lead generation and customer retention? Patty

Michael Krivich said...

Patti you have asked a great question. The honest is I don't know. There are some hospitals and health systems that are using social media effectively for engagement and retention but those are the forwarded looking healthcare leaders such as Mayo or The Cleveland Clinic. For the vast majority however, its nothing more than a billboard look at me postings. Part of that is the marketing staff composition. educational level and experience. How valued marketing is in the organization and its reporting place. But I think the largest and most difficult impediment to effective use of social media is an organizational arrogance and lack of understanding of the growing power of consumerism in healthcare, as well as a lack of innovation in learning from other industry's that engage the consumer applying what is appropriate to their markets. Two of the greatest lies in healthcare that organizations use are our patients are sicker and privacy laws won't let us. In the end most just don't get on