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What Drives Patient Loyalty in Healthcare?


Asked about Apple's interest in healthcare during an interview with Fortune, CEO Tim Cook was clear: “We're extremely interested in this area. And yes, it is a business opportunity. If you look at it, medical health activity is the largest or second-largest component of the economy, depending on which country in the world you're dealing with.” He concluded by saying, “I do think it's a big area for Apple's future.”

Does that make you nervous? With consumer loyalty leaders like Apple, Amazon and Google announcing forays into the healthcare space, organizations from hospital systems to primary care practices are under pressure to step up their game when it comes to patient loyalty in healthcare.

After all, these tech giants have a leg up in terms of existing loyalty, plus some serious advantages when it comes to digital engagement, customer experiences, and leveraging consumer data—three arenas where healthcare struggles to keep up.

If you want to avoid direct competition with future innovators in healthcare, however, using psychographic segmentation to understand what motivates different patients can help.


Gain more insight into patients with psychographic segmentation

Today, healthcare organizations face an uphill battle. According to a Prophet | GE Healthcare report, “An alarming 81% of consumers are unsatisfied with their healthcare experience, and the happiest consumers are those who interact with the system the least.”

You might wonder, “If they aren’t happy, why haven’t they already left?” An Accenture study may have found the answer: 40 percent of healthcare consumers say that switching providers is a hassle. But do you want that to be the reason patients stick with you? Probably not, especially when healthcare faces disruption from innovators and consumer experience front-runners from other industries.

Where does psychographic segmentation fit in? Segmentation based on demographics or diagnosis can only take you so far because people approach healthcare differently. Psychographic segmentation, by contrast, classifies patients based on their attitudes about health and wellness, their motivations and priorities, and their communication preferences.

Using these insights into what makes patients tick enables healthcare providers to customize how they communicate with individuals and drive engagement and loyalty. Take the c2b Psychographic Segmentation model, which divides healthcare consumers into five distinct types:

  • Proactive, goal-oriented Self Achievers
  • Proactive, independent Balance Seekers
  • Busy, family-focused Priority Jugglers
  • Traditional healthcare-oriented Direction Takers
  • Live-in-the-moment Willful Endurers

The communications, services and experiences that will drive loyalty with a Self Achiever are likely to fall flat with a Willful Endurer. Likewise, a Balance Seeker that wants to understand options and looks beyond a physician for healthcare information is likely to reject a prescriptive approach that would satisfy a Direction Taker.

Two ways to improve patient loyalty in healthcare

Just as the retail and hospitality industries have optimized consumer engagement, healthcare providers need to focus on delivering seamless, personalized experiences to drive patient satisfaction and brand loyalty.

Ed McCallister, CIO at UPMC, told Modern Healthcare, “With consumers bearing an ever greater share of healthcare costs, they are much more engaged and are demanding more information about quality and costs and a better consumer experience.”

In the same article, Matthew Chambers, CIO of Baylor Scott & White Health concurred, saying: “Consumers don’t want the same old same old. They want to be delighted in the journey just like they would be with Amazon.”

With that in mind, here are two ways to improve patient loyalty in healthcare:

  1. Patient insights: If you want to understand why patients are loyal you need to talk to them. Questionnaires can help you get feedback, enabling you to identify how patients feel about their experiences with you and identify action items for improving those experiences.
    But that’s just a start; surveys generally tell you what patients are thinking, not why they are thinking that. Qualitative research, such as focus groups, interviews and ethnographic (e.g., in home, out with consumers where they live their lives) uncover insights and nuances that quantitative studies cannot. Psychographic research can also get to unarticulated motivations and beliefs, providing a consumer lens to interpret the ocean of data healthcare providers have on patients.
    Hospitals with the best experience ratings also tend to have high patient loyalty. Complementing experience-related questionnaires, a resource like the c2b Consumer Classifier can help classify your current patients according to the five distinct psychographic segments using 12 simple questions, giving you valuable insights into how best to keep these patients engaged and build loyalty.
  2. Customized communications: Once you know how patients feel, you can fine-tune your marketing tactics to speak directly to their attitudes or motivations to keep them coming back. For Priority Jugglers, that might mean advertising special evening hours or sending reminders about health checks for loved ones. For Balance Seekers, that might mean providing information on treatment alternatives.

The value of focusing on patient loyalty in healthcare

Acquiring new patients is a big challenge in today’s evolving healthcare marketplace. Healthcare consumers have options like urgent care and retail clinics. Small practices are finding themselves matched up against healthcare systems that are expanding through mergers and acquisitions.

You can’t ignore the need to compete for new business, but improved patient loyalty drives incredible value. Attracting new patients can cost up to five times more than retaining current customers. If that isn’t enough to convince you to focus on retention, then consider what Harvard Business Review noted several years ago: Increasing customer retention rates by only five percent increases profit by between 25 to 95 percent.

With better insights into your patients through psychographic segmentation, you can improve the relevance of your marketing—and your patient experiences—to increase patient loyalty.

Psychographic Segmentation and its Practical Application in Patient Engagement and Behavior Change


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