Staff cutbacks. Adjusting payer mixes. Holding off on capital improvement projects. These are all painful strategies that can help during a short-term cash flow crisis. But you’re concerned about long-term financial stability. What if Professional Research Consultants (PRC) told you there was a way to create sustainability for years to come, even during uncertain and difficult financial environments? It’s called customer loyalty.
Over the last 25 years, an average of 80 percent of consumers have consistently laid claim to a hospital they would call “their own,” regardless of whether they had limited or abundant healthcare choices. Over time, some of consumers’ reasons for claiming a hospital of choice have changed, yet most consumers usually cite one of these ten main reasons:
- The hospital is close to home
- I receive good medical care
- I’ve always gone there
- I receive personalized care
- My doctor recommends it
- It has a good overall reputation
- They provide a range of services
- Myself or a friend/relative works there
- HMO/PPO affiliation
- They have a quality staff
A Renewed Focus On Engagement to Encourage Customer Loyalty
Despite changes in technology and healthcare access during the past 25 years, over half of the reasons why consumers prefer a certain hospital over another, centers on some form of loyalty.
While loyalty and the impact it plays on healthcare isn’t new, the focus on engagement to achieve loyalty is. Hospitals can’t change their location to become closer to patients’ homes, but they can take the following steps provided by PRC to ensure that all consumers who live close to them are “their” patients:
- Patients who had an excellent experience at your hospital are more likely to return for future services and promote the hospital to others.
- Doctors who are engaged within organization admit more patients there and make patient experience a priority
- Engaged employees enthusiastically recommend your hospital to others and provide a better patient experience
Savvy Customers Still Rely On Word-Of-Mouth
While most consumers feel well-educated about their local healthcare options, many of today’s savvy consumers still seek the opinions of family, friends and physicians for their healthcare services. They have also started to branch out beyond these sources to find information on the internet, through advertising, and by a myriad of other means such as social networking. In fact, consumers today have more information sources at their disposal than at any other time in history.
Interestingly, one source of healthcare information consumers aren’t using to the extent intended is the federal government’s Hospital Compare website (www.hospitalcompare.hhs.gov). While consumers have always been slow to adopt changes in healthcare delivery, PRC has found that they have been even slower in taking advantage of the government’s efforts to bring healthcare data mainstream. It may be that consumers don’t realize this information is available to them or they find Hospital Compare and its HCAHPS data tiresome. After all, mere numbers on a computer screen aren’t as meaningful as the real-life experiences of family and friends. Consumers are much more likely to listen to and place faith in loyalists’ stories of excellent experiences than they are to navigate any government website.
How Customer Loyalty Affects Your Bottom Line
During tough financial times, it is certain that without a strong loyalty of patients, your hospital’s financial health will suffer. Loyal customers are more willing to return time and time again, and refer friends and family members. Even despite financial obstacles, loyal consumers will travel across town to use a preferred hospital.
It is fair to say that loyal customers are the only constant in today’s rapidly changing healthcare environment. And, when every dollar counts, keeping loyal customers in your court is a sound strategy that can be taken to the bank.
For more information about how PRC can help your hospital or healthcare center increase loyalty through better patient experiences, contact us at 800-428-7455.